Mumbai : Kashid & Elephanta Caves trip

Characters: I, my wife Mukti & son Aru along with my brother, Vicky, his wife, Namita and two lovely little girls, Kalyani & Devyani.

100_3639

Mumbai: As seen from the Arabian Sea

On my last trip to Mumbai we all had a gala time visiting Chowpati, Juhu beach, Siddhi Vinayak temple, Haji Ali Dargah and Mumba Devi temple. We also had two getaways to Kashid Beach and to the world heritage site of Elephanta caves.

k6

Kashid Beach near our motel.

Kashid Beach: We set off for 133 Kms car drive to Kashid Beach in the late afternoon. Snailing through the traffic of Mumbai we travelled through Mankhurd, Panvel, Pen and Alibaug to reach our destination at night. The last few kilo meters where the road snaked through small villages was marvelous.

k7

Kids enjoying at Satya Vijay’s place.

There may be lot many stay options at Kashid but lately the villagers have opened quite a few motels which are basically four room to eight room accommodation built on their land. The places are maintained by the family and the food is cooked by the family members only. We had made our stay arrangements at a place of a guy named Satya Vijay [#9987545846].

100_3508

Leisurely moments at the motel

He welcomed us and we all had home cooked delicious late night dinner under the star lit sky. We could also hear the occasional roar of the waves as the shore was just across the road. The atmosphere was such that we ate, drank and chatted till 3 am while the children enjoyed the bonfire and the hammocks.

100_3509

The rear view of the Motel

Next day we woke up late and immediately I was captivated with the beauty of the place. Behind our rooms were green slopes of small hills with thick growth of Casuarina genus trees while in the front was glistening blue Arabian Sea with white milky waves making synchronous visit to the shores.

k8

kids playing on the shores

We rushed to the beach. It was a wonderful site with very few visitors. We could make out a hillock on the distant left of our place. The sunny morning, the sparkling sand on the beach, the waves, everything was complimenting the splendor of the place. The place also had water scooter rides offered by the locals. We were treated to another scrumptious lunch on our return.

k9

Sunset at the main Kashid beach

While returning we had a brief stop at the main beach of Kashid. This was bit crowded but had lot many options of food and enjoyment like horse rides, cart rides etc. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset here before setting off for Mumbai.

 

el1

The famous 21 feet Trimurti sculpture at Elephanta Caves.

: Travelling all the way from Powai to the Gateway off India means you have to cross through the whole of Mumbai which we did. We visited Jehangir art gallery, strolled in the Colaba Market and had our brunch at Leopold Café [it had come under terror attack in infamous Mumbai terror strike in 2008]. Later we purchased ferry tickets for Rs. 140 each and we were off to Elephanta Caves.

el0000

The picturesque journey to Elephanta Caves

This was my first ferry ride. The plush personal boats anchored on the shore, colorful gigantic ships, tiny islands, returning noisy ferries and the quickly farther moving Mumbai’s coast line, all was adding up to some nostalgic aura. After around 40 minutes ride we reached the jetty of Gharapuri Island, named after the colossal elephant found there.

el01

The Cave

After taking Rs. 10 tickets and walking through a small congested market on an ascending lane we came across the main cave. Altogether there were seven caves which are famous for their sculpture. They date back to 600 – 700 AD and it is surprising that many dynasties like the Mauryas, Trikutakas, Chalukyas, Silaharas, Rashtrakutas, Yadavas of Deogiri and even the Portuguese had their sway over this island. The Marathas also had this island under their control and from them it passed into the control of the British.


One really begins to ponder how these sculptures might have taken such beautiful and impressive physical shape and suddenly you start having a sense of gratitude and respect for those artists and sculpturers who must have toiled for ages in finishing their artifacts.
As the evening approached we had to rush to the jetty to catch the last of the returning ferries. The return journey was even more memorable. The weather had become cold and the beauty of the dark city shore in the backdrop of the setting sun and the flock of noisy sea gulls following the ferry in anticipation of some fide item to be tossed to them, all appeared to me as a beautiful painting that got etched in the canvas of my mind.

100_3642

Sea Gulls following us during our return

On shore we had dinner at the famous non vegetarian joint, Bade Miya and then we all headed home.

m2

We had our dinner here

Advertisements

Chakrata – Where serenity dwells.

Memories of a weekend trip we made to escape the scorching peak summer heat of the Indian plains. We had heard about Chakrata and also that it is not too far off from the national capitol so we made our reservations to Dehra Dun by train. It is a short overnight journey and around 7 p.m. we were at Dehra Dun Railway Station.

