Friday, February 10, 2017

Scuba Diving in Lakshadweep’s Coral Islands- When I Walked on the Seabed

Scuba diving was perhaps the most difficult to accomplish adventure I always had in mind before it became a reality few months back. It actually turned out to be pretty easy when I got to do it. And you can do it too without even knowing how to swim.

Scuba diving was perhaps the one experience I was looking forward to most, after the ‘travelling on a cruise’ bit, during our LakshadweepTrip. There was as much anxiety as there was excitement. I have never been a very water friendly person, but my interest in everything adventurous starting from rafting in Rishikesh back in May 2011, made sure experiencing scuba diving went into my adventure travel bucket list. I didn’t really care where I did it, as long as I did it.

After having missed scuba on Kavaratti Island, thanks to apprehension, I was first in line at Kadmat Island the next day to enquire about the dive. Kadmat, as per what I had read online, is one of the best dive locations in India. Sadly, there was no dive happening that day due to low visibility. I did snorkel in the beach there, and I would realise the next day that this was going to be of huge help.

Am I on camera under water? Scuba diving in Lakshadweep Islands
The next day on Kalpeni Island, I enrolled myself at the dive centre and filled out the mandatory form that I love calling ‘death warrant’. We were a total of 10-12 people going for the dive.

The instruction session began at the dive centre by PADI certified divers. This was not a certificate programme and we were to follow complete instructions of our guides. They were going to be the ones who control the pressure in the cylinder and take us around underwater. We simply had to follow their instructions, indicate in case there was a worry, and enjoy the views.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Hampi-Dandeli-Gokarna (and Goa): The Tale of a Crazy Roadtrip with Strangers

Indian Bloggers

Two months ago I had gone to Bhutan with This Guy’s On His Own Trip’s Neeraj Narayanan. The trip had been a crazy beginning of things and probably will remain etched in my memories forever. This time three of us- Jyoti, Lavanya and I- from the Bhutan and Darjeeling gang were joining him for the Republic Day long weekend’s Hampi-Dandeli-Gokarna group trip. 18 people, 4 days, 3 destinations, a roadtrip and a lot of crazy adventures.

Running in the middle of the highway

My bus for Hampi was scheduled to leave at 5.40 PM from Goregaon on the eve of Republic Day. Having taken a lot of outstation buses in the last one year, I was standing at the exact spot where the buses stop on the highway. Tracking the bus the entire time on GPS, a few minutes after the scheduled time I saw the bus approaching. Instead of stopping, it continued its journey over the Aarey flyover, unfazed, without caring that it was increasing my heartbeat with every moment and bringing in anxious ‘I missed my bus’ thoughts. I stood dazed wondering how this could be happening for real.

The group at the ruins of Hampi. Photo: Ishpreet

In the next 30 seconds, the emergency helpline calmly informed me over phone that the bus would stop on the other end of the flyover and I should hurry to catch it. As the afternoon sun blared in all its glory and one after the other auto-rickshaws turned down my request citing the just one-kilometre distance, I helplessly ran in the middle of the highway amidst the traffic, my suitcase in tow, sweating profusely and telling the conductor to wait for me. As I neared the bus a grin spread across my face- Not because I wasn’t missing the bus after all, but because I knew a crazy trip had just begun. It was a sign of things yet to come.

Friday, February 03, 2017

A Dreamy Sail aboard MV Kavaratti- Cruise to Lakshadweep

In just about 4 hours of being on board MV Kavaratti, I had gone around exploring the entire ship even before it could start sailing. I was already in love with the experience. Read here.

Around 3 PM, the ship finally started its journey from the port. The entire process of getting undocked and into the main waters took a long time. A smaller vessel first pulled the ship away from the dock and then turned it 180 degrees around so that the nose of the ship faced the open waters. Then slowly the cruise moved away from Willingdon Island and towards the Arabian Sea. Almost all the tourists seemed to be up here on the top deck to see the entire procedure. The blazing heat of the sun was disregarded as fascination took over.

MV Kavaratti stands in the middle of the Arabian Sea at Lakshadweep

We crossed many ships standing at the huge port. None of them were bigger than ours for sure, although some looked classier. I had never seen so many cruise ships so close before this day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

11 Pictures from the Sunset Cruise on the Alleppey Backwaters

In the age of digital and social media today, whether you want it or not, you do look for beautiful sceneries and backdrops for your next social media share or for the long awaited cover photo change.

