There’s a life lesson in the Mountains, the higher we travel, the sounds and sights get more magical… its almost like they are telling you- ‘Make the effort to know me and you will experience the ethereal’…
My quest to be in the mountains has taken me across some of the most marvelous vistas of India… Himachal, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, in the North, the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and Kerala, the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and more recently, the eastern Himalayas in Sikkim. Just like ocean lovers will vouch that there is a uniqueness to each ocean and sea and even different beaches along the same coastline, each Mountain is amazingly distinct and every town, village and pitstop along the ascents and descents, has a view, breeze, ambience that’s its own…
When I ventured to travel solo for the first time, I opted for Khajjiar, a tiny Hamlet nestled in the Dhauladhar Mountain Range in Himachal Pradesh, 25 kms from Dalhousie. A friend suggested the place and I was drawn from that moment onward.
Referred to as Mini Switzerland, there’s a signboard in the picturesque Khajjiar meadow ( where innumerable Bollywood films have been shot) showing the distance from Khajjiar to the Swiss capital, Berne- 6194 kms..
Most travelers on the tourist trail tend to stay at Dalhousie and opt for a mandatory sight-seeing day sojourn to Khajjiar….A gross injustice to oneself, rather than to the location… Experiencing Khajjiar up close by living within its folds, was for me, far more enriching, amazing and uplifting than the time I spent in Dalhousie..
My journey to Khajjiar began with a flight to Chandigarh and then a road journey to Khajjiar.. Had a comfortable vehicle waiting for me at Chandigarh airport that I had pre booked… Since I was travelling by myself, the owner of Saini travels, Kiran Pal Singh ( 9815925310) who has a fleet of vehicles for Corporates and individual travelers, was thoughtful to the extent of joining the driver and me for the 8 hour journey to Khajiiar.. The journey went off comfortably and in a spirit of camaraderie.. ( the shorter route to Khajjiar is by flying to Amritsar and driving down from there via Pathankot).
For the discerning traveler ( that I am) Khajjiar offers a lone and thankfully one of the best accommodation facilities, in the Deodar Manor Heritage Bungalow. A fairy tale manor set in the midst of breathtaking topography, the centenarian bungalow is owned by the family of Sardar Hanut Singh Bal.
I enjoyed the best of both worlds at the Manor, with a luxury style Room and Bath (they have five rooms with different names based on the view from the room) that opened onto a spacious verandah opening into a sight for tired city eyes.. The warmth of Room service and homely meals cooked in the Manor kitchen made the experience altogether delectable. To my good fortune, I was the lone guest at that time and no intruders to my time with myself..
The lush Khajjiar Meadow is a short descending walk from the Manor… ringed by a circular pathway to amble on, Having taken a half circle of the meadow, I went on to sink my feet into the grass to walk across the meadow.. The Khajjiar lake is right in the centre of the meadow.. Depending on the time of the year that you visit, the lake can be smaller or fuller…There are benches to sit on and breathe in the silence, bird song, and the overall marvel of Khajjiar.. As long as I was in the meadow, tourist cars kept driving into the periphery to offload tourists and take them back to Dalhousie.. It was July and offseason so blissfully not as many people and as noisy as it could have been. But yes, I need to visit Khajjiar once again in winter to experience the snow carpeted views and feel..
Just off the meadow is a temple with a 85 metre towering, beautifully carved statue of Lord Shiva.. Whether you stand at its feet or take in its beauty as you walk through the multiple trekking routes around, or have a one of its kind view from atop as your paraglider soars over, the statue apparently has been spreading its bliss and peace into the surroundings…
One of the most memorable experiences of Khajjiar was going on a trek with a local guide arranged by the Manor staff, taking a rustic, jungle route, off the beaten path… just the sound of our muffled footsteps in the grass and bramble, occasional birds, the wind as we climbed higher, a few cows and goats here and there…. And the green mountain range and blue sky dotted with pristine white clouds…. We climbed till we got a sort of small flat plateau at around 12000 feet and there were the paragliding team waiting… We waited a short while for the right wind speed and direction.. Then I was strapped… and off we soared….. High above the mountain range, the meadow, the tiny homes, the imposing statue… literally getting a birds eye view…. it was a superlative feeling… and then the safe landing in an open grassy area… Wow! An experience I relive many times over and will always remain treasured..
To those with a passion for the mountains, a discretion for the ‘different’, a yearning for basking in the lap of Nature, in one of its multifarious attractions… I would sincerely recommend a trip to Khajjiar as a standalone destination..
Life of a travel and hospitality entrepreneur comes with its own challenges. A day is never enough and the nights put up a pause in number of things you can do. There is no weekend, day-off, holiday, as a matter of fact ‘holidays’ are busier than regular days.
