Fear and Fun of being Solo in Goa!


By Ausmita


I am not an adventurous person but from time to time I like to challenge myself, step outside my comfort zone and do something I have never done before. Like take a solo trip to a place I have never been to before.  All through my adult life, I have often consciously avoided going to Goa for vacations simply because I thought it to be a tourist infested, over-exposed destination. Whenever my friends planned that Goa trip, I would step in and manoeuvre it elsewhere. At other times, fate intervened and spared me the ennui of visiting tried-and-tested-Goa. The only thing that could tempt me to visit Goa was perhaps the opportunity to travel by the famous Konkan Railway, touted to be one of the most scenic train routes in India and an engineering marvel in itself.

Hence, earlier this month with my regular travel partner travelling for work and me with some spare time on my hands, I decided to travel to Goa solo and find out for myself, what the whole brouhaha was all about.

I booked the travel and the stay. Read up on what to see in Goa, where to eat and made a mental map of all that I wanted to fit into my four days in Goa. But as the trip drew closer, I started having serious misgivings about this whole solo travel thingy. I was really skeptical if I would be able to enjoy on my own on a solo trip to Goa. I mean, having lunch or going on a drive on your own once in a while is always a welcome relief but imagine doing that for four days at a stretch! But I had made the bookings and told friends and family and it was too late to back out now. So begrudgingly, off I went to Goa not really expecting to have much fun.



Day 1: Two’s company, one is glum

For the first two days I had booked myself in a backpacker’s hostel in Calangute, North Goa just because I hoped to run into other solo travellers and team with them and go around. The hostel was tucked into a rundown neighbourhood off Calangute Beach with very very basic rooms and amenities. I took that as a sign to spend more time outside the room. I decided to walk to Calangute Beach. The sun was about to set and although I had been warned about Calangute, nothing could prepare me for the enormous sea of human population that hit me on Calangute Beach. It was like all my worst nightmares about Goa had come true. Add to that pesky shack owners, tattoo artists, water sports people and shady masseurs who seem very interested in knowing who I was travelling with. At first I was amused by their persistent questions but soon I got irritated and decided to walk to the neighboring Baga where the crowd is supposed to be slightly better.


Thankfully at Baga, no one bothered me with pesky questions. I happily lounged in one of the many beach shacks, soaking in the music and neon lights all around and sipping away to glory. But it started to get boring soon. I was trying hard to pretend that I was enjoying in my own happy little oasis but the peals of laughter and chatter emanating from the groups around made me miss my friends and my regular travel partner. It was still early evening but after a while, I decided to call it a day and head back to the hostel glumly.

On entering the room, I realized that two new girls had arrived after I left for the beach and had occupied the upper bunks in my room. They were cousins, part of a huge joint family living in Delhi, on their first trip to the sunshine state as well. Seemed like they had teamed up with another boarder at the hostel, a software engineer from Hyderabad travelling solo and they were all heading out for the evening. One of the girls asked me if I would like to join them and I jumped up and said yes. I was elated at the prospect of being able to spend the evening with some fellow travellers than stay in the drab hostel room and sulk. That night I had a nice time chatting and dancing with my new found friends.

Day 2: Comfort in Numbers

Next day the four of us hired a car and went around the churches in Old Goa, Dona Paola and chased the sun as it dipped into the Arabian Sea. It was good to be out with friends, to laugh, pose for groupies and discuss about each other’s previous trips, jobs and families back home. Since I had booked the hostel for only two days, I would have to check out the next day. Given the rundown condition of the property, at the time of checking in, I had just wanted to quickly get done with the first two days and move on to a better place for the last two. But I was in two minds now. Leaving the hostel would mean saying goodbye to my new friends and I did not want to go back to being alone and miserable again.


That evening we headed to a popular shack. The place was hosting a trance party and was packed with revellers eating, drinking, smoking and dancing the night away. Looking around I realized that there was not an inch of Goa here or in most of what I had seen in the past two days. Goa had left a long time ago and had instead been replaced by noisy tourists looking to get high and shack owners from the Northern part of India or Russia serving pizza, chicken fried rice and blasphemous Goan food along with imported spirits. My friends seemed to have a good time but I was getting restless. Surely, there is more to Goa than smoking up, drinking and endless partying.

