Friday, 1 February 2013

Date with Dolphins

A childhood dream comes true...A most unexpected surprise...A long awaited wish...I don’t really know how I express my thrill, my happiness, my excitement when all of a sudden I finally had my Date with Dolphins.

What I had Imagined?
My Wish!
During a recent trip to Goa, the least I had expected was my long Due Date with Dolphins.  Like for any other trip before planning this vacation too, I was researching on the Internet to figure out what all we could do in our 2nd trip to Goa. During my Research I came across several websites promoting Dolphin tours. However, I felt all of this is totally untrue and nothing of this sort exists in India. An outright dismissal from my end. 

However, on the 3rd and last day of Goa vacation, we hired a chauffeur who promised that all of this is not fallacious and that in a 30 minutes trip we can see the dolphins. He took us to Coco Beach in North Goa. At one of the kiosks there we got tickets for this fantasy tour. Even at that time I wasn't convinced. After about 15 minutes of boat ride we were at the far end of the Coco Beach and suddenly the skipper said, “There is the dolphin”. He started speeding the boat towards them and in no time almost everyone had seen The Dolphin except me. My folks started pulling my leg.  But I could not take my eyes off the water as I did not want to miss. Alas, before I could begin cribbing even I managed to spot my Dream Date, the Dolphins…

Lone Boats at Coco Beach
The Coco Beach 
Yes, I say the Dolphins, as I spotted not one but a pair…

This is how I had Seen them too

 Glimpses of the dolphins…

Dorsal fin of Dolphin
Just a Glimpse
Beak of Dolphin
Finally after many many years later, I managed to fulfill my childhood dream. I had wanted to spot this lovely playful creature for long. Having traveled practically the entire coastline of India I had completely given up on this dream of mine. As a kid I had watched on TV the dance of dolphins. It had completely fascinated me. All that I wanted was to see them once, to see them once with naked eyes.

Something similar I had seen on TV
As shown on TV
Actually I could just see them a couple of times, no dancing, jumping or leaping from water as I had imagined…

My Dream Date Jumping
School of Dolphins
But still I am quite happy and contend with my mesmerizing experience, with my Date with Dolphins.  
A Calve

Friday, 25 January 2013

A Mirage

Watching through the window of my hotel room, it appeared to me A Mirage.  “सोनार किला ” -  "Sonar Qila", with open arms, had just welcomed me a short while back.

सोनार किला                
Tired and worn out after nearly a 14 hours drive my first rendezvous with Jaislamer got me super excited and then tiredness vanished in thin air. Fascinated, amazed, and spellbound – I just couldn't stop gazing at this super structure near which our car halted for directions to the hotel. 

The Golden City caught me surprised, hard to believe the existence of something of this kind on earth. But then there were bigger surprises ahead. Driving through the zigzag lanes of the fort, the car halted outside a gate, reception of the Hotel of our stay. Confused as I entered it was actually a hotel inside the fort. There are several such hotels within the vicinity of Jaislamer fort. Not just hotels, there are also people residing and owning houses within this fort complex.

At first I could not stop clicking pictures of the hotel, my room, the view from my room….

Entry to my Room
Window Side Sitting
Astounded with this piece of Mirage, we then headed for some finger licking Rajasthani food.  Flabbergasted as we all were, its intensity increased manifold after the Superb Lunch. Though I had eaten Rajasthani food before, but the taste, the variety I got here in Jaislamer was simply outstanding.  

Hotel Terrace
City View From Hotel Terrace
However, even during my lunch, I was super distracted with the view around as the lunch was organized at the terrace of the hotel. I was constantly caught in confusion between my dream and real world. Actually I couldn't draw the line. I had no idea whether where I am is a real world or an imaginary one.

I have no idea or count of the hours I spend on that terrace that day. The realization is just from the fact that I went there for lunch and retired to my room only post my evening cup of tea.

Hotel View
Even after coming back to my room, there was no scope of rest as the excited kid inside me kept propelling me to explore further.

Lanes of Fort
Day 2, in Jaislamer, started with a trip to the “Sonar Qila”. After visiting it I got the answer to my question why it had been christened as the “Sonar Qila” by Satyajit Ray. This golden super structure blemishes in the golden hues of the desert ambiance.The setting sun in its most colorful shades gives it a complete fairy tale look. This living fort, over 800 years old, has been a witness to the scenes of many battles. But today its home to nearly half the population of Jaislamer besides also being a major tourist hub. The main attractions inside the fort are: Raj Mahal (Royal palace), Jain temples  and the Laxminath temple.

Inside the Fort
Jain Temple
After spending nearly half a day at the Qila, we meandered through the narrow lanes of the fort and headed for a different terrace for some different variety and taste of Rajasthani food. Having enjoyed the sun, the sand and the sustenance we then proceeded to explore the Golden City further.

