• Food - Homestays - People

    Ravenscraig@Aviemore: A Warm Highland Welcome Awaits

    All of Scotland is too enticing but we had only limited days. To our luck, we chose (after much research) to explore Cairngorms mountains with Aviemore as the base. Different types of stay options are listed in the Official Visitor Guide to the Cairngorms National Park, and we zeroed in on Ravenscraig Guest House, easily walkable from the Aviemore railway station. Brilliant choice it turned out to be! Ravenscraig website says “A Warm Highland Welcome Awaits.” It certainly was! Hosted by Helena and Scott, Ravenscraig Guest House is a well renovated house, originally built in 1903. The main building houses…

  • Homestays - People - Places

    Beyond Basics @Kuflon Basics

    Let the name Kuflon Basics not deceive you. It is anything but basic. Its rich. Rich in fresh air. Rich in greens, berries, and wilderness. Rich in spaces for relaxed reading, strolling, or doing nothing. Rich in taste (of the amazing home-cooked food). And above all, rich in the warmth of the consummate hosts—Anil and Shree, and Shifu, their 5 year old daughter. Everything that needs to be said about Kuflon has already been said. Every single soul who has stayed at Kuflon Basics so far has been touched in some way or other. Since 2004! The three large volumes…

  • People - Places

    Handmade Homes and Homemade Meals

    First, identify the place/area to go. Then zoom into Google Maps to see the homestays, hostels, and hotels around. Shortlist a few and check for their websites and reviews, if any. This has been our way of finding stay options for a while. David Scott Trail trek was a key item in our Meghalaya itinerary. And we scoured the Google Maps to find a stay option in and around Mawphlang as it’s the starting point for the trek. Thus MaplePine Farm Stay happened to be our stay for two days in our week-long Meghalaya trip. James, the owner of MaplePine,…

  • 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…

  • 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 - Desert - Nature's Wonders - People

    A Night Under The Stars: Khuri Desert

    Out first night at Jaisalmer was a disaster. With little thought, we had booked Club Mahindra resort to use up a free room offer from MakeMyTrip. Loud music till 11 p.m., a room with no privacy (what purpose does windows serve if they open to a common corridor), and finally an enforced buffet dinner (no information on this at the time of check in) left us with a bad taste. Luckily, the desert camps at the Sam dunes hadn’t piqued our interest, so we hadn’t booked anything there. A friend suggested spending a night at Khuri, in the open desert…

  • Arts & Culture - Cityscapes - People - Places

    A Slice From A Weekend Break in Delhi

    “So will you relocate to Delhi?” Our friend asked before seeing us off after our three-day stay and attempt to explore the Delhi urban sprawl. The trip was no means a recce of Delhi, though we were relatively open to re-look at Delhi with a fresh pair of eyes. (But relocation is not in cards for sure.) The Delhi versus Mumbai question has been a good fodder for profound debates and bar sprawls. From as profound as ‘Delhi has History, Mumbai has Civilisation’ to as mundane as ‘the size of my toilet in Delhi is same as the total size…

  • People - Places

    Inventing Destinations: Jana Water Falls, Himachal

    There was a time when tourism began and ended in Manali. Tourists travelled to Rohtang Pass to see snow and do skiing. Rest of Kullu, as or more enchanting as Manali, remained untouched. As Manali became crowded and less charming, nearby villages quickly moved in to use the opportunity. They started promoting tourism in their own villages. One such village is Jana, near Naggar, the former capital of Kullu. The waterfalls was nothing much to admire at the time we visited Jana (in October). However, the drive to the village is picturesque, with deodar, pine, apple trees flanking the meandering road,…

  • 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.…

  • Food - People

    “You Are Most Welcome to Visit Our Kitchen”

    Have you ever been welcomed in a restaurant by a board that says “You are most welcome to visit our kitchen”? Perhaps, never. However, the Green Leafís restaurant in Kottayam, Kerala, is proud to welcome you to its kitchen. And the entry is not just restricted to the kitchen. The neatly maintained storeroom also is open to the curious diners. Not a fancy or fine-dining one, but Green Leafís serves hygienic food, prepared using quality materials. After a tasty dinner, we decided to accept the invitation to visit the kitchen. Seeing our interest, the owner Mr Biju came forward and…

