Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tips & Tricks for Monsoon Trekking in India

The magical romance of monsoon with Mumbai has never been a deterrent to the trekking enthusiasts who take on the challenge to climb the slippery slopes of Western Ghats. Our adventure loving guest author Ankit K. J. shares some useful advice and handy tips on monsoon trekking preparedness from his own experiences. So, let's take the plunge to monsoon trekking!

Mumbai is a city with a hyperactive soul, they say. She does not sleep. Nor do the famous Mumbai rains stop her. It’s the time of the year where nature tries it’s best to dampen the spirit but fails miserably.

Monsoon is also the season when the otherwise dry Western Ghats turn lush green! The valleys surrounding the metropolis come alive with people flocking to the trails to take on the challenge of climbing slippery slopes only to rappel down a waterfall! However one thing people do not flock to is trekking preparedness. I had previously written a detailed post on trekking tips for beginners after I saw a lot of Indians not prepared for the trail - saves a lot of pain and hassle if you know the little details.

This post is about what to carry and a few tips that came in handy to me. A few essentials to carry on a monsoon trek in India!
Streams while trekking | Image source
1. Headphones/Earphones: If you are planning to do your travelling in a bus (which is usually the case if you want to reach the base where you begin a trek) and are the quiet, contemplative type, never forget to carry a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. You'll lose less sleep and be fresh for your trek. They also have the secondary advantage of being able to play music!

2. A good pair of water shoes or sandals: The thing is that there are innumerable little streams to cross and taking shoes off and putting them on again is quite frustrating to both you and the rest of the group (who've already prepared for this eventuality). Look for shoes with a nice grip (rubber is preferable, since it slips less). Also, if possible, go for the shoes that look like an unholy (pun alert!) cross between a shoe and a sandal. These will have holes in them. To those with a sense of humour, they may also look like shoes in various stages of incompletion. Don't worry. They are designed to let the water out and dry quickly. Choose the ones that cover a maximum area of your exposed feet (so that the jungle mosquitoes have to work just a little harder). If not these, sandals always work best. Do not wear flip flops though, as they may result in your ankles twisting on rocky paths causing injuries!
Also, on a related note: do not wear these with socks or stockings.

Note: Shoes like these are what you are looking for
Waterfall on the way | Image source

3.  Mosquito repellent:Self-explanatory. Forget this at your own risk. Alternatively, you may also want to wear a jacket and full length pants. There are sprays and cream that one can use. If not, there are certain hacks around getting rid of those blood-sucking tiny monsters. Usage of sage leaves in the campfire, for example, also drives them away, leaving behind a pleasant aroma around the camp.

4. Layered Clothing: This is not as obvious as it sounds. Carry a t-shirt, track-pants, an extra pair of socks and a jacket. A cap is also helpful when it’s raining with a balaclava to cover the head. And carry a few layers – you can take them off if it’s hot and put more on if it gets chilly. You can never predict the weather and the rains!

And make sure they are comfortable. As a general rule of thumb, whatever suits you while running, works here. The more waterproof your possessions are, the more comfortable you'll be at the end of the day! Try stuffing it in a polythene bag before you pack them in a bag to keep them water tight! 

5. A bagpack: To carry your precious items. Find a water prof one if possible, but as described above, lining it with polythene can also do the trick. Make sure it isn't too heavy though. Also, carrying a poncho will also help in the rains.

6. Water & Sugar: Water - About 2 litres per person. Food: High energy stuff –Nuts, biscuits and granola bars. Glucose packs also help. The idea is to be prepared. You cannot trust the water on the trail, even if it looks sparkling clean. Animal/bird droppings nearby can easily pollute the water. And you do not want to become dehydrated with no water in the jungle! Light snacks do not take up space and provide much needed energy during crunch times. 

7.A Camera/Phone :So that you can take pics and call for help! And wondering how to use the phone in the rains? Seal it in a thin transparent plastic bag! Thank me later.

8. Towels: This becomes more important during monsoon trekking. Carrying light, quick drying towels help immensely. This may be the sole deciding factor on whether you get a cold after the trek or not.

9. Flashlight: A small hand-cranked flashlight should do the job. This is important especially in the rains, as it tends to get dark early. You do want to lose your way while camping and trekking. If you still manage to do so though, here is a helpful post on what to do if lost on the trail!
Base Villages before Trekking | Image source

Enjoy your treks! Safety first!