Last year, around this time, I managed to squeeze some time out for myself with the sole motive of a reccee trip, which is aimed at discovering a new place, new experience. I managed to finish some work and pushed all pending assignments to future. A 4-day solo
motorcycle expedition across the northernmost part of Himachal around to the amazingly beautiful and smooth Pathankot Mandi route.
Somehow the idea of a solo long motorcycle trip over a new route infuses an amazing sense of adventure in you. Moving away from concrete roads and sights of garbage towards no roads and views of approaching mountains is a happy feeling. The unfamiliar terrains
instilled the same effect as did the Mumbai – Delhi motorcycle ride a couple of year ago. At dusk, the motorcycle headlight was matching its way with the center line markings right in the middle of mountains and deep valleys. With the surroundings being completely dark
and nothing to witness other than an occasional fox, porcupine and wild rabbits, it was kind of getting sheepishly boring. Right at that moment, I spotted it staring at me with such love and a bright off-white illuminance. I have not particularly been an admirer of the brightest and the closest star in the sky, but let us blame it on the past few hours of looking through the helmet blinders, the moon really appeared as if it was talking to me. As I tried to comprehend the exact meaning of our distinguished conversation, I was disturbed by a
panicking honk. As I stopped to notice the disturbance, there was this startled gentleman in his mid 20s staring at me with fear in his eyes and mouth wide-open. As I turned back to understand his agony, it appeared I had lost track of the line markings and was heading
straight towards the drop (moon, if my opinion counts here). With an awkward smile, I turned and rode past that angel while he stood their frozen and dazed to exchange any words or even reply to my awkward smile.
After a fifteen-hour tiring ordeal, Dharamshala welcomed me with such soothing arms that I literally gave in to the comfort of the mattress and white clean linen unmindful of hunger and other formalities. I woke up next morning to breakfast overlooking the Dhauladhars. I met a couple of Australians who schooled me on the best things to do and places to see in and around Dharamshala. Overwhelmed by their detailed itineraries and quest to help me do / see the right things, I deemed it fit to leave the place before they started fighting and set out towards the globally renowned Triund peak; although it was my first time in the vicinity. Mcleodganj is the in-thing they say and it is so packed that you might want to stay on its circumference if you are looking at a date with the mountains. But sadly so, the route to Triund passes through the overcrowded, honk-full cross-road in the main market of Mcleodganj. It is time, we preserve the sanctity of such places by making them vehicle-free.
You are not a ‘traveler’ if you don’t know that Triund is approx. 8kms from the Mcleodganj parking spot, but if you have a pair pf two-wheels with you, you can shorten the hike by another 2 kms. Pleased with my smart move like many others, I started my 6km hike
towards Triund top around noon. I was told that it’s a long a not-so-easy trek. As I walked past the police check-point at the beginning, it was humbling to note the garbage-bins and garbage bags being offered to all trekkers. God bless all our waste warriors.
My garbage bag was soon filled with all the plastic lying on the route and I used my rucksack to store the remaining pieces, till that was full too. It dawned on me that I am probably the most inexperienced hiker in our country as I walked through the ‘travelers’ devoid of
Bluetooth speakers, loud chatting friends, fried chips, cool sunglasses, cold-drink bottles, the occasional hat and the ubiquitous ‘ J-stuff’ in my pocket.
The trek to Triund top is beautiful, thankfully the path is not covered with tiles offering a natural feel just like valley of flowers and few other treks / hikes in our country. A little over couple of hours and I was welcomed at the top with rain and sunshine at the same time
giving birth to multiple rainbows. While I was struggling to click a selfie with the rainbows in the background, a soft-spoken god-sent girl pulled me out of my misery and helped me spoil an otherwise beautiful image of the valley, rainbows and a hill dog. It took a while for the
rain to subside and there was ample time for us to exchange words under a little shed offered by the chai-ki-tapri.
I had not realized till that very moment, that if you do not have a chalked-out itinerary of your trip, do not know much about the place or choose to listen than talk and are just taking things as they come, you are interestingly cool, not strange. After the rain, there was a lot of
work for the limited caretakers and too many tourists as I found my tent for the night. There was suddenly a barrage of ‘travelers’ emerging out of different tents and corners of the Triund ridge as they overtook one huge rock at a time and their partners clicked new profile pictures for their social media pages. Somethings are witnessed better with eyes and the go-pro set to capture the sunset time-lapse didn’t help much, else that and not the sunset would have become the highlight of my Triund video.
