Hiking & Cycling Routes Near Córdoba, Spain

Cordoba’s historic city center is a testament to the times of Roman settlements, Muslim domination of Europe and the later victorious re-conquest by the Christians. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. And the old town definitely exudes a character and charm not easily found. But this is not why I chose to spend a few days here. There are many hiking and cycling routes around Cordoba – these were my interest 🙂

Here are some details in case you wish to explore them too:Continue reading

Botanical Garden in Ajuda, Lisbon

Botanical Garden in Ajuda - ornamental walkway

Lisbon has three botanical gardens as far as I know. Ajuda, Belem and the City Center. The one in the city center was under renovation when I was there. But I visited the one in Ajuda and Belem, they were very close to where I was staying. This post is about the botanical garden in Ajuda. It was the first one I visited and found totally fascinating! And possibly from what I read and hear it might be the best one in Lisbon.

As I entered the garden after buying a ticket from the office building I saw glimpses of a maze-style garden. In the official website of this botanical garden it is called the ‘ornamental walkway’ but I think of it as the maze garden cause it reminds me of a maze carved from garden hedges. 🙂Continue reading

Solo Hiking Safety: Preparation Checklist

Solo Hiking Safety

I have been on a few solo hikes so far. Three solo hikes in the Himachal near Jibhi. One hike in the Subbetica Natural park in Andalucia, Spain. In general, it is a bit too soon for me to be putting a “Solo Hiking Safety” post. I like to be more experienced about a subject like this before I write about it. But………I got lost on my previous hike in the Subbetica Natural park and had to be rescued! And it got fairly dangerous due to the weather forecast!

My mind was on overdrive for a few days afterwards, trying to figure out why it all became so serious.  Failure is a great teacher. And I also realised that there were a lot of things I did right, largely owing to my previous solo cycle touring experience (and the few hikes), which led to an ‘easy’ rescue.  So I decided to write this post on potential problems and the solutions for solo hiking (also relevant for group hiking). Also, I don’t think there can be a truly ‘complete’ list for these kind of activities – it is after all the WILD! So feel free to search more if you are planning a solo hike. And if you have suggestions to add to this list, comment and let me know too 🙂Continue reading

I Got Lost On A Solo Hike & Had To Be Rescued

Solo Hike

I often wonder, I keep talking abt solo travel as being really awesome. And people around me get impressed, think it is so cool and all that. But what happens when a situation develops that is NOT awesome? Am I only rhapsodizing on the basis of all my positive experiences so far? In which case it really takes only one negative experience to over-rule the positives, isn’t it? Or not? Here is one of my most serious – shit hit fan – solo travel experience. And what I think about solo travel afterwards.

It happened in Spain.

Earlier today I got lost in the mountains and not proverbially….. I wrote late into the night. Once I was back in my hotel…. I couldn’t sleep. And blogging has always been therapeutic for me. So this particular blog post has been in writing since that night itself but of course, I have had to shape it up to make it read more coherent.

I was staying in the town Zuheros in Andalucia, Spain. It was the night halt of my second day of cycling the Via Verde de la Subbetica. I had only one day to cycle further but I found information on some cool-sounding, short walks in the hotel reception and so instead of cycling, I decided to hike in the Subbetica natural park instead.Continue reading

Vegetarian Girl in Lisbon

vegetarian or vegan food in lisbon

In general, Lisbon isn’t considered very vegetarian-friendly. This is what the few people who had some idea about it told me. People generally don’t know much about Lisbon because it is not one of the top must-visit cities in Europe. But after spending over 3 weeks here, I wouldn’t really call Lisbon particularly difficult for vegetarian or vegan food. Here is my experience, and if you are looking for vegetarian or vegan food in Lisbon then this should help you out.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Firstly, to clarify what these words mean.

Vegetarian typically at least in the European sense means foods that are plant-based or animal products (not animals but their products – milks, eggs, honey and so on). It doesn’t include fish, sea-food or any meat.Continue reading

Places to Meditate in Salem, Tamil Nadu

Oothumalai, Salem, Tamil Nadu

Places to MEDITATE. This is my favourite activity (or rather no-activity ? 😉 ). Go somewhere awesome and sit and meditate or cycle. Kind of the same. Haha. And one podcast I heard from Swami Tyagananda of Ramakrishna Chapter in Boston, said that spiritual seekers notice a sense of familiarity when they do their practices in a new place. And I have been thinking that my daily yoga and meditation practices in every new place I go to, adds to the experience of the place for me.

