Pianemo Islands, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Pianemo Islands in Raja Ampat present a stunning vista. Every bit of Raja Ampat is amazing but Pianemo a little more dazzling than everything else. To truly appreciate the beauty you need to climb up to a vantage point. And there lies the fun!

When we started from our base at Raja Ampat Diving Lodge in Mansuar Island, our hosts asked to choose a speed boat. People interested in photography were asked to go to one boat and people interested in hiking to the viewpoint, in a civilized way, went to another. I usually don’t think of myself and ‘photographer’ in the same sentence but I somehow ended up boarded the photography boat!

The speedboat started chugging at its sedate pace and I fell asleep on my seat. I woke up when a voice asked us which 5 of us would like to trek up the hill for the photography viewpoint? I was late in raising my hand and 5 other people were designated to go up the hill. if you wish to hike, you have to get out of the boat and land on the hill as the hill is in middle of the water!

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Look Where I Went!

Two people backed off after looking at the hill and I managed to fill a spot. In the end four of us, Bressiona (Indonesia) Genta and Najji (Japan) and me went up the hill with our guide Zakarias Wader!

The hill is made of coral rocks. The rocks are damn sharp. The ascent was steep. I had no inkling that my itinerary included a hill trek, I was wearing floaters. It was still alright as the floaters had a grip. Genta was in flip flops and did well, Zakarias too.

For me, I manage to break my floaters when I stuck my foot in a gap. When I tried to go up, the strap came out first. I always find going up tiring but easier as you are with the gravity. Coming down is a different matter. It is not tiring but my knees hurt and I always have to think where to put my next foot. The hill at Pianemo was no different.

It was a short trek up but I was dreading the thought of going down with a broken footwear. But all that comes later.

Video Credit- Zakarias Wader our Guide to the Hill

Before that comes the beautiful vista, that was the reward for trekking up the hill. I can’t remember when I witnessed something so beautiful. We took pictures, we made videos and we generally admired the view. I said to Bressiona, “but there is a perfectly civilized staircase on the other side with the same view. She waved it off and emphasized, “but that is so mainstream!” I will have to grant it to the youngster, she had a point.

However, the hilltop was a narrow ledge and after a while I certainly wanted to get down. A shower came in between threatening all our camera gear! Luckily Najii had 10 liter dry bag, all the cameras safely went in. The rain went away as quickly as it came! My cell phone tried to slide down the hill on its own but I caught it was able to pull of the feat!

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Beautiful Vistas, Pianemo, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Zakarias went off the hill, hitching a ride in another boat to look for our boat which had gone off to drop the other people to the ‘mainstream’ vantage point. I kept shouting “we are stranded!” That was uncharacteristic. I kept saying Hollywood movies start like this, everyone is happy, they have a great view but they get stranded and miserable later!

However, Zakarias came back with a boat for us, we were not stranded. Now the task was to get off the hill, the coral hill with sharp rocks all around in a broken floaters. I somehow managed it. Zakarias gave me one of his flipflops, and walked barefoot (one foot) holding my broken floater. I had a floater on one foot and a flip flop on another but all my energies were channeled on getting down without breaking a limb. And I did that, I got off with my limbs intact. Only I tend to sit down when I find an unusually sharp step down. Only this time as the rock was so sharp, it tore my shorts!

If would have been easier to go off the cliff, do cliff jumping again but for the sharp rocks at the bottom of this hill!

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Pianemo Islands, Raja Ampat, Indonesia

So with torn shorts and broken footwear I came down the hill in Pianemo Islands. And I tell you what, it was all worth it. The scratches and cuts all over my legs and arms too, I would do it again if I can sneak into a group of five which dwindled down to four!

PS I was invited on the Trip of Wonders to Indonesia by the Indonesian Tourism Board.

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I am in love with walking. It helps that Chhavi (my daughter) is good at it too. On our trips we can go for long walks together. On our recent trip to Abbotsford, Nainital, we went walking around Nanital. Abbotsford is at a distance from the lake but we decided to walk down to the town. The second day we did a short hike to a local temple. In this post I have collected our walking pictures and memories!

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On our way down to the Naini Lake I spotted the signboard of St. John in the Wilderness Church. That meant the church was nearby too! The walk was away from the main road. Chhavi was skeptical of finding any church out there. But it was there alright, with hardly a soul around it. The door was locked though.

While walking out she saw poster of ‘save the girl child.’ She asked me what did that mean? I was happy that she didn’t know the meaning. She looked surprised when I tried to explain it to her. I am happy she didn’t comprehend much.

wire-tailed-swallow

We also stopped at a shoe shop to buy a pair for Chhavi. I packed a sandal for her but the weather was cold. While we were selecting the shoe, the owner pointed out the wired tailed swallow’s nest within his shop!

