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

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

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

Fun Ways For A Traveller To Learn A Language Like Mandarin for Taiwan

Learn A Language

In India, regional languages have taken second place to English wherever people have the option. This helps us tremendously in work fields and makes our working force internationally viable. But it does put us behind in retaining culture especially in urban areas, compared to a lot of these societies like Taiwan, Japan, China and even many of the European countries like Germany and France.

When I visited Taiwan in Oct, 2016 I looked at the lack of English language as a very good thing, as this allows true global diversity. But it of course creates challenges for us travellers. And I was solo-cycling for a few days, so that led to some specific difficulties too. Here are some fun ideas on how we travellers can learn a language. Continue reading

Should You Buy Or Rent A Cycle For Long Distance Touring?

Buy Or Rent A Cycle

Considering a long distance cycling tour? If it is around your home city then you probably have access to a good cycle. But what if it is somewhere else – maybe a different country or even a different continent! Would you fly your cycle with you or should you buy or rent a cycle once you get to the new place?

When I cycled Berlin to Copenhagen in 2015 I bought a second hand cycle in Berlin. In my second trip to Australia and Taiwan – I flew my cycle from India to these countries. I wrote a blog post on Taking your Cycle via Airplane (Mostly for Indians). There are two points that I forgot to write in this blog post. One is about the costs involved – I will write about that soon. Second I am covering in this post : Why Fly a Cycle at all? Why not just buy or rent a cycle from a city near your long distance route? Here are my thoughts on the same,

Should You Buy or Rent a Cycle ?

Continue reading

Australian Spring Weather : Travel Planning Tips

Traveling to Aussie land in Spring? You probably need to know more about the Australian Spring weather before planning your itinerary. I was in Australia from 1st September to 15th October, 2016 – a month and half long trip and the idea was to cycle for at least a month. I would be in Melbourne for about 10 days and then take off towards Adelaide. That was the tentative route Melbourne to Adelaide via a more northern route and then come back via the Great Ocean Road. However, I found the weather was just very difficult for me to cope with. And I was not at all prepared for the cold, wet and windy. The Winter in Victoria had been unusually wet and the trend continued into spring. I think in the end it was for the good because I learnt a lot about camping in cold, wet and windy weather. It made me stronger. I also got an idea about Australian weather patterns, so here sharing my thoughts on it, hopefully it may help you plan your Aussie trip better 🙂Continue reading

Australian Visa For Indians (compared to Schengen)

I had my flight from Kochi to Melbourne on 27th Aug, 2016. The Mumbai – Kochi wasn’t booked because I hadn’t gotten my visa yet. It was already 25th Aug. Then on 26th Aug morning I received The Email – with my visa. 🙂

So all is happy and a LOT of last minute packing took place. It was not a good day I must say, because I got stuck in a traffic jam for 3 hours. Yea, the universe has been trying to tell me something.

Now when I relax at my AirBnb home in Melbourne, having delayed my cycling road trip due to cold and flu – I am slowly unraveling the universe’s message or at least trying to piece it together. It seems to be ‘Relax, All iz well’ 😉

Continue reading

Taking The Cycle via Airplane, Mostly India Related

I am sitting in my Indigo flight enroute to Kochi from hometown Mumbai. Boarding this flight was a total last minute madness mainly because I was transporting my cycle.

I could have planned it better, so jotting down notes here for next time. Ya, I still have appetite for a next time. My parents were probably traumatized by how close I cut it, but that is OK. Next time I will make it easier for them. 😀

In case you are wondering: I ended up dismantling my bike for the first time just an hour before I had to leave for my flight. Everything could have been smooth as I planned it out in my head but well it wasn’t. The pedal got jammed damn bad so much so that finally I cut a hole in the box and that pedal just poked out. No other way.Continue reading

Solo Travel & The Schengen Visa – FAQs, India

“You will never get the schengen visa!”

That’s what 3 well-recommended travel agents said. And then I managed to get a multi-entry (I had asked for single entry) visa for the number of days I had asked.

