A Roman Decapolis – Jerash

One of the ten megapolis of the Roman empire, Jerash is Jordan’s best kept secret

Jerash or Gerasa of the antiquity is an ancient Roman city dating back 2000 years and was one of the major cities in a group of ten cities called Decapolis on the eastern frontier of the Roman empire. Many tourists skip this wonder, as sadly Jerash loses it’s place under the sun to Petra and perhaps rightfully so. But Jerash is not to be missed. Today, it is one of Jordan’s best antiquities and is one of the most well preserved & restored Roman ruin.

Continue reading “A Roman Decapolis – Jerash”

My first tiger sighting after 40+ safaris

#tiger, #cubs, #safaris, #wildlife, #india, #nationalpark, #nationalanimal, #ranthambore, #india, #nature, #photography, #travel, #travelphotography, #wildlifephotography

Tiger spotting in Ranthambore National Park, India

Yes, I have very bad tiger karma. Had. Not anymore. With innumerable safaris (I stopped counting after 40) under the belt, beating heat waves and sunstrokes and surviving the disappointment safari after safari, I had the odd-ball luck called the bad tiger karma. No tiger had decided that it was worth its while to give me a fleeting chance to witness the royal highness. Of late, I had become the butt end of jokes of my hardcore tiger enthusiast friends. Then everyone around, tiger enthusiast or not, started digging on my bad tiger karma. To be fair, all that didn’t start with jokes. In the beginning, there was sympathy and  encouragement. ‘Oh, it was the wrong season, I guess!’ or ‘I think the tigers are all poached, no wonder you didn’t see anything.’ or ‘ The forest is dense, it is hard to see a tiger. Better luck next time!‘ Then it moved to incredulous disappointment.  ‘What? 5 Safaris and you still did not see a Tiger even in Tadoba? EVERYONE sees a tiger there, on EVERY safari!’ or ‘What? Not even in Ranthambore? My mother’s neighbour’s uncle saw a tiger last week in Corbett, IN CORBETT!’. Then it moved to the wretched jokes phase. ‘Oh, you are going to Bandipur! The tigers are going to hide. Poor others going on safari this weekend.’ Or sample this: ‘Are you releasing some special tiger pheromones that makes them run and hide?’  Then 40 safaris and more later (I mentioned I stopped counting) when the jokes had dried out and there was no more to be created, was the phase of social shunning, rather safari shunning. ‘We can’t go with you. We wan’t to see a tiger.’  Do you know of anyone who has been as unfortunate as me?

But haha! I think my wildcat jinx was broken with my sighting of the snow leopard last year! Yes, no tiger, but I saw a snow leopard on day 1 of our trek. Read more here: Sighting the Grey Ghost. Armed with confidence that my karma was undone by the generous snow leopard that had decided to grace me with his presence, I was steeled myself to chance it with another 4 safaris in the sweltering summer heat this year. I was a last minute pile-on to my friend’s plan for trip to Ranthambore (I had self invited myself; I also mentioned that my friends had stopped planning any wildlife trips with me). This friend had gifted me a tiger picture he had clicked and insisted that I hang it on my travel wall (adorned only with MY travel pictures) only to serve as a cruel reminder of my befallen fate. Aside his cruelty, he had an excellent track record of tiger sighting and had worked as a volunteer in the park. He knew the best areas, had the right connections etc. So my hopes were high with the promise of the forbidden sight. I had the nervous energy, perhaps bordering on negative outlook of the outcome to keep me from being disappointed yet again, but somewhere deep down I knew that this trip would be fruitful. It would be the end of the cruelty unleashed on me. This was going to be THE trip.

DAY 1: A moving orange patch.
Morning safari in Zone 3

My friends and I boarded the late night train to arrive in Sawai Madhopur in wee hours of the morning. After a quick snooze, we were off on the jeeps to Zone no.3 inhabited by  a Tigress named Arrowhead.  Just in 5 mins after entering the gate, I spotted a Tiger! There was a large lake next to the entrance and our guide was scanning the edges of the lake with a pair of binoculars. The tigress was soaking its body in the cool waters of the lake to beat the heat. Slowly it emerged and started walking along the edge. The tiger was almost 100 mrs away so I couldn’t see it clearly with naked eyes. But heck! My bad luck had just come to an end. I had seen a tiger, albeit at a distance! I hi-fived my friend, jumping in excitement of seeing what was a moving patch of orange. The tiger slowly started walking and the guide made a snap decision to abandon this post and drive back to the gate to catch the tiger possibly crossing the road. But that was it. The tiger never came out from the dense vegetation along the lake side. We spent next 3 hours going up and down 100 mtrs on the road. But no luck!