On our trip to Kerala, the Alleppey Backwaters provided one such opportunity when any angle you look at, any where you focus your camera, you get yet another beautiful setting not to be missed clicking.

One can easily take a short 2 hour ride in one of the motorboats or one of the longer half-day or full-day rides to explore the hidden charms of the backwaters in Alleppey.

Here is a collection of photographs I clicked during our sunset cruise on a small motorboat in the Alleppey Backwaters.

Small motor boats stand at the entrance of the Alleppey Backwaters, Kerala

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

10 Awesome Reasons You Should Join This Trip to Odisha

Indian Bloggers

'Who goes to Odisha, wahan to sirf gaon hain,’ my best friend remarked several years ago. Probably you had a similar thought on reading about this trip. And that is where everyone is shortsighted. It is easier accepted that people outside Odisha do not know about what is in the state. Yes, Odisha takes pride in its village culture, but is also a hub of education (IIT, IIM and AIIMS all three have made their presence), has several growing and potential near future metro cities and is rich in history, culture and heritage. Remember Emperor Ashoka? After winning all of India, he was forced to relinquish power and pride right here in Odisha!


I thought I would give 5 reasons but as I started writing I realized there is more awesomeness there. So, here are 10 reasons why you must join us for this weeklong trip to Odisha:

1. It’s going to be an enriching trip

The trip is a mixed bag of sorts- heritage, culture, natural beauty, wildlife and adventure. You will get to know why a 12 year old kid committed suicide when the Konark temple was completed and how the Puri temple deities go through a body-change every 13-19 years (huge mystery there); you will witness the Eastern coast’s waves which are perfect for surfing, even better than Goa; you will sit in a small boat and go 10 kms into the Chilika lake in search of the dolphins and migratory birds; you will also go on a night hike to a beach to spot the largest nesting site of the Olive Ridley turtles- it's the only place in the world that sees them in such huge numbers. From adrenaline pumping to a peaceful beach escapade, this trip has it all.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My First Time on a Cruise Ship- Onboard MV Kavaratti

I don’t know many people who have ever been on a cruise ship. A cruise vacation does trigger a lot of curiosity and when we were headed to board MV Kavaratti for our first cruise vacation, I was definitely ecstatic. I had read everything about it available on the internet (and there isn’t much) and this post explores what my naive and curious mind experienced.

The Check-in Process

We reached the Lakshadweep Wharf and Passenger Facilitation Centre at Willingdon Island in Kochi and got the boarding passes from the SPORTS (Society for Promotion of Nature Tourism and Sports) office on the 1st floor. MV Kavaratti is a passenger-cum-tourist ship. Tourists were to check-in by 10 AM so as to avoid the crowd of the local passengers that came after that. The ship was scheduled to depart sometime in the afternoon.

There was a long queue for the security check and we proceeded with our luggage on trolleys. It didn’t take us long to cross this. The security definitely is strict, nowhere close to airport security though. There was a bottle of water in one of our bags and they got us to open the bag to make sure it’s just water and not alcohol. Carrying alcohol is strictly banned on board MV Kavaratti and in the Lakshadweep islands we were headed to.

From here, our entire luggage was tagged with our cabin numbers and was taken separately. We boarded a bus to head to the port, each one of us excitedly looking out of the windows to catch the first glimpse of the ship.

Getting the first look at MV Kavaratti docked at Willingdon Island, Kochi


Friday, January 06, 2017

Exploring Lakshadweep with the Samudram Package

The Samudram package of the Lakshadweep Tourism makes it possible for the average Indian to experience a cruise holiday. It’s not extravagantly costly and is right here in India. It is the only of its kind cruise vacation available in India both for Indians and foreigners.

My father had been planning this trip for well over a year and had done the booking months in advance. Yes, it is rarely possible to get tickets for the Samudram package at the last minute. (There were tourists with us who had paid higher rates to travel agents to book the package. Direct booking with Lakshadweep Tourism by calling or contacting them online is the best way and offers the cheapest rates)

Lakshadweep has restricted tourism and one needs to obtain permits in advance to enter any of the islands. We had booked directly with the Lakshadweep Tourism office and all our permits were taken care of by them. It was to be a 5 day 4 night cruise vacation from Kochi to 3 coral islands of Lakshadweep and back.