Day 3: Unsure but Solo

Next day, I decided that it was time to bid goodbye to my new friends and head out on my own to find some real Goa even though it meant risking being alone and miserable.


I left the hostel, took a bus to Panjim and checked into a home stay in Fontainhas, an old Latin quarter in the city. Painted in bright yellow and overlooking the white St. Sebastian Chapel with a small hill in the backdrop, the homestay with oyster shell windows was being run by a Goanese mother - son duo. I felt right at home. After some good rest and a quick chat with the lady of the house, I set out to see Fort Reis Magos in Verem, across the Mandovi.


Originally a bastion of the Adil Shahi dynasty and later of the Portuguese, it had fallen into disuse and disrepair before being restored a few years ago. It is now open to public both as a historical and cultural centre. I was especially interested when I heard that some of Mario Miranda’s work (famous for his caricatures on everyday life and the mural in Café Mondegar, Mumbai ) is displayed in Reis Magos. Even though it was almost late afternoon and the fort closes around sunset, I decided to give it a shot. From Panjim Jetty I boarded one of those enormous blue ferries along with the horde of office goers, their bikes, cars et all returning home after work. The setting sun had turned the waters of the Mandovi to gold but all around us the floating casinos of Goa were still looked lethargic. On the other side, I boarded a crowded mini bus to take me to Verem Market and from there I followed the road along the river. It was getting dark all around and I realized that I had probably missed the chance to see Mario Miranda’s illustrations. Nevertheless, it was good to see a non-touristy side of Goa and travel like a local. I spent some time along the river, watched the lights in the casinos come alive as a river cruise boat decked up with fairy lights sailed past blasting some popular Goan songs. On the way back, I stopped over at Ritz Classic, a popular sea food restaurant in Panjim and feasted on some delicious Goan prawn curry and rice. Since Christmas was around the corner, street corners and churchyards had come alive with lights, fireworks, dance performances by local kids and pop up bands playing Christmas carols on saxophone and violin. The cheer in the air was contagious.

Day 4: Solo and loving it!

The next day, after spending sometime exploring the winding streets, colourful houses and art shops selling porcelain figurines and hand painted tiles in Fontainhas, I set out for Chandor a sleepy village in the heart of Goa known for the opulent houses of Goa’s former landowners.



An hour and a half, a bike taxi and two bus rides later I arrived in Chandor. Since I was the only touristy looking person in the whole bus (courtesy the straw hat and the big camera bag), as soon as I asked for the ticket to Chandor, the conductor had looked at me and exclaimed, “Bada ghar dekhne ja rahi ho? Braganca House near the Church?” Before dropping me off at Chandor, he pointed to a longish two storey house across the road surrounded by an overgrown garden. The four hundred year old house with two wings housing two offshoots of the same family: the Menezes-Braganza and the Menezes Pereira is a museum in itself. Words will not do justice to its grandeur; hence I will cover it separately in a photo blog.

It was Mrs. Aurea Menezes Periera who told me and gave me directions to the other house in Chandor that is open to public, the Fernandes House. So after thanking her, I set out towards the Fernandes house on foot. It was mid afternoon. I crossed the road and walked past the church. In the school ground behind the church, kids were practising march-past. I walked further past Chandor social club to edge of the village but still no sight of Fernandes House. A little ahead, I saw a woman who appeared to be waiting for a bus/ pickup and decided to reconfirm the directions with her. She was indeed waiting for a bus to Madgao. She confirmed that I was on the right path but will have to walk another fifteen minutes. Famished in the hot sun, I enquired if I could hire an auto rickshaw to get there. She laughed and said there are no autos available here for hire but offered to stop one of the passing bikes and request them to drop me at the Fernandes House. I was too exhausted to decline. As she tried to wave down a bike for me, she kept asking me various questions. Where are you from? So you are a tourist huh? You came here alone all the way from Mumbai? Have you had lunch? She also kept repeating almost apologetically that in case her bus comes in the meantime, she will have to leave even if she is unable to flag down a bike for me by then. Unlike the pesky shack owners in Calangute, her questions had a tinge of concern that really touched me. At long last, she was able to flag down a bike. A young boy who apparently was her milkman. Grudgingly, he agreed to drop me at the Fernandes House.