1.jpg

Scenic beauty of lower Himalayas enroute

We took a GMVN Taxi. It is the best option as they have fixed rates, are reliable and safe and their stand is just outside the station. Also, they only charge one way fare. About 100 Kms drive via Herbertspur costed us 1100 Rs [Approximately $16].

There were hardly any roadside dhabas or eateries and as we got closer to the place even the road wore a deserted look. One can easily realize that the road is less traversed and that is why you hardly realize that you have reached Chakrata even after you have actually reached there.

ch000

Greens all around at Chakrata

Even at Chakrata, only a couple of taxis, an ATM centre and a public toilet indicated that we had reached our destination. Perched at 2200 mts height it is not in the must visit list of casual tourists. Our hotel, Snow View was half a kilometer down the road.

ch00

Sign Board of our Hotel, the only quality Hotel at Chakrata

I should express my gratitude to Arti for making the prior reservations because it was later that I learnt that being a cantonment area, Chakrata has only one hotel. There are others too, one, that is too far off [about 1.5 Kms] and the rest very shabby ones in the market.

The hotel amidst the green forest was an ideal place for our getaway. It was still being run by the descendents of the same family that had built it in 1836. The structure resembled a heritage site with large rooms and huge lawn. Even the tariff and other charges were pretty economical the reason being that they were monitored by the Chakrata cantonment.

ch0

View from our hotel

We all should be grateful to the Indian Army because of their presence and directives Chakrata remains untouched of the maddening developments and brazen exploitation and destruction of nature that is apparent in other parts of Lower Himalayas.

ch1.jpg

Scenic view along the road from Hotel to Chakrata

In the evening we had a stroll to the Chakrata market which was unfortunately closed. With the thick greens all around the environment was revitalizing. After return from a leisurely walk we had a relaxed dinner. Sometimes you wonder that there is hardly anything to do at Chakrata little realizing that it is this NOTHING for which we have come so far.

ch3

Unfortunately the Chakrata market was closed

Next day at around 10 pm we left the hotel for the next leg of our journey. We had arranged for our cab through our hotel which is the best option as taxis are hard to find at Chakrata. In about half an hour we were at the starting point of our small trek to Tiger falls. From the main route one has to walk down a concrete path to reach the magnificent 50 Kms fall. It took us about 40 minutes to reach there and we all had a refreshing bath in the pond into which the fall ends [falls].

As expected we took time to climb back as the going was uphill. Our next destination was Mussorie. Everyone except me had visited Mussorie so one can expect me to be the most excited member in the cab. The return journey via kempty falls was quite barren. Before we crossed Yamuna river there was hardly any water source visible nor there were any eateries. Traffic increased manifolds as we moved closer to Kempty falls. We had a short break at the falls but they did not seem enchanting enough as we were still lost in the memories of the tiger falls which was far more magnificent and natural.

By evening we were at Mussorie. It was hot, crowded or one can say over crowded….. whatever, it seemed as if I had walked into a crowded city mall on a new year’s day. The rooms were expensive, understandably so, and Mussorie in the return leg of peaceful Chakrata is not advisable. Nevertheless we took Rs. 3500+ rooms in not so fancy hotel and had an evening stroll in the markets of Mussoorie.

I had heard a lot about Mussorie, but to be frank enough, I was disappointed. May be I was there at the wrong time of the year [peak tourist month of June]. My son though enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the place, the trolly ride to Gun Hill and also his short visit to an aquarium on the Mall road. The place is good for purchasing warm clothes too but do not look for some majestic sights as you might expect of a hill station. Next day we were off to catch our return train from Dehra Dun with bundle of fond and not so fond memories.

m4

It says: Do not pee here……. At that height???.. Can anyone????

 

In to Dhauladhar: The white range

Characters: I, my wife Mukti, my son Aru, my younger sibling couple of Ricky and Arti

1

A Family Trip

Leg 1: Delhi to Chamba: Chamba in Himachal Pradesh, do not confuse with the Chamba near Mussoorie in Uttarakhand, can be reached via Pathankot. There may have been, in fact there is, an easier and direct route too but we decided to explore the beauty of Kangra Valley too so we took Himachal Express till Himachal Una. It is an overnight journey, but don’t remain cozy in the early hours of the next day on your sleeper berths otherwise you will miss the Anandpur Sahib Gurudwara and Bhakra Nangal Dam which are along the railway tracks. Point of caution: no smoking on this route.

2

Himachal Una Railway Station

Himachal Una is a small but beautiful station. We had our cab waiting, a Mahindra Xylo, which was going to be our rest room for next few days. The driver was Pammi Bhai whose physique was in complete contrast to the size of the MUV.

