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Sunday, 8 January 2012

2011: Discovering the Incredible India

"Who travels widely needs his wits about him. 
The stupid should stay at home"

- Icelandic sayings advising travelers, Geography of Bliss

Quick Stats: 16 trips and over 60 days spent traveling: Airplane, train, bus, car, motor boat, chappu wali boat, bike, bi-cycle and foot - all modes of commutations used. Explored Uttrakhand, Karnataka, Kerela, Maharashtra, J&K, Rajasthan and Odisha; and Italy. 

I have no words to capture the combined experience. Except to say that India is a beautiful place, wanting to be discovered, waiting to be appreciated, and needing to be preserved. I hope dear reader, you too would go to all these places and several others, and discover your happiness. 

With that, here's a snapshot of my Discovery of India, and the amazing travel year 2011 has been. First, The Desh Mera Video Project (Credits: Jatin Pasrija) which captures it all. It's not on youtube and stupid blogger wouldn't allow to link a Vimeo Video!

Next, Jatin and I have also started a website to document our travels, though it's still under construction - you can pay a visit at Road No. 9-2-11

And finally - the tale in pictures, and a few words:

January 1st 2011, Back from Har ki Dun, Uttrakhand
Starting the new year in Bus - auspicious max!

Reaching back to Delhi after a straight 15-16 hours of bus journey in heavy rains. Back from an amazing all weather (sun, snow, hail and rains!) 9 day trekking trip to the Valley of God.  

March 5th 2011, Kudremukh, Karnataka
Conversing without having a common language, and trekking

Taking turns to drive the car all through the night - rightfully replacing the kannad-only speaking driver who gaily snored in the back seat. A ghost mining town and preview of Laddakh in the abandoned dam...A short trek in the absolutely silent random hills (no cricket too), an uncrowded waterfall, home stay with a local farmer family, star-studded night sky, raw coffee beans, and trek to the horse-shaped mountain: Kudremukh. 

March 18th 2011, Gokarna, Karnataka
Truly a hidden getaway - sand, full moon; sea and fris-bee

An 11 member group with S carrying a suitcase! Overnight bus journey in the 'family compartment' to one of the least frequented and most amazing beaches. Long walks to find a shack, frisbee in sea, the all foreign crowd, allowing myself to get a full body massage (amazing experience), basking in the setting sun after that, night-out on beach, the cat, morning Frisbee-Rugby, call from N, a slippery climb to the rock in the sea.

March 26th 2011, Hampi, Karnataka
Discovering the love in boulders

Group of 4, the bikes, the gazillions of temples and rocks most of which couldn't be climbed, and some which were climbed, explorations and awesome food places: Mango Tree and the place where we had beds instead of chairs, early morning climb and re-shooting Quidditch in pillars of Courtesean's street, Tungabhadra river and steering the Indian coracle.

April 1st 2011, Wayanad, Kerela
We don't get self-rent cars and stay back to see India win the Cricket World Cup

New trip member - V, once-in-a-lifetime experience as we start for the trip: streets filled with dancing people at midnight, I will say someday: I know what it feels like to win the World-Cup, Poka Yoke, trek to the huge Soochipera falls, coffee plantations, drink-eat-smooch Sun picture, hills floating in mist, arduous climb to the Chembra peak, false alarm on 'Heart Lake' dried now due to global warming, finding real lake and 'My Heart is for You' picture, Frisbee, wild elephants.

April 11th 2011, Savandurga, Karnataka
A Bike and Car trip, reliving the shooting locations of 'Discovery of India' and 'Sholay'

First no one is ready to go and then everyone wants to go!, Jugadofying car and bikes, brush with cops and having a Telgu 'manager' to take care of it, the super-bikers on the NICE road, Ye dosti hum nahi todenge banayan tree, funny climb to Savandurga and blisters on D's leg, stealing mangoes on way back, the 'Tere bina' duet in car, losing our way in the city.

May 11th 2011, Italy
Football Championship and 10 days of a lifetime: Rome, Vatican, Napoli, Pompeii, Mt. Vasuvius, Firenze, Pisa, Cinque Terre and Venezia

Gnochhi, Wine, Coffee, Pizza - esp. at Pizzeria de Michelle in Naples, Pomodoro Sphagetti and the real gelato ice-creams. Living in youth hostels, the metro rides and running to catch the last trains, missing them to grudgingly shell out 25 E for Merc taxis which ran at over 150kmph, Euro Star and forgetting to write the date, Voporetto rides.

Trying to speak in Italian - ciao, prego, bonjourno, sono vegetariano, senza Uova, skooza me, grazie and grazie mille!

Pathetic map reading, asking directions to the leaning tower of Pisa by signalling something tilted, meeting backpackers, dip in Chinque Terre, the ship in front of my window in Venize, Colosseo and taking Ubasies in Uffizzi, heart-beat-stoppers in Venice and The Last Judgement.

June 25th 2011, Agumbe, Karnataka
To the place which gets 2nd highest rainfall in India, and where Malgudi Days was shot

Dodda mane, The Malgudi Days wala house, Aachi, amazing local food, staying with a seemingly matriarchal family, sudden heavy downpours with an amazing consistency, Gowri Shankar - the snake man of India, corba project in the evergreen forest, hitchhiking to reach the trek's starting point, help from god-send people, the first and the worst leech attack of my life, the Koodly Theertha waterfalls, evening aarti at the village, frisbee in rains

August 13th 2011, Leh Laddakh, Jammu and Kashmir
The 10 day bike-car-trek trip of dreams, to one of the most far flung corners of India

Flash floods while reaching Manali, Slush on Rohtang, More plains. Fallen buses and the abandoned bikes.The smile of the dhaba owner, gata loops, pushing the car at 5000m, Half sleeved in snow. Leh. Bullet for the first time. NH1. The memories of Kargil. Marmot, 5 Idiots, the Pangong Tso and the solitary walk with a single thought. Learning Marathi and Punjabi. Trying to feel the 1961 war, and Tibet. 