The Fernandes House looked more time worn than the Braganca house. All the windows on the lower floor were closed. I was about to turn around after several bells and knocks on the door went unanswered, when suddenly a man popped his head out of one of the upper floor windows and asked me to wait. He was the matriarch Mrs. Sara Fernandes’ son. The Fernandes house is almost 500 years old and although crumbling had very intriguing stories attached to it.

The next day, I took the Konkan Railway back to Mumbai. The route was scenic indeed. We passed through several tunnels, chugged over hills , ravines and. Alas, I could not click any good pictures through the dusty windows of AC 3 tier. Next time, I will make it a point to travel by second class. Yes there will be a next time as there is so much that Goa has to offer that one trip is indeed not enough. Cheers!


 Author Bio: Ausmita and her husband, Praneet are avid travelers. But with work and life often playing spoilsport with their travel plans, they devised a cunningly simple work around - Weekend Trips. WanderfulWeekendz is a living chronicle of their weekend sojourns. For more weekend sojourns off the beaten track, read and follow their Blog and  Facebook Page.



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Have you ever ventured out Solo with doubts and enjoyed the trip nevertheless? Please do share your experience in the comments!





Visit Ladakh - The Responsible Way!


By Sifti Dhillon



Ladakh is a one of the most sought after destination, not just within India but also internationally. Much has been talked about it in blogs, Travel stories, and magazines. Something or the other has been written about it by every travel blogger. So much has been talked, written and heard about it that it is on almost everyone’s bucket list. The region has a lot to offer to every kind of traveler. For the adventure seeker, the terrain is perfect for hikes, biking and river rafting in the Zanskar. For the history lover there are numerous Monasteries and Gompas speaking of an era gone by. And for the one who dwells in culture we have the local ladakhis. These mountains are their homes since many centuries. Generations of these people have been living here in these mountains knowing nothing about the world apart from their lives here.




                          Ladakh’s popularity among the travelers has been a bane as well as boon for the locals as well as the region. Its delicate ecology is being harmed every year with the season time rush of travelers. Cheap Guest houses have mushroomed all over Leh in order to provide economical stay options to the tourists without giving a thought to the environmental aftermaths of the same. Keeping in mind the need of travelling responsibly to the region, India Untravelled has partnered with GHE to provide travelers an opportunity to visit Ladakh not just in a responsible way but also to contribute directly to the local communities. Trips have been planned in such a way so that they are informative and indulging for the travelers and benefit the local community in some ways as well. 

A few of the trips are:


1.       Renovate Village house – Not only does this trip let you experience life in a ladakhi village, it provides one with the opportunity to make a difference to the life of a local family by assisting in renovating an old village home. One also gets the opportunity to visit the Moriri Lake and of course the world famous Khardung La - The highest motorable road in the world. Local sight seeing of Leh is included as well.


                         


2.       Solar electrification of a house – Yurutse is a village in Ladakh with no electricity.Here, our partners GHE, who are championing the cause of solar electrification in remote Ladakhi villages will head a team of travelers which will bring solar light to a village home for the very first time. It takes a 4-5 hour trek to reach this village. Enjoy the celebration with the locals in the evening as they celebrate another home receiving electricity. Along with this visit the Pangong Lake.


                                    


3.       Learn the fading art of making Copper utensils – The copper artisans of Ladakh are gradually fading away due to the lack of buyers. Learn this fading art from the skilled artisans, buy a few souvenirs to take back home, thereby helping in reviving this lost art. Try your hand at archery and experience the adrenaline rush as you river raft on the Zanskar river. Also, get an insight on Buddhism on this trip as you attend a chanting session at a monastery.


