Limitless deserts, thriving jungles, prosperous rivers and breathtaking views – with every step you take on the Markha Valley Trek you are introduced to nature, beauty, adventure and a heap of emotions felt never before.
With its trail taking you through the Hemis National Park where there’s a good chance you’ll spot a snow leopard to further heading to tiny Himalayan hamlets with huge parachute tents and a unique Buddhist culture to finally crossing high mountain passes that offer you views so enchanting that you almost never want to leave, the Markha Valley Trek has it all!
So if you’re planning your next trekking adventure, look no further! Here are 5 Unbeatable Reasons to do the Markha Valley Trek this summer.
Explore Diverse Landscapes
Unlike the numerous treks that take you through forests or arid deserts of the region, the Markha Valley trek introduces you to landscapes along flowing rivers, green pastures, scenic valleys, and flourishing national parks, and bone-dry desert expanses. On this trek, you will experience excitement– when you spot a snow leopard; hardship -when you cross stretches of the waist-deep Markha River; peace-when you take a stop at the confluence of Indus and Zinchen Rivers; thrill -when you conquer over 17,000 feet at Kongmaru La Pass.
Discover Ancient Buddhist Villages
The Markha Valley Trek takes you through some diverse landscapes and while most of the hike is shadowed by wilderness, there will be days when you will stop by tiny mountain hamlets. Trek through scenic landscapes and pass along river banks; meet the region’s locals and come face-to- face with religious shrines at Lhatos and confront the Mani walls. Mani walls are stone structures that are formed by the compilation of intricately carved stone tablets mostly with the inscription of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ loosely meaning ‘ Hail to the jewel
in the lotus’.
Hike through the villages of Umlung and Hangskar. Much like an eagle nest perched on the tallest tree, the Techa Monastery in Umlung is one of the highest located monasteries and is easily a 1000 years old. Although Umlung offers the comforts of a monastery and a handful of homestays, a visit to Hangskar (the last hamlet in the valley) with its ever welcoming locals and their hot butter tea is a reward in itself. Some of the other villages that you will pass by during the Markha Valley Trek are Spituk, Shingo, and Siku among others.
An Encounter with the Wild
One of the best parts of about the Markha Valley trek is that it takes you through the charming Hemis National Park. Best known for having the highest density of snow leopard in any protected area in the world,
the Hemis National Park with its large population of rare species of wildlife is arguably one of the best parts of this trek. Tibetan wolves, red foxes, Eurasian brown bears and Asiatic ibexes – they are all here. But that’s not all – the region also boasts of being the only habitat of the Shapu in India and is also home to the mountain weasel and the Himalayan mouse. The park is also a bird watcher’s paradise and visitors are often lucky to spot the Lammergeier vulture, the fork-tailed swift, Fire-fronted serin and Tibetan snowfinch in their natural habitat.
Live in Parachute Tents
The Markha Valley trek is also known as the ‘tea house trek’, takes you through diverse terrains and arid deserts but that’s not the only fun part of this excursion. While the villages on the trail have ample homestays that provide the comfort of a home away from home, this adventure also lets you have the experience of camping in parachute
tents. These parachute tents are massive tents where you camp the night with your entire group. Fun much? Oh, you have to experience it to know how much!
Be an Achiever
The trek begins from the green landscapes of the Hemis National Park but don’t let the lush environs fool you, this is just the beginning. The Markha Valley trek takes you through striking contrasts. Trek through the land masses with powerful rivers that are knee-deep if not more and pass through rocky canyons to reach the towering peaks of Ganda La at 15748 feet, and Kongmaru La at 17060 feet. Reach the top and be welcomed by breathtaking views of Ladakh and the Zanskar ranges. It’s a superlative achievement that feels a million times better
than it reads.
It’s not every day that you come across a trek that offers an out-an-out Ladakhi experience. Raw and natural beauty, exciting adventure, the Buddhist culture, the local food, and the warm hospitality of the people
– everything’s covered.
This trip is everything that dream vacations to Ladakh are made of, and if it resonates with your idea of adventure, let there be no place else you head this summer.
