Tag Archives: Traveling

Country of Vikings & Fjords I (Oslo)

The miraculous phenomenon of Northern Lights or Arora Borealis was the only reason I chose to go to Norway but was certain to find more than what we expected out of this most expensive (cost) and rich (experience) travel I ever had. Even after planning and arranging everything on my own it costed us a lot.

Me and my girlfriend started our trip from New Delhi IGI airport and landed in Oslo on 11th Feb morning; As per plan spent 2 days here exploring the city. Capital of Norway & most populous city of Norway welcomed us with -3’C temperature. We explored the city by every means possible i.e. Bus, Metro, Trams, trains and local taxis. It’s beautiful country covered with Snow in February with a great history of Norwegian Vikings and mostly famous for it’s damn awesome natural fjords. There was a lot to cover in every step with countless museums, historical architecture, Viking history attractions and many other. Take a walk in front of Parliament of Norway, and don’t forget to visit Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage. Oslo central Station and it’s surroundings are most happening places in Oslo and also a place to start your little shopping of local stuff. City’s hop on/off buses are best way to cover most of these.

History of Vikings
History

What you shouldn’t miss in Oslo-

Viking Ship Museum – Located in Bygdoy, museum provides historic ships made by vikings in year of 850 and you can have a nice view from the balconies they have made for proper look.

The Vigeland Museum- Awesome art in form of painting, woodcuts and sculptures made by famous artist of Gustav Vigeland. I feel his whole life can be viewed from this museum and it’s more than 15000 artifacts.

Oslo Opera House – National Opera & Ballet House of Norway. We didn’t go inside of it but really admired the beautiful architecture from outside & had a long walk.

Royal Place- This huge monument reminded me of President house in India but of course the snow covered around building and that cold weather made it memorable.

City Hall and Parliament of Norway would definitely come in the list with Fram museum with that triangle architecture. Take a bicycle on rent or do a walking tour around Oslo central station – you will really enjoy doing and seeing things on your own then taking a guide. Though if you like more detailed info on everything then take a guide. There are many different packages once you visit Oslo tourist information center and yes in any city of Norway take a city pass, it saves a lot of money and comes very handy and all kind of visits and transportation ………

After Oslo, we took a train to Bergen —— follow for Bergen Rail and many other adventures in Country of Vikings & Fjords II (Bergen)

Mysterious North East India

North East- Just a direction I chose to travel after my soul craving for another solo backpack trip. Nothing planned, just 20 days in hand with one return ticket from Delhi to Guwahati. What I had in mind is to cover as many places as I could in seven states of North East. For a deep and detailed tour of North East, 20 days are just not enough so my plan was to get an idea about these places, transport, food, roads, languages and culture a little so I can come back again to feed my hunger of wandered soul. But I guess it fuelled the spark and now I badly want to go again to finish what I couldn’t.

One thing for sure is that we have actually neglected the ample opportunities of tourism based acknowledgement of these 7 states, specially Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. I backpacked the seven states, covered around 3500 Kms., 13-15 places and what I found is extraordinary. Variety of tribes, people who have uncorrupted brain, heart and souls; most wet and greenest mountains; running to frozen water bodies, Living root bridges, giant Rhinos, ancient temples and forts, rocks and scary caves, cleanest village of Asia, second largest Monastery in Asia, borders of neighbour countries, soothing tribal music, dance, costumes, culture, food and what not…. Amazed seeing a family of 140 people living under same roof, shocked seeing a woman of 95 years old not having water for ages because she doesn’t like the taste, women running family businesses, tribes fighting for their existence, where sports like Soccer comes before Cricket and above all where girls walk freely without moral policing unlike our metros. 😛

In my short visit I had to cover all 7 states and as first time visitor, I did leave many places because of time, transportation issues and political disturbances…. And my budget of course. Nagaland and Manipur were under curfew due to ongoing agitation so had to cut short my visit and left many places without visiting. Public transports give very limited options and others are expensive for a solo trip. Private taxis are expensive and no night service commute are available in most of the places which results into day wasting travelling, until you get lucky and find some JUGAAD.