                             


Though everyone who visits Ladakh is sure to be in awe of its beauty, the ones travelling
responsibly and giving back to the local community are definitely leaving it a shade
prettier for the future travelers. 

                               Give Back to the Community, Travel Responsibly!

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For more information on our trips please visit our website. You can also write to us at untravel@indiauntravelled.com for a detailed itinerary.


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Have you travelled responsibly to a place in India? Please tell us in the comments about your experience.


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Chettinad Chaska!



By Ausmita



An overnight train from Chennai brought us to Chettinad. Hopping off, we noticed that only four or five other people had alighted there.

The place we were supposed to stay at, had called us back the previous evening to ask how we planned to get to Kanadukathan (our final destination) from the railway station. I had answered nonchalantly that we will simply take an auto or a taxi (like we do everywhere else duh!). The person at the other end had dismissed this with an amused tone and went on to say that he will send an auto to fetch us from the station. I had thought this to be unnecessary but finally agreed to the humble pick up arrangement.





Stepping out of the station now under the slanting rays of the rising sun, we realized how naïve we were to assume we could just sashay out of Chettinad station and hitch an auto to get to our destination.  There were only two autos and a private vehicle waiting outside the station which appeared to have been booked in advance by the other travellers.



The fifteen minutes journey from Chettinad railway station to the heritage village of Kanadukathan was a bumpy one. As the auto rickshaw slowly made its way through what was left of the road, we passed crumbling boundary walls and majestic gates of what might have been grand estates at one time, now lost to wilderness. It was the tales of these grand estates and palaces that had brought us to Chettinad.


The Chettinad region;  synonymous with spicy aromatic food prepared from freshly ground masalas; originally consisted of about 96 villages spread over an area of 600-1500 sq mile in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu. It is this that Chettiars, a prosperous banking and business community of South India, claim as their traditional home. The Chettiars were successful maritime traders who became immensely prosperous by trading in salt and rice in the South East Asia, especially Burma. Unofficial figures put the total number of these palaces in Chettinad, each covering 30,000 to 40,000 sq feet area at 11,000.




Fuelled by the handsome returns from maritime trade, the Chettiars left no expenses spared in opulently decking up their palaces with Italian Marble, Burmese Teak, Belgian glass, intricate iron grills, ornate carvings and colourful Athangudi tiles indigenous to the region. However, the Japanese occupation of Burma during the Second World War was a blow to their business. Unable to repatriate their wealth, most suffered terrible loses. The direct impact of this was felt on the maintenance and upkeep of their mansions.


The sun was high in the sky when we finally managed to step out for the tour of the village. Home to about 70 Chettiar mansions, Kanadukathan is a virtual ghost town with most Chettiar families having migrated abroad or to one or the other major city of India over a period of time. Even in broad daylight, the streets of Kanadukathan fortified by the high walls of the mansions on either side were practically empty except for a stray cycle or a hunched old man slowly walking past. Most palaces are in various stages of disrepair. However, the few that are still painstakingly maintained by respective families are a living testament to the grandeur of the past.



Our first stop, a regal whitewashed mansion with bright colours accentuating the edges and windows, suitably called the Rajah’s palace. The only opening in its high compound wall, an equally high grill gate was latched from inside. We peered inside. A short distance away, a guard was perched on a stool next to an enormous wooden double door. I put up a smiling face, stepped up to the gate and yelled out in faltering Tamil, “Anna, Veedu pakhre” and hoped that he understood that we wanted to take a look at the mansion. Evidently he had come across several such “curious cutlets” in his days of perching outside that door. He replied almost reflexively, “No. No. Close aaich.”



We moved on to try our luck at the next imposing mansion but were met with the same response till we wandered into Chettinadu Mansion, a heritage hotel. The owner, a genial elderly gentleman was lounging in the one of blue sofas in the grandiose reception hall with a chequered floor and white arches supported by enormous black marble pillars. He saw us as we were climbing up the stairs of the porch and gestured us to come inside. Elated, we stepped in. He was as curious about us, as we were about him and his house. After taking us through the history of Chettinad and Chettinadu Mansion, he gave us a free hand to wander through the open sections of the house.