About the Author: Hi, I am Ankit. I love adventures and the outdoors and am the go-to guy if you need a sparring partner in adventures or sports :) I write about my travels on AlienAdv with a mission to inspire thousands to get off the couch and get going on lifetime experiences. I share my own travel stories (in the South East Asia and internationally) and my best tips and advice on issues like road-trips, scuba-diving nuggets, surfing, sailing and paragliding. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Paradise Gardens of Kashmir

Kashmir – a place that has been associated with Paradise since ages, a destination that has been every Indian’s dream to visit, a valley that has caught every traveller’s fascination, a backdrop that has been filmed by numerous Indian movies of the bygone days. My childhood dream of visiting this heaven on earth- mostly fuelled by the Eastman coloured Hindi movies and fascinating travel stories has been slowly fading away. Modern day Indian films too have ignored Kashmir and found many better backdrops abroad while the terrorists have found Kashmir a better place to dwell! The insurgent activities have taken a toll on the tourism industry of Kashmir and the heaven started to become a hell.

I had to cancel once my planned trip to Kashmir due to the unrest in the valley. However, things are changing and hope it will continue to change for better and the tourism in this valley will prosper in days to come.

After much planning and thinking, one fine day, we flew from Muscat to Srinagar – the capital of Kashmir. It was April 2012, a great time to visit the valley, a season when the Tulips bloom and the ice starts melting. The situation of the valley was normal and tourists, mostly Indians have packed out all the must visit sites!

The first view: As our plane was approaching Srinagar, a magnificent panorama of snow capped mountains and yellow mustard fields appeared through the flight windows. Wish I had a window seat with a high resolution camera ready in my hands! Nevertheless, I kept my eyes wide open and tried to grab as much as possible this view of heaven from the top! Certain memories do not need a camera to hold, they are imprinted on mind. This was one of such memories.

The Dal Lake: The purpose of writing this article is to tell you about the hundreds of years old magnificent gardens of Srinagar. Yet, no writing on Srinagar is complete without mentioning the Dal Lake – the jewel of Kashmir, a sprawling lake of over 25 square km right at the heart of the city. This is the lake from where river Jhelum has originated. Nagin Lake and Wullar Lake are the two other prominent lakes in the city. These lakes are almost frozen during the winter. The spring and summer are best time for tourists to enjoy the beauty of Kashmir, be it the blooming flowers, yellow mustard fields or a night stay at one of the many houseboats across the length and breadth of these lakes. It’s truly an unforgettable experience to stay on these houseboats floating over the scenic lake with a panoramic view of the mighty snow clad mountains.
Floating market at Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir
The Dal Lake is also famous for its Shikara ride – a quintessential boat ride also known as the water taxi of Kashmir. Shikara can be used to visit the floating market, the floating vegetable & flower gardens, the floating post office and the majestic gardens such as Shalimar Bagh or Nishat Bagh.

This lake has found its place in many creative works and continues to inspire the artists be it for a creative art or for a lyrical masterpiece!
Shikaras at Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir
The breathtaking view of this lake also compliments the royal gardens of Kashmir about which I’m writing in the following passages.

Shalimar Bagh: Way back in the year 1616, Mughal emperor Jahangir built this beautiful garden for his beloved wife Noor Jahan. Designed in Persian style, this garden is surrounded by Chinar trees and is full of fountains, flowers and manicured gardens. The garden has got three terraces – each one designed with a specific purpose. During the rule of the Mughals, only the first terrace – known as Diwan-e-Aam was opened to the public. The second terrace was reserved for the royal guests and aristocrats and it was called Diwan-e-Khas. The third and the highest one called Zenana or Harem was only for the king and his wives.
Shalimar Bagh. CC Image Courtesy shahbasharat
Nishat Bagh: This is largest of all the Mughal gardens of Kashmir. Designed by Jahangir’s broder in law Asaf Khan, this garden was built in the year 1633. Located on the eastern banks of Dal Lake, Nishat Bagh, which means garden of joy, has 12 terraces, each one full with flowers, lawns and tall trees – the most impressive of which are the chinar and cypress trees. 
All the terraces of Nishat Bagh have water pools coupled with fountains, the 11th one has the highest number  of fountains, 25. The 12th terrace or the Zenana terrace was exclusively for the King and the royal ladies.