2a

At this Hotel [Dhaba] we had our lunch [6 of us] for only Rs. 230 or $3.5

Drive along NH25 till Talwara, NH27 till Jassur and then, via Nurpur on NH28 till Chamba, was picturesque especially with the weather being overcast. The route snails through Pong dam over river Beas [Sorry No photo allowed] and Chamera Dam [over river Ravi]. The reservoir, Chamera Lake supports no aquatic life and is one of the best lakes for water sports.

3.jpg

Chamera Lake Reservoir

As we crossed Nurpur we were welcomed by clouds that hung all over the hills and the river. It was as if Ravi, the river had two layers, one of the water flowing and one of the fog that blanketed the river stretch. It was a heavenly experience.

4.jpg

The River Ravi & the the first sighting of Chamba

By late evening we were at Chamba and checked in to HPTDC Hotel Irawati which was right in the heart of the city. I should also share that I was bit disappointed that after driving along the beautiful river, one has to leave the trail and climb about 100-150 mts for the city. This takes you away from the river.

6

Chamba

The best thing about Chamba is that it never gives you a feel that it is a tourist place because there are not that many tourists. You mingle with the locals, move around in local markets and eat at not so fancy food joints. What’s more, the place goes dead [not literally] after 9 or 9:30 pm and yes, no smoking outside here too.

7.jpg

Chamba along the majestic river Ravi

In the evening we climbed up to Chamunda Devi temple. It dates back to 1762 and it was built by Raja Umed Singh. It is the only wooden temple with a gabled roof in the whole of Chamba. We climbed 378 steps to reach there. I always believe in worshipping in those temples where there is hardly any crowd and this was one of them.

8.jpg

Chamunda Devi, Chamba

On our return we paid a visit to Laxmi Narayan temple which is supposed to have been built in 10th Century. Luckily we attended the evening aarti. Later we had dinner in one of the local restaurants.

9.jpg

81 ft tall Shiva idol at Jai Jagdambe Temple, Khajjiar

Leg 2: Next morning was dark and it was raining heavily too but by the time we checked out of the hotel, it had come down to a drizzle. Our next destination was Khajjiar and the 24 Kms drive was scenic, with lots of curves and bends and took us nearly an hour and a half to reach there. The time also includes some moments spend at Jai Jagdamba Devi temple enroute. The temple is famous for its 81 ft high Shiva idol.

10.jpg

Panoramic view of Khajjiar Gardens

Suddenly the path [the road] runs into a meadow, Khajjiar, surrounded with tall deodar trees. There is a small lake in between too. There were lot many peoples and the atmosphere was that of a fair amidst dark greens on a cloudy day. Friendly advice, avoid eating here if you can.

11a

St. John’s Church [estd. 1863] at Dalhousie

After an hours stay we were off to McLeodganj. We had our lunch at Dalhousie and by late afternoon our vehicle had lined up in a traffic jam that is expected before McLeodganj. I can assure you that the first sights of the place were very promising. As we crawled into McLeodganj we found it to be a small crowded place with narrow lanes through which all the big cars and SUVs make their way.

12

Mc Leodganj

Still, it does not disappoint you because of its colorfulness, temples of Lord Buddha, food joints and non Indian-ness. It is one of those places in India where foreigners & Tibetans outnumber the Indians and understandably so, at least apparently. You will have to search for Indian food joints amidst a cluster of numerous international cuisine serving ones. I loved the place for its coffee and cakes.

The rains kept company even the next morning. As we prepared to go for Bhagsunag falls trek we were surprised by the fact that every hotel in McLeodganj keeps a bunch of umbrellas. Once again we lined up in the melee of traffic which took us 2 hours to accomplish 3 Kms drive to Bhagsunag. We trekked Bhagsunag Falls in the heavy downpour and by evening were back through the same traffic.

a.jpg

Only Memories!!!

Return Leg:  Next day we had a long drive back to Una, this time through the Kangra Valley. We took brief halts to offer our prayers at Chamunda Devi and Jwala Devi temples.

kd.jpg

My Heart goes out to all those who lost their lives in the tragedy. May their souls rest in peace!!!!

It was 18th of June and it was still drizzling while we waited for our train at Una station. It was only the next day when we were back in New Delhi that we got the tragic news of the Kedarnath disaster. I was now aware of the reason why the rains never deserted us throughout the journey. We were amongst the mighty hills but little away from the point of disaster. This is life!!! This is nature!!! Love it as long as you are alive!