We were awestruck. Beyond the Reception Hall, also known as “marriage hall”, was a series of successive courtyards connected by doors that lined up straight from the entrance to the back of the house. Each courtyard was surrounded by wide verandas and rooms on all four sides. The first courtyard had bedrooms or private living quarters of the family members spread across two floors. The doors were intricately carved with figures of gods, goddesses and apsaras. The verandah on the upper floor was surrounded by ornate blue and white wrought iron grills. The next courtyard, meant for dining purposes was simpler and the last courtyard had store rooms and kitchen. Next day we visited a few more mansions. What struck us most was that all houses, despite their similar layout, had their own unique architecture and décor. In fact, sometimes the décor and the materials used change from courtyard to courtyard in the same house as a result of continued construction over several years and generations.


Each house in Kanadukathan is a veritable portal into the golden age of Chettiars and their exploits all over the world. We returned with a camera full of memories. Our only lament is that these portals are quickly shutting down and soon Chettinad and its palaces will probably only exist in hearsay.


                                                                       
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 Author Bio: Ausmita and her husband, Praneet are avid travelers. But with work and life often playing spoilsport with their travel plans, they devised a cunningly simple work around - Weekend Trips. WanderfulWeekendz is a living chronicle of their weekend sojourns. For more weekend sojourns off the beaten track, read and follow their Blog and  Facebook Page.

An unexpected day in Khibber Village






By Neetole Mitra



To be in Khibber is to be vulnerably close to nature. At 14,200 ft, this village is nestled amidst the folds of the Himalayas, on top of a limestone rock, in the surreally beautiful Spiti Valley. The local bus from Kaza purrs into motion at about 4 p.m. and then takes two hours to roll up the edgy and snaky road, first past Ki monastery then Chichum’s exciting ropeway and finally, to Khibber.

It gets really off road here. 

View from the roof of my homestay.

Earlier in the evening, when the bus from Kaza pulled in at Khibber (the second highest motorable village in the world) the driver offered to help find me a place to stay for the night. But before he could proceed to tell me about his friend’s very comfortable homestay, I had jumped down the cluttered stairs with my backpack and shamelessly asked the woman with the egg crates if I could stay with her for the night. Sita, with her meticulously done braid and unforgettable freckles. The woman who pays up in case you run out of change. The one who needs help figuring out how to undo the silent mode on her phone; peering into the small screen through her pink glasses. For her the trust is built. I can stay. From the bus station (which is just at the entrance of the village) I follow my local host Sita on an earthen trail that borders someone’s pea field on the left; balancing a crate of eggs she has purchased from Kaza. In Khibber one doesn’t find these essential items of daily necessity. There are no grocery stores here. What comes, comes from the forest or the fields or off the animals. For the rest, go down to Kaza.



The Potato Momos

I never get used to the breath-taking view over the duration of my stay; neither the breathlessness. Altitude sickness is a bummer here. Someone like me can’t simply trot off for a trek at Khibber. In fact, life is rather unusual here and makes me feel like a real privileged spoilt brat and I’m almost put in my place. Like when I have to cram my neck at a correct angle to catch the elusive BSNL network near that nail by the window. I wait diligently trying again and again. Not angry, just praying. Then there are the frequent power cuts that punctuate Govinda’s films and give me a chance to chat with Norzom (Sita’s eldest unmarried daughter).For dinner, Padma (the third eldest girl), Tanzin (the eldest son) and Sita make momos. Atta was kneaded in the evening and kept aside. The aloo was boiled simultaneously and later mixed with onions, salt and local garlic. Fat round chapattis stuffed with boiled aloo and steamed. Along with the dumpling there’s spicy chutney made of tomatoes, chillies, onions and dhania, stored in a small plastic container, that was passed around from plate to plate. 

The living room of the home.