My short trip started from Guwahati and travelled a full circle of North East- Guwahati, Umiam Lake, Shillong, Cherrapunjee, Mawlynnong, Dawki, Jowai, Silchar, Agartala, Aizawl, Lunglie, Imphal, Mao, Kohima, Dimapur, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Kaziranga, Tezpur, Dirang, Bomdila, Sela Pass, Tawang, Guwahati, Mawsynram and back to Delhi.

Tips:-

• National News channels do not cover news of most of places so be aware where and when you are going. Best way to find out is local newspapers and channels.

• If you are dependent on public transport, then don’t plan it. Just go with the flow. Until you have enough money or group to hire taxis.

• Nothing to be afraid of in North East but avoid sensitive places/arguments, also night travel to Nagaland and Manipur.

• Spend more time in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Nothing much to see in Tripura. For me it was waste of money, time and energy because of short trip time.

• Budget hotels are from INR 500 to 1000. Explore more to get good deals. Don’t be dependent on internet for these places.

• Don’t forget to get Inner Land Permit before planning for Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. You can get Online and from state borders. Be aware of Holidays and Sunday.

• Mizoram and Meghalaya are most peaceful places. Just Loved it. Arunachal is Himalayas of North East.

Now you have read all this, believe me you don’t want to read about North East India……Just go and experience it…… Keep travelling.

Valley of Cedar- Banjar & Jibhi

Cedar trees have captured this valley from every part & you will find green powder of Cedar tree leaves all over you, if you are stoned for some time. This place has a dense forest with abundance of variety of flowers & of course harmful insects.

It’s situated at more than 4500FT above sea level & lies around 35 Kms off route to Mandi – Kullu highway. From a small town Aut, you get direct buses to Banjar Valley & Jibhi. A peaceful & less crowded place with very high literacy rate. If you are travelling by local buses after Aut; you will certainly have a chance to meet & talk to students travelling to achieve their academic dreams & talking about a different Himachal culture unlike other cities- Shimla & Manali. Kind & helpful locals will give you a life perspective which is far outlandish to materialistic world.

There is a small waterfall in Jibhi & reaching on top of this will give you very fast pumping heart as a steep ascent is waiting for you. Coming down is easier if you choose to do water rappelling arranged by a local facilitator (Lalit-Leena’s Palace) here. This is one of the reason, I visited this place but believe me there was more to explore & be a part of, in this valley. Biking, Cycling, Fishing & Jungle treks are some other options worth trying in this place.

Jalori Pass-Himalayn range & an old temple inside fort which is only left with stone walls now. A small water tank in centre of fort with full of flower bouquets gives this places an aromatic touch. Though with stormy waves at this place, you might not feel it much. If you are lucky, you can experience clouds touching your feet & sunlight closing your eyes at the same time. Sarehul Lake, Chiri fort & Chaini village are some other important places to visit around Jibhi & forest trek make these places little adventurous. I guess winters could make these places more beautiful with snow, which I surely missed this time. Don’t forget to eat Siddu (a local dish of Himachal) here which definitely has a different taste from other parts of Himachal.

Nice and relaxing place for solo or family travel. Have a good one…

Lord of Peaks- Tungnath

At 12000 ft it feels like another world when cold breezes touch your face & make it numb, same way your heart & mind will stop thinking anything when you will see the amazing beauty of this place.

                             We started from Delhi in a chilled morning of December and without deciding the destination. After continue driving & passing Haridwar & Rishikesh, we decided to go to Tungnath but keeping 4 days for this trip encouraged us to visit Deoriya Taal also. We travelled in December 2012 so lots of things changed after 2013 UK Floods.