This Salem trip was very interesting and one of the first such trips where I met a fellow, senior seeker, chatted about spirituality and he showed me around some great places to meditate. And we meditated a while.

Happy life.

So if you are around Salem and wondering what to see, head to one of these places and meditate a while.Continue reading

Lisbon Oceanarium

I came to Lisbon for some work meetups. And everyone in this work team had to vote for one fun group activity. This is how I landed up at the Lisbon Oceanarium 🙂

If you are wondering about the difference between Oceanarium and Aquarium (I was *geek alert*) – any aquarium that provides an ocean habitat for its marine life can be considered an Oceanarium. And this is exactly what we get at Oceanario de Lisboa, Europe’s largest indoor aquarium.Continue reading

Traveling in Vikram Samvat 2073 & Vir Samvat 2543, Year-end Post

vikram samvat 2073 & vir samvat 2543

Are you wondering what’s Vikram Samvat and Vir Samvat? They are the traditional Indian calendars. You can read more about them here. I have shifted my year-end posts to this calendar. It is because the traditional year-end that happens after the Diwali celebrations and then wishing all friends and family alongwith some religious activities make for a lot more meaningful new year beginnings (and year ending). I haven’t found any meaningful connection with the gregorian New Year activity on 31st – 1st Jan.

Moreover, I was recently going through ancient timelines… when many ancient events happened and so on… and I realized that this calendar of BC and AD is oriented around Jesus Christ. So this makes it a Christian calendar. And not majorly relevant for me. Compared to that having a calendar which is oriented around Mahavir Swami (Jain tirthankar) or Vikramaditya, an impactful Indian king makes more sense. And resonates more with my culture and ancestral understanding.

So, traveling in the year 2073 (& 2543)…Continue reading

Jibhi: A Month in the Mountains

misty town Jibhi

This Himalayan trip was easily one of my best – a week in the astounding desert of Spiti and then over a month in Jibhi – a beautiful, lush green mountain town at 7,000 ft. The idea was simple, leave the metropolis madness called Mumbai behind and be closer to nature. And so it happened.

The Offbeat Shimla Manali Route via Seraj Valley and Jibhi

There are three Shimla to Manali routes – 1) the offbeat one via Seraj Valley, on which lies Jibhi, 2) the popular one via Mandi and 3) the longer one via Spiti valley.

There may also be a fourth route with a longer westwards circuit near Mandi.

Jibhi is off the usual Indian tourist route. But surprisingly it is very much on the Israeli tourist route. I found it surprising but probably the proximity to the popular Kasol valley is the reason. I chatted with three Israeli travellers in the Kshatra cafe of Jibhi and it was an eye opener. They told me that Israel has alway considered India a close ally and they love the culture not because it is cheap (inexpensive), but because it deeply resonates with them. Oh and two of them had come to spend their honeymoon in India – that shows how much they love this country! And both did Yoga. The third guy had done multiple vipassana programs. So… wow! Far cry from the stereotyped image of Israelis holed up in cheap room of an Indian town basically for the opium.

This trip to Jibhi was filled with interesting conversations and revelations. I made friendships that have lasted beyond the place and time. Still in touch with many of them, met a few later on elsewhere and looking forward to meeting them again!Continue reading

Australian Bush Macro-Style Photographs

australian bush

Macro photography: producing photographs of small items in larger-than-life size.

I don’t have professional macro photography setup, but here are some interesting photographs from the Australian bush, macro-style. 🙂

But before you take a look at those, a quick note on – what is the Australian Bush?

The ‘Australian bush’ loosely means any area outside the metropolitan cities of Australia. Almost 89% of the Australian population lives in the major metropolitan cities. Outside these cities, the towns are small amidst huge expanses of land. And usually, any wilderness in these areas is considered bush. Even the small towns may be referred to as ‘bush towns’. I suspect the term has come up due to the bush-y nature of the wilderness. While there are a lot of eucalyptus tree forests in Australia, they are significantly sparser than the forests of the tropical regions. And apart from these Eucalyptus trees, the greens are usually stunted. Wattle bushes, grass, a lot of mushrooms, fungus, tiny flowering plants and the like.Continue reading