I met another lone soul who had lost his friends to another group and was struggling to get a good picture of himself with the amazing background. I helped and the same was reciprocated. My picture went on to get me the highest number of likes on my Instagram till
date, thanks much (really tried finding his insta handle, hope he reads this and helps me update the same). Let’s call him Harsh (pls don’t kill me for this). After a brief exchange of words with Harsh while shooting lightening in the shy, he decided to join me in the latter
part of my road trip. He was warned of all the uncomfortable adventures that could present themselves in the days to come, but looked like Harsh is a risk-seeker. So, he gave up his tent and moved next to mine. The night was pretty much uneventful minus the loud
cheering and singing and tripping over tents by all the party people at The Triund ridge. After finishing the sunrise shot and watching a restless line outside the only toilet at the Triund ridge, we decided to race back to Mcleodganj with our intestines tied to each other
preventing mishap on the way down. We shot the introduction shot for the Triund video on the way down as I had Harsh hold my smartphone for a couple of retakes (P.S. if you don’t like the intro, please remember the situation we were in). We moved on to cover more of Mandi-Pathankot National Highway in the following two days, more on that later.
Facts and information about Triund:
The trek till Triund ridge is popular (read overhyped) among the college crowd of North India who would lose their breath while trekking up but will sing loud songs over liquor and marijuana outside their tents all night.
Travelers do not care of cleanliness or hygiene, though there are some real warriors who are trying to help preserve the place for the next generation (if at all).
A lot of travel agents are overselling Triund as a hot cake and the cost for a tent ranges between INR 600 – INR 1500 per night depending on your vulnerability and their smartness. The local agents’ coterie does not really allow you to pitch your
tents on the top as also there is no place left.
It is a beautiful ridge with amazing views of Dhauladhar and the valleys. It is an easy trek for anyone with average levels of fitness. The height of the ridge is over 2800 meters, 9350 ft.
If you are looking for a decent sleep at night, Try and take a tent farthest from the crowd and hope for the best.
The trek till Indrahar pass (Altitude 4342 meters, 14245 ft) is ideal but only deal with it if you are serious and prepared for it. It is ideal to take a guide along for Indrahar pass.
Request: If you are heading to Triund anytime soon, please respect nature and try and leave the place as you would like to see it again.
Apart from paying a charge of €3, you will also have to pre-book your day visit to the Italian city.
If a Venice trip is what you have in mind for this summer, make sure to keep your entry permit handy. The island city will soon begin to charge an entry fee of €3 (INR 246/-) from its day visitors, starting May 1 this year. The decision was taken keeping in mind the heavy tourist inflow to Venice every year. However, students and the tourists there for an overnight stay, are left exempted from the same, since the hotel tariffs in the city already include a tourist fee.
Additionally, from next year on, this fee will vary from €3 (INR 246), €6 (490) upto €10 (INR 820/-), depending on the inflow during the day. The levy charges will be incorporated into tickets of tourists who arrive by cruise ship, in water taxis and by plane or train. If caught, the defaulters will have to pay a hefty fine of €100 (INR 8,200/-), which can go as high as €450 (INR 36,000/-). An online system for pre-booking day visits will also be introduced in 2020. Alternatively, you can avoid all the hassle by snagging a Venezia Unica pass that will cover entrance, public transportation, and even pre-paid entry to a few popular spots in the city.
As per records, over 60,000 tourists visit the city during a day without staying the night, and contribute very little to economic growth. Outnumbering the total of 55,000 residents, this huge number of tourists imposes a great stress on transportation, sewage and other services. Hence, the money raised would go after cleaning and maintaining the lagoon city.
Either you are not as good as you are, or you are better than you thought you were. Either ways, who are you?
We live in world where deadlines are getting shorter and the list of aspirations is just getting longer. Everyone wants to support peace but there is no peace whatsoever, not in the world outside, not inside your own mind.
Everyone is looking to try something new, get a new experience, a new photograph, a new story in this never-ending race to be different. Travel has always been there as an option, but it has been expensive so far. Not so anymore.
Thanks to our photographers, bloggers, story tellers, social media stars, travelling is not an unaffordable luxury anymore. One can travel the whole world sitting at home without moving an inch and even better without spending a naya (new) paisa. Even if you have not been to the leaning tower of Pisa, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Safaris in South Africa or experienced the chill in the Himalayas; you exactly know what the place looks like, smells like, feels like or even tastes like. You have seen so many pictures again and again especially of the landmarks and even the off-beat places that you already know what to expect where and what to do when a plan B is called upon. You may not like it if you actually visit the place. Fiction is better than reality and its free.
It is being hammered into your mind at each social media platform that experience is the new currency and if you do not know about it, you are losing out. Brands are already portraying their products, services as an excuse to feed your never-satiating hunger for new experiences. Society is made of all of us, each one is a story teller and nobody wants to listen to the same story twice, doesn’t matter if you have the same story with a different experience, you will be written off at the beginning itself.
So, there are ones who want to tell you about all the experiences you are missing out on and make your already difficult life even more miserable. And there are those who are yelling at you to do your own thing, even if you do not know it. They are asking you to quit your job, jump off the building while calling it a leap of faith. Who would you believe?