What’s expansive, majestic and home to the highest peaks on the planet? Of course, the Great Himalayas! An enigma in itself, the Himalayan Range lures travelers with its arresting landscape of snow-laden mountains, glaciers and plunging river valleys, along with the ever-so-colossal Mount Everest sitting at a whopping elevation of 8,848 meters above sea level.
But there is more to the Great Himalayan range than just natural grandeur…
India’s prime outdoor adventure refuge- Himalayas- house some of the most prominent winter-sports destinations like Gulmarg, Auli, Leh, Manali and Narkanda. While Kashmir offers some of the world’s highest, tough-to-tread but blissfully unexplored ski slopes, just right for extreme snow sport enthusiasts, the gentle slopes of Himachal Pradesh provide a perfect base for novices.
Whizzing past jagged and raw terrains, plunging from great heights will fill you with a sense of exhilaration and make you want to immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of the surroundings. All this at a fraction of the cost in contrast to famous European resorts! Well, does that make you want to go on a snow-sporting vacation right away? If you are still not convinced, here are our top reasons to go skiing and snowboarding in the Great Himalayas:
You Don’t Get To Do This Every Day!
Winter sports in India are not that prevalent. You do not get to experience such activities every day. That makes the Himalayan resort towns even more special. But if you wish to experience uncharted and unique snow challenges, then the Himalayan Range is your eternal playground. Forget the jam-packed and well trimmed Alpine slopes, the Himalayas offer next-level skiing and snowboarding experiences, adding a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘going-off-piste’!
Discover Hidden Treasures of Gulmarg
Adventure tourism is on the rise with Kashmir’s Gulmarg leading the pack! Often touted as the Mecca for skiers, Gulmarg has one of the highest ski lifts in the world and it is certainly not just another alpine escapade. While the naturally smooth gradient of Kongdoori Peak makes it an ideal spot for novice skiers to get a hang of the activity, it is the Mountain Apharwat that steals the show! Strictly meant for advanced skiers, it offers an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here, you will find the world’s highest gondola- The Gulmarg Gondola that takes fearless skiers to the world’s most uncharted slopes at a vertigo-inducing altitude of 13,400 feet- almost reaching the peak of Mount Apharwat.
Advanced skiers feeling a little frisky can really push their boundaries in these elevated terrains. How about exploring the hoary playground filled with firs and pines by taking on the mountains from dizzying heights where the Gondolas do not reach? Picture taking a helicopter ride to the most untouched and dramatic mountaintops of the world and get ready for a flabbergasting Heli-skiing experience amid the mystical wilderness of Gulmarg. Those who cannot imagine a skiing holiday without the comforts of gourmet dishes can look forward to an authentic experience with Kashmiri offerings like soothing mint teas, flavored curries, and some warm conversation.
Lose yourself in the picturesque Garhwal slopes of Uttaranchal.. The lesser-known cousin of Gulmarg, Garhwal woos adventure enthusiasts with its intoxicating natural splendor and is just as generous in terms of thrill!
Auli– Enveloped by the mighty Himalayan range, Auli has some of the gentlest slopes covered in just the right amount of snow. The ski-worthy slopes range somewhere between 2000-3000 meters, making it an ideal playground for both amateur and skilled skiers. To enhance the thrill, an 800 meters long cable car runs between Auli and Joshimath offering magnificent views of the Dronagiri, Kamet and Nanda Devi peaks. On top of the mountain peaks, there is a government operated ski resort equipped with amenities and guide which also features a 500-m long ski-lift.
Dayara Bugyal– With multiple trails, gorgeous scenery and an awe-inspiring ambiance, this Himalayan hamlet has skiing slopes extended about 28 square kilometers in area that brings back skiers for more. The magnificent snow covered slopes are a dream to ski and the enchanting views of the Tal and Barnala lakes add further charm to the site.
Mundali– Another entrancing winter-sports destination in Uttarakhand, Mundali offers sublime views and the perfect snowy slopes for skiing adventures. The powdery snow-draped slopes work as a magnet for both amateur and expert skiers. Getting to the hill station is a thrill in itself. Expect to fight through a tough terrain, unmetalled roads and steep treks to reach this unspoiled paradise.
Manali has evolved from being a quaint holiday destination to a promising base for thrilling winter-sports like skiing, heli-skiing and snowboarding. Covered with miles of glaciers and surrounded by snow-clad peaks, skiing trails in Manali takes one through cedar-birch forests and jaw-dropping ridgelines that is sure to raise your adrenalin levels.