DAY 1: Hide and seek in a cove.
Noon safari in Zone 6

The safari post lunch was an adventure in itself. We had an enthusiastic guide who strangely promised us to show tigers. As if the tigers were at his beck and call, his royal pets. But he did make good on his promise. After being convinced that there was a tiger  hiding in a shallow ravine below the cliff we were on, we waited and waited for a clear view and finally managed to sight a little male tiger cub of Tigress Ladli which stepped out from the cove to drink some water.

DSC_4753
Male tiger cub of Tigress Ladli
#tiger, #cubs, #safaris, #wildlife, #india, #nationalpark, #nationalanimal, #ranthambore, #india, #nature, #photography, #travel, #travelphotography, #wildlifephotography
Male tiger cub of Tigress Ladli

 

DAY 2: Best sighting of my life.
Morning safari in Zone 4

This was the best safari of two days! This sighting had made good for all the 40+ trips I had done in my life. We got an exclusive sighting of tigress Krishna and her 3 almost adult cubs for almost an hour. We had taken a blind left turn in dense part of the jungle and braked hard to come to a stop a few feet away from the tigress crossing the road. It was a beautiful sight, perfect morning soft light was hitting the tiger’s fur and made it glow. Further commotion ensued in the jeep and I turned left to look at what a fellow occupant of the jeep had spotted. There were 3 cubs strolling on the left and were coming to cross the road. They followed the mother across the road and all 4 of them sat on a patch for a few mins for us enjoy their company. One cub got up and started playing and cuddling with the mother. Awww! A few mins later, they got up and went deeper into the jungle. Our guide took the jeep all the way around the hill to catch the tiger family crossing the road to go down a small ravine next to a stream. All of them immersed themselves in the water for almost 30 mins by which time all the jeeps and canters in the zone had heard about the sighting and had made their way to the spot to create a ruckus. The tigers got up and went deeper into the ravine.

 

#tiger, #cubs, #safaris, #wildlife, #india, #nationalpark, #nationalanimal, #ranthambore, #india, #nature, #photography, #travel, #travelphotography, #wildlifephotography
Tigress Krishna licking her cub
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Tigress Krishna and her 3 cubs
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Tigress Krishna
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Tigress Krishna and her 3 cubs
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Tigress Krishna
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Tigress Krishna’s cubs
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Tigress Krishna’s cub
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Tigress Krishna beating the heat in her tiger pool
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Cub nuzzling and playing with Tigress Krishna
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Cub playing with Tigress Krishna
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Tigress Krishna and cub beating the summer heat
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Tigress Krishna’s cub

 

Day 2: A dash and a backside dazzle.
Evening safari in Zone 3

The whole afternoon was dull and unremarkable but for a few birds. There were no signs, no sambar calls. Our guide decided to stakeout at a spot on the road where he thought the tiger would cross. There was just 30 mins left for the safari to end. So our hopes of making it a 100% success rate on this trip was getting crushed by the minute. Suddenly a jeep was zipping past us and the other driver hurriedly relayed to us that a tiger had been spotted by another jeep deep inside jungle. Then ensued a high speed dash to the spot, flying through the jungle. Following the pug marks, our guide took a few minutes to find the tigress Arrowhead walking inside the jungle. He took the jeep on the other side to catch the tigress walking on the road ahead of us.  She wasn’t even bothered to turn around and look at us. We only saw the backside of the tigress and had to reluctantly give up the chase after a few mins as our time had run out and we had to report back to gate.

DSC_0305
Tigress Arrowhead walking ahead of the jeep

 

A fruitful trip and the irony of it all!
We boarded the night train to get back to corporate stoogedom on Monday morning and I happily announced the end of my bad tiger karma to anyone who lent me an ear.