Early morning view of Kalpeni, Lakshadweep Islands, from the deck of MV Kavaratti

As the sailing dates came close, our excitement was building up. We had reached Kochi and got on-board MV Kavaratti, the huge cruise ship and our home for the next few days. (Read: My First Time on a Cruise Ship- Onboard MV KavarattiWe went around exploring the ship before the briefing session with the Tour Manager. Jafar is a very friendly and helpful guy, and guided us through the entire plan as per the package.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

When we got lost in Himalayan Forests- The Nag Tibba Trek

We began our trek to Nag Tibba and it was all going smoothly- the same endurance and strength and all of it in the middle of a forest. I was wondering what the different thing about this trek was that I would write on the blog. Guess what happened next? We got lost!

The Nag Tibba trek (3022 m) starts from the village of Pantwari and goes roughly 8 kms uphill. The highest point of the trek is a further 2 kms at a point called 'Jhandi'. We were at The Goat Village (Read about it here) having trekked till there the previous day. So half the route had already been covered. It was to be a half-day excursion to Nag Tibba and back.

After a healthy breakfast of mandwe-ke-roti ka sandwich, Amrit and I were headed for the trek. Mani, the TGV manager and Elita, a fellow blogger were to join us too. 

Panoramic view of the Garhwal region of Himalayas from the Nag Tibba trek, Uttarakhand. November 2016

Manita did tilak of all of us before we started. 'Go ahead with Nag devta's blessings', she told us.

We started from TGV around 10 and the plan was to be back by 2.30-3 for a late lunch. The trail starts off on flat land and slowly turns rocky and slippery. We were taking slight pauses as we walked up taking in the magical view of the valley at every turn.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Indian Village-Life Experience at ‘The Goat Village’, Nag Tibba

Reaching The Goat Village (TGV)

A few months ago I was invited for a stay at The Goat Village in Pantwari, 100 kilometres from Dehradun in Uttarakhand, on the Nag Tibba Trek route. Early one November morning amidst chilling temperatures, I reached Dehradun. I was to be joined by my school friend Amrit for the 3 day trip.

A day earlier, Purnima from TGV had got me in touch with our driver Surendra who told us that the cab would leave for Pantwari at 7 am. Loading our bags on the carrier, Amrit and I took the back seats in the cab, more out of compulsion than choice. (It was a welcome realisation that due to so many people with motion sickness on mountain roads, front seats in cabs are pre-booked and there aren’t many alternate transportation options!)

4 hours later we arrived at Pantwari village after a terrible journey with my motion sickness in full action. It was a relief to get out of the cab.

The view just after sunrise from our cottage. The Goat Village, Nag Tibba, Uttarakhand. November 2016

The Goat Village is a 4 km uphill trek from here. After a delicious vegetable maggi at one of the village shops for breakfast, we were headed to Laser Gaon sitting on top of a jeep along with Magan, our guide cum porter. This is the mid-point on the way to Goat Village and the last point until which motorable vehicles can go. It was a dusty but amazing 15 minute ride. The final 2 kms were to be trekked and a signboard to the Goat Village welcomed us.

‘It can’t be very difficult’, I thought, ‘it’s just 2 kms after all’.

How very wrong I was.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Love Letters from Darjeeling

Sitting silently in the tea gardens, the ropeway passing right over our heads, playing filmy games, we stared at the dark misty mountains in the distance and looked back at the last few days that had bonded us together so well and so fast. It had, after all, begun with one simple question.

Before the eventful morning of 27th November 2016, had someone asked me “What’s the craziest thing you have done in life?” I would have given it a long thought and probably come up with an answer that wasn’t crazy enough. That morning, things changed.

After a beautiful and most memorable trip to Bhutan, we were headed to Bagdogra airport to catch our flights back home. The trip had been emotionally as well as experientially overwhelming.

A late night walk on the streets of Darjeeling leading to poses with the star toy train.
Photo courtesy: Vyshakh. Darjeeling, November 2016
The previous night in the hotel room at Phuentsholing, our last night officially in Bhutan, we played one last round of ‘Ask a Question’. This time we had to say what we felt about each other after being together for a week. While I was speaking, Neeraj casually mentioned, “It would be great if you cancel your ticket and stay back for few more days”. It wasn’t to be taken seriously, but even I was in no mood to go back home. I did check the flight costs for rescheduling before I went to bed that night. The butterfly effect had been put in motion inadvertently.

Copyright © on second thoughts... | Powered by Blogger
Design by SimpleWpThemes | Blogger Theme by NewBloggerThemes.com