There probably wasn’t a better way to spend my time at Khibber than with a family of five. The day is short lived here and one is limited indoors after sunset. A valley so exposed to nature can be isolating for a solo traveller, but with Sita’s family I experienced home. With a TV playing out in the corner, a toddler romping about on a plastic cycle, siblings running about, Sita chatting with Rinzin chachi and me over occasional sips of chhang – I almost didn’t notice the whooshing of wind and the impenetrable darkness outside. 



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Author Bio: Neetole Mitra is a travel storyteller at Living Unplanned. She roams the streets of India in search of humour and to celebrate trivial events no one else cares about. You can also find her on Instagram and Twitter



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                                Send in your travel stories to blog@indiauntravelled.com

Garli - A place less travelled



By Priya Goswami

Once called the Switzerland of India for its beauty and wealth, Garli is now a notified heritage village tucked in the Kangra valley. A treasure of architectural marvels-Kangra, Colonial, Portugese, Rajput and Islamic, it is a beautiful mix of all these influences.

The lanes of Garli
This village was set by the Soods, an enterprising merchant community, in the early 19th century. Way ahead of their times in planning, they built their own houses and brought their own craftsmen and servicemen with them, including the cobblers, barbers, carpenters, etc. They also established the schools, hospitals, sarais, roads and the waterworks making Garli the epicenter of Punjab’s economics and politics by the 1920s. It is said that the location of village was also carefully chosen to receive good astral influence as the three shakti temples are also locatenearby-Chintpurni, Jwalamukhi and Brajeshwari (Kangra). 

Market of Garli
Garli is believed to have enough European influence and is also credited to its proximity to the summer capital (Shimla) of the British Raj back then. It was in the late 1950s that the village was completely abandoned, and when visited today, one can still see many buildings and mansions lying in distressed state. Some are as old as 200-300 years but speak of the village’s wealth back in those days. And this is evident in the grandeur of these structures made of exquisite wood, expensive balconies and intricate wall work. Garli has a small market for grocery, bakery, bangles, shoes and tailor shops. The village has a small taal as well.

The Abandoned House
Local Attractions

For Heritage enthusiasts-

The buildings and mansions all have a story. You can stop anytime and enjoy the architecture of these grand houses such as Bishnu Niwas, Bhagwan Niwas, the ‘Hidden House’, the ‘Mystery House’, and so on.
The Chateau Garli - A restored building

Hub of Temples-
Apart from the three shakti peeth- Chintpurni, Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari (Kangra), one can also explore heritage temples within a radius of 50-60 kms like the Dada Siba Temple and Masroor Rock cut Temple. The Dada Siba is also called the temple of Radhe Karishna and is revered for its mural paintings all across, which have been restored and delicately coloured. The rock cut masroor temple is the only monolithic rock structure in northern India and said that to have been made by the Pandavas in just one night during their "incognito"exile. 

For Nature Lovers
Just 20 mins away from the Garli main market is the Chamba Pattan Bridge over Beas where most of the people tread to enjoy the sunset. Another nature lover's delight is the wetlands of pong lake, an hour and a half drive from Garli,  is a seasonal habitat and stopover for migratory birds that enter India from Central Asia. It is also one of the 25 international wetland sites declared in India by the Ramsar Convention. Needless to say, it’s a photographer’s dream destination as well.
Pong Dam Wetlands

Food & Stay
If you like to discover the local flavours, you cannot miss the malai barf sold by Mr. Satpal Sharma. His forefathers have been selling this since 1890. On a leaf plate for mere Rs. 30/, it is made of milk, khoya, cheeni, and badam. Other local delights included Mandra (kidney beans in gravy of kaju & kishmish), Chana Daal with amchoor, Mhani (black chana, jaggerry & amchoor), Maa ki dal, Mittha (made with urad dal).


Famous Malai Barf of Garli
The Chateau Garli-a 95 year old heritage boutique hotel in Garli has all the modern amenities you can ask for. 
 Naurang Yatri Niwas-also known as Naurang Sarai and  The Judge’s Court-a 300 year old heritage property built in a country manor style in Pragpur are a few options for one to stay.


