• Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Places - Treks

    Keep Walking: Naina Range and Naina Peak Trail

    Its only after 3 or 4 days into our Uttarakhand stay (Shyamkhet), we had the wisdom to search Google for ‘trekking trails near Nainital’. We had initially dismissed Nainital as a crowded tourist destination. While it might be true, there are a few trekking trails one can enjoy away from the crowds. Naina Peak (earlier called Cheeni Peak) trek was one such. The trail starts from a point at the Nainital–Kilbury Road, which itself is a narrow road that leads to Kilbury and Pangot Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary. The forest department team issued an entry ticket at the entrance and…

  • Hikes - Places

    Keep Walking: Walking/Hiking @Bhowali Range

    (Most often, a good part of our vacations or breaks are spent walking and hiking around the places we stay. Keep Walking is a series of posts about our walks and hikes.) March 2024 was another month in the hills, with two days for remote work (WFH – Work From Hills) and remaining five days for trekking, hiking, and long walks. Himalaica website had some details of nearby trails and the caretakers were also familiar with the area (though they were a little surprised with our appetite for walks). On the day we reached, we had only half a day,…

  • Adventure - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Places - Sanctuaries - Treks

    Glenmore Forest Trails

    The welcome and information board at Glenmore Forest Park visitor centre says ‘Ancient forests, high mountains and golden shores’. We had just returned from the not-so-high mountains (Cairngorms Trek) and was now looking forward to a forest trail walk. Glenmore is one of the largest forests within the Cairngorms National Park. Forest parks are well maintained by the ‘Forestry and Land’ division of the Scotland government. And there are many trails for hikes and treks. Scotland, interestingly has the ‘Scottish Access Rights’, which gives the individuals the freedom to go anywhere and enjoy the outdoors in Scotland. This is completely…

  • Adventure - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Places

    Trekking @Cairngorms Mountains

    “In every walk with nature one receives far more than one seeks” – John Muir John Muir, adventurer, explorer, naturalist, and considered to be the Father of National Parks (his life long efforts are behind the conservation of many a National Park in the United States), was a Scottish national. At the age of 11, in 1849, he migrated from Scotland to Americas along with his parents and siblings. It was a fitting tribute when in 2003 Cairngorms was declared a National Park, it was inaugurated by his great-great-grand daughter, Liz Hanna. “For all its tempestuous nature, the Cairngorms is…

  • Hikes - Nature's Wonders - People - Places - Treks

    Augustin’s Question

    ‘Sir, do you think we are expensive or cheap?’ When Augustin asked this question, we thought it was a generic question about the cost of food, travel and stay. And we said it is neither, but reasonable and moderate. We were on our seventh day of our trip to Meghalaya, and Augustin, our taxi driver and self-appointed guide, was leading us through a short trek to yet another stunning waterfall, the Prut falls. He then explained what he meant was about the entry fees to all these magnificent natural locations, which combines natural beauty and potential adventure. These fees ranged…

  • Adventure - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Places - Sanctuaries - Treks

    Travel in 2020: The End

    (Also read Travel in 2020: The Beginning and Travel in 2020: The Middle) We often hear in literature or in general about how insignificant we feel as a tiny speck in this vast cosmos. Travellers speak about that especially in the context of the Himalayas or other mountain ranges. One doesn’t need to go that far to feel our cosmic insignificance. All one needs to be at any spot by the banks of the huge Shivsagar lake, the backwaters formed by the mighty Koyna dam. More on Koyna later. The final trip of 2020 was the perhaps the most looked…

  • Beaches - Hikes - Hotels - Places - Sanctuaries

    Travel in 2020: The Middle

    (Before The Middle, there was a beginning. Read Travel in 2020: The Beginning. After The Middle, there is also an end. Read Travel in 2020: The End) In September, we made the first outing. Sometime in August, many hotels and resorts in nearby places in Mumbai had started to open. After a lot of deliberations, we decided to go to Lonavala, which otherwise wouldn’t have been in our consideration at all, unless it is a base for a trek. A first time visit to Upper Deck Resort and a 2-night stay was worth it, after locking up for months together…

  • Adventure - Heritage - Hikes - History - Nature's Wonders - Places - Sanctuaries

    A Hampi Itinerary – Something for Everyone

    Never perhaps in the history of the world has such havoc been wrought, and wrought suddenly, on so splendid a city, teeming with a wealthy and industrious population in the full plentitude of prosperity one day, and on the next seized, pillaged, and reduced to ruins, amid scenes of savage massacre and horrors begging description. –Robert Sewell, A Forgotten Empire. History and mythology intertwines effortlessly as local guides narrates the story of Hampi,  once a world class city and trade centre of 14th century, built and ruled by the kings spanning four dynasties starting with Harihara and Bukka. The mythological…