Nishat Bagh is at a distance of 25 km from the airport and can be reached by both road or a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake
Nishat Bagh. CC Image Courtesy mckaysavage
Chasme Shahi Garden:
Chashme Shahi Garden, Srinagar
Built in the year 1632 during the Shah Jahan rule, this one is the smallest Mughal garden of Kashmir. The garden is full with different varieties of fragrant flowers, lawns, waterfall and fountains and provides a breathtaking view of the green mountains.
The name Chashme Shahi means the royal spring and the garden is built around a spring. The water of the spring is believed to have medicinal importance. The garden is designed in Persian style and it overlooks the mighty Dal Lake on one side and the Zabarwan hills on the other.
Chashme shahi Garden, Srinagar
Char Chinar Garden :
This one is a tiny island garden located in the Dal Lake which can be reached by a Shikara boat. The name char chinar is derived from the four Chinar trees that stand across the boundary of the island as a landmark. Chinar trees grow in abundance in this region and have been a pert of Kashmiri life and tradition.
Char Chinar Garden, Srinagar
Pari Mahal:
Pari Mahal, Srinagar
Located on the slopes of Zabarwan hills, near the Chasme Shahi Garden, this charming garden was built at the ruins of a Buddhist monastery. This ancient monument is believed to be constructed for the purpose of astronomical observations by prince Dara Shukoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan in the year 1650. He  named it after his wife Nadira Begum, who was also known as Pari Begum.
The garden of Pari Mahal has six terraces spreading across an area of over 7500 square meters. The gardens are watered by a nearby spring. 

Tulip Garden:
Tulip Garden, Srinagar
This is a new addition to the age old tradition of Kashmiri gardens. Decorated with lines of different varieties and colours of Tulip flowers spreading across 15 hectars, this garden is a real delight to the senses. One of the most visited attractions of Srinagar, the ideal time to visit this garden is during March and April when the flowers are in full bloom. The garden was opened only a few years ago and since then it has found a place in the heart of the tourists. Tulips are very delicate flowers and can be grown only in favourable weather conditions. Kashmir is one of the very few places on earth that suits the Tulip plantation. Over 1.2 million Tulips of different varieties bloom every year here making this garden look like a colourful carpet on the foothills of Zabarwan mountains
Tulip Garden, Srinagar
Tulip Garden, Srinagar
Tulip Garden, Srinagar

Apart from these wonderful gardens and lakes, Srinagar has many other attractions  - Hazratbal Mosque, Hari Parbat Fort, Shankaracharya Temple, Sri Pratap Singh Museum and so many other tourist places which I could not visit during my short stay in the city. Finally, I conclude by sharing a few advices which might be helpful if you are planning a vacation to Srinagar for the first time.

1. How to reach: Srinagar airport is well connected with the international airports in Delhi and Mumbai. Some flights also have a stopover at Jammu. The airport security is very tight and time consuming. Be prepared for it and reach the airport early while returning. Srinagar can also be reached by car from nearest railway station Jammu (258 km) and from Delhi (876 km)

2. Be aware: Keep a track of the latest happenings in the state and if you come across any news of violence or unrest in the region, do not hesitate to cancel the trip even at the last moment.

3. Be safe: Book the accommodation well in advance. The tourists are often approached by stray agents, guides or porters. Better to avoid them. Also, do not buy anything from roaming vendors who try to lure the tourists to sell their products or services.

4. Be careful: Keep your belongings safely. Never trust strangers.

5. Dealing with locals: Bargain hard. The price is often overstated to the tourists, particularly the foreigners.

6. Things to buy: Kashmir is famous for Cashmere (Pashmina) shawls. You can buy it as a souvenir or for your winter use, but only from a good store. Never buy from stray vendors. You can also consider buying carpets and saffron (kesar). 

7. Nearby attractions: Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg are some of the great places to visit while you are in Srinagar. You can also plan one or two night-stays in some of these places. Kashmir is full of natural beauty. Try to enjoy it as much as possible with a well planned itinerary.
Notwithstanding the underdeveloped tourism industry of the state and incidences of violence, tourists can’t resist visiting Kashmir for its scenic beauty and the paranormal experience of heaven on earth. The beauty of Kashmir can only be felt by staying there and exploring the city at a slow pace. It’s a must visit destination for all, particularly for nature lovers. Kashmir is awe-inspiring, incredible, out of the world - I could have written more, only if I had any word left in my vocabulary.

Recent Posts