Apart from the above mentioned places, the other Himalayan towns that offer memorable and thrilling skiing experience include Pahalgam, Kufri, Narkanda, Solang Valley, Tawang, Yumthang Valley, among others.
Have you been to the Great Himalayas for skiing or snowboarding? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
Off late, have you been cancelling your holiday plans because everyone around you is too busy to accompany you on the trips? Then, it is high time that you stop postponing your plans and do what you have only imagined in your thoughts all these years – solo travelling. At first, the whole idea of travelling alone might give you a few jitters, but trust me, as you start thinking more about it, all the doubts and negative thoughts would simply fade away. And, once you clear that stage, you are ready for the adventure called Solo Travel. But before you embark on such a trip, first you need to decide on your destination. So, read on and know about some of the top destinations in India, where you can travel completely on your own.
If you know a bit of history, then you would be aware of the fact that India has been ruled by numerous dynasties. Many of these were not from the subcontinent, but from Central or West Asia. And back then, there were no proper roads, cars, aircraft or any other contemporary means to travel. Now, look at the geographical map of India for a while. You will realise that all those, coming from the north or northwest of the Indian subcontinent, had a natural barricade in their way in the form of the mountain system of the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush. In the absence of modern transportation means, the question arises, how did they cross the mountains?
I associate May, especially the May of North India (non-Himalayan regions) with searing heat, dryness and perpetual sweating. But, as they say, “Every cloud has a silver lining”, May is also the time when most schools close for vacations and you finally have the time to go someplace. Most of us visit our grandparents and sit in their house, often doing nothing. I personally never liked going to Lucknow and staying there for 1-1.5 months. We hardly ever went out because it was hot; even after the sun set, there was little respite. The only silver lining there was that I had a cousin, with whom I would run around the house or play cricket in the backyard, but we grow up after a while and feel no excitement in such things.
What comes to your mind, when I say “adventure in the Himalayas”? I am quite sure your answer would include things like trekking, skiing, hiking, mountaineering, river rafting and paragliding. But there is more to excite you in the Himalayas than these; and that is the scintillating road trips, which are undertaken by thousands of people, year after year. There is a certain charm about riding through the Himalayan regions that beckons adventure seekers from across the globe. The challenges that one faces during these road trips are innumerable, but everything gets compensated by the satisfaction of successfully completing it.
One has different shades of blue and snowy peaks to allure you and the other takes you close to the world’s highest peak. Still wondering which teahouse trek to go for first? Everest base camp is a dream for anyone who gets into the flavour of trekking, Everest being the world’s highest scalable mountain peak. Annapurna main of the mighty Annapurna range is the 10th highest peak in the world. Not many know that the toughest peak to scale is also The Annapurna main and not K2.
While talking about the kingdom of Bhutan, nothing much really comes to mind; except for some basic facts like it lies in the Eastern Himalayas and is a landlocked country wedged between India and China. But, most of us don’t have the slightest clue about what this small country actually is. It has been enveloped in mystery for a long time, until the curtain, which has kept it hidden from the eyes of the world, slowly started lifting and the universe got to know that Bhutan is considered the happiest place on earth. Not only that, but it also measures its growth and development by calculating the Gross National Happiness? Yes, that’s true!
Whenever I ask someone if they like winters, most answer me in the negative. And I think it is justified to some extent as the season, especially in North India, brings with it coldness, smog (not fog or mist) and sometimes strong and chilly winds. The sun seldom shines, and most of the times it does, it is shadowed by the light haze, which sometimes persists for many days. At least, this is what happens in Delhi. I have been patient up till now, letting winters pass as I lay curled up in a blanket or underneath layers of clothes, but no more. Enough is enough, I say. Let us get up and go out there even in the season, when everything seems gloomy.
Contrary to our belief, winters, and specifically winters in India, are not a cause for that much worry. Compare the season in our country to some other places like the Baltic, Siberia and northern Canada, where nothing grows and temperatures of –40 degree Celsius are regular. Does any such thing happen here? No, right? Winters here are much more bearable, and we still cry about the season being too cold. And, what if it is cold?! We have thermals and woollens. So, let us put them on and head out so we can live life to the fullest, leaving the so-assumed dullness of the season behind.