As I reflected back on our weekend adventure, an irony dawned upon me. I had seen tigress Arrowhead two times on this safari, once as a moving orange patch at a distance and its dirty backside on the second time. I had never seen its face! The irony is that the picture of tigress that my friend had given me to hang on my travel wall was that of Arrowhead! Life is indeed cruel.

 


 

How to get to Ranthambore national park:
Easiest option is to board an overnight train from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur.

Where to stay:
Anuraga palace was a decent and affordable option. Rooms were luxurious and the service was excellent.

When to go:
Hotter it is,  better are the chance to see a tiger around the watering holes. Otherwise the park is open from Oct – Jun.

How to Book:
We came across an excellent wildlife guide Nagendra Rajawat who also does wildlife trips and packages to Ranthambore. Connect with him on http://www.indiantourandtravel.net

 

 

Birding in Pangot

#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation

Birding in Pangot, Uttaranchal

Pangot is one of the best places to do birding and is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The place has almost 250 species of birds, both resident and the migratory birds that come here. The best season for bird watching is from Nov-Mar.


How to get there: Pangot is about 15-20kms from Nainital.

Who to bird with: Hari Lama is one of the renowned birders in the area. http://www.harilama.in.

 

#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Himalayan Bluetail male
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Grey backed shrike
DSC_9832 black faced warbler
Black faced Warbler
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Yellow browed Tit
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Yellow breasted Greenfinch (male and female)
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Grey Bushchat male
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Grey Bushchat female
DSC_1029 Blue capped Redstart
Blue capped Redstart
DSC_1036 Scaly breasted Munia
Scaly breasted Munia
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Whiskered Yuhinia
DSC_1085 Green Shrike Babbler
Green Shrike Babbler
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
White tailed Nuthatch
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Olive backed pipit
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Common Chifchaff
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Plumbeous Water Redstart
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Slaty Blue Flycatcher
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Grey hooded Warbler
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Whitethroated Laughingthrushes
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Eurasian jay
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Blackheaded Jay
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Golden Bush Robin
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Longtailed Shrike
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Whitebrowed shrike babbler female
#bird, #beautiful, #instagram, #visastampcollector, #travelgram, #birds, #india, #birdphotography, #pangot, #uttaranchal, #nature, #wildlife, # travel, #travelphotography, #naturephotography, #conservation
Coal Tit

River, Road & Rail through Golden Myanmar

“Dear Emily, my only wish would be that you could make a trip over the great ocean. The land is golden and the people are so gracious and they have taught me so many things about kin and kindness. Hope it won’t be long until we see each other soon my dear. Love, Frasier.” ~ A postcard from Burma. 1st Feb, 1948.

Continue reading “River, Road & Rail through Golden Myanmar”

A road trip through the Middle Land – Spiti Valley

#kaza, #photography, #travel, #travelphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley, #spiti, #india, #nature, #serene, #scenic, #beauty

A one week road trip to Spiti Valley via Manali – Kalpa Kinnaur – Nako – Tabo – Kaza- Key – Kibber – Langza – Hikkim – Dhankar – Lhalung – Chandratal – Manali

The beauty of Lahaul-Spiti valley is overshadowed by the interest in Leh, its flashy famous neighbour. Hence Spiti remains untouched by the millions of tourists who throng to Leh every year. Spiti means the Middle Land – the land between India & Tibet. A melting pot of Indo -Tibetan culture, splendid views of untouched natural beauty, stark barren landscapes dotted by green oasis of villages, picturesque old Buddhist monasteries perched on top of the hills, gorgeous blue lakes and clear skies for stargazing, a trekkers paradise; Spiti has all this to offer and much more to travellers. Continue reading “A road trip through the Middle Land – Spiti Valley”

Birding in Kaza, Spiti Valley

#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley

On a recent road trip to Spiti Valley, had the opportunity to spot a few more Himalayan birds, different from the ones I had spotted a few months ago in Rumbak valley in Ladakh. (See the birds here: Birds of Rumbak )

There were beautiful birds like rock buntings, european goldfinches, common rose finches, red fronted serins, long tailed shrikes etc.

Which one is your favorite?