Either you are not as good as you are, or you are better than you thought you were. Either ways, who are you?
We are reading, watching stories each day about people who are doing well, not-so-well, failing or making it big because they dreamt big. There you are also being reminded about writing your own stories and making it big for yourself.
Some of us travel to find peace, some go till Nainital, some till Ranikhet and some take the literal pain to reach the foothills of Himalayas while a select few climb it too. No matter how far you go, you will still have to pass through the traffic snarl at Ghaziabad, then Meerut, Hapur and so on both on your way to attain peace as well as on your back after having attained peace.
What is cruel is the restlessness of the other car which overtakes you wrongly at the toll point just to save that extra 10 seconds and then, there you drop the peace you had travelled all the way for. It must be true that peace comes from within but then some of us need to travel to find fresh air to find that peace within. There is a strong correlation between peace and things like fresh air, no-honks quiet, nature, innocent smiles etc. I am still trying to decode the same and I am told many people are trying to find a solution to attain peace at home. I hope someone cracks the code soon so that there is less traffic on the city borders for regular travelers.
I do not have a solution to any of the problems, no one has, probably each one of us has and we must try to find ours. If you keep searching for it on social media or in stories, that solution may not work for you. Either ways, just take a deep breath or not, drop that damn social-media-marketing-products-selling-device from your hand and find out what the problem is. There probably is none and just anxiety being caused by the thing you just dropped.
For a perfect weekend, Escape Route picks up these ten destinations around Delhi that make for stunning weekend escapes…
For those who love to travel, a perfect weekend is about escaping the daily grind and exploring new destinations. From historical marvels and wildlife sanctuaries to picturesque hill stations and cultural havens, pick the destination of your choice along with a suggested stay option and escape for a road trip! (Please note: The distance to each of the following is as measured from Delhi.)
Bhowali – 307 kms
In the vicinity of many popular hill stations of Uttarakhand, beautifully secluded Bhowali is a relaxing weekend escape. You will find the beauty of nature in abundance here; it is one of those destinations to go to and do nothing at. If travelling between June and August, you must get your hands on freshly ripened apples, apricots, peaches and plums indigenous to the area. Other than that, explore an existing nature trail or discover one of your own, hike to the famous Tiffin Top to see what the view from their looks like.
As you arrive in the capital city of Rajasthan, its vibrancy, culture, and people make you its own… The famous forts and palaces are the heart of the Pink City; be it experiencing the sunrise from the top of Nahargarh Fort, an elephant ride in the Amber Palace, a walk through the heritage Hawa Mahal or the sunset view from Jal Mahal built in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, each has its own charm.
On the other hand, the hustle-bustle in the colourful streets of Baapu Bazaar and Johari Bazaar keeps the city alive and is something to be experienced. It is a paradise for shoppers as a range of artefacts, jewellery, traditional footwear, apparels and leather items etc., can be found here as you walk through the lanes. For the foodies, local delicacies such as daal bati churma, ghevar and pyaaz kachodis in the bylanes of Jaipur must be relished. The city has been one of the most convenient weekend escapes for the people of Delhi and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be!
To travel to the city of love, take the route through Yamuna-Agra Expressway and enjoy a smooth and comfortable road trip. Chances are that this will not be your first time in Agra and you might already have plenty photos with the Taj Mahal. Whether or not that is the case, this time, try and look at Agra as the capital that it was during the Mughal Empire. Trace the walls of the Red Fort,
The city owns the most magnificent architecture, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal, built on the banks of river Yamuna. It is the royal beauty of this monument and picturesque location that attracts travelers from across the globe.
While Taj Mahal is built from the precious white marble, its sister monument – the Agra Fort – is beautifully built in red and white sandstone. Don’t forget to try the popular “Agra Ka Petha” while you stay in Agra. 35km ahead of this is Fatehpur Sikri, a city with grandeur indo-Islamic architecture, culture and Mughal heritage worth exploring.
Apart from the adventure activities, Rishikesh, is also a center for spirituality and pilgrimage as the scenic view and holy atmosphere detoxifies the mind and soul. If you like solitude and introspection, then Parmarth Niketan is a must visit for meditation and spiritual healing. Well, the Beatles Ashram is also a place to be at, the famous music band visited the place back in 1968 to learn Transcendental Meditation and since the last few years it has become a famous tourist spot. Small shops offer head massage and body massages while restaurants like Chotiwala, street food and small bakeries will entice your taste buds.
*Please note that Shivpuri has been shut since the beginning of June and rafting activities have been discontinued until further government notice.