A Local Bakery Shop




Author Bio: Priya is a  professional baby and portrait photographer who left her full time corporate job as a marketing and brand professional with an MNC to follow her passion. When not clicking, she loves to travel and explore places. You can follow her on  Facebook  or visit her website: http://priyagoswami.com/






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               Share your travel experiences with us. Write to us at blog@indiauntravelled.com

A Misty Evening In Coorg



By Priyanka Das


Anybody who has lived in Bangalore knows the tale of this fabled little hamlet in Kodagu district. Coorg has lured unsuspecting travellers into its abyss for decades. With an impressive list of must-see tourist attractions, Coorg does come around as the Scotland of India. The Talakaveri, Tibetan Buddhist Temple, Iruppu falls are only to name a few. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that a bunch of overworked ITians had very high expectations from this little town when we embarked on the happy-go-lucky trip from Bangalore on one fine Friday.

We were gravely mistaken.

Turns out, Coorg was no shy maiden that day. She was in no mood of being courted. She had no desire of being the cold, foggy princess that day. She smelted in the summer heat, breathing fire, its relentless battering and beating down he poor travellers who were unprepared for this indifference. There was not a single cloud in the sky, not a single wave of cold air relieving us from the hot summer day. Needless to say the impatient six that we were, we decided to cut the whole adventurous city-trotting facade by half and run for shelter before Coorg’s ire broke our very stance.

After what seemed like an exaggerated eternity, we finally breathed deeply as our car went off road on a dirt path leading into a wooded earthy forest which can only be described as magical. The car bobbled up the road as the playful sun’s ray meticulously tried to find their way around the labyrinth of lime green leaves, splattering ruthlessly over the olive grass blades that stood in attention watching the strange procession passing them on the rickety road.



After about a 15 min drive, we reached our homestay.  To say that the place came as a mild surprise to us would be a serious understatement. The homestay or to give it its rightful place, resort, was located on a spawning swathe of land, encompassed entirely by manicured lawn and peppered with numerous flowering trees. The guesthouses were tiny log and thatch cottages that dotted the elaborate landscape instantly trapping one into a fairy tale where one almost certainly expects a talking rabbit to jump out of the many shrubby floral bushes.  But, the most striking feature of this landscape is the enormous lake. At first our mind wouldn’t believe that a lake of this magnitude can possibly be hidden in this enchanted forest; maybe it was the trick of the sun? But it was there. A secret covertly held by the gentle slopping hills and cascading trees. As we caught our breath, the gentle waves of the enormous lake lapped on the shore reflecting the numerous shades of orange that the setting sun was throwing its way. We didn’t know how long we stood there, outside of the cabins trying to keep up with the changing hues of water, but the orange orb of sun had grown dimmer and a ethereal mist had engulfed us. My eyes scanned the shimmering water coming to rest on a wayward bird which was lazily picking on grains of earth on the expansive roots of a nearby tree. 



 That night as I lay beneath the pewter sky gazing at the dancing stars, their shimmer reflected on my face, taking form of a smile; a smile that I carried with me all the way back to Bangalore.


                             

Author Bio: After working in the software industry for four years, Priyanka has quit to commit full time to her former fling of writing. She is passionate about offbeat traveling, food for soul, meeting new people and sharing their stories, recycling, and yoga. You can follow her stories on Instagram , Facebook , Blog



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Has a place taken you by surprise on your travels? Or discovered a hidden gem no one knows about? Please share with us!



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Ramblings of a lonely girl - Days spent in tiny village in Uttarkashi


By Priyanka Das


“Aapka gaon bahut sundar hai...” I said smiling.
 (Your village is very beautiful)

“Hai na? wohi toh.. Pata nahi aap sheher wale kaise rehte ho? Humko toh soch ke hi ajeeb lagta hai ki roz ganga maa ke darshan nahi honge!” she said.
(Yes, how do you city people live? The thought of not seeing Mother Ganga every day is so uncomforting!)