                              On our way at Rudraprayag we saw the confluence of Alaknanda & Mandakini River & Chamundi Temple is located in between both rivers. Flow of both rivers on joining was at its best. Our first night stop was at Syalsaur Government cottage 170 Kms from Rishikesh which is now vanished after flood.  It was a very decent cottage on the bank of Mandakini River. After a full day more than 400 Kms drive, this place actually provided a peaceful stay & sound of river water was giving soothing music. Second morning we headed to Sari Village, it’s a small village from where the 3.5 Kms trek for Deoriya Taal starts. We stopped by here to fill ourselves with  maggi & parantha & it was a good decision, we realized later. 3.5 Kms trek from here was more difficult for us than we thought but lush green forest around trek helps little. We took around one & half hour to trek it. You get couple of shops over there & they provide everything starting from tea to camping stuff, everything you might need. We decided to camp there, once we get to know about facilities these people providing. This place gives 300 degree view to Kedar Range Mountains & mirror image of mountains on Deoriya Taal. It’s a small lake of natural water at 2387 mtrs above sea level. Camping at this place in month of December thrilled us & chilled our veins.  A group of bikers joined us on Bon fire & made it a musical night with their songs. Next day we drove to Chopta to start our final day trek to Tungnath- Lord of peaks. All shops were closed because of winters & camping was also not possible there. It was 4 kms moderate trek from Chopta & full of snow in winters. The 1000 years old temple of Shiva at 12000 ft looks amazing & gives an iconic view covered with snow. You get the full view of Himalayas from here. Temple gets closed in winters so we missed to view it from inside. It is definitely a place to visit & would like to save that view in your memories forever. This place gives a peace of mind & forces you to believe the power of almighty. After spending few hours in silence & happiness we moved back towards life of New Delhi, keeping Tungnath in mind & heart.

Ladakh – The Heavenly delight

Well the most awaited road trip started on 6th Aug night when four of us started driving a Maruti Ertiga towards Leh-Ladakh. We have been alarmed & warned multiple times by friends about current bad weather & local political conditions but risk was worth taking for sure. After driving for almost 900 Kms with 6-7 stops we decided to spend our night in Balihan, 110Kms before Srinagar. We stayed in Govt. Hotel Mapples, quite decent & reasonable in terms of money. It was night just to get some rest after all the way driving madly.

8th Aug- We left from Banihal to Srinagar. Martand Sun Temple, built in AD 724-761 was the first stop in Srinagar. This temple has very old architecture with multi pillars surrounding a big dome in the centre. Don’t know much about it but a song of movie “Haider” was shot here. Dal Lake in Aug gives a beautiful view with wooden houses & shikaras on the sides. This around 21 square Km lake has floating gardens too & second largest lake of J&K, is best place for boating & Shikaras. Leaving the still water of Dal Lake behind, we drove around 90 Kms more to reach Sonamarg for the night halt. Meadows of Gold is on the bank of river Nallah Sindh & gives a panoramic view of Himalayan ranges. This places is full of alpine trees & inaccessible during winters. We stayed in J&K tourism cottages & it’s one of the best designed & maintained hotel so far in my all road trips to hills. Well-polished heavy wooden structure with all the modern facilities & situated on the top of valley, which will give you wonderful view of sunrise in this Alpine Valley.

9th Aug- After a wonderful morning view & breakfast, it was time to move ahead & from here the real adventure starts while driving to these motorable roads without roads. Though Srinagar- Leh highway is still the best maintained & actually have some awesomely done roads on the way except few patches, which take your breath away while driving to landslide roads. Our next stop was at 11649 ft. Zozila pass, 108 Kms from Srinagar. & now the cold desert starts from here with many bikers, cyclist, army personnel & crazy travellers. Visiting Kargil, Drass, Batalik, Captan Batra’s camp, Tololing Peak & many other martyrs camps give adrenaline rush to your patriotism. Highest altitude wars had been taken place here multiple times & we won proudly every time with sacrifices which can never be forgotten. We spent the night in our tents near Khugru; a small village & I have never seen so bright night without moon. It was most mesmerising view of sky in night; loaded with stars & shining galaxies.

10th Aug- Day when we reached Leh after crossing mighty mountains, well maintained roads by BRO, cold desert full of sand dunes structure & a chilling feeling of witnessing a dream destination about to come true. We roamed around crazily in the town & decided to stay at Changspa Valley in guest house made of wood again. Time was for the well-deserved party after honing our driving skills for days. We had a party among some guitarist, foreign travellers & few so called travel singers. Night went well..