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

    The Primates and Other Surprises of Hoolongappar Gibbon Sanctuary

    Our five-day trip to Kaziranga (by Nature India) had a day set aside for Hoolongappar Gibbon sanctuary. With so much being written and spoken about Kaziranga, the wildlife sanctuary remained the hero and we didn’t care too much about the Gibbon sanctuary near Jorhat, Assam. So very unlike of us, we didn’t do much research or reading on the Gibbon sanctuary. But nature has its own way of throwing surprises. ‘Pleasant’ is not the adjective. Enticing. Fascinating. Exciting. Surprising. What was originally a part of the vast forest ranges in the north east state of Assam and extending till Nagaland,…

  • Hotels - People - Places

    Pugmarks Jungle Lodge: Nestled in the Wilderness

    Darkness had fallen by the time we were in Mananthawady. As we passed the road to Kattikulam, the village was getting ready to sleep. Night-time visitors (read wildlife) would have been getting ready for their night-out. We reached the electric-fenced resort and instantly got charmed by the wilderness around. There couldn’t have been a better choice of stay than Pugmarks Jungle Resort as we explored Mananthawady and the surrounding attractions. Templatised resorts rarely tempt us. There were plenty of them to choose when we were planning our Wayanad trip. But we wanted a place that is more grounded and closer…

  • People - Places

    The New Face of ‘Migration’

    (This post was originally published at The True Pretender) We met Manoj at the Pugmarks Jungle Lodge in Wayanad during our stay there. As the service staff, he served us food, cleaned the rooms, carried our luggage, and was available on call all the time. His broken Malayalam made us a little curious. But he understood whatever we said in Malayalam. Manoj represents the new face of migration.  For a state whose people have been migrating to the Gulf since early 70s, this is like coming a full circle of sorts. Increased money flow to the state resulting in a consumer…

  • Arts & Culture - Heritage - History - People - Places

    Mummy: The Inside Story

    Nesperennub, a priest at the temple of Amun-Ra, had severe dental abscesses, which would have given him terrible pain when he was alive. He had a small cavity on his skull, above his left eye. He was a man of high status and belonged to an influential clan at Thebes, a city in ancient Egypt. Nesperennub lived in ancient Egypt, around 1550–1069 BC. He passed away when he was middle-aged. But he has come to India and will be here for one more month. The mummy of Nesperennub in its cartonnage case The mystery of Egyptian mummies has always puzzled…

  • People - Places

    So What if the Water Pipe Leaks

    At Keylong Mall Street, a kid enjoying playing with the water jet that leaks out of pipe line. On our way from Sarchu to Rohtang, we had a night’s halt at Keylong, the head quarters of Lahul Spiti district. In the evening we decided to take a stroll through the mall street. This was just outside a cloth store.  

  • People - Places

    Anandwan – The Forest of Joy

    Travelling around, seeing new places and people is certainly joyful. But it has another remarkable aspect as well as impact. At times, we are reminded of the mightiness of nature, the timelessness of the universe, and how insignificant we human beings are in this grand play. At other times, there are instances when we stood in awe at the immense capabilities of human beings in dreaming, creating, and inspiring generations to come. A reminder that all of us have the power to create and change the world for better. And a sharp nudge to some of us who often crib…

  • Food - People - Places

    Dosas. Only 36 Varieties Available

    What do ‘Volvo’, ‘Bheeman’, ‘Paper egg butter’, ‘Navanandana’, ‘Duck Lasoon’ and ‘Ruby Pai’ have in common ? Seemingly unrelated? Not until you visit the famed ‘Pai Brothers Thattukada’ in Cochin (Kochi or Ernakulam). These all different dosas among the fast food joint’s 36 varieties of dosas. The only place in the world one can get such varied types of dosas. Spending the New Year night away from home meant more travels for us in 2010. Without planning for it, in 2011 New Year also we were not at our home. Hopefully this year also, we will be footloose. The first…

  • Fun - People

    The Pleasure of Meeting Them …

    Traveling and blogging have opened up a whole lot of interesting experiences for us. Of which, one we cherish the most is the blogger friends. After interacting with them online for some time, meeting them in person (that too unexpectedly) adds to this pleasure. Thomas and Shilpy of Walkthewilderness (http://walkthewilderness.blogspot.com/) is another couple-blogger like us. Passionate about wildlife and photography, their blog is a visual delight. Thomas has been generous to us with his tips on photography. We were looking forward to meet them at the auditions for the Great Driving Challenge. After three fun-filled days, the exuberant Thomas and…