 Between the gasping for breath and trying to find my foothold, I braved a glance at the old wrinkled face of the lady sprinting and hopping across boulders making her way through the lush fields flaunting its abundant harvest of soybean and paddy. The turbulent Ganges flowed beneath us, roaring, marking its territory. But there was no turbulence on this lady’s face. It was calm. It was happy.
I had just met her that morning in the little village of Siror on the banks of Ganges and she had offered to take me uphill to see her fields. This little unassuming village was to be my home for 30 days.
As we stopped for breath, overlooking the gorgeous landscape dotted with clear white waterfalls, I thought of the sequence of events that had led me to this spot.

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Very often in our lives we take a quick decision that changes the entire course of life. Taking a solo trip to Uttarkashi was one of them. When I boarded my train from Delhi railway station after saying goodbye to my friend, for the first time it dawned on me that I was going to undertake this 12 hour train journey followed by a 6 hour bus ride all on my own... I was going to be Alone.

My mind was filled with apprehensions and possibilities seeded by endless stories of crime shown on TV. I spent the entire train journey clinging on to my bag eyeing every passenger in the train with suspicion and as a potential rapist. Then  I spent another 6 hours on a rickety bus, making its way through narrow foggy roads occasionally flying through tiny water streams, hoping that there is no landslide on the way that would entraps us! Needless to say it was an arduous journey. Once in Uttarkashi, I boarded a taxi for the final conclusive leg of the journey and reached Sivananda Kutir, Netala.
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The Ashram


“Madam aap Sivananda ashram ja rahe ho?”

 (Madam, are you going to Sivananda Ashram)

“Haan". (Yes.)

“Aap thak gaye lagte hain. Par aapke wahan pahunchte hi sari thakan door ho jayegi” proclaimed my taxi driver.
(Don't worry, the moment you reach there, you won’t feel tired anymore.)

I smiled. This was not the first time I had experienced the intense devotion the region has towards the Ganges. She was the solution to every problem from crops failing to SENSEX dropping 100 points. She was the very lifeline of this place.

The unassuming taxi driver was right of course.

The ashram was right on the banks of the river and my room was perched on the river side in a rather precarious way almost floating on the ravaging swirling water beneath.
For many nights thereafter, I lay wide awake in my bed listening to the noisy river flowing right outside my window.

“Has the water level risen?”
“I bet, the river sounds closer and louder than an hour before”
“There was a flood a few years back...maybe this is not the best place to be...”
“Was this the 3rd night? Or maybe the 4th?”


My train of thought was endless.

The River Ganga flowing right next to the Ashram
There is always a ‘chicken little’ hiding in all of us for whom the sky is always falling. My apprehensions were driving me to the point of insanity. With nothing else to do, I got up and walked out of my room into the small platform. The sky was exceptionally clear that day and the moon was full. The Ganges was flowing with more gusto than ever before. I walked closer to the edge of the platform and placed my hands on the railing. There was no other light in entire place but the moon.  The moonlight reflecting on the river was rendering the river a silver ethereal glow. And then suddenly there was complete silence. Something deep in my heart had been released. The water of the river swayed, swirled and flowed with all its might, washing away everything in its path.  But somewhere in all this chaos, there was still this unknown divine energy that moved and united everything around me.



Devotion is a tricky thing. It is staggeringly difficult to find it. But once you do, it is almost impossible to lose it.  If you have ever been a traveller you would know that every journey in life teaches you something. For me this journey was a journey of discovering love and how to surrender. It was a journey of knowing that I am always watched over. It was a journey that taught me that there is immense goodness in this world if only we open our eyes and look.


It was a journey that taught me, no matter where we are, we are never truly “Alone”.

Author Bio: After working in the software industry for four years, Priyanka quit her job to take up writing. She is passionate about offbeat traveling, food for soul, meeting new people and sharing their stories, recycling and yoga. You can follow her thoughts, stories and travelogues on her blog  Postcard from Life 

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                 Share your travel experiences with us. Write to us at blog@indiauntravelled.com