Here is a description of what you could do and see in the country during the winter season.
Visit the Hill Stations of the North India has no dearth of hill stations, and these are the kind of places I love the most. Nainital, Srinagar, Shimla, Dalhousie, Munsiyari, Manali, there are so many in the Himalayas. All these lie between elevations of 5000 feet and 10000 feet, making them ideal for a relaxed vacation. It snows in all these places, but not as much as it does higher up in the mountains. For me, this is the perfect altitude range to have fun and not be frozen by the cold. All these places have coniferous trees that are all covered with snow. I just love such sights; it is the quintessential mountain scene.
You could walk around the towns, admiring the vistas, and visit the popular places of interest there. Also, remember to try some local delicacies that would make your experience even better. If you go during Christmas, there may be some celebrations going on, especially on the Mall Road of Shimla, where the famous Christ Church is located. The Dal Lake in Srinagar is completely frozen during the season, resulting in an astonishing sight. Another such scene to admire would be of fresh snow, falling on the waters of Naini Lake as you take a walk on the quiet Thandi Sadak.
For those of you, who cannot summon the strength and courage to go trekking in snow, there are loads of hiking trails in the Western Ghats as well, where the cold will be nowhere as much as in the Himalayas. Even in the height of winters, the weather here remains cool and pleasant. The hills are not even as rugged as the Himalayas, making it is easier to hike here. So, if you are considering this option, you can go on a trekking tour to Mullayanagiri, Antaragange, Durga Hill, Ramanagara and Kodachadri.
Explore the Northeast If you want to see primitive cultures and learn about warring peoples, then the north-eastern part of India is perfect as it is home to hordes of tribes. The summers here can be quite warm, and the rains are like a pestilence; hence, the winter season is perfect to come here. There is so much to see and do in the region that one trip will never be enough. Among the best things to do in the Northeast is taking a walk through the lush tea plantations of Assam and learning about the different types of teas produced in the state. A mystical place in Assam is the village of Mayong, where a large number of occultists, who claim to have spells to cure various diseases, live.
I’m personally planning to head to Meghalaya to explore astonishing caves, many of which have a river. But, what I’m most interested in is trekking to a Living Root Bridge that the locals make by letting the branches of rubber trees entwine around the trunks of betel nut trees. Nagaland is where I would be heading in order to meet the indigenous and eponymous Naga people, who have a rich warring culture. One great way would be to take trips to villages deep in the hills for a chance to stay with the tribesmen and get a first-hand look at their customs. If you don’t have that much time, then do attend the Hornbill Festival in December, where people from all Naga tribes display their dances, music, customs and food.
For those, who want to learn about the Buddhist faith, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are the best places to visit in Northeast India. There are so many monasteries or gompas in these states like those in Tawang, Rumtek, Taktsang (different from the one in Bhutan), Urgelling, Bomdila, Pemayangtse and Phodang. Natural ponds like Sangetsar Lake in Arunachal Pradesh and Tsomgo Lake in Sikkim, and the town of Lachung in Arunachal Pradesh are also great destinations to explore in winters. The town, with snow-covered spruce trees, and typical mountain homes with sloping roofs, might remind you of a hamlet from a fairytale; it is that pretty!
Dare to go to Ladakh Ladakh, the northernmost region of India, is arguably one of the best places for an adventure lover. Only the bravest venture there in winters as the season is characterised by heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures for 4-5 months at a stretch. Just reading about it gave me shivers, but I am determined to push myself to the limit, let me see what I’m made of. Though Ladakh is a summer destination, it is so famous around the world that it gets clogged with tourists during this time also. If you want a quiet retreat and desire to come face to face with its true magnificence, then winters are perfect for a visit.
The essential thing to do here during the season is the famous Chadar Trek on the frozen Zanskar River. It takes you past numerous frozen waterfalls and lets you spend a night in a cave. You could either head to Naerak Pullu and head back to Chilling or go all the way to Lingshed, tracing the ancient route, taken by the locals of Lingshed to transport wooden logs to Leh, every year. There are so many monasteries here; many built on hills overlooking rivers. As the entire landscape would be covered in snow, the monasteries would look amazing, like something right out of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies.
