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

Wandering In The Himalayas : 50 Days In Spiti, Jibhi and Shimla

serolsar lake

What is it about ‘a month’ of time, that makes it really exciting to spend ‘a month’ in a place? Wandering in the Himalayas for a month had been on my mind since a long time. Now that it has happened, I am thinking of spending a few more months next time around. 😀 I think a year seems more of consequence as it allows us to see the place in all its seasons and festivals.

Lesser Known Places in the Himachal

This June – July 2017, I spent over a month and half in the Himalayas. I covered a lovely, fairly offbeat route in the mountains. And there are many of you out there who are looking to move outside of the tourist circuit. Well, kudos on looking around for different places to explore. It simply doesn’t make sense to keep to tourist hot spots, especially with the problems of high prices, ecological sustainability, crowds, noise and so on. But keeping these problems of the tourist hot spots in mind, it becomes our responsibility that when we move off the tourist track, we ensure that we don’t become a cause of these problems ourselves. We will definitely impact the places we land up in as travellers. But the question is how will we impact them?Continue reading

Spiti Valley: Meeting High Himalayas, Travel Guide

Spiti Valley High Mountains

योगीश्वराय महादेवाय त्रयंबकाय त्रिपुरान्तकाय
त्रिकाग्नि कालाय कालाग्नि रुद्राय नीलकण्ठाय मृत्युञ्जयाय सर्वेश्वराय सदाशिवाय
महादेवाय नमः महादेवाय नमः महादेवाय नमः

I have explored various parts of the Himalayas in India. The chardham in Uttarakhand, gardens and lakes of Kashmir, Buddhist ambience of Sikkim, amazing hospitality of Himachalis – the diversity and mountain environment make a rich experience. I have also been to high altitude places a few times but it was only in Spiti that I truly got acquainted with the ‘high’ Himalayas.

This was a trip where I spent 4 days completely in over 10000 ft. Snow clad peaks became common sight. To the extent that after 3 days, we even stopped clicking pics all the time, because every where we looked was a picture worthy, totally fantastic view.Continue reading

Taipei River Bike Path : For Cyclists, Walkers, Travellers et al.

Taipei River Bike Path Map

when I started searching out cycling routes in and around Taipei, I found a lot of mentions about the Taipei river bike path. And I loved it! I was fascinated on having such amazing infrastructure for cyclists, so easily accessible and right in the middle of a capital city! This bike path is still a work in progress and possibly because of that, most of the write ups don’t elucidate enough. So here is a detailed write on this river bike path.

Taipei River Bike Path Map
A view of Taipei city. Note the various River channels in the city. That’s where the River Bike path is.

Bike Paths or Bike Path? As seen in the map above of Taipei city, the entire stretch of River banks have got bike paths. Different sections of this path have individual names depending on the landmarks nearby etc… So you often come across maps of each section of bike path. But these are not separate paths – they are all one long, continued stretch of bike path. Probably 200+km long. Maybe earlier the bike paths were separate and hence, it is more common to find separate maps for each section. But since it is all connected now, it becomes an amazing ride for a cyclist looking to ride long distance within the city itself.Continue reading

Cycling In Different Corners Of The World

Buy Or Rent A Cycle

I prefer slow, immersive travel experiences. In the Summer of 2015 I went on my first trip to Europe, and tried out solo cycle touring. It was amazing and I found it very well suited for my tastes. Since then I have been on more cycling adventures in other countries and within India too. Writing details about these trips is time consuming and it typically happens only after the trip is over. Sometimes I get caught up with other stuff then it doesn’t happen at all. So, I have created this post to quickly jot down notes. As and when I write detailed blog posts I will link back here, so this becomes one big repository of my cycling experiences.