 

#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Rock Bunting
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Red Fronted Serin
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
European Goldfinch
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Common Rosefinch
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Carrion Crow
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Black Redstart
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
LongTailed Shrike
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Oriental Turtledove
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Yellow Billed Chough
#birds, #bird, #kaza, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #himalayas, #himachal, #roadtrip, #spitivalley
Tibetan Snowfinch

 

How to get to Kaza:

Kaza in Spiti valley, Himachal Pradesh, can be accessed via road from Manali. It is approximately 200kms away.

What is he thinking?.. Mind-games while streetwalking in Yangon.

#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon

Thoughts while crowd-watching the evening humdrum of Yangon, Myanmar

There is no other better way to immerse yourself in a new city than something which does not involve spending long hours walking the busiest streets and watching the locals. Streetwalking gives you an inside view of the culture as you watch the locals get on with their daily lives. You are just a mute spectator, with the fortune to witness a part of the lives of people going by. As you feel the drama of the scene presented in front of you, you stop to imagine and concoct stories in your head. As you absorb the culture, sight, sounds and aroma, questions starting forming your head: What must that person selling the fruits be like?  Will he go back to a family to have dinner? When did he come to the city? What are his dreams for his kids? What would be his favourite fruit? You are transported to this exciting world where the lines between reality and imagination begin to blur. You are in the moment, witnessing, assessing, absorbing and judging all the drama in front of you and yet in a parallel world you are curious, imaginative and telling stories to yourself. It is not without a doubt, my favourite pastime when I travel. After all when can  I be a receptive, curious, imaginative storyteller.  More imaginatively, the game I play in my own head is: What is he/ she thinking? Absorb the scene and form a thought bubble of the protagonist. Be curious. Tell stories.

#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
When will the pink chair be occupied?
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
When will I fly to Bangkok?
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
Hope it tastes just like the way my mother taught me.
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
This coconut is not going to fit in my bag.
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
So much more left to fry…
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
I have 2 secs to cross this road.
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Shouldn’t he already know what is about to happen?
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
Where is Syria?
#myanmar, #travel, #travelphotography, #streets, #streetphotography, #guesswhatsonhismind, #culture, #yangon
Will she like these yellow flowers?

Animals of Ladakh

Animal Spotting at Rumbak Valley, Ladakh

The Rumbak Valley in the Hemis National Park in Ladakh is known for the elusive Snow Leopard spotting. Besides the snow leopard, which of course we were fortunate enough to spot, the area is dotted with many other animal species. Even more elusive to spot is the Lynx, which we could sight only through a scope as the distances were large and our 600mm as rendered completely useless! Even the Red Fox and the Himalayan Wolf could be seen through a scope. Most common amongst the animals is the Blue Sheep or Bharal which is the snow leopard’s staple diet. From the same family, one can also spot the Ibex, Argali and the Urial. Smaller animals like the Wooly Hare and the Pika can also be spotted aplenty.

#animals,#fauna, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
The Snow Leopard
#animals,#fauna, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
Blue Sheep or Bharal
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Blue Sheep Or Bharal
#animals,#fauna, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
Yak
#animals,#fauna, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
Ibex
#animals,#fauna, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
Wooly Hare

Birding in Rumbak Valley, Ladakh

Birding in Rumbak Valley, Hemis National Park, Jammu & Kashmir, India

On a recent Snow Leopard trek to Rumbak Village in Hemis national park, Ladakh region, I got an opportunity to spot some beautiful birds including some Tibetan species uncommon in other parts of the country. The area is home to many birds of prey like Golden eagle, Lammergeier and Himalayan Griffon vulture which rule the Rumbak valley. Many other local species like Chukar, Tibetan Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Snowfinch, Streaked Rosefinch, Robin Accentor dot the valley.

Water Birds: Mallard Ducks, Storks, Common Coots etc.

Mallard Duck Male
Mallard Duck Male
#birds,#bird, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas,
Mallard Duck Female

#birds,#bird, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas,

DSC_7184

#birds,#bird, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas,
A pair of male & female Gadwall ducks
#birds,#bird, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas,
Female Gadwall duck
#birds,#bird, #ladakh, #photography, #birding, #travel, #travelphotography, #birdphotography, #rumbak, #snowleopard, #trek, #himalayas,
Great Egret
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Common Coot

 

Birds of Prey: Griffon Vulture, Lammergeier, Golden Eagle

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Golden Eagle
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Lammergeier
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Griffon Vulture

Native Birds: Tibetan Snowcock, Chukar, Tibetan Snowfinch, Rose Snowfinch, Tibetan Partridge etc.