The paradise of bird watchers, Bharatpur, is the ultimate destination for exotic bird watching and nature photography in the popular Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary or Keoladeo National Park. Come here to listen to the songs of nature and enjoy the magical flora & fauna. Rare and endangered species of birds right from Sarus Cranes, Herons & Egrets to Indian Darter migrate here during different seasons. It is not advisable to cover the entire area on foot instead you can opt for a cycle or Tonga ride as well as jeep safari and elephant back safari, which are more fun amidst the nature.
The Lohagarh Fort in Bharatpur is magnificent and strong architectural structure ever built in India and this is a place often explored by curious travellers. The lovers of history often discover their “bliss” in the Government Museum of Bharatpur, where they find illustrations, sculptures, artifacts, weapons of the Jat rulers, zoological preserves and manuscripts paintings all under one roof dating back to second century.
Bhimtal, The Lake City, is an ideal getaway for a peaceful and pleasing stay amidst hills and lake. Nature lovers find this picturesque location their abode for the variety of activities they do here to stay close to nature such as exotic bird watching, nature walk, boating and much more. Unlike its more popular cousin Nainital, Bhimtal is more peaceful and less crowded which makes it more striking to nature lovers looking for an escape. There are these little tals around Bhimtal easily discoverable on foot, each with a story to tell.
Do not forget to pay visit to the Butterfly Research Centre, the fourth largest reference collection centre in India for butterfly and moth. It is believed that in Bhimtal alone, around 240 species of butterflies is found of the total 1300 species present in India. Also, what adds value to a place is the charming stays and the hospitable staff, giving you the best of services and local guidance during the stay.
If you are looking for a relatively less crowded and unspoilt hill station then, Lansdowne is the place to be at. The road journey from Delhi to Lansdowne is about 7 to 8 hours with well-connected roads, so for a relaxing weekend escape, it is one of the pleasing hill stations to be at. A perfect escape from city life, Landsdowne is an easy option to rejuvenate your soul.
One of the tourist attractions here is, The War Memorial, at the Parade Ground of the Garhwal Rifles Center, for which you will need permission from the military authority. With a short walk you could get a panoramic view of the Garhwal Hills with the backdrop of magnificent Himalayan Range., During monsoons, this hill station witnesses devotees of Lord Shiva from all over paying visit to its most famous temple, Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple.
Get lost in nature amidst mountains and dense forest of tall oak and deodar trees and explore the serenity of this peaceful hill station. Unlike many other active hill stations of Uttarakhand, Dhanaulti is peaceful and untouched which is why travelers dwell to this place for solitude during weekends. For the adventurous kind, there is a lot Dhanaulti has to offer, such as hiking in the lush green forests of Dhanaulti is the perfect thing to start your day with. Rappelling, Burma bride, horse riding and various other adventurous activities can be enjoyed in the Eco Park. The hot & delicious Maggi and tea served right at the entrance of the park will calm your hunger pangs and relish the taste buds in the mountains. Dhanaulti has less of luxury accommodation options, so camping under the open sky with stars twinkling right above makes the trip an everlasting experience. Tents can be availed on rent as well.
Rejuvenate yourself completely in this calm and beautiful hill station, Landour. Almost 5kms, away from the crowded bazars of Mussoorie, it is a more serene place to be at. Prefer a walk between the bazars of Mussoorie and Landour and enjoy the tranquility of life. As you move towards the Laal Tibba Hill, which is the highest point in Mussoorie, hold your breath because from here you experience the most charismatic sunrise and sunset.
Landour’s Chaar Dukan area is quite pretty and a popular spot, where tourists often stop-by for lip-smacking sandwiches, ginger lemon honey tea, Maggi, juices and more at Anil’s Café. Landour happens to be the hometown of Ruskin Bond, so you might get a glimpse of him. It is one of the first places in India where Peanut Butter was made commercially so do not forget to carry some fresh homemade peanut butter back to your homes.
Sarika Tiger reserve has held its fort for tourists over past many decades. The population of tigers might have been in question once in a while, but the place is the nearest getaway for wildlife enthusiasts from Delhi. Here, you will find a variety of wild animals such as jackals, leopards, jungle cats, wild boars, deer among many other not so wild species such as sambhar, spotted deer, lots and lots of peacocks. Some of the rarest species of birds migrate here, so for bird lovers this place has to be in their bucket list.
Though whenever one hears about Sariska, it is The Sariska National Park they think about but it has many hidden gems as well that are worth exploring such as the magnificent Sariska Palace, which was once the home of Maharajas of Alwar. The ruins of Bhangar fort, which is believed to be haunted is the most explored places when people visit Sariska. There are endless haunted stories of Bhangarh that catches people’s interest.
Please note that Sariska Tiger reserve is open for the public every day from October till May from 6 am till 3:30 pm.