Also added articles on cycling gear, other logistical stuff and interviews with cyclists, they have been listed right at the end. All trips are solo unless otherwise stated.Continue reading

Tentative Melbourne to Adelaide Cycling Route Map

I went on a cycling trip to Australia in Spring 2016. I was to land in Melbourne and had tentatively thought of doing a Melbourne to Adelaide Cycling circuit. One obvious route between these two cities is the coastal one including the great ocean road. I plotted another more northern route which I thought would give me a taste of the Outback without making it too serious because I was still a newbie in bike touring. Continue reading

Biking Australia 2016: Summary, Route, Weather & So On

Biking Australia
Australia is amazing! So much unique flora, fauna, wildlife and also to a certain extent the people culture. The scenic beauty especially the Great Ocean Road (pic above) was so good. And the country/continent is so huge that I have barely explored a bit so there is much room for it to get better. Here is a not-so-quick overview of my time biking Australia,

Cycle distance covered: 300 km

Time spent: 1.5 months (1st Sept – 15th Oct, 2016)

I ended up cycling (& camping) a lot less than I would have wanted and anticipated, I will share the reasons for this in the ensuing post. The upside however was that I ended up staying in AirBnb a lot more. This meant meeting more people, having conversations and making friends. 🙂
(This was my Original Plan)

the weather:

September is the start of Spring season in Australia, so while I had anticipated colder weeks in the beginning I expected it to get warm by mid Sept when I would start cycling. However, it never really got warm in Victoria. Moreover, it rained like crazy and every week there was severe weather warnings released by the MET department.

In 1 and half month I had only 3 days when temperatures were over 15C. Nights were almost always below 10C and a lot of times as low as 3C. There were chances of it dipping to 0C. Too cold for someone from Mumbai who is used to 28C to 36C temperatures. Along with this it would often be windy and rainy.
So basically cold, wind and wet!
Too much.Continue reading

Berlin to Copenhagen: 550 km in 17 days. Solo Cycling & Camping

wpid-img_20150816_134919.jpg

So yes this big trip happened. *Pinches myself to wake up* ;D

After planning on paper and speaking to select, relevant people to get insights and tips I was off to make this trip happen. I was concerned that there maybe a gap between all my research and what was needed on ground, but it went of fairly well. Of course last minute adaptations were needed, but managed.

There were many moments where I questioned whether I was taking up too much and can I do this?

But well, just keep plodding on – that I have realised is the secret to many things in life.

Choosing the route,

(In case you are looking to plan your cycling trip, I have jotted down notes here about choosing your long distance cycling route)

GERMANY – the country of choice because it is well cheaper, very cycle friendly and fairly flat – great combination for a first trip.

Berlin was where my base would be. I spent the first 12 days here to get my gear. Very hectic with a bit of city exploration added. 15 days would have been better.

I considered different routes,
– north coastal France, Netherlands & Belgium
– Berlin, Dresden to Prague

France didn’t seem to have adequate campsites in that region. Czech wasn’t that cycle friendly. And overall none were feeling right.
More research.
Came across the Berlin – Copenhagen route, felt right. Fits in with my plan to keep Berlin as base of this trip. It would take me to Denmark & I totally wanted to cycle in Scandinavian countries. I would also love to visit Copenhahagen! So Berlin to Copenhagen it is!

Transport back from Copenhagen wasn’t the easiest and there were many other difficulties bit I think any route would have some difficulties  and so I went ahead researching it more.

Bikeway Berlin – Copenhagen is an official international travel route:
http://www.bike-berlin-copenhagen.com

They have identified three sections,
Brandenburg – Germany
Mecklenburg – Germany
Eastern coast of Denmark

You can of course find lot of info on the website… They split each section into day wise trips ranging from 35 km to 70 km. For most avid cyclists in Europe this distance is fine.

However, I chose to do a cycling trip as a slow traveler – I love cycling but am not really an avid cyclist. I planned to cycle just abt 30 – 40km a day. So the stops I took and daily coverage was lot different. I often stopped at a place for many days, just absorbing the camping experience and cycling around in the nearby town.

The daily stops would also depend on the accommodation.

