As I went about my morning walk up on the terrace of my home in Bangalore, the Sun was making it’s way up. It’s move up on the stage was so grand that I had to grab my camera and focus on its entrance.
It was a poised way up and it was utterly elegant that I had to focus on getting these above shots. I was lost in time and wonder of this spectacle.
We are always so lost in our own world that we fail to look at the beauty around, the nature is a grand spectacle and every day, every moment is brand new.
What do you think of this? Have you come across any grand spectacle of nature?
One way is to trek, another is to ride up , well there is a third way – Riding in the largest aerial tramway in the United States – At Gatlinburg over Great Smoky Mountains!
Well the road ride to Tennessee was fabulous because of the valleys, the mountains and incredible views throughout the way.
Gatlinburg, the mountain resort city has numerous places to visit, enjoy and of course ring in with the rustic mountain ambience throughout. More on Gatlinburg in another post.
Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Blue ridge mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The popular Appalachian trail passes through the center of the park. The ranges are at an altitude of about 6ooo feet and above.
Well as we headed up the aerial tramway, the joy of seeing the mountains below us was fantastic. It was the thrill of hovering over mountain ranges and seeing the Smoky mountain ranges all around us. The ride was quite adventurous when the tramway headed down and we had the entire crowd inside the tramway yelling on top of their voices.
Well for me a trekker, a hiking enthusiast this was a different wonderful way of seeing the mountains and enjoying the ride with fellow travellers.
Well it is the D-day. And all I can think of for today’s challenge is Dalhousie.
I can’t forget this beautiful hill station nestled in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, India.
I spent my Birthday week last year at this place. The monsoons in July made it all the more beautiful. Lush landscapes, rolling hills, hot food and the misty woods made it all the more lovely.
It is located in the Dhauladhar mountain ranges of the Himalayas at an altitude of 6000 to 9000 feet above sea-level. The ride through Dalhousie kept me on my toes as I wished that I would make a home in the woods…. Well the dream stays…
Well most of us have had this question ringing in our heads when we have an impulsive drive to just head out somewhere but then the thought wanders about for a while, only to surrender to the confines of the comfort zone!
Ever experienced this?
Well to all the procrastinators, comfort zoners and just about any one who has put off a travel…. here are a few things to DO (random order) when you have the WANDERLUST!
Choose a place- WHERE? It could be a place that you have been wanting to go since ages, it could be the first place that comes to your mind now, it could be a place of your dreams provided it is on this planet 😉 Or you could research any travel blogs, travel diaries of frequent travelers, travel magazines or websites.
Now I guess you have the place ready…. it is time to plan out the ‘WHEN?’ Find out the best time to visit the place you have chosen. If it is the peak period, you might want to avoid it if you want to be away from the crowd 😉 (Introvert Traveler talking :D) But yes if you want to enjoy the place in its magnanimous self, then hop on and make the most of it and don’t worry about the crowd (they could add to your advantage)
So, BUDGET… I hope you selected the place keeping in mind the budget you have in your pocket 😉 Just kidding ….. well I am not! By all means, if you are lacking some amount, save up. Well if you choose to just land in the place and figure the rest from there, so be it. There are many options like couchsurfing, working on the go, sharing the travelling costs with a fellow traveller….. Well if you put your mind to it you will come across one or the other adventurous way….
NOW book your transportation tickets- flight, train (certainly well ahead to confirm your seat and to save some money on early bird bookings). Also, if you are planning on staying in hotels, resorts, home-stays, traveler bungalows book it! Well again if you happen to be a traveller, land in the place and figure your way out.
Lastly, the biggest thing to do. Well, I should have put this at the first 😉 Nahh! Convince the stakeholders- Boss, Team members, Family and of course Parents! God bless you, if you have Indian parents….. It is really really hard a job to convince them completely… try to convince them a bit atleast. All the best!
Oh I forgot… Travel WITH? You could tag along with your family, friends, like-minded travelers or just about YOU being on a vacation alone! Try it! Traveling Solo and finding fellow travelers on the way is in vogue but more so you learn a lot about the world around you and about yourself! (There goes your reward!) If you are travelling with a travel tour company/agency/organization you are bound to find many fellow travellers so don’t beat yourself on going solo!
Well if you want to just be a traveler to the core, travel about anywhere, anywhen, anyhow, anywith and try to figure out a way where your heart and mind leads you to.
So, get going NOW! There is NO later, a sweet period, the right time, the leisure time, the retirement time! Sorry, you may not be alive to reach these fancy times.
It is the NOW time. Make it NOW! Travel NOW!Explore NOW!
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As I walked up the spiral ramp inside the beautiful Matrimandir, the silence had me reminisce about the music played in the meditation room at my school years ago which was affiliated to Sri Aurobindo. I was nostalgic more so because my heart recognized the space and time of my school days. It was overwhelming and I had to shush my heartbeat from dancing to a happy tune much to the silence of Matrimandir.