Just like the beginning of life, each trip begins with an idea of hope, happiness and a new start…
A trip through unexplored routes fills us with freshness about an escape from the mundane. There is a start with determination that things will never be the same again and only better from thereon.
Sometimes you meet roadblocks in the beginning but those are soon overcome with the unending quest to explore something new, give our ideas the reality they deserve. As we grow, as we move forward in our trip, we meet new people. Each route, each person offers a new sight and new perspective. Every new stopover, every new interaction offers a new experience.
Each personality is developed by the perspectives we have built, experiences we have earned and that makes us decide what we like and what we will seek.
We have minimalists and glam packers, we have adventurists and comfort seekers, we have those who seek isolation and we also have story tellers, we have a variety of personalities, some seeking the same comfort everywhere and some seeking a new experience at each new turn. Technology and social media has coined a term for each and we have all become comfortable with our kind of personality whether it is in social life or real life.
While you are busy exploring newer terrains and yourself, you realize no matter what all you know and how good you are, there will always be people who face hardships better than you do. Those who embrace good parts of the trip, each new turn, condition, interaction, experience etc and you wish that you could be like them as well. You also learn that one trip is not enough to cover this big vast world and you start growing restless about what all you are about to miss.
There are challenging routes and there are fun routes but both are important for else, it will be meaningless to have a trip which did not present any hardships. By now you have realized that hardships make the best of stories, fun is just okayish.
There are also these parts of the trip where you are thankful to everyone for all that you have been able to cover and witness. There are these moments of eternal happiness and grave sorrow and sometimes they are too much to handle. But that’s just how it is and has to be dealt with.
While you are busy figuring out the answers to your own quests, discoveries, you realize the trip is already over and you must head back to where you came from. This generally results in an outbreak of emotions. Good or bad, ugly or beautiful, you realize that the trip was important. After all, all’s well that ends well.
“At last, we reached Komic; the signage read a height of 4587 meters and a village population of 114 inhabitants”…
The road that turns left from Koksar towards Spiti Valley does not look anything like a National Highway. It is full of challenges, adventure, risk and yet breathtaking landscapes. If you have covered the stretch from Jammu to Leh passing through the mud mountains, lunar landscapes, magnetic hill and more, you cannot expect Spiti Valley to surprise you, yet it enchants you like never before.
Our intention was to have evening tea at the highest motorable village in Asia, Kibber, and we crossed all hurdles with a smile. It was only at Key Monastery that we realised that the road now extends to Komic Village and the tag of the ‘highest motorable village’ had moved. The thing with tags such as highest, longest and brightest is that they can always be challenged. Unfazed, we changed our direction and set course towards Komic which was 21kms farther and much higher than the erstwhile highest village, Kibber. Not sure of what to expect, we were greeted by a narrow tar-less road uphill and a lot of dust, enough to change the colour of everything it touched. As we escalated up, the landscape kept getting more appealing and colourful. At last, we reached Komic village, the signage read a height of 4587 meters and a village population of 114 inhabitants. There was still no sign assuring of the highest-village-in-Asia claim. It was only after exchanging words with the indigenous lamas that the title was confirmed and we swell our chests with pride. Komic Village has a total of dozen odd houses and a 14th century old monastery which is the abode of Lamas. Most of the lamas keep shuffling between the Komic and Kaza as Kaza is the activity hub.
Komic means Snow Cock Eye. There are legendary stories associated to the village as robbers trying to steal the main deity but were unable to lift it after a point as it kept getting heavier, hidden treasures such as egg of the dragon, horn of a unicorn etc. Even the carving shapes of some stones will yell of delight. The earthquake in 1975 shattered the whole place around yet the deity statue at Komic held its place.
With one look around at the settling sun flickering over the Kaza mountain range, the thought of having tea at Asia’s highest village soon turned into the will to have dinner. We requested the head lama to let us stay the night and we were offered a room. We can never forget the delicious vegetable rice ‘pulao’ that the lama cooked up for us learning that we were hungry. We also gorged over vegetable ‘thenthuk’ for dinner. Well for tea, we are not sure how much we consumed as it tasted better than any other elixir in the world.
The village remains disconnected from the rest of the civilization for half the year due to heavy snow and lack of proper roads. The villagers are hospitable and are undaunted by lack of infrastructure or public services we, city dwellers, cannot live without. The trip to Komic is an essential escape from our worldliness to connect with the Lama life, to lay sight on landscapes and mountain ranges at same height as yours and more so to understand the true meaning of minimalism which cannot be taught better by anyone but the inhabitants of Komic village.
We are once again escaping to Spiti, in August this year. Know more about it here.