  • Birdwatching - Hikes - Hotels - Nature's Wonders - Places - Weekend Stays

    Atwood at Coonoor

    ‘Ooty or Coonoor‘ and ‘Ooty vs Coonoor’ seem to be a common search phrase on Google. And the advice is predictable. Preferably stay away from Ooty city and stay in the serene, calm environs of Coonoor. This probably was the not the case a few years back—before Ooty became city—one that can match even Coimbatore, as mentioned by a local guy. We did not have to choose since our trip was to Coonoor, based on recommendation from Rustik Travel. Atwood at Coonoor was the picture-perfect, serene, and calm place to relax for a few days. Nestled among tea plantations on…

  • Birdwatching - Flora - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - People - Places

    The Renegades of Jilling

    (Originally published in The Indian Express Sunday Magazine, 21st May 2017) “What if you two drive off a cliff and die? All business is now done through internet and smartphones; and I have hardly learned to send an SMS,” Steve Lall said aloud with wonder. Apparently, he put this question to his daughter and son-in-law, to whom he had handed over the reins of Jilling Estate. A self-described renegade with 72 summers behind him, Lall still laughs like a child and one can’t resist his infectious energy and warmth— never mind that he’s in a wheelchair, just off a three-month…

  • Hikes - Nature's Wonders - People

    Singali La by George Thengummoottil

    There are things we can do. And we do these whenever we can—travelling, trekking, birding, and so on. Then there are things we only dream to do—tough, high-altitude trekking, extreme adventure, marathons, and long-distance cycling, to name a few. For these, we have friends. Friends who take up such arduous tasks and successfully complete them. One such friend is George Thengummoottil. We met him through a common friend during our Wayanad sojourn. The humble and unassuming George has done some of the tough and most remote treks in the Himalayas, rising above his limitations. Not just that. He has filmed…

  • Adventure - Beaches - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Treks

    Havelock Has It All

    (Originally published in Mid-Day, April 2016) A complete non-touristy guide to Havelock Islands “Four days in Havelock?” Travel agents will likely give you a bewildered look if you say that you plan to stay 4 days in Havelock. They would not recommend more than one night in Havelock. Unless you are on a diving training course or a self-planned extended honeymoon. In typical tour packages, the island is just a morning-evening affair. Named after the British General Henry Havelock, this tiny island is towards the north-east of Port Blair (capital of Andaman & Nicobar Islands) and about an hour by…

  • Adventure - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Treks

    Triund Through Snow

    Rarely do we repeat a trek, because we prefer to cover new places as much as possible. But when it is a place where seasons compete against each other to decorate the landscape uniquely, it is as good as a new destination. Unlike Maharashtra, where post-monsoon, the setting is devoid of all greenery, Himachal Pradesh is never gray or brown. It’s either green or white or sometimes both, as we found out as we trekked up to Triund. A few years back, we did the Triund trek in pouring rains, all drenched, with mist, clouds, streams, and exquisite greenery for…

  • Hikes - Nature's Wonders - People - Places - Treks

    Hike to Goshal – Losing Ways and a Happy Ending

    The friendly hotel owner suggested we take a rickshaw to Old Manali. We insisted on walking the 3-odd kilometres from new Manali (model town). Most of the route was uphill but we had no specific plans for the day, so we walked leisurely. A small bridge connects Old Manali and new Manali. A left turn from the bridge takes you to a narrow lane that goes up to the Manu temple. Restaurants and cafes flank the lane, offering a range as wide as Israeli to Korean food. We walked up to Manu temple; the last stretch was a stiff climb.…

  • Adventure - Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Places - Treks

    The Sunrise Trek to Mount Batur Volcano and Other Adventures

    After exploring Lombok for a couple of days, we reached Ubud, Bali, with no definite plans. We only had a day left before flying back to India. On the way from Padang Bai, our vehicle got caught in the traffic jam in Ubud town. As we inched ahead, a small hoarding caught our attention. Sunrise trek to Mount Batur volcano. Wow! Plans for next day started taking shape. Soon, we reached our resort amidst paddy fields in a village in Ubud. The first thing we did even before completing the checking-in formalities was to register for the sunrise trek. The…

  • Hikes - Nature's Wonders - Places - Treks

    An Unplanned Hike to Nowhere!

    The nephew and niece have a painting competition to attend at Pala, Kottayam. Mom wants to visit temples around Pala but could not go due to health issues so we decide to go. So, attired in clothes suited for visiting temple, we set out in the morning. And end up going for a hike, without reaching anywhere. That sums up our attempted hike to Ilaveezha-poonchira near Thodupuzha, Kerala. We finish the temple visits and reach back to Pala, pick the kids and their mother, and have lunch. Instead of driving back home, we head to Ilaveezhapoonchira, about 40 km from…

  • Hikes - Places

    Makkimala, a Hidden Gem of a Hill

    Travelling with no pre-fixed itinerary leaves you with opportunities for impromptu visits to interesting places that are mostly known to locals only. We got a few such opportunities during our one-week in Wayanad. Makkimala hike was suggested to us by Gopa Varma, owner of Pugmarks Jungle Lodge. He and his friends had visited the place previous day and had a nice time. Thomas, our guide for the hike, waited for us at the roadside. He had taken half-a-day leave from his job as a driver to be our guide. The unremarkable mud track at the beginning does not give any…