Try Skiing One reason, which is desperately making me wait for the arrival of winters, is so I can go skiing. I just love watching people come down snow-covered slopes on skis, twisting right and left. I had followed the recent Winter Olympics religiously and am now determined to do it at least once. I earlier thought that the sport is only tried in places like the Rockies and Alps, but to my pleasant surprise, the Himalayas have no dearth of ski resorts. There are so many I could pick from; Gulmarg, Kufri, Narkanda, Solang Valley and Auli. Another plus about trying skiing is that many ski tops are reached by cable cars, something I really want to ride. As all these are popular destinations, they are well connected to major cities and towns; therefore, reaching them is not a problem.
Go on Wildlife Safaris The incredible geographical diversity of the country blesses it with an astonishing variety of animals. As the summers are quite warm and monsoons are a strict no-no for tourism in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, winters give you the perfect chance to see India’s biodiversity. Head up North to see animals like Himalayan wolves, Tibetan wolves, black bears, Himalayan brown bears, Himalayan tahrs, bharal and yak. If you go to the Spiti Valley or Hemis National Park, then get a chance to spot the snow leopard, the Himalayas’ most celebrated predator. Peninsular India, on the other hand, is known for its wide distribution of tigers, ranging from Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand all the way to Eravikulam National Park in Kerala, which is also home to the Nilgiri tahr.
Gir Forest in Gujarat, the only home of the majestic Asiatic lion, is another must visit. If you, by any chance, like snakes (like me), then I suggest you head to the forests of Agumbe in Karnataka. Winters are when migratory birds come to India, and the Rann of Kutch, Keoladeo National Park, Chilika Lake and Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary are the best places to see them.
With so much to do and see, winters will never seem boring to you again. I for one have always loved the season for this particular reason. So, wait no more. Welcome winters with a smile, and pack your bags for a wonderful time.
India is an incredible land in more ways than one and this can be experienced by travelling throughout the country. Right from the Himalayas in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south, it is a kaleidoscope of beauty that encompasses several different worlds within itself. Everyone born on the face of this earth should visit this magnificent land once in their lifetimes, just to see the sheer diversity that exists. India sees a huge influx of tourists throughout the year and a large number of them come from all around the world. Though the modern-day transportation network in the country is highly advanced and most places can be reached by air,taking a train journey is a must for any tourist. Connecting all parts of the country, Indian Railways is the heartbeat of India’s transportation system. While the railway journey can be hard sometimes, due to the crowd or high temperatures, if things are arranged properly, and at an appropriate time, it gives unprecedented joy to a traveller. There are plenty of specific train journeys in India that are breathtakingly beautiful, stunning and picturesque. Let’s take a look at some of the best ones that everyone must undertake.
Do you often find yourself engrossed in picture-perfect images of vacation spots? Does travelling get your heart racing? Do you get the feeling to leave your job and explore the world? If you have answered yes to all these questions, then you have landed on just the right page. Here is a list of all the fun activities you can do and all the amazing places you can go to, categorised on the basis of which month of the year it is. All you have to do is pack your bags, call up your besties and head out to experience what the world has to offer. You could even lose the buddy angle if flying solo is more like your style. In a group or alone, however you decide to travel, your soul will thank you for it.
If we consider travelling as life, then probably backpacking is the best way to live it!
Backpacking may not interest all, but those who go on such trips will tell you how much fun and adventure they have. A planned tour is always better, but then at times, you should let your heart lead you. I always wanted to go on a backpacking trip, but was too apprehensive to do so. But that apprehension went away when my friend told me about his plans of backpacking to Goa. I too joined his gang of backpackers, and before I could know, we were on the road, hitch-hiking! Since then, I have been on various backpacking trips and really glad about it. If you too have apprehensions about it, then take my word; let it go because there is nothing wonderful than this. Read on to know about some of the best backpacking destinations in India, where you can plan your first such trip!