Accommodations can be managed with,

Campsites – in which case you need camping gear but on the upside you can be entirely impromptu

AirBnB/Couchsurfing – this can be budget but needs planning on the road

Hostels/Hotels – this may not be budget as the route touches many small towns. Also you would need to book in advance to get better deals.

The advantage of camping or keeping accommodation impromptu is that it allows you to be flexible. When cycling, your plans change. Depending on the weather or your health or some other factor you may not be able to cycle the planned distance.

I camped almost all the days as it let’s me be impromptu and budget.

So here is how I covered the entire route and some brief notes,

 

Berlin to Copenhagen Map

View the map here

I will blog in detail about the various places and then link those blogs here so you can get additional info.

Ride 1:
Berlin to Oranienburg (~35 km)
After a really late start from Berlin reached the lovely Oranienburg campsite by end of day. My first camping experience. 🙂

Here I made a German friend here using Google Translate

A trip to Sachsenhausen concentration camp (10km)

Ride 2: Oranienburg to Zehdenick/Zielegar Nature Park (~45km)
Lovely route by river Havel. Towns Liebenwalde and Zehdenick – really picturesque.

Ride 3: Zielegar Nature park to Furstenberg Havel (~45km)
This is when the route gets really scenic! I think this was one of best routes in the German section in terms of scenic and flatness… The later parts get a bit hilly.

The Umbracke concentration camp was located on the way

I visited Santas house @ Himmelpfort 😉 

Explored Furstenberg Havel (10km)
Shocked an Italian restaurenteer and got  free drink. 😉

Ride 4: Furstenberg Havel to Wesenberg (~35km)
Route got hilly.  Not much for experienced people – but I am not experienced!! In fact I didn’t know how to use gears on hilly. ;D
Spent two days at Wesenberg campsite & figured out.

Ride 5: Wesenberg to Waren (~65km)
Managed the hilly. On verge of enjoying. Took a “detour” which turned out to be a pot-holed mud path. The second maddest ride in the trip.

Explored Waren (10km)

Ride 6: Waren to Krakow am See (~50km)
Krakow am See again a lovely town. Had dinner at a lake facing restaurant 🙂

Ride 7: Krakow am See to Gustrow & Rostock (~20km)
Cycled to Gustrow. Enroute met some lovely and somewhat eccentric people including an almost-round-the-world cyclist. Spent some time here… So then decided to take a train from Gustrow to Rostock.

Explored Gustrow: 10km

& reached Denmark by ferry!

Ride 8: Gedser to Marielyst Strand ( ~20km)
A crazy ride from 7pm to 9.15pm on a windy night!

Ride 9: Marielyst strand to Nykobing Falsing (~20km)
Explored marielyst strand – award winning Denmark beach. Realised that here in Denmark I can have conversations with locals because they know English.. Unlike in Germany. Though this wasn’t true later as the area got more rural.

Ride 10: Nykobing Falster to Stubbekobing (~45km)
Great fun riding. Wind was picking up. I didn’t know what was in store for next day. So amazing scenery, can’t even say. But the best was yet to come! Oh yea n I didn’t get any food.

Ride 11: Stubbekobing/Bogo to Stege
(~25km)
Winds. Mad winds. 45 km/hr. The brilliant North Baltic sea. This was my maddest ride and also one of the most awesome.

Ancient limestone frescoes @ Fanefjord Church

Ride 12: Stege to Tappernoje (~30km)
Calmer weather and a private farm camping experience

So much wind!

Ride 13: Tappernoje to Rodvig (~40km)
Learnt: drink enough water! Cramps. And over-all pondering on the fact that the trip was ending!

Bio-luminescence at the beach, Faxe Ladeplads!

Rodvig to Store Hedding (~15km)
& a train back to Copenhagen

Ending the trip was really difficult, but there were many practical considerations. I had to sell the cycle and camping gear because I couldn’t transport it back to India. The cycle was really good and I am still wondering whether I should have somehow got it back to India.

Camping gear I anyway did not want, I would like to buy better quality, if and when I am doing this again.

What a mad trip though, I absolutely enjoyed it.