Spiritual Abode, Auroville
A day earlier, I along with my friends alighted in Pondicherry after an overnight bus journey from Bangalore. We had planned to stay in a homestay called Samarpan in Auroville. When we reached the destination it was beyond our expectation. The view of the sea, the lovely cottages and the dining cum library area which faced the sea was just perfect! We were ushered in by the landlady Donata who welcomed us with open arms and not to forget I hopped about away from Blackie, the Great Dane who did welcome us as well. 😉 A quick visit to the beach had us all geared up for an exciting day!
And yes we were followed by this sweet dog ‘Shady’ 🙂 much to its liking to being in my shadow!
Samarpan and the beach ahead
After a sumptuous healthy breakfast, we headed to Auroville on a hired two-wheeler. Auroville also called as the ‘City of Dawn’ founded by The Mother (Mirra Alfasa) is an experimental township based on universal human unity with its residents hailing from countries around the world.
We were in time for the registration to Matrimandir visit and it was scheduled the next day. The exploration of Auroville was the next thing on our agenda. From shopping to eating at cafes to visiting pottery places to checking out Art centers and buildings, we had covered much ground. The joy of riding through Auroville was utterly marvelous as the paths ran through forests and somewhere along the dusty lanes we found lovely buildings of great architecture, centers of Art, Library and Recreation centers. It is quite an exciting journey for a traveler and an Art aficionado.
Fun times at Auroville
After an exhausting but an amazing day we rested only to get up for an even more exciting one.
Mesmerizing Matrimandir Contd…..
After a ride to the Visitor Center, Auroville, we were shown a video of the initiation of Auroville. Post which a group of 15 of us were taken on a short bus ride to reach Matrimandir.
As we deposited all our belongings, we could see the golden globe shining at us!
Matrimandir, a globe building much like the Sun, adorned with golden metallic plates lies in the center of Auroville. There are twelve stone pillars which look like they are holding the globe. Well these happen to be meditation rooms. A guide tagged along with our group to talk about the initiation of Matrimandir and gave insights about its architecture. We were then accompanied to the Lotus pool made of marble stones beneath the main hall where one can meditate.
The insides of the Matrimandir is all White. White marble floor laden with white carpets, white walls and the place is an epitome of peace. Silence is the word in the hall.
The Meditation hall also called as the Inner chamber is generally lighted by a beam of sun ray falling onto a crystal inside the hall. But it has artificial lights which is used up on a cloudy day. The inner chamber is a place for meditation and Yoga. It is lined with white cushioned seats on the floor. As I sat in the hall, I was lost in the silence outwardly and inwardly. I know not what I imagined or prayed for but it was a moment which had me by my soul… well I was soul arrested! I tried to create a space of my blissful abode. Then there was silence, the silence that echoed from my vision of Himalayas.
As I headed out along with the group, I felt an immense contentment. Later, we were ushered to sit under the beautiful banyan trees to enjoy and soak in utter bliss!
It certainly is a place for travelers, yoga practitioners and some tourists who happen to be interested in spirituality and architecture. It is not every tourist’s cup of tea.
The French Quarters
Post the visit, we headed towards the main Pondicherry city especially the French quarters. French Villas, cafes, restaurants, lovely laid out streets was a sight to see. The street along the beach, houses buildings of importance like the secretariats of other countries.
We strolled along the Promenade Beach which has a rocky shoreline. People were basking in the sunset and the beauty of the sea. It was crowded and the small roadside eateries were no less.
Selfies along the Promenade beach
As we strolled about, we caught a whiff of freshly prepared ‘Badam milk’ and in no time we were sipping the most delicious drink. We later headed to the Sri Aurobindo ashram which is a small courtyard which houses the ‘Samadhi’ of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. After spending some time we headed on an exploration of other streets and a restaurant to dine.
A Rainy and Cloudy Show
The next day with the rains playing havoc, we took to the comforts of the home-stay reading a book and just staring at the cloudy skies and noisy ocean.
Moments with Donata and Blackie
We then happened to find Julie and Julia 😉 Julia who had flown to India to learn Yoga was out there relaxing on a hammock and there was this cute little dog which followed her everywhere. They seemed to be enjoying eachother’s company.
There is Julie who escorted us to the beach later on, making sure that we were safe along the menacing waves.
We could not have asked for a better day as we just relaxed and the holiday did turn out to be a peaceful, spiritual one!
Enjoying the rains
So for travelers and tourists out there do visit Auroville, Pondicherry if you want a taste of the laid-back city, cafes, churches, beaches, art, architecture, serene home-stays, the must-visit Matrimandir and just about anything to do with spirituality… It certainly is a beautiful place to unwind!
My body ached as I sat in the backseat of the car after a blissful trek on the Kheerganga trail the previous day. We (my fellow friend and trekker) would be in Tosh, a village in the next 15 minutes. The car made its way up the damp rocky mountain path. It had rained the previous night, thanks to the peak monsoon month July.
My mind wandered to a bathtub with bubbling hot water, aromatic candles lit around the tub, a soothing music which played in tune with my mood………..
The car jerked, oh well I was out of my luxurious reverie and we had certainly reached Tosh. There we were standing before a bridge, the only wooden bridge to get across to Tosh. We opted to stay at the nearest hotel across the bridge owing to our exhausted, famished selves.