I applied on my own! And then as usual – I blogged about it 😀

Since then a lot of people have contacted me to clarify doubts because they are in a similar situation. It seems that anyone looking to travel solo, backpack or go long distance cycling trip in Europe gets a negative response from the Indian travel agents.Continue reading

Cycling Berlin – Copenhagen: Santa is in @ Himmelpfort, Germany

Himmelpfort, Germany
One of the most scenic rides on the Berlin Copenhagen route – from Zehdenick to Furstenberg Havel

Ride 3 from Zehdenick to Furstenberg Havel. One of the most scenic routes so far. A little overwhelmed with the beauty and solitude on the road – hunger was a constant companion (because I was keen on an early start so left without eating anything). I pulled in for food at this little town called Himmelpfort. No major reason to stop here but cafes are not so common when I am cycling only 40 or so km daily. So I stopped at this cafe which seemed very popular in this town of Himmelpfort.

Vaguely I remember seeing some Santa Claus banner while entering but didn’t pay much attention – though it was odd to have christmassy stuff in the month of August! Anyway, I proceeded into the cafe – and then the big Q was: what am I going to eat? I told the lady at the counter – Vegeeeetaaarish.

Ehh, what?

I want Vejjjjeeeeetaaarish food. Veeegaaan? Vegetaarish?

*She tells me some dish names in German*

Does it have egg? No egg. Vegetarish with no egg.

ehh, … Yes, egg!

Err…..No egg?

Errr….moment. *shouts something in German into the kitchen*

I am just standing around. Wondering whether I have been dismissed. Usually ‘moment’ means ‘one moment’ So I am waiting. Then thankfully another German lady comes to me and she knows decent English. Phew. She suggested me a potato dish. Apparently it was just potato n cheese.

I ordered it. This culture of eating cheese like a main course item is very unusual for me because in India we consider it fattening and somewhat unhealthy. Paneer (cottage cheese), Ghee, Curd are all considered healthier. However cheese is like a staple in many of these European countries. So here in Himmelpfort, I found a typical German vegetarian dish which I had quite often on the road – Potatos & Cheese!

Vegetarian in Germany
Veggie meal for the day. Potato & Cheese. Delicious but not as filling as I would like.
Himmelpfort, Germany
Ginger Ale – my staple

Finally feeling a bit satiated and guzzling down couple of Ginger Ales I decided to inquire into that Santa Claus postcards & banners I had seen earlier. Now this is an interesting conversation,

“Why do I keep seeing the Santa Claus here? For eg on this postcard?”

“well, you know this is Himmelpfort! This is where Santa Claus lives”

*Feeling like fish floundering without water* “Err what do you mean ‘lives’ here”

“Well you know as the legend goes…. this is where he stays. When kids want to write to the Santa, they all address it to Himmelpfort!”

“Err what about North Pole?”

“What ?”

“Err Nothing…. *stunned*”

“You know Santa lives right behind this cafe. This is where he reads his letters and even replies to them”

*Finally coming around* “Aah that is interesting, I will definitely go and see it 🙂 “

Bought one of the postcards as keep sake from Santa’s town. At least the German Santa’s town 😉

You know often exposed only to the ‘western’ media which originates in US or UK we assume things are a certain way. But when traveling other countries, things are different.

In Germany, Santa is from Himmelpfort and who can say otherwise?!

Himmelpfort, Germany
Santa’s coat hung in his room
Himmelpfort, Germany
Santa’s Veranda

So I went and visited the lovely Santa cottage. A colourful room with a nice big veranda. Surrounded by green wilderness. In the near distance there was a big lake and boats. Families were picnicking there, I could here the sounds of kids laughter and water splashing.

Himmelpfort
Green acres around the Santa cottage with a Lake nearby and

In hindsight I think I should have inquired more into this activity but I found a very interesting article and I am so happy to know that this whole culture has humble routes.

So feel like writing a letter to Santa? 😉