Everybody who used #hills #travel #fun #heaven and never thought #responsible is to be blamed…
‘Shimla locals ask tourists to stay away’
‘Congress MLAs have threatened to gherao the Municipal Corporation office, CM holds review meetings with different departments’
‘Mid-night protest march – citizens demand registration of FIR against the officials responsible for allegedly supplying sewage-mix water’
‘7 days of no water leave Shimla locals angry; tourists asked to stay away, find other options’
‘Government swings into action, divides Shimla into three zones to tackle water crisis. All are equal, no tankers for VIPs’
‘Court appeals residents to not wash cars,
‘Shimla’s daily requirement is around 42 MLD (million litres/day) water but supply fell to 22 MLD’
These are some of the headlines about the water crisis in the capital of Himachal Pradesh over the past one week. The Shimla water crisis that started as water shortage is over a week old and if reports are considered, it will loom over the next couple of weeks.
It is the worst thing to have happened to the hill station after the concretization. Exactly how big the problem is and which other regions are affected will be known later as the pundits have just begun their calculations.
I recently visited Shoghi for a small cleanliness drive on the Tara Devi temple route with one of our partner properties and couldn’t help but observe and capture the concrete jungle that Shimla has become. The thought of endless honking during traffic jams at the entry of Shimla city has filled me with restlessness over the years, so I would only look at it from a safe distance. The images gave me the same restlessness; mountains covered with more concrete than trees… they have been in mind ever since. And now the current Shimla water crisis only adds to the sorrow.
This is not a post full of crisis information, tips to recover from the Shimla water crisis or talk about how bad things have become. This is to remind us all that we are all responsible for this crisis. Anyone who has ever been to Shimla and been mesmerised looking at the green while overlooking the impending crisis is to be blamed. Everyone who got inebriated with the beauty of hills while honking endlessly at other vehicles in a never ending traffic jam is to be blamed. Everybody who used #hills, #travel, #fun, #heaven and never thought #responsible is to be blamed. Anyone who never cared about using the natural resources judicially is to be blamed.
Is it soon enough to respect Mother Nature and not feed on its carcass like wild dogs? What next after Shimla?
If we are still not doing our bit, we may never need to…
Day trips are more like power naps; you feel recharged and refreshed in no time…
Having said that, we also realise that living in a metropolis only leaves you with so many options for a day trip! For day trips near Delhi, one mostly needs to travel at least a hundred kilometres to begin to feel the escape. But with these options listed below, you’ll realise why hidden and gems are two words that go together. These are all interesting destinations great for a ride with your gang.
Please note: Distance to each destination is as measured from our Travelers Café & Motorcycle Garage in Noida, which is also the beginning point for all our Sunday Rides.
Bhardwaj Lake, Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, Delhi – 85 kilometers
Not many people know that the Asola-Bhatti forest range ahead of Chattarpur it is a natural habitat with a variety of birds, butterflies, mammals and lakes – of which Bhardwaj Lake is one. Ride to this place for an exploratory hike; be here with a group to ensure safety. It is advisable to carry plenty of drinking water and some quick breakfast options (sandwiches/ paratha rolls) with you.
Choose Garhmukhteshwar for a ride in the rain. Start early and discover this simple little town blessed with a close proximity to Ganga River. When here, Ganga Ghat and Nakka Kuan are two places you must visit. You’ll find plenty of breakfast options on the way and around the destination as well.
Situated just outside the city, it is the perfect spot to ride to. Take your breakfast/brunch spread along and cherish a Sunday picnic with family/friends. It is “an easily accessible bird paradise” (as described in a Nat Geo article). Go find yourself to know more.
Sultanpur National Park, Gurgaon, Haryana – 69 kilometres
Another haven for bird watchers on the other side of the capital, this site is plush with exotic migratory birds during winter, and makes for a charming picnic spot otherwise. It might be useful to note that it is open from 7 am to 4.30 pm. Find more information here.
Murthal, Sonipat, Haryana – 90 kilometres
This one’s obvious, and certainly not hidden, but the list wouldn’t have been complete without it. Murthal continues to be one of the favourite spots for bikers for a spin on NH1. Popular for the tandoori parathas served at its many dhabas, you need not worry about finding breakfast options here.
Damdama Lake, Sohna, Haryana – 60 kilometres
Damdama Lake is easily discover-able through Google Maps. However, owing to the reservoir’s irregular shape and size, there is more to it than just the main site. Best explored on motorcycles, the terrain is mostly raw and uneven, like most regions that fall in the Aravalli range are. It is recommended that you carry plenty of water and quick bites with you. There’s a restaurant by the Haryana Tourism board at the site. *Includes off-roading
Did you know you can find Dolphins in North India? Yes, you can. All you need to do is plan a ride to Unchagaon. 100 kilometres via Bulandshahr, Unchagaon in Uttar Pradesh is known for its Gangetic Dolphins and an ancient temple of Amantika Devi. Owing to the fact that Garhmukhteshwar is merely an hour away from Unchagaon, one may cover both in a day’s time.