We were then joined by our friend who had stayed back and enjoyed Tosh much against treading up the Kheerganga trail. More on Kheerganga in my next blog post.
After a not so luxurious shower, we explored the nook and corners of Tosh only to find a good restaurant/cafe. The village Tosh is at about 7800 feet at the far end of the Parvati Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It is a small village with narrow paved pathways which increases gradually in height as one walks through the village. After Kasol, Rasol, Manikaran, Chalal, Tosh happens to be a haven for tourists. We did find a few homestays and cafes on the way. The village seemed to be on a lazy spell or rather the mountain life happens to be laid-back!?
I shuddered as we climbed up the narrow alleys. A chill breeze pranced about me and I was not in the mood to join in for a dance.
Well we finally gave in to the search and headed to the famous Pinky Didi’s cafe or the 360 deg view cafe. It was a cafe at the edge of the mountain. The Himalayas can be viewed all around this place. So, we were surrounded by the gigantic spell-binding mountain ranges! Wow! I can quite trace back to that feeling!
We ordered for food and enjoyed the sublime views that Himalayas threw at us. Oh my! We were surrounded by the beautiful landscapes; Snow covered ranges, forests, rocky mountains!
Sitting by the cafe, looking at the mesmerising ranges, soaking in the silence or the music of the mountain air, eating sumptuous food, reading a book, sipping on green tea with the sun shining down upon us- Happiness is what I call it!
A few tourists came and went but we the trio sat gaping at the mountains for we were in no hurry to be anywhere else.
So what happened further in Tosh, stays in Tosh…… It ain’t called the ‘Amsterdam of India’ for no reason!
Ladakh……had always been on my mind ever since I had read about it on the internet, social media and heard from a few friends about the grandeur of the mountains out there. So, it was on my bucket list….
Catching up with my friend at my place and talking about life, life n life…….. paved way for the brilliant idea….”Let’s do something crazy. Let’s travel to Ladakh!Let’s do it!”
After researching over the weekend on the how to’s and when to’s…. we hit upon a travel agency and they said it’s possible in September and they could arrange with transportation and accommodation for the places that we wanted to visit.
Well, we were excited and finalized in on September….
Meanwhile, I did check with my traveller friend and he suggested that we do the trip ourselves and that he would help us with the plan…..
My heart skipped a beat when I caught a glimpse of Tso Pangong, shimmering in the September sunlight and vividly displaying its hues of blue. Me along with 5 other dudettes screamed aloud just as we got near the Lake.
Tso Pangong is an endorheic lake situated at a height of about 14200 odd feet in the Himalayas, Ladakh, J&K, India. It runs for about 134 km and through India and China. It can be reached from Leh through the Changla Pass or through Shyok.
As I neared the water- it was crystal clear, I was teleported to a different place. Everything seemed stand-still. I was lost in the beauty of the lake. The purity of the lake serenades one into a trance and with the splendid shades of colour; turquoise, violet, indigo, blue, aquamarine, light green , you are bound to get high. The landscape is beautiful. The brown mountains in the background added another shade of colour and helped the shutter-bug to capture the magic in a frame.
We could see Bramhini ducks floating about leisurely. The bar headed goose and marmots are the citizens at the lake.
The entirety of the place is supremely fantastic. The cold wind blowing across your face, the sun tiptoeing and spreading the warmth, the water gushing at the shore, the ripples putting on a music to soothe you, the mountains emblazoning their majestic look and the place knocking at the doors of your soul, trying to take a peek and find out if immense joy and peace are settled in completely! What can I say, I was floored by the beauty!
By the time, we decided to satiate our hunger, the sun was beating down on us harshly. We had a quick bite and travelled along the lake to reach our home-stay at Merak.
It was a couple of days since a group of us six girls had landed in Leh, J&K, India. We were getting acclimatized to the freezing nights and harsh sunny weather in the morning. But we were the happiest lot because we were surrounded by mountains all over.
Our road trip across Ladakh started soon after, we were refreshed and invigorated. We were all set for an awesome adventure. We started from Leh at about 9:00 AM and reached Khardung La, one of the mountain passes in Ladakh. It is claimed to be the Highest Motor-able Road in the World at an altitude of about 18380 ft.
Just as we got out of the car, we were welcomed with a chill weather but the wind was still. It was slightly sunny but we wrapped our jackets close enough to our body. There was a billboard which read “Highest Motor-able Road in the World,” it was surrounded by Prayer flags all over. The feeling was immense, we were awed by the beauty of the Pass. The surrounding mountains were snow clad and stood like soldiers guarding the mountain pass. The passing crowd clicked pictures at the pass and were into their cars in no time and got going.
We were awe-struck by the fact that we made it to the “highest motor-able road in the world.” We rejoiced our achievement and clicked a few pictures of us at the pass. We were happy to meet a few Army men at the post and we called onto the shutter bug to help us frame the moment!
We then rushed to our car as were not supposed to expose ourselves to the cold for more than 15 mins and bid goodbye to the pass.
It has been a few months now but the journey still seems surreal.