  • Fun - People - Places

    A Different Trip

    Meet Sraddha. She is about 12 years old and stays in a one-room house along with her parents and siblings. The sparkle in her eyes perhaps hides the difficulties of her daily grind. Since the past five years, she is experiencing a new life. Apart from her school, she now tries to fast track her learning of English and Maths. And hopes to fulfill her dream of becoming a police officer. Thanks to Akanksha, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation working in the field of education. Akanksha’s core belief is that giving a strong educational foundation, self esteem and values to the…

  • People

    Humility @ Heights. Meet Pradeep Kelkar

    At first glance he would pass off as an uncle next door. Ever smiling, but certainly not the patronizing ones. His nimble body is deceptive of the exceptional feats it has accomplished. Scaling more than 120 peaks in Maharashtra. An unbreakable record of 40 virgin peaks. And 40 odd new routes to some of the known mountains. Meet Pradeep Kelkar, affectionately called as Pradeep Sir by mountaineering lovers in Maharashtra, a winner of many national and state awards including Shiv Chhatrapati Award. If humility can be measured in heights, one has to add up all the mountains he has climbed…

  • People - Places

    Dandeli: A Home Stay at Malgudi

    A five-light junction. A cow and a calf wandering around. A small bus stop. A public tap. Two or three shops. A slice from the enchanting Malgudi town was coming alive, at Kulgi barely 12 kms away from Dandeli town.   Arun Bandekar’s Hotel Apoorva is an extension of his small, non descript shop selling some snacks for the school children and perhaps a bit of grocery for the locals. Arun, who came from Sawantwadi in Maharasthra to Dandeli some three decades ago, runs his enterprise along with his wife.   The Bandekars’ hospitality and culinary expertise eventually made Hotel…

  • People

    We Salute This Kid!

    The interesting thing about travel is not just that you get to meet some interesting people. It is also that many a times you get to learn and feel so humble. Budget travelers and backpackers often have good justification to avoid paid services wherever possible. So when we landed at the Sindhudurg Fort, which is separated from the mainland by a 15 minute boat ride, we chose to explore the fort on our own. A few guides approached us; we refused them flat as if we’d been at the fort many times. After a while we realised that in the…

  • People - Places

    One Night in Guhagar – Tasting Local Hospitality

    Guhagar, being 320 odd km away from Mumbai means fewer crowds. Or so we thought. We forgot that Pune was probably only 200 km away. We reached Guhagar a little late in the evening, around 7.30. We were a bit overconfident that in these little not so known places, hotels, lodges or home stays would be easily available. But as always Murphy has the last laugh. All (two or three) known hotels were full. People indeed are traveling. We drove a few times up and down through the main street knocking the doors of a few hotels and a few…

  • People

    Lonar: A Local Boy’s NASA Connection

    Anand Mishra is not the kind of guide we often meet at the historical sites of our country. Conversant in English, knowledgeable about his job, punctual, and eager to learn from whatever sources, Anand perhaps reflects the spirit of the much-talked about new, small-town India. To top it all, he has a fellowship from NASA. More than what you expect in a sleepy, dusty, village-town of Lonar in central Maharashtra.   But then Lonar is not just a historical place. Far removed from the typical tourist circuits and itineraries, Lonar is a place where history, geology, astronomy, ecology, and mythology…

  • People - Places

    A Day With Gen Y Rotaractors

    Not too often you get some unusual travel opportunity where you get to spend on a training session for a bunch of energetic youngsters. To start with, this was not meant to be a ‘trip’. When one of our friends, a terrific training professional, mentioned about a two-day training programme, we volunteered to play some supporting role for him, though only for the first day. And quickly plugged into the itinerary was a drive to Pawna lake (17 km from Lonavala) next day for a dip and swimming. Spending a day with these youngsters, listening to their aspirations, dreams, their…

  • People

    Lonar: ‘Who Is the Country?’ and Desi ‘Angrezi Log’

    Scene 1: Four backpackers – wearing capris and coolers – were taking a walk along the rim of the Lonar crater. A villager grazing his cows wanted to show his hospitality to the tourists. He smiled and asked, “Who is the country?” The backpackers looked at each other, thinking “who’s the country among us?” After a moment they realized the villager wanted to know which country were they from. Seeing the capris, coolers, and backpacks, he mistook us Indians for foreigners. Also, he didn’t expect Indians to walk the 5-km stretch under hot sun. When we said, “Mumbai se he”…