For this sky watch I am presenting the travel collection of skies from my trips so far in 2015. I got a few nice shots in each trip. I hope on my next one (yes it is in the offing), I will get a bonanza of sky pictures!
Kareri Village, Himachal Pradesh
Kareri is a beautiful village tucked away in a corner in Himachal Pradesh. There is no hotel in the village, the only option is to do a homestay. I was out for a morning walk on a clear day when I stopped to click the mustard flowers. It was a clear day with blue skies, the kind you remember for months after the trip is over!
I remember Sirpur most for is scintillating music and dance festival. But it was also a quiet place, away from the bustle of life. The town moved at a slow place. There were only dhabas in the the town, I like such places. There is only one hotel which belongs to the state tourism department. There was less construction and more open spaces. I love that too.
Cities are more about concrete, but the sky is still there. The rides at the craft mela at Surajkund were immensely popular. As I had left Chhavi at home, they were of foreground and background value to me. For once I was happy to leave my daughter behind because the mela was just too crowded.
All my recent trips to Mumbai have been one night affairs. I have mostly been there to attend events and fly either to another destination or home. On my latest trip I was lucky to stay on the 28th floor of Palladium Hotel and to catch awesome views!
A Tree and Some Sky
There is something about grand old trees that just refuse to fit into my my camera frame. I found one such tree at Shivpuri. The evening sky with colors was a bonus.
Fagu, Himachal Pradesh
When I go with Chhavi to places like Fagu, when I see her walking carefree in such surroundings I wonder if she realizes how beautiful it is ? On a whole I feel she is busy with some mischief but you never know with her. I actually need to ask her about it!
Camping by the Ganges
Camping by the Ganges is a wonderful experience. Rafting is another incredible thing to do on the river. I could stay in this exact spot at least for a month before longing for civilization! And that brings me to the end of trips for 2015 till March. I hope you enjoyed my travel collection of skies.
If you would ask me I would stay in a camp any day over a retreat. But Chhavi had different ideas. She had a great time at the MHE Beach Camp but she didn’t like the nights as the camp has no electricity. I understand that as the camp is in the Rajaji National Park area but for Chhavi when it got dark she cribbed. Our original plan was to stay for 3 night at the MHE Beach Camp and 2 nights at the Bull’s Retreat but we reversed it. Bulls Retreat also has TV which was an added attraction for the kid!
Bull’s Retreat is a green, spacious and homely place. It is right by the road which goes to Kaudiyala and beyond, so it is easy to locate. Neeru ma’am who is the manager is friendly, caring and easy to talk to. Time went by pretty quickly and peacefully at the retreat. This is how a typical day would go by for us!
Waking up to the Birds
As there is a dense tree cover around the Bull’s Retreat, the birds would go about their business early in the morning. It didn’t help that Chhavi is also an early riser. She would start stirring with the birds at about 6.00 am. She would drowsily stay in bed till about 7.00 am. After that she would use every trick in the book to wake me up! I on the other hand like to sleep like log in the morning hours! But even a person like me found waking up to the sound of birds beautiful.
There was a bottle brush tree behind my room which was a magnet for birds. I am now thinking of planting a bottle brush tree around my home too.
The meals both at the MHE beach Camp and Bull’s Retreat are good. I particularly liked the fact that the food was not too oily. Between 8.30 to 9.00 Chhavi and I would dutifully appear for breakfast. We had paratha, puri chole and sandwiches for breakfast on different days. Porridge and fruits were a constant feature. They also realized how much I liked tea and they would give me a flask full of it right in the morning.
Right after breakfast we would head out to play games. Bull’s retreat has a small basketball court meant for kids. This was Chhavi’s first try at the game. She was quite surprised to see that her mummy was good at the game! After all, kids take their mums completely for granted! We would then play badminton in the open air. Both of it was incredible fun for us! It would also tire out Chhavi and then she was less prone to mischiefs.
Retire to the Room
We would actually stay outside for such a long duration that it would be almost time for lunch when we went back to the room. Our room was quite comfortable. The bathroom has a solar heater so it takes a while to get hot water. I liked it that they provided a small bucket to collect the flow of the initial cold water so that it could be reused later. Due to some reason they do not provide shampoo in the bathroom. There was a tea kettle with tea bags and all in the room.
Lunch used to be sumptuous affair with dal, two vegetables, curd, chapati, rice followed by fruits. They serve each roti hot off the tawa every time!
It used to be quiet time for us after lunch, which meant TV for Chhavi and a book for me. However, after playing for a long time in the morning, Chhavi would invariably doze off and I would go after birds and flowers with a camera in my hand.
I would eagerly wait for my flask of evening tea with some snacks. Chhavi would have a glass of milk. We would once again roam around till dinner time.
Walking Around in the Evening
We would walk around in the evening within the premises. There were flowers in bloom in every corner. It was fun to go about the place or sit on the benches.