Bhola ki Jhal, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh – 60 kilometres
Take a left from the Delhi-Meerut highway, just before Meerut, and you are in for a beautiful 25-kilometres-long stretch with the Ganges flowing alongside. Around Bhola ki Jhal, you can indulge in some fresh juice, pakoras, chai, bread omelette etc for breakfast. Our gang of riders played a match of cricket at the site to add some fun to the day.
Nuh, Haryana – 84 kilometres
Nuh is an ancient town in the state of Haryana. According to Mahabharata, the area was granted by Yudhisthira to their guru Dronacharya. If you’re a history aficionado, you must visit the ruins of the Ghasera Fort and the Chui Mal ka Talaab, when you ride/drive to this destination. Have breakfast on the way.
Pratapgarh, Jhajjar, Haryana – 110 kilometres
If you’re looking forward to an eventful day post riding, Pratapgarh can be an ideal destination for your group. You and your gang can immerse yourself in a range of activities at the popular Pratapgarh Farms here. Explore breakfast options on the way.
While most traces of the Mughal rule in the historic city of Panipat have faded, this one treasure still stands strong. Named after Kabuli Begum, Babur’s wife, the Kabuli Bagh Mosque was built in 1527 by the emperor Babur to mark his victory over Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi at the first Battle of Panipat in 1526. A halt at Murthal for breakfast mid way can be a good idea; there are enough restaurants on NH1 ahead of Murthal as well.
It is best to carry a basic tool kit and a first-aid box at all times.
Escape Route’s Sunday Rides are accompanied with an experienced road captain and a mechanic. _______________________________________________________________________________
If you think you have another interesting suggestion for day trips near Delhi, do let us know! We will update the article with your contribution. Meanwhile, join our Facebook group to stay updated about our Sunday Rides and other trips.
Forget about future generations, it is tough for this generation itself to find beauty in a hill covered with plastic bottles and packets
When was the last time you were actually planning a trip and surfing through different options? So you think of Shimla ─ mostly a concrete jungle, McLeodganj ─ brimming with humans all the time, Nainital ─ even the tal isn’t enticing anymore, Agra – ideal for a stampede, Jaipur – not so pink anymore…the list of places you don’t prefer going to anymore is endless. The reason is us ─ the travelers in all our glory.
We have not been respectful enough of the natural gifts. All these locations have been covered with concrete and are mostly man-made disasters waiting to happen. We cannot do much about the damage already done, can we?
At the same time, if you look around carefully, each off-beat location is getting polluted by humans into a garbage dump with plastic, used belongings, perishables etc. Social media is a culprit too, with all the amazing filters, it calls all viewers to visit the beautiful locations but never tells you about your ingrained responsibility to preserve that space.
Forget about future generations, it is tough for this generation itself to find beauty in a hill covered with plastic bottles and chips packets. We are all aware of the scarcity of natural resources, depleting clean water, less and less of fresh air and definitely lesser green areas. We also see hordes of warnings about not polluting the environment and caring about the landscapes, but who cares.
Picture this, at present one has to travel at least 200 kms and more from the nearest metro city to be in the lap of nature. Passionate bloggers and photographers are covering more than double the distance to show you how the clean world looks like. It takes you minimum of 4-5 hours to leave the grime and dust of the city to start breathing fresh air. What matters is how you behave while you are breathing fresh air in that area.
Some facts to get your attention:
Over 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country
Task of value extraction is left to the informal system of garbage collectors and recyclers
Only 80% of waste generated is collected and merely 28% processed
Swachh Bharat focuses too narrowly on individual action to keep streets clean without any pressure on State and Municipal authorities
There are stark threats to the world like the climate change, global warming etc. we cannot do much about it, but we can do what we can. We are listing out a few points for travelers to help conserve Mother Nature as we trot her majestic mountains and beautiful valleys:
Just stop littering – Please stop throwing while you walk and look all fancy. It is just not cool, is bothersome and affects everyone around you. No natural spot ever looked exquisite with discarded food cans, plastic bottles and other used stuff. Please stack the used items in a disposable bag, just carry it a little distance and place it in the dustbins. There are organisations like Waste Warriors and Clean Up Himalayas doing their bit, you need to do yours.
Act local – Locals do not pollute the environment they live in.
Conserve resources – One thing we must learn from our villages – Take only as much as you can consume, whether it is food or resources. What is the point of going to new places and not picking up their best practices?
We don’t have all the gyaan for you, but hopefully you get the thought. Please share what else do you think can be useful in maintaining the sanctity of all travel zones. We will update the article with your propositions.
PS – For each of Escape Route trips, we carry our own garbage bags and ensure that our fellow travelers make use of it for any kind of leftovers/throwaways. Littering is just not done.