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Chukar
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Tibetan Partridge
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Tibetan Snowfinch

Common Birds: Black Billed Magpie, Robin Accentor, Brown Accentor, Grey Tit, Grey Wagtail, Red Billed Chough etc.

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Black Billed magpie
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Grey Tit

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Grey Wagtail
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Robin Accentor

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How to get there & where to stay:

Leh is connected by flights and can also be accessed by road from Srinagar or Manali. Rumbak Valley is in the Ladakh region. The motorable road ends at Zingchan from where one needs to trek to Husing Camp. Further up after a couple of hours trek is Rumbak village.  Rumbak Valley is famous for snow leopard sightings. Either stay at Husing campsite or at the Rumbak village homestays.

A Week in Meghalaya – Top things to see & do.

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Meghalaya is undoubtedly one of the jewels amongst the 7 sisters of Northeast India with its mountainous terrain and year round rainfall that gives it a dense green forest cover, numerous waterfalls that cut deep into the valley and miles of limestone caves. It is not without a reason Meghalaya is called the Abode of Clouds. One can walk though the clouds as almost all the time, there is thick cloud cover, not in the sky, but on the land! Meghalaya is one of the better explored states of northeast due to its accessibility from Assam which enjoys best connectivity with the rest of India. A week in Meghalaya is good enough to get a sampler of the riches the state has to offer.

Day 1 & 2: Shillong

Shillong is a 2 hr. drive from Guwahati. It is the capital city of Meghalaya and was known as ‘Scotland of the East’ by the Britishers due its good weather and mountainous terrain.

What to do:

Umiam Lake is right on the outskirts of Shillong. Nestled amongst the thick pine forest on the hilly terrains surrounding this huge man-made lake, is a getaway like no other – Ri Kynjai resort. Faraway from maddening city crowd and with spectacular views of the lake, peace and tranquillity welcomes you with open arms. Made in beautiful traditional wood, furnished with wood and cane furniture and decorated with stunning artefacts from northeast, the resort has a colonial feel to it and is truly a cosy home away from home. Stunning sunrise from the hills right across the lake will jostle you awake very early in the morning and ensnare you to follow the natural trekking path down the hill to the edge of the lake, the way this landscape is best enjoyed.

Lady Hydari Park is a small delightful park with a mini zoo. Many species of birds like owls, eagles and animals like panthers, monkeys, deer can be found here. Wards lake is a remnant of the colonial-era Shillong. Surrounded by dense green trees, this man made lake has a small bridge and boating facilities. Shillong Golf Course is one the largest golf courses in Asia and is known as the Gleneagles of the East. Surrounded by thick pine forest, the golf course is a beautiful and scenic natural wonder. To know more about north east & its culture, one can visit the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures which is knowledge repository for the region. Butterfly Museum is one of its kind museum devoted to the study & preservation of moths & butterflies. Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians is one of the main and beautiful churches in Shillong. Shillong Peak is the highest point in Meghalaya from where one can get a breath-taking view of the entire Shillong city. Nearby is the Elephant falls or the 3 tier waterfalls. The walking path descends behind the entrance and gentle paved stairs leads one   down to each of the 3 waterfalls in succession.  Café Shillong is one of the best cafes with good food & great live music every evening.

Shillong is small hill station that needs to be explored languidly. Stroll around the city and watch a slow pace of life go past.

Where to Stay:

Ri Kynjai resort is the best option but is a 45 min drive away from the city. Other economical options are available in the city.

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View from the Ri Kynjai room; Umiam Lake, Shillong
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Elephant Falls; Shillong
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View of Shillong from Shillong peak
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Shillong
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Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians; Shillong
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Wards Lake; Shillong
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Wards Lake; Shillong
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Lady Hydari Park & Zoo; Shillong

Day 3: Sohra/ Cherrapunjee

Sohra / Cherrapunjee is a 2 hr. drive from Shillong. Sohra or Cherrapunjee as it is popularly called, was once the rainiest place on this earth. The title has now been overtaken by another town called Mawsynram in Meghalaya. The the heavy rainfall has created many natural rock formations and waterfalls throughout the area, which cut deep into the lush, green valley.