Dinner was on the same sumptuous lines as the lunch, the only difference being instead of fruits there would a sweet dish. As I have a big sweet tooth, desserts are always a high point for me!
It would be a repeat of something like this for us every day of our vacation. We decided not to venture out any place nearby. There were minor variations though. One day Chhavi played in the small sand pit near the climbing area as she was missing playing in sand.
We had a bon fire and snacks on one night. As of now Chhavi has no fascination for bon fire, but I am sure this will change.
Chhavi and I had a gala time trying out the Trampoline at the Bull’s retreat. The operation’s manager Colonel Ahuja taught us how to go about it. Chhavi anyway was a natural at it. He advised us to rotate my arms anti clockwise and start jumping. I could do it easily as well. And it was so much fun! But the way my arms hurt the next day! But given another chance I will try it out once again.
The resort has a wifi but in the common areas, including the lawns. Initially I was quite irritated that I had no connectivity in the room. But after a while I enjoyed the fact. I am sure if the room was wifi enabled I would have started working right from the retreat. As I had to get out to get the connectivity, I actually took my vacation the way it should be, working only on the essentials and minimally. Plus the lawns had a lot of flowers too!
I would highly recommend Bull’ Retreat at Shivpuri is you are looking to spend some quiet time in the lap of nature.
PS. I went to the Bull’s Retreat as part of their Blogger-in-Residence Program. Do check it out.
‘Whenever I am asked, “How was your vacation?” I have a fixed reply, “Holidays are always good.” But camping by the Ganges with Chhavi was better than good! We were staying at the MHE Beach Camp. As the kid is still small she was underage for rafting. So, the number one attraction on the Ganges was ruled out for us. And yet, we had so much fun.
10. Waking Up by the River
The last thing I would hear before closing my eyes was the sound of river. As soon as I would open my eyes, it would be there again, the beautiful sound! There is something very seductive about waking up next to a river! Chhavi would demand to open the tent flaps as soon as she would open her eyes, she anyway does that way too early in the morning. And there it would be, the big, magnificent Ganges, right next to out tents. We visited the camp from Sunday to Tuesday and it was particularly quiet during the weekdays. This was my kind of vacation, far away from the maddening crowd.
9. Swinging in a Hammock
The days in the northern plains are getting hotter. After breakfast we would straight run to the river and splash around it. After lunch we would laze around the camp. On our day 3 they had put a hammock near the dining area. Chhavi would initially roll out of it while trying to swing.
After getting a hang of it and swinging for a long time she finally vacated it. I saw my chance and I occupied it quickly. She didn’t like it one bit. She asked me to get off, which I refused. Then she came and tried to throw me out of it. When she could not she started jumping on me! After a while she got busy elsewhere. And I had a peaceful time in the hammock with my book! There is no better way to spend an afternoon by the river than swinging in a hammock.
8. Food or When Chhavi Would Eat it on her Own
MHE Beach Camp serves some lip smacking food. They use less oil which was much appreciated. They would vary the menu as well. However, for me the biggest blessing was that Chhavi would eat on her own. After playing in the sun, sand and water she would be really hungry. What a blessing it was to have the child eat on her own instead of me being after her life, which is our usual scene!
7. Starry Nights
I just loved the starry nights at Shivpuri. As usual there were a million more stars in the sky than the city. The good bit with Chhavi is that she goes to bed early on her own. I was free to pursue night photography.
But there was another aspect to the night that I would not have noticed on my own. As there was no electricity Chhavi would not like it at the night at all. She would go what I called ‘min min’ (would translate to cribbing) as soon as it became dark. She found it scary. She protested so much that by the third night we had to shift to the city.
6. Chai ke Glass
Chai makes me happy, it makes me immensely happy. I like places which realize this and give me my fill. The nice folks at the MHE Beach Camp would put a flask full of tea for me. It was such a source of happiness for me. Instead of the tea cups provided, I would drink it in the glass! That makes it taste even better.
5. In the Far Far Away Land
I like isolation, there I said it. I am not much for crowded places. MHE Beach Camp is on the other side of the river. Once we crossed to that side on a raft, there I was, away from it all. Even though I could see a bridge with traffic on it and other camps, the location was ideal to relax and unwind.
4. Playing by the River
The water of the Ganges in cold, surprisingly cold even at end of March. MHE Beach Camp is very strict about wearing life jackets if the guests wish to go anywhere near the river. I appreciated it a lot. There is a nice beach with a shallow portion of the river. It was our favorite spot in the entire camp! I would wade bit by bit in the river and take a dip after ages. The burning sun would feel so nice after the cold dip. Chhavi found the water not so nice, so she would sit by the river making tunnels in the sand.
3. Chhavi’s Friends
Mukesh and Titu, the rafting instructors pampered Chhavi a lot. they would pay with her, teach her volleyball, and when she would not enter the river take her there and drench her! She was particularly fond of Mukesh as he spent a lot of time with us. If a guest goes down to the river an instructor sort of materializes out of thin air on the beach. While we were there, looks like it was Mukesh’s turn to be that instructor. He had immense patience to play with a small child and keep her entertained too. I handed the camera to him while we were kayaking. He has a way with the camera too!