Nepal ranks among the most peaceful nations in the world, be it in terms of the culture, people, landscape or the social setup. Home to the great Mount Everest and nestled in the magnificent Himalayan Mountain Range, Nepal’s economy thrives on tourism and it sees an influx of thousands of tourists from across the globe. Having the highest peak in the world certainly helps boost tourism in the country, but Nepal contains several other sights and gems, which are worth visiting for adventure aficionados. From time to time, there are things one needs to do that are not in synchronisation with convention, thereby making it all the more exciting and intriguing. A trek to the Annapurna Range could aptly be characterised as one such activity, which a lot of people do not undertake out of fear, but should definitely try.
As confessed by French mountaineer, Maurice Herzog, “Annapurna, to which we had gone emptyhanded, was a treasure on which we should live the rest of our days. With this realization we turn the page: a new life begins. There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men.”
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
Life seems like a never-ending beautiful dream when you are in college. Fun-filled friends, first-day movies, adventure trips and educational excursions, the university time was all about boundless fun and learning at the same time; except during the annual exams when most of us would mug up the book. The real trouble starts, when you enter into your first job and realise that you are not cut out for this stuff. And before you know, the inevitable happens – you too like many others give up on your real passions and get stuck in the vicious cycle of a 9 to 5 job. This used to be my story till 4 years ago, when I finally decided to bid adieu to my hectic (target oriented, to be more precise) corporate job and do what I always wanted to do – travel and write. With time, both my passions merged and paved the way for my travel writing career; something which I dearly love today!
My work takes me around the world, and in the process, I meet a lot of people. And one common question I usually get from them is – what is it like to be a travel writer? And if you too are wondering about the same, then read on and find out.
Gorging on New Dishes If you ask me what is the best part about my job, then my answer to you would be “the chance to taste different dishes”. I am an exceptionally big foodie and the mere mention of the word ‘food’ is enough to get me excited. There have been instances when I have travelled to a place, just for food. One instance that I can recall at this moment is my trip to Hyderabad to taste the authentic Hyderabad Biryani. I had to travel for straight 20 hours to reach the city, and my next 12 hours in the city were spent having Biryani (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and other Hyderabad delicacies. By midnight, I was on the train returning to my hometown. Once back, I wrote a piece about my experience on my blog; and guess what, I received some wonderful comments from my readers. This piece on my Hyderabad experience was picked by a leading newspaper, a few days later; it was like icing on the cake! Another one of my absolute favorite foods is Delhi Samosa, and I never leave a chance to gorge on it!
Some memories are etched in our minds so deep that they remain with us for the lifetime! And one such wonderful memory of mine is that of my journey along the Hindustan Tibet Road with my favourite group of friends. It was my friend’s idea to take this road trip. Initially, we all were a bit apprehensive, but finally all of us agreed; glad that we did!
Constructed in 1850, the Hindustan-Tibet road or National Highway 22 is probably one of the most impressive feats of human endeavour, and one needs to drive through it to actually understand it. This road starts from Ambala in Haryana and passes through Chandigarh, Shimla and Spiti Valley, before finally winding down at the village of Khab on the border with Tibet. This road, especially as one drives high into the mountains, is probably one of the most treacherous ones in the world.
Some of us are just happy with the way our life is, but a lot of us are sitting at our office desks, staring at the computer screens wondering, if this is the life we want! Are we doing what makes us happy? Are we taking out enough time to relax and rejuvenate? I am sure these questions pop into many of our heads as we really dream about setting off on the adventure of a lifetime!
I can’t stay for long without travelling! If it has been more than four weeks, I get restless and want to take a break and wander off to the Himalayas! Where I choose to go often depends on my mood. If I am in a mood to relax and rejuvenate, I would prefer going to Kerala or Goa than the mountains. To get solitude and some “Me” time, the Himalayas are what I need! I make it a point to travel to the Himalayas at least once in 2 months because living in Delhi is a blessing if you love Himalayas. I always try to find different ways of travelling to the mountains and explore the yet unexplored and remote villages and places. Trekking is one of my favorite adventure activities as it always shows me a different side of mountains! The best part about trekking is that I get a chance to be close to the mountains and I feel that I belong there!
If self-discovery is what you are looking for, then travelling on the endless roads on a motorbike is just the thing for you. A motorbike tour not just unleashes the adventurer in you, but is a journey of new experiences that can never be felt otherwise. Already feeling the adrenalin rush? Keep reading to know about some of the best motorbike routes in the Himalayas that will immediately beckon the rider in you. Here’s our lowdown on the must-do motorbike tours in the Himalayas.