11th Aug- with so many landslides on the way of Khardung-La & other passes, we only had one option left & that was Pangong Tso- around 225 Kms from Leh. On the way is Chang-La at 17688 Ft. There is a temple Changla Baba & refreshment cafeteria; the only one on our way to Pangong. Changla was First place where we saw some snow fields nearby in this season & chilling weather too. On the way we found many Ice water streams & sat for a few hours to enjoy our drinks with view of horses walking around & chilling air of mountains touching us extensively. Then we left for our today’s destination & believe me the first sight of Lake Pangong Tso is still alive in our eyes. This Ice water salty lake situated at 14720ft is around 140 kms long, 5kms broad & only 30-40% of it is in India. Crystal clear chilled water & camping tents in a row around it. We stayed in our own tent here just next to lake. This place gives immense pleasure to eyes & scenic beauty of this place is just beyond words. Every bit of this place gives you peace & forces you to think about your own existence again. Reaching here in time & spending a night here only was best decision. Watching sunrise on this place is altogether a different experience. Every falling ray behind mountains was giving this lake a view of sparkling diamonds or like fire over the water. A place must visit.

12th Aug- 15th Aug- We started our Journey back to New Delhi, taking the Manali-Rohtang pass & the worst road adventure starts from here. Road from Leh to Pang is still ok but Pang to Sarchu is like driving in hell full of boulders, pebbles, water bodies, mud & all worst. Though view on this way is great but this side we were unlucky because clouds have surrounded us. On the way we saw double rainbow first time in our life. One night in Sarchu; where we slept with locals in a dhaba as night had fallen on us & roads & weather conditions had gone worst. Second day we drove in the clouds to reach Manali & couldn’t see a bit of it. It was hard to say whether we were clouded or we were driving into the clouds.  A night in Manali and then we were back again in Delhi NCR with a feeling & promise to go back again asap- Most probable in winters

Life teaches us a lot & travelling such places gives you opportunity to use those learnings & enlightening it. Remember I am talking about travelling not about staying in hotels & shopping around these places.

Have a safe journey in Ladakh but do it for sure…..

Prashar Lake- A hidden grace

If a journey is painful, make sure the destination is worth all the pain you suffered. Prashar Lake is certainly one of those places which will heal your body & mind. Situated at 2700 mtrs above sea level surrounded by mountain peaks, a temple built in 13th century from a tree; view of Kinnaur, Pir Pinjar Mountains & a floating island in between lake makes this place an eye soothing tonic.

Place is about 50kms from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. After driving 30kms, you reach Baggi Village & then have two option- 9Kms Moderate Trek to Prashar Lake or 19Kms driving on worst roads of hills. We decided to drive 19Kms & after a good rain, it was not a good decision. There are two guest houses with 4-5 rooms each. You get very basic facilities at these places with limited options to eat but again location of these guest houses is another bonus of this place. Taking your own tent here is a good option, if weather is not bad. Mountain looks more beautiful in rain & we were lucky that we saw rain & sun showers changing their shift every hour. The floating island of lake makes this place more graceful. Temple of Prashar Rishi is just next to this lake & looks like a Tibetan temple architecture, though it’s not. Reach at the top of surrounded mountain & view from the top is more mesmerizing & beautiful. Winter look of this place must have been more amazing but we didn’t see less in April also for sure. A road trip from Delhi to this place is about 520 Kms & after continue 12 to 14kms drive, sleeping in this peaceful place hidden in forests, surrounded by mountains; was like blessings of nature.

Himalaya really has so many such hidden places which are worth all the pain you suffer to reach there.

Second day we moved to Manikaran in Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, which is around 80-90kms from this place. After spending an hour here we decided to spend the night at Kasol which was on the way to Manikaran & just 3kms drive back. 2-3 good small treks are here but we decided to save our energy for next day’s 500kms drive to Delhi. I would say Kasol is Amsterdam of India in many ways. Spending a night here & having dinner in Joe Morrison café, situated deep in forest will give a feeling of Bob Marley Kingdom. Rest is history & secrets………… Himalayas never ends….. 🙂