What to do:

Many waterfalls dot the surrounding area. The Nohkalikhai falls is about 7 kms from Sohra and is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. The Nohsngithiang waterfalls or the 7 Sisters’ waterfalls is app 4kms from Sohra and is one of the tallest waterfalls in India. Wakaba & Kynrem falls are other beautiful falls around Sohra. Mawsmai caves are the located about 4kms away from Sohra and is one of the beautiful limestone caves in the region that can be explored by a beginner. From the Cherrapunjee valley view point, one can see the deep gorges and valleys of the region. The view point also offers a zip lining adventure overlooking the valley, covering 2400ft at a dizzying height of 500 ft.

Carry an umbrella and walk through this small, pretty town.

 Where to Stay:

The Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort or La Kupar are both economical options.

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Corn on the cob vendor; Cherrapunjee
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Ziplining at Cherrapunjee Viewpoint
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Cherrapunjee View point
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Mawsmai Caves; Cherrapunjee

Day 4 & 5:  Nongriat

 Tyrna village, the starting point of the trek is ½ hr. drive away from Cherrapunjee.

The Living Root Bridges of Nongriat village are one of the manmade wonders, dating back many centuries. The aerial roots of Banyan tree on opposite sides of the river are continuously twisted, given direction and woven together, till it can be shaped and strengthened into a sturdy bridge. This is the only means for the villagers to cross the raging water streams to reach the other side. There are two living root bridges in Nongriat, a single bridge and a double decker bridge.

What to do:

From Tyrna village, trek upto the Nongriat village to the see the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. It is 7000 stair trek to the village & back and will take upto 5 hrs. to complete this. But it will be totally worth the pain to take off your clothes and swim in the river stream by the bridge. Far away from the maddening crowd, you can walk around other trails to nearby villages and take a dip in many waterfalls along the way. It is highly recommended to stay in the village overnight and do another short 2 hr. trek next morning to the Rainbow falls and back. It is supposedly very scenic and highly recommended by all trekkers and locals alike. Chances of spotting an actual rainbow over the waterfalls are very high. If you plan to stay 2 days, carry only bare essentials, leaving rest of your luggage in Sohra as there are no porters and you will have to carry your stuff on your own, up and down the trek.

Where to stay:

If you want to do a day trek, stay in one of the Hotels in Cherrapunjee. To stay in Nongriat, check Serene Homestay as it is a good option. Expect nothing fancy.

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View of Nongriat village (Mid of the mountain on the left)
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The Double decker Living Root Bridge of Nongriat
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Long winding stairs; Nongriat
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The schoolchildren do this walk up & down the stairs everyday; Nongriat

Day 6: Mawlynnong

It is a 2 hr drive from Sohra / Cherrapunjee and about a 2 hrs. drive from Shillong. Being credited as Asia’s cleanest village is no mean feat. Mawlynnong is one of the finest examples of sustainable, eco-friendly community living, one that is obsessed with cleanliness & recycling.

What to do:

Walk through the fields of the villagers which are on the hillsides surrounding the village, where they grow betel nut trees & broom-stick plant apart from other smaller crops. Walking through the fields via a paved path, leads one to edge of the hill from where one can see the plains of Bangladesh. The same spectacular view of the Bangladesh plains can be seen in from a tall 80 ft sky view treehouse made within the village itself. A short drive away is the living root bridge, where bamboo tree roots are intertwined and shaped over decades to make a bridge to cross the river. A quaint church plays an important role in the life of the villagers who are all Christians. Small tea shops lining the road made with bamboo & creepers are the perfect places to sit back, relax and feel the nature consuming you in this quaint beatific village. The village doesn’t thrive amongst nature; every effort is made to make nature thrive in this village. Where else will one come across such a village with its winding paved roads, lush greenery, small springs & waterfalls that swell up during monsoons, charming bamboo houses and a notorious obsession for cleanliness & recycling. It is a village to get lost and get consumed by nature. No wonder the board welcoming tourists to the village, proudly proclaims Mawlynnong as ‘God’s Own Garden’. It is indeed a picture of what heaven could look like, on Earth.

Where to stay:

Homestays are available aplenty. Expect basic accommodation & food, nothing fancy.