As adolescents, probably we all have imagined ourselves flying in the blue sky among the white clouds and watching all the glory of the world from up above; just like the birds. Isn’t it? We all desired so, maybe because we associated a sense of freedom with it, and probably we felt an adrenaline rush just by thinking about it.
Today, after so many years, if you are still unable to put that desire down, then just don’t, because now you can actually realise it. How? Well, today a number of aerial activities are being organised all over India by professionals, who guarantee to give you some of the most adventurous moments of your life, assuring safety and top quality. Read on to know more about these sports, and where and how they are offered. See India from the air with us.
Paragliding Paragliding is an adventure sport, where one flies with the help of a fabric wing which is connected to what is called a canopy or paraglider. Weather, especially wind, plays an important role in this activity as depending on it the launch of a glider is possible. Therefore, most launches are made from a height, where it is not only easy to ascertain the wind flow patterns, but also gives the flier the opportunity to glide a certain distance before reaching the ground and if possible enter thermals (rising currents of air) to climb high, sometimes much higher than the take-off spot. This sport is offered at different places in the country, but there are some places where it can be enjoyed the most, and these are Kamshet, Maharashtra and Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh. For amateurs or first timers, tandem paragliding is the best option as the flying of the glider is taken care of by the pilot while they enjoy the view from the passenger’s seat. Those interested in becoming paragliding pilots can do so by taking certified courses offered by reputed paragliding institutes.
It’s been almost 8 years since I started maintaining a travel diary and probably turned myself into a more observing traveller from a happy-go-lucky leisure tourist. Ah! 8 Years; seems like as if it was only yesterday that I had been to Goa.
Honestly, all these years of travelling has made me realise exactly what went through Aldous Huxley’s mind when he wrote the lines – “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” In my case, it was more about leaving behind all my prejudices and learning about different cultures and people, which somehow my geography teacher in school never stressed upon, unfortunately. And thus, I consider myself lucky enough to have been able to visit quite a few states of the country, especially the 7 sister states of North-east India, with utmost curiosity.
My first tour to North-east India was to the land of proud Ahoms – Assam, and it was pure bliss; from relishing local delicacies and enjoying natural vistas to my interactions with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Here is my pick of the best travel experiences in northeast India.
Assam – Kaziranga Elephant Safari – A Ride to Remember Being a nature lover, I chose to first visit Kaziranga National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This protected region, which lies in the Nagaon and Golaghat districts of Assam, was set up in 1908. It is not only home to a high density of great one-horned rhinoceroses and tigers, but also several species of birds. Drained by four rivers, including the mighty Brahmaputra, this National Park offers fantastic safari opportunities, across its 430 sq km area.
“You are a curious and a restless soul, and that is the problem and the solution to everything!”
Growing up being a defense officer’s daughter certainly has its takeaways. I was five when I sailed in a defense ship for the first time, eight when I learned how to swim and thirteen when I scuba dived for the first time in my life, this was in the Andaman. My father served in the Indian Coast Guard for 28 years and hence I spent the first 18 years of my life very close to the sea. Not to mention the need for adrenaline rush began at a nascent stage in my life. Before Goa became Goa, I spent 3 years of my final schooling in Vasco. I had seen so much of Goa in that time that going back there for another mundane vacation was not on my list. Clearly I had seen so much of sea that a beach vacation did not excite me anymore.
I began most of my travel sojourns only after I completed bachelors from Delhi University. I started a desk banking job, made new friends and luckily those that loved to travel, and there it was, the beginning. Lying to parents just to travel had begun! I started exploring the mountains, when I was 22, with the first trip to Dharamshala. I had been to the mountains as a kid, to Shimla and Manali, but with folks (does anyone count those trips?). I traveled nonstop for the next two years and every time to the mountains, the more I’d travel there, the more I’d want!
My first ever Enfield trip was in 2009 through the Grand Hindustan Tibet Road – Spiti Valley. Back then no one knew what or where this valley was. It was the most gruesome experience of my life until then; I was 22 and had no idea of what I was getting into. It was an adventure I took when I was nowhere close to ready and had several falls and injuries during the ride, but I survived and that was all that mattered. I realized that I was stronger than I thought, though I was still too young to understand what that meant.