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The Jama Masjid, Nainital

I have often suspected that I have the tunnel vision syndrome. I have visited to Nainital frequently and yet I failed to notice Jama Masjid before! Can you imagine that?

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The Customary Boat Ride at Naini Lake

While I was selecting the photos for the post, I realized there were too many of the lake. But the locals say ‘Nainital has one major attraction, the lake!’ So I decided to go ahead with multiple pictures. This is the customary one from the boat ride.

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Chhavi and the Boats

The weather was unsettled when we were in the city. There was a hail storm just before we went for the boat ride. It was windy and cold by the lake but were not missing out on the experience as it was a first for Chhavi.

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The Colorful Boats at Nainital

If I were alone, I would click a lot of pictures by the lake. But the kid has no patience for such things. I got a few hurried shots. We decided that before the weather turned again, we should go back to Abbotsford. This time we took a taxi.

abbotsford-nainital
Abbotsford, Nainital

Abbotsford is a beautiful cottage built in 1876. It later became the home of the Prasada Family. They now run it as a homestay. My stay at Nainital was sponsored by them. We were happy to get back to the cozy cottage and tea. Janhavi Prasada was there and Chhavi would talk to her non-stop!

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The Naini Lake in the Far Distance!

The next morning we went for a short hike just above the cottage. Out last stop was a local temple. The walk offered wonderful views of the Naini Lake and the town.

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Chhavi with Janhavi Prasad

The way to the temple was uphill. Both Chhavi and Janhavi were fit, they would run ahead. I made up the rear. Chhavi would run ahead with the guide, come back to say she was truly tired and then run ahead again.

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The Naini Lake

When I was too tired to walk, I would stop to click a picture. That way I could catch my breath too. It helped that the view was alluring too!

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The Local Temple above Abbotsford, Nainital

There was no one other than us above the temple. Chhavi went berserk ringing all the bells. The ones she could not reach, it was my duty to lift her up to them!

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Mother Daughter by the Water Tap

While coming down I had a chit-chat with the mother-daughter duo by the water tap. The girl had given class 7th exams and was enjoying her vacation. They were happy to pose for me.

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A Small Clean Up Operation

Janhavi, Chhavi and I along with our guide picked up the plastic from the trail on our way down. We collected a lot of plastic. Only our local guide could go to fetch the plastic bottles from precarious slopes.

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The Cottage of the Registrar of the Local Polytechnic

Janhavi pointed out the cottage of the registrar of the local polytechnic to me. Now if someone offers me such a place in the hills I might be tempted to go back to academics!

PS. It seems mountains make me go bonkers and not just Rhododendron Flowers! This is a 15 picture post again!

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Gangtok is India’s gateway to the Himalayan Mountains, and it is quickly becoming an industry leading and world class destination for adventurous Indian travelers who are looking to enjoy good food, great wilderness, pristine ecosystems and exquisite hiking. If you are considering a stay in a one of the Sterling Holidays resorts in Gangtok or the surrounding area, or you are planning and expedition to climb Sikkim’s Himalayan Mountain ranges, then you should consider these travel tips and ideas before you go. Do your research to get the best deals before you embark on your trip?

Festival City

Gangtok is famous for it’s numerous festivals. There is a festival nearly every month, and exciting things are happening year round. Sikkim, and in particular Gangtok, has a very diverse ethnic population, and that’s why there are so many different festivals celebrated throughout the year. You might be able to experience a festival not celebrated in the part of India you are from. Hindu festivals like Holi are celebrated, but so are Nepalese festivals like Dashain and Tibetan festivals like Losar. Even Christian holidays like Christmas are celebrated. Whenever you visit Gangtok you will be able to experience the local culture by attending a festival. The locals are always happy to get visitors from all other regions in India, and they are extremely accommodating to tourists who want to learn about the customs and cultural practices of the people in northeast India.

Food

Food in Sikkim is varied and delicious. Local chefs take prides in the regional dishes which vary greatly from what most Indians expect when they think about Indian food. Nepalese and Tibetan foods are prevalent in the region. A thick and hearty noodle soup called thukpa makes a great meal, and it will give you a lot of energy to go hiking for a whole day. Momos, which are steamed buns filled with pork, are found nearly everywhere. They can easily be found in town on the side of the road. Momos are the most popular street food in Gangtok. They taste great when dipped in a sauce or even in a bowl of soup. To wash down your meal after a relaxing day trekking you should try some alcohol like jannr. Jannr is a mild alcohol made from millet, rice or barley, and it is typically drunk from a bamboo shoot. You might even be able to try something that is not commonly found in other parts of India: cheese. An herb-flavored cottage cheese called chhurpi is one of the many dairy products you can find in Sikkim. Buttermilk and dahi yogurt are common side dishes, too.