I will be writing about the budget for this trip later, to give people an idea. I managed to sell my stuff later so the overall costs were really decent.

And here are some of the best trip pics, watch full screen! 🙂

 Media Mentions: 🙂

Berlin to Copenhagen
Gujarati newspaper Janmabhoomi
Berlin to Copenhagen
Marathi newspaper Navakaal

*I am not sure of exact km cycled. It was about 500 to 550 km. My cycle computer stopped working and I didn’t track it via any GPS app. Just calculated roughly on basis of the kms given on the route site and using Google maps.

To Dandeli & Back – Rejuvenated

Dandeli. Yes I know, if you are from Mumbai and other northern areas of the country you don’t know what I am talking about. If you are from Bangalore its been a family trip weekend destination forever! It is namma Dandeli for you. I went Mumbai – Dandeli – Bangalore – Mumbai and I have been shuttling between these two expressions from everyone I am talking to! It’s amazing considering Dandeli is bang in the middle on the Mumbai – Bangalore route! It’s a stones throw from Goa.


View Dandeli, Karnataka in a larger map

Being from Mumbai, I was not sure what to expect in Dandeli. I typically don’t research about the place before landing up there. Dandeli was a surprise. Its a lot wilder than I expected & wild isn’t exactly what I expected it to be either.

Wild Travel
Quote me! 🙂

I was staying at a quaint, cozy jungle camp called Pradhani. Just outside was the home of a bear. He has been staying there for years and never caused much trouble but of course we humans need to step lightly and cautiously.

Inside the camp was interesting. Here are some pics from my mobile camera (S3) which I am quite proud of,

Malabar Squirrels Dandeli
They are pretty big, these Malabar squirrels with a lovely, striking reddish color!

This Malabar squirrel found itself in the Monkey colony tree shown below. There were many territorial issues, but this squirrel is big enough for any of these monkeys! Yet it felt pestered as there were too many of the primate kind. As it was making its way to another tree I caught the clear shot above. Then another squirrel came from somewhere…

Dandeli
This tree was a super Monkey colony – families and lone rangers dangling, jumping around!

So what can you do in Dandeli? What is it all about?

Jungle Safari

One of the first activities I went on was the Jungle Safari. The Dandeli jungle is a wild expanse with fairly new Tiger Reserve status in 2007. There are chances of spotting tigers, leopards and black panthers. This jungle is un-fenced hence the chances of spottings are less. It is also a relatively new jungle safari zone, so the animals are not used to the road and vehicles so they may stay away from it. The ride inside was still quite impressive as the forest comes across as wild!

I totally enjoyed the safari. We saw spotted deers and heard the barking deers. The wild boar hadstepped onto the road for a bit, if he got pissed and charged on us it would be risky but that didn’t happen. 😉 The wild boar wasn’t really that big…. somewhat more sturdy looking than the average city boar but with tusks and temper. The great Indian Hornbills are really Great with their typical 60 inch wing span. They are so much bigger than I had imagined. We also saw some wild hens, peacocks, pea hen, pea kids and very camouflaged turtles.

Way into the jungle we came to a sunset point. A lot of such points are created only for tourist purposes, the view is not better than other views. This point however was brilliant! For the first time I have seen the Western Ghats in all their glory. It was so perfect for the panorama shot,

Sunset Point Panorama

Sunset point, Dandeli
Steps to Sunset point… no wild animals in sight.. lets take the plunge! 😉
Sunset Point Dandeli
Interesting landscape, I think this was a quarry at some point in time…
Dandeli Sunset
It seems I have conquered some peaks 😉

On our way back to the jungle camp, the road which was hitherto lackluster was all colorful – the gypsies had come! Read more about them in the next upcoming post as I am running low on time and some hype is mandatory at this juncture 🙂 [Next post: The gypsies are coming!]

Disclaimer: Thanks to the folks at dandeli.com for a lovely visit. They planned and organized the trip really well!

(All the thoughts and melo drama in this post are very much mine) 😉