I had tasted blood and so in 2010 I decided to take the Manali – Leh – Srinagar road trip with friends. This time I was better prepared. I consider myself lucky to have explored these places while they were still untouched. The beauty of the mountains started to infuse in my blood streams in a way that I never imagined it would. I didn’t care anymore about the company I was in, I started falling in love with the mountains and that’s all I could see and feel around me, the mighty Himalayas!
I moved to Switzerland for my post-graduation and by then the fear of solo travel had gone far away. Even though Switzerland is beautiful, nothing beats the beauty of the mighty Himalayas. I traveled to Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France and Germany. It was an unforgettable experience no doubt. I started loving the feeling of being a lone gypsy, just heading out to a destination, staying in cheap accommodations and reading maps to find places. Being in Europe for two years I got the chance to fulfill some of my childhood dreams, one was going to Disneyland in Paris and the other was to visit Anne Frank’s Memorial in Amsterdam. It was now that I, secretly in my mind, had started thinking of opening my own travel venture, and started building it up in my head. I was 23!
I returned to India and started working in the hospitality sector. If only I knew back then that one can travel, blog, make money and do it all over again! A mainstream job could never hold me and I was pretty much confused in my head as to what am I supposed to be doing with my life! I had quit banking, I wanted to be a chef, but that wasn’t happening too. I found myself doing sales for some odd reason. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I started switching jobs one after another turning my resume into a shocking piece on how unsteady a person can be. I was 25 and still not old enough to know that there was nothing wrong in feeling that way; I was just trying to find my place and my true calling, which society never understood. Guess they never do! This further drew me in, and more solo travel to the Himalayas happened, as that’s where I felt the most at peace!
From 2012 until today, while I was hopping jobs one after another, I made numerous trips to the mountains. Starting from spending time alone at the Norbulinka institute (Dharamshala), to living like a hippie in Kasol, to traveling to interiors of Lahaul, I experienced it all. The Buddhist Culture always had strange ways of drawing me towards itself. I was never a religious person (still am not), but I always found myself praying in a monastery, and I don’t know why and how.
In the year 2012 came the grand turning point of my life with my first ever trek to Malana. I probably can never describe in words what that feeling was. I was at a point in my life where I was convinced that I was good for nothing and didn’t deserve a thing. I was a very strong athlete and a swimmer as a kid, but soon I hit the teens and developed Bronchial Asthma which killed my stamina to an extent where I could not walk up the stairs without going breathless, let alone climbing mountains. I also came to know that I have a deformed backbone, which I didn’t know until I turned 25. With all that playing at the back of my head I decided to climb up and I made it! Along with that I made another career switch, the telecom sector.
Whenever I traveled or wherever I traveled in all these years, one thing that truly disturbed me was the pollution – the way the places were being degraded by irresponsible tourist activity and lack of knowledge of the locals. I wanted to do something about it but wasn’t sure of how and where to begin.
I had done enough backpacking and I wanted to see bigger and higher mountains, so there was just one solution to that problem – trekking. It was 2013 when I started trekking and in this span I did close to 10-12 Himalayan treks. Starting from the basic ones like the Kheerganga, Triund, Beas Kund and then the moderate ones like the Har ki Doon and Hampta Pass and a few more! When you climb; get tired; literally want to cry; get up when you cannot; keep walking; push yourself beyond your physical limits; push the mind; you don’t just win beautiful sights but you overcome your demons too. A vacation for me meant trekking and I can literally keep trekking for the rest of my life.
It was climbing mountains that helped me find my true calling in life, which is to save the planet. Soon after telecom I moved to environment conservation. My true teacher was travel and there is no other better teacher than experience itself. That’s when I decided what I wished to do with my life – help people travel responsibly, and in this process protect the planet and create harmony.
2016, being the year when I enter my 30s, I am flagging off my Ecotourism venture. I wish to share my experiences, not just in words, but through the experience of travel itself. The world is a beautiful place, and every soul and place has a story to share. I wish to create a world within this world where people are taught on how to respect the gift that we have, the Earth itself, and in this process find themselves, and that’s how I shall continue to find myself. I also wish to inspire others to travel solo in the Himalayas.