Titu and Mukesh gave us two kayaks to play around in the shallow pond that the river forms by the bank! And before you declare us complete nuts for letting such a small child go into the river in a kayak, both the kayaks were tied by ropes which Titu held on to firmly. Mukesh was around in his raft to keep us in the shallow as well.
Both Chhavi and I had a gala time trying our hands at kayaking. Later Chhavi was complaining to me that they kept her tightly on the rope while they left me comparatively free to roam around! How observant the kids are! I asked Titu about turning the kayak around and he said I would have to back paddle to do so. I got some hang of it after trying many times. I thoroughly enjoyed kayaking around in shallow water with some amount of control over the kayak!
1. Playing in the Sand
The kid was so happy to see the sand all around her. She went completely berserk. She would crawl in the sand on all fours. She would roll around in the sand getting it in her hair as well. She would dig into it with her hands till it got inside her nails!
On the first day I tried to stop her in the evening after I changed her clothes. She made such a protesting face that I melted. For three days she had a free run in sand, and she loved every minute of it. I knew this is what she enjoyed most on the trip but just to reconfirm, I told her, “Chhavi I am going to write about the trip now so tell me what did you like most?” True to her form she didn’t reply to me first. But after some time she shouted, “Sand” and got back to mucking around with colors lying on the floor.
PS. I went to the MHE Beach Camp as part of their Blogger-in-Residence Program. Do check it out.
Vikram our raft expert was giving instructions on a serious note. The light banter of the day before was completing missing. I had no idea what had caused the change! But it did not take me long to find out!
We were rafting from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh (in Uttarakhand, India) on the Ganges. I was part of a large group, we were in seven rafts. There were six of us in my raft apart from Vikram, our expert. And all of us were good at following instructions. Vikram had told us about a rapid called “The Wall” but as I didn’t know what a grade 3 + rapid meant, I was least bothered.
We started off gently down the river, as usual indulging in water fights and other pranks.
After a while Vikram became serious and asked us to pay attention. We were about to cross ‘The Wall.’ When we hit the rapid we got drenched within seconds. But we kept rowing with all our might. It felt that the water was reluctant to let us part. But after some struggle we were on the other side of ‘The Wall’ (click on the link to see a Youtube video of a raft overturning at The Wall).
We were the second raft to attempt the crossing. When we were safe on the other side we saw that the first raft had overturned and every one was thrown out in the water. We had been given instructions about things to do in such a situation. The first was not to panic as everyone was wearing a life jacket. The other important instruction was to swim/float to the shallow side of the river, towards the bank.
We now turned back only to see that the third raft had also flipped at ‘The Wall’ and there were paddles and paddles floating in the water. There were people too. By now our eyes were glued to the rapid. The fourth raft did not overturn but everyone got thrown out none the less. More paddle and people in the water by now. The fifth raft overturned and once again there were even more people and paddles in the water. By now our kayak team was working overtime.
We though that the final raft would pull through. It started cresting on the wave but ‘The Wall’ had other ideas. This raft also met the same fate as others. By now all the seven rafts were accounted for and only our raft had people in it. We looked in amazement at the scene. Gradually people started regrouping and four rafts proceeded once again. After a short distance our experts decided to bank and wait for the other three to join us.
As soon as we got had our feet firmly planted on land, the stories started pouring in, who drank how much water, who thought they would not make it and more such stuff. One young lad told us, “When I got sucked under water I tried not to panic, because that is what they told us. But when I got dragged the third time, I decided I am going to panic, and only after that I surfaced.”
I enjoyed an expert’s story most. He said in a slow drawl, “Don’t you think the rapid gives you enough time to ponder under water? I went down thinking, where is my boat, where are my clients, I need not worry about the paddles, someone will pick them up and only then did I surface out of the water again!”
It was getting quite late and there was no sign of other rafts. There was no cell phone signal in the area. After an hour and half the entire group was reunited. Some among us decided they had enough of rafting by now. We got to know that two people got stuck on the right side of the river along the cliffs and it took about 50 minutes to rescue them.
The stretch after this offered no fresh surprises. Even though some time has lapsed since I went on this trip, I have to say it was completely an Alive is Awesome experience.
PS. I got the first gift hamper from Cinthol. This post is a part of the Alive is Awesome Bathing Experience by Cinthol. My younger nephew is now using the iPod which was there in the hamper. And my daughter ran around with all the Cinthol Soaps and the Deo.
She is of the age when anything new has to be tried instantly. Before I could do anything she tore open two soaps and deposited it in her bathroom. These days when she takes a bath she insists that it has to be with the green soap! I have managed to hide the other soaps, out of her reach, when she got distracted for a while.