Sandakphu – A Trek Through The Lower Himalayas

If you are a regular trekker, whether professionally or as a hobby, you would have definitely scaled the Himalayan ranges at some point or the other. But the beauty of this mighty mountain range is not restricted to the Greater Himalayas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand but extends to the north-eastern states across West Bengal and further. One such prominent point on the Eastern Himalayas is the Sandakphu peak. Standing at 11,930 Ft above the sea-level, this is the highest point on the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Being on the border of northern part of West Bengal and Ilam district of Nepal, Sandakphu Mountain shares its location with both the countries.

Image source: Wikipedia

Sandakphu Trek

Sandakphu, also called Sandakfu or Sandakpur, is popular among trekkers, both national and international, who love to explore this part of the Himalayas.

The trek along this mountain is one of its kind, with uninterrupted views of the magnificent Kanchenjunga Range. Those who can successfully reach the summit can enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime view of four of the five highest peaks in the world- namely- Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu.

Abound with seasonal wildflowers, alpine forests and Himalayan fauna, the trekking