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Dos & Dont’s for Tourists; Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
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Cobbled road leading to the view of Bangladesh Plains; Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
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Bamboo huts; Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
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Tree house; Mawlynnong, Meghalaya
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Bamboo Dustbins on roadsides; Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Day 7: Dawki & back to Shillong

It is a 1.5 hr. drive from Mawlynnong and about a 2 hrs. drive back to Shillong.

Dawki is the last village in Meghalaya, bang on the India – Bangladesh border. India ends where the mountains end and Bangladesh begins where the plains begin. The picture of crystal clear blue river bed & the boats seeming like floating in air, set me on the track to explore Meghalaya.

What to do:

The views of the flat lands of Bangladesh are astonishing beautiful. One can walk up to the Indo- Bangladesh border crossing area and witness a border setting which is very calm & peaceful unlike the energy and emotion charged Wagah border of Indo-Pak. One can see line of trucks ferrying stones to Bangladesh, stretching upto many kilometres. Since it had rained cats & dogs the night before, I couldn’t see the blue waters. Nonetheless it is a sight to behold. Walk down to the riverbed & ask a boat for a boat ride along the river.

Where to stay:

Stay is not required. A comfortable day trip to Dawki can be planned.

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Boat on the Umngot river; Dawki
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View of Bangladesh Plains
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View of Bangladesh Plains
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Betel nut market; Dawki
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Umngot River; Dawki
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Indo Bangladesh border; Dawki
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Boats on the Umngot river; Dawki

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A Day in Bijapur

Bijapur or Vijayanagara or the City of Victory, is a typical small Indian city but is loaded with history. It was capital of the Chalukyas in 11th -12th century and later of the Bahmani Sultanate king of Gulbarga. Most of the well known monuments of the city were built by the Adil Shah dynasty, most notable being the Gol Gumbaaz.

Bijapur was a night’s stop on our 2500kms road-trip route from Mumbai – Bijapur – Badami – Aihole- Pattadkal – Chitradurg – Jog Falls– Konkan Coast – Goa – Ganpatipule – Mumbai. ( To read about the full road trip , click here -> 2500 Kms road trip through North Karnataka & Goa ). We had just one day to cover the city of Bijapur. One ideally needs one and half days to cover the city at leisure, but with proper planning and setting ourselves a time limit of 1 hour at each monument, we were able to cover most of the city in one day with lot of time left on our hands to relax.

We arrived in Bijapur after a 12hr drive from Mumbai covering almost 500kms. We started out at 6am in the morning & breezed down the Mumbai – Pune Highway, stopping at good old McD’s for breakfast. We got on to NH-9 after Pune, heading straight to Sholapur, stopped on the way at Kamat’s for lunch & then took the NH-13 to Bijapur. The roads were good except the last patch of NH-13 which is an unlit one lane state highway and hence a pain to drive what with blinding oncoming headlights post sunset.

We hit the city early next day at 8 am and reached Gol Gumbaaz. If you are an early riser, the gates open at 6am at which time there are no crowds and you will have the entire place to yourself. We kicked ourselves for not getting there earlier when we saw hordes of school children who arrived by busloads on their annual school trip. It was quite painful to get even one photograph without it being photobombed with kids from all sides.

Gol Gumbaaz is the the mausoleum of Muhammad Adil Shah known for its amazing dimensions – It is the 2nd highest dome in the world after the Vatican and has one of the biggest single chamber spaces in the world. The inside of the dome has unique acoustic features and acts as a whispering gallery as even a slight murmur in one corner can be heard from across the chamber. We spent a good three hours at the monument and climbed to the rooftop to get some amazing views of both interior of the tomb and the outer landscape of the city.

Next stop was Ibrahim Rauza, which is also known as the Taj Mahal of the Deccan for having purportedly inspired the design of the Taj Mahal in years to come. It was built by Ibrahim Adil Shah II in mid 17th century and has his tomb and a mosque on a common raised terrace surrounded by a huge garden.

Jod Gumbad’s twin domed tombs were built in memory of Khan Muhammad and Abdul Razzaq Qadiri. This is in middle of a village and is being used as a mosque, so I wasn’t able to go inside.

