Finally got to do ph1 of my much planned (& always shelved) drive along the west coast of India. The excuse was that needed to shift my car from Chennai to Mumbai. And thanks to VJ, the road trip became a reality. We travelled a distance of over 1700Kms covering Blore, Mlore, Udipi,Bellur,Karwar, Goa etc etc…. and got to tick off almost all the places mentioned in Lonely Planet.
My top favs are the stretch where the highway kisses the beach for a good 3-4 kms and the small winding ghat road thru plantation country….
…Zara aank mein bhar lo paani…
You will surely be reminded of Lata singing these lines once you are in Kargil or Drass.
Its an avalanche of emotions that hits you- absolute patriotism gives way to questions about how can someone think about fighting in such a beautiful place. and then the realities of war surround you- Tiger Hill, Tololing and the Dras War Memorial- all remind of the young men who sacrificed their lives to see the tricolor flying high.
One must go there to pay homage to these brave souls and to see what is it that we have been trying to keep safe.
The snap above is Tiger Hill and the other shot is of the Drass Valley- this is the beauty we have refused to let our neighbors take away from us.
Kargil is almost completely a military town these days & u can find a few hotels/guest houses to stay there. But one does not get a sense of security when being in the town. Drass- which is also the 2nd coldest inhabited place- is around 45 kms from Kargil on the picturesque highway !
What hits you – is the ocassional board on the road that says-“Caution ! The enemy is watching you”. I say this again- you have to go there to feel what patriotism is, to feel what sense-of-security is!
Nothing prepares you for Ladakh- its barren yet so beautiful. Something in ur head will tell you this can’t be correct- beautiful places need to have liberal use of the green hue in their color pallete.
My decision to go to Leh/Ladakh was quite a rushed one. I had come to Delhi on a 15 day break & got really bored sitting home, twiddling thumbs… Called up a buddy to check how things were with him & he told me about a common friend who had just come back from Leh & i just decided that even I had to go there.
I spent the whole of next day convincing family that I am headed to the mountains but as luck would have it- there were blasts in Srinagar & Mumbai the same day…
I was told that the trip to any part of J&K is out of question…but being the rebel that i am- went to a net cafe & got the tickets done for the next day’s flight to Leh 🙂
But the rebel in me is mostly careless too- in my haste I didnt realise that I had booked myself in the business class !
By the time the whole $ impact of my stupidity sanked in- I had told myself that I shall make the rest of my trip a budget one & see Kashmir for the 1st time.
My first view of the Himalayas was something I would never forget- it was a great morning & the sun was shining brightly over the snow covered peaks- we were so close to the might Himalayas that I could see some of the small glaciers !
The Leh airport is a v small one & i was told by a pilot friend that the landing in this airport is called a “committed landing” (since its surrounded by mountains on 3 sides- if a plane starts descending there is no way the pilot can change his mind at the last moment)
There are numerous monastries in Ladakh & you would find prayer wheels everywhere- these come in various sizes- from handheld ones to giant 1-storeyed ones.In the local language they are called “Maanes”…. another word that would come handy is “Juley”- which is used for hi,bye,namaste & any other form of greeting !
If you havent been to Ladakh yet- get there this year or mebbe the next !
We were on our way to “Yelagiri”… a hill-station close to Chennai… & suddenly on the highway we came across this “thing” carrying an amazing # of ppl…. we couldn’t resist what we used to do as kids—- waving. And look at the reaction we got…smiles & waves all around…..
Amazing photography by AY…we are planning to send it to the Discovery Channel 🙂
This is how I inspired the gang to go to Yelagiri….a nice small hill-station in Tamil Nadu…
Remember the scene from “The Mask of Zorro” when our dude lights up the hill with fire in the shape of Z?
There are 14 hairpin bends (on the road to Yellagiri) on the mountain… which are actually visible from the highway itself..& the first thing that came to my mind when I saw that was Zorro !
Yelagiri is (about 250Kms from Chennai) a small town with a pace slow enough to relax you. There are a few trekking options & you can also take a leisurely boat ride on Punganur Lake. For more details on Yelagiri click here
And am sure u would too… With perfect sea, sand & sun- who wouldnt?…
Located about 150 Kms from Chennai- Pondicherry was a French occupied city & there are still a lot of French influence in the culture there. Nothing stands out as prominent as the strange hats of the policemen there:-)
The Drive from Chennai to Pondicherry is amazing on the wonderful ECR (East Coast Road)- with the highway running parallel to the sea for most part of it.
Most tourists to Pondicherry are attracted by the famous Aurobindo Ashram, but my fave excuse was brunch at Rendevous. Do check out the two famous Churches there- some inspiring architecture & stained glass work.
Yes… and I am told that this is the only “other” place in India apart from the Sunderbans to have backwater Mangroves…
Whats fascinating is to see the vegetation just jutting out of water…& the close mesh these stems (or whatever it is thats above the water surface) make.
This place is Pechavarram… which is beyond the temple town of ‘Chidambaram’.
U can enjoy a leisurely boat ride amongst the mangroves… & the numerous channels (some of which are natural…but mostly man-made)