Strolling in the Fort
Driving through the city we reached our next destination – Gadisar Lake. Amidst shrines and temples boating at this lake was super fun and thoroughly an enjoyable experience.

Entry for Boating
Captured while Boating
Exit of Lake
Near the Gadisar Lake, there are also quite a few options of entertainment. Get to enjoy Rajasthani folk music, puppet shows, and a little shopping place houses there, too.

Stuff To Buy
But for shopping there is definitely no better place than the fort area, which houses quite a few shops. Get lovely pieces of Mirror work, tie and dye, applique bed covers, silver jewelry, fabrics and rugs among others. I had great time shopping at Sadar Bazar, Sonaron ka Bass, Rajasthani Govt. shop and Khadi Gramuddyog Emporium.

Applique Work
Shops In Fort Area
Another most different and one of the best experiences was the journey to the Sand dunes. We reached there post lunch and had to hurry up so as to enjoy the sunset. Quickly we got on back on our camels, and in no time we were amidst the golden sand dunes. We reached a point where we could only see the sky above, sand dunes around, and right in front of my eyes was the sundown. I long to capture that moment at least once more. Thereafter, we went further in the sand dunes and from a distance we were shown a porous divide – the Pakistani side of sand dunes.

Camel Cart
The Setting Sun
The Sand Dunes
As night set we reached our tents in sand dunes where we enjoyed camp fire with Rajasthani folk music, dance and food. Before, the lovely evening fainted from my mind, it was time to sit on the camel cart and we were on our way to capture the rising sun.

Sun Rise
Spreading Sun Rays
With the warmth of the sun rays penetrating inside me, my mind still strolling in those crests and troughs, one of the best vacations I ever had was coming to an end – Journey to the Mirage. 

Friday, 11 January 2013

Winters a Miss - This Year

All these years, having stayed in extreme weather conditions and now living in a coastal area, winters have definitely been a Miss this Year. Longing for that Sun to come out, Chill going down my spine, and layers of clothing have all been a thing of the past. Missing the cold cold weather more than ever. I simply love everything about the winter season. Miss indulging in those chikki’s, oranges, adrak wali chai and hot steaming momo’s every day. And of course lazing around in that lovely red razai (quilt) of mine.

Being so fond of the Winter Season, around same time in 2008, I had planned a family vacation to the Golden Triangle of Himachal Pradesh – Chail, Kufri & Shimla. While, Chail and Shimla just gave me that extra chilly feel and scenic beauty, my much wanted wintertime desires were all fulfilled in Kufri. 

Kufri offered to me some of the best lifetime experiences. Right from snowcapped mountains, to Yak ride, to skiing, this little paradise some 15 kms from Shimla gave me the most different and of course one of the best experiences of a Hill Station.

The most enthralling was skiing, which has always fascinated me. Though I was a first timer, but with some basic support and training I managed to indulge in this absolutely amazing sport. Hopefully before my next visit with some good training in this sport I can ski through the entire Mahasu Ridge.  Further, the picturesque beauty from the Mahasu Peak (highest peak in Kufri) was also definitely the perfect icing on the cake. If one is a trek freak too, then trekking to the Mahasu Peak can be a fun journey.

While traveling from one place to another in Kufri, the best was to take halts, play around and slip around on the snow covered belt. It was such an enjoyable time - playing with the snow, throwing snow balls and flakes at each other, trying to get a picture clicked with complete snowy background and sliding all the way down.

Not to miss at all is the Yak ride. Most hill stations which I have visited so far offered me horse riding but truly entertaining was the Yak ride. To amuse yourself and your people around, go for the Yak ride at the Himalayan Nature Park and also near the market area, which also has some nice stuff made out of wood.

The Himalayan Nature Park was a different experience too. Along with the varied flora and fauna at this Nature Park, there was also the breathtaking view of the entire range of Himalaya’s snow clad peaks. One gets to see the Fir- Spruce and Oak formations with scattered presence of Deodar-Blue Pine-Holly clusters. There is also an animal enclosure at the Park which houses quite a few Himalayan animal species. I managed to spot Musk Deer, Black Bear, Sambar, and Barking Deer.

Within the vicinity of the Himalayan Nature Park, there is also the Indira Tourist Park. Locals there told us that the Simla Agreement of 1971 was signed at this park. However, keeping the unconfirmed history aside, one surely gets to feel Nature in its most serene self at this park.

Lately, while researching on Kufri, I also gathered that another fun sport has started there – Tobogganing. It is a revised form of sledging.

Hoping to experience the Winter Fun soon - the cold, the mist, the snow, the fog, for now I slumber back to my Coastal space where I enjoy pleasant breeze morning and evening.