On can easily skip the Taj Bawri. Once a beautiful step well, it is reduced to a garbage disposal water body with some local villagers washing clothes on the other side. An eyesore!

Bara Khaman is the unfinished mausoleum of Ali Roza II, meant for him & his wives. Supposedly the work was stopped as it could have overshadowed the brilliance of the Gol Gumbaaz.

From there on we went to Jami Masjid which is the largest mosque in Deccan/ south India built by Adil Shah 1 in 16th century. Not as much a sight as Taj-ul-Majid at Bhopal, but nonetheless is an important monument in the landscape of Bijapur.

Wander to the Uppali Burj, a 16th century watch tower built by Hyder Khan to strengthen the city’s defences.  There is also Malik-e-Maidan, which is a majestic site with a 55T canon, the largest medieval cannon in the world. For those who are religiously inclined, there is also a huge Shiva temple called Shivgiri, which is on the outskirts of the city.

 A quick immersion into the 4 century old city, replete with architectural attractions was well worth it. Bijapur is an important town to understand the history of India and should be stop in every history lover’s explorations through Karnataka.

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Where to Stay: Hotel Basava residency is a decent option and is on the main road from where you can cover all attractions.

Tips:  Get to the sites as early as possible. In winter time, sites open as early as 6am. Check the timings and get in early. While all attractions are at walkable distance from each other, in case you do need to take a rickshaw, negotiate hard. Some autowallahs do fleece outstationers.

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Gol Gumbaaz, Bijapur
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View from the terrace, inside the Gol Gumbaaz, Bijapur
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Ibrahim Rauza- Bijapur
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Inside the Ibrahim Rauza, Bijapur
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Jami Masjid, Bijapur
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Bara Khaman, Bijapur
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A 3-Day Offbeat Kutch

Experiencing White Rann under a full moon night, getting fooled by mirages in the Little Rann, stalking wild asses, feeling awed by fossils at Chobari and stepping back in history by 6600 yrs at Dholavira.

The pictures of the moonlit white desert or the Rann of Kutch have been tantalizing  and beckoning me since many years. The burning desire to spend a night at the Rann, experiencing it in a unique way Continue reading “A 3-Day Offbeat Kutch”

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Tasting Sunsets around the World.

Have you ever wondered if you could taste sunset, what would it actually taste like? Peaches and cream? Blueberrry smoothie with orange dressing? Orange marmalade? Continue reading “Tasting Sunsets around the World.”

Chasing Beautiful Sunrises around the World

“The morning always has a way of creeping up on me and peeking in my bedroom windows. The sunrise is such a pervert.” ― Jarod Kintz.

There is something to the warm rays of sunrise, illuminating the world at dawn, that makes me look at this cyclical and permanent process in nature with a sense of deep wonderment. At dawn, the darkness that envelopes life at night tussles with the impending sunlight for a brief few minutes, Continue reading “Chasing Beautiful Sunrises around the World”

A Moonlit Night’s Introspection at the Rann of Kutch

#Rann of Kutch, #india, #gujarat, #introspection, #kutch, #moonlight, #rann, #nature, #nightphotography, #photography, #serenity, #silence, #insignificance, #travel, #travel photography, #salt desert, #white desert

Experiencing nothingness, infinity, silence, insignificance & purposelessness.

The Rann, they say, can’t be captured; it can be only experienced. Nothing else said could have been truer about Rann. Wanting to experience something offbeat, we decided to spend some time on a full moon night at the Great White Salt desert also known as Continue reading “A Moonlit Night’s Introspection at the Rann of Kutch”

Snacktime!

Got these mid-air shots of seabirds aboard a ferry to Elephanta caves, near Mumbai, India. These seabirds fly with the ferry & tourists sometimes throw food at them, which these birds catch mid-air. Sometimes,

Continue reading “Snacktime!”

A ‘Crowd-bombed’ Trip to Elephanta Caves

“Crowd-bombed”: When millions of unknown faceless nameless people make their way into your photos & memories.’’  ~ A self invented, face-palming realisation at many a travels.

One of the major irritants of travel photography is being ‘crowd-bombed’. You travel for the love of exploration but so do millions of other people. They find their way into your photos and your photo memories and eventually into your Continue reading “A ‘Crowd-bombed’ Trip to Elephanta Caves”