Bumps on Khardungla, sands of Hundar, the cook with IIT Roorkee sweat-shirt at Diskit, the route winding towards Siachin glacier, cooking maggie in hot water springs at Panamik. The silence at Rumbak, trek to 4900m Stok La, and steep descent to Stok. Stok Kangri in the backdrop. The castle of the pi-civilization with the princess from Jaipur. The return flight. Bliss.

October 6th 2011, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra
Dedicated to the Konkan Railways

Colaba on a Thursday morning, Konkan Railways, ride by the sea - where are our bikes?, dragging N, night-walk, morning castles, the European-style Maratha fort by blue waters on a cliff, the musical journey back and the deal to give it a shot!

October 28th 2011, Jaipur, Rajasthan
A quick first trip to the capital of my state

Reaching at 6 AM - roaming around in morning mystique, dressing up in Sulabh International (shochalayas), Ringa Ringa playing in buses at 7 AM: way to start the day, walking to the Nahargarh fort, the train journey back with MM

November 12th 2011, Satara, Maharashtra
A Birthday trip, and one of the best - ever

Joggers Park, Pali Hill Road, Out of the Blue, meeting school friends in Mumbai, late night conversation and getting kicked, contracting diarrhea but still continuing with the trip, Bangalore janta, traveling through the plateaus and windmill frisbee, 'I am from Defense service' dialogue, the care, I-won't-take-crocin and the 6-7 packets of ORS, through the dried Valley of flowers, almost missing the flight back! 

November 19th 2011, Rishikesh-Haridwar, Uttrakhand
And I thought Rishikesh was just about Rafting!

Last minute additions, Har Ki Paudi at 5 AM, the cold water and reluctant letting go of the past, Haridwari breakfast: puri sabzi and milk, to Rishikesh in Ambassador, boring Rafting, the dusk by the Ganges and the peace of the evening aarti, 8km jog in the morning, a 2 hour long breakfast, trek to the Neer village and bathing in an Himalayan waterfall, Bullet at 130kmph, some girl shouting in bus that she doesn't want to sit next to an Indian men. 

December 1st 2011, Udaipur, Rajasthan
Back to the roots

Meeting the office, late night gossips, all day mountain-biking, Chai by Pichhola lake, Bagor ki Haveli, Samosas!, realizing NH-8 passes through this city, and the mind-blowing performance by the A.T. Kearney band.

December 23rd 2011, Odisha (Orissa)
A 10 day trip to discover the less visited part of India - and look what I found

The amazing people of Odisha, the economical rates, Sun Temple, Puri beach, Satpada dolphins and a starry night, to the confluence of Chilika and Bay of Bengal and a heavily turbulent but chillingly silent sea, house-boat stay in Barkul, bird watching in Manglajodi - as if I was put into one of the Discovery channel documentaries, Hirakud Dam and Debrigarh, Don 2 in Sambalpur for 36 bucks (Balcony seat!).

The Air India SPG conspiracy, Lingaraja temple - Udyagiri and Khandgiri caves, the final countdown, Bike trip, boarding a running train, a house by the sea, full body dives in the sea to catch frisbee, a beach of shells, walks and late night talks, Gol-Gappas and sweets, looking at the Bofors and riding the Arjun Tank. 
Yes, you heard me right. The Arjun Tank - real one. sitting inside it. And riding on it. I welcomed 2012 in train, hoping that it is auspicious, what do you think? :)

Bonus: The countless trips in Delhi 

Chandani Chowk, Humayun Tomb, Khirki Mosque, Hauz Khas lake, Jama Masjid, Mirza Galib ki Haveli, Chawri Bazzar, Guru Bangla Sahib, The garden of 5 senses, Star Gazing at Damdama lake - Gurgaon, Teen Murti Bhawan, Rail Museum, the infinite trips in the Delhi Metro, Tuglaqabad fort, Lotus Temple and so on...  Here's on of my favorite pictures:


  1. WOW. Like WOW WOW WOW!!!!! This was a fantastic post!!!!! LOVED each and everyone of those pictures!!!!

    Wishing you a lot many trips this year too! :)

    1. Not as nice as the Wednesday Wall :) Or rather you can make one of these as that!

  2. Replies
    1. Nearly 50% of pictures are from that camera. But dude, seriously, remaining 50% are also nice :P

  3. this is the best part of traveling with you.. :)

    1. Jatin, Singla - let's combine our trips and write a really really huge compilation of places :D

  4. This is a very provocative post...provoking to travel !
    The photos have such manicured look...looks surreal !

    1. Thanks di! Your SE travels too can fill a page :)

  5. Amazing posts and delicious glad to have stumbled upon this blog! Looking forward to more posts...!

  6. This is awesome. I'm very happy for you.

  7. awesome awesome post!! with the most amazing travel pictures...:)

  8. Super Like.!!! Hope your zeal to explore places never ends..!!!!

  9. Wow, thanks for all the 'awesome' comments! So you know - whenever you find a great place to visit, who to tell ;)