Opportunity for Hiking

Gangtok is the starting base for those looking to climb the Himalayan mountain ranges in the Indian state of Sikkim. The city itself offers spectacular views of nearby mountains like, which is the largest peak in India and third largest in the entire world. The monsoon season in Sikkim is typically between June and September, so you should plan your trip accordingly if you want to experience the best conditions for trekking and hiking. April, May, October and November will offer the best dates for hiking and mountaineering in calm weather. If your trek is expected to be a daunting one you are advised to hire a local guide to help you along the way.

Find Some Inner Peace with Tibetan Buddhism

Because of its relative closeness to Nepal and Tibet, Gangtok features many monasteries and temples. The area is known as a center of Tibetan Buddhist culture. Shared taxis regularly run from Gangtok to Yuksom – which offers fantastic hiking trails like the Yuksom-Dzongri trail. This trek is a popular high altitude excursion along the Rathong Chu River in western Sikkim. Yuksom also has many monasteries to see during your visit such as the Dubdi Monastery and Mallu Monastery. Be sure to stop by one of the monasteries and greet the monks for luck before you head out on your next adventure in the local hills and mountains.

Other Types of Ecotourism in the Area

Trekking, hiking and mountain climbing aren’t the only thriving types of ecotourism you can partake in in Sikkim. River rafting is gaining popularity very quickly in Sikkim. The local government has focused its efforts on expanding ecotourism in recent years while maintaining a balance of environmental sustainability, so you can be sure your adventure won’t damage the local flora and fauna.

In Conclusion

Sikkim is one of the most interesting states in India that you can visit. It is a great place to go to if you are into mountain climbing, trekking, hiking or any other type of ecotourism. The area is filled with beautiful landscapes, peaceful monasteries and amazing festivals. The food is delicious and hearty, and the people are friendly and accommodating. They are happy to have visitors from all over India. Be sure to check out this part of India if you are an adventurer, foodie or a traveler looking for a peaceful time.

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When I go on trekking I am taken in my things on large scale. We end up camping in places which are often the size of many football fields! I am so used to leading a cramped lifestyle in the city life. You practically rub shoulders with someone else all the time! So when I go on a trek I literally feast on the open spaces. But there is the beauty of small things too.

panorama
View from Jamadi, Himachal Pradesh, India

I have a theory. I share my best pictures in the first few posts that I do. I sometimes tell myself that a particular picture is a better fit for some other theme and I should hold it back. But till date I have not been successful! Whatever I like most, I share it immediately. So all my better landscape pictures can be seen in these posts.

wild-mushroom
A Big Wild Mushroom!

However, I would keep going back to the folder thinking I have do one more post. I would look at the pictures and go away thinking I have shown them all! And then it dawned on me, I never show the small bundles of joy on a trek! More often than not, it would be our trekking guides who would spot such things of beauty. Rama Kant ji spotted this wild mushroom! Later the local women who looked at the picture told us that it was edible! But we left it well alone!

doing-you-favor
She Also Falls in the Same Category!

She also falls in the same category, small bundle of joy. But look at her face! It is her ‘I am doing the world a favor’ face, which she makes when I ask her to pose for a photograph! Let her move away from the camera and she would be smiling again!

iris
Iris Growing in the Wild

When I saw an Iris for the first time on a trek in 2006 I went crazy with delight. That was one trek in Uttarakhand where I bent down to click every wild flower that I saw! I now almost take the Iris for granted. And yet I still click a few pictures, because there is a lot of joy in the small things too!

marsh-marigold
Marsh Marigolds

You will find marsh marigolds growing in abundance near water sources. And if the water source is near the campsite I go and fill my water bottle on my own. If it is far away I pinch water from the kitchen tent! It is a lot of fun to go near the water source because these yellow beauties bloom with more happiness out there.

gaddi-woman
A Gaddi Woman with Child

If you pick up your trek carefully, you would hardly meet anyone on the way except the Gaddi people. They are the tough mountain people who move with their herd of animals in search of grazing pastures. They live in temporary shelters and sell their produce to the market. It is a tough life for when it rains it pours and you still have to keep moving with your herd. In the winter they come down from the heights with their livestock.

dandelion
The Dandelion

It was fun to have dandelions on our first campsite. The girls would like to blow it away and I would like to click pictures!

red-wild-flower
A Red Wild Flower

This is a very commonly growing wildflower in the mountain, I have seen it almost on my every trek and yet I can’t remember the name nor can I find it while searching for it. But pretty and delicate it is!

himalayan-thimbleweed
Himalayan Thimbleweed

So now you see why I felt my story was still incomplete! Not only do I get to enjoy the open vistas on the trek, I get to enjoy small beauties as well!

himalayan-anemone
Himalayan Anemone

I close this post with a Himalayan anemone which is the flower. Unfortunately I do not know the name of the insect. Now my trek story is complete! I have shared the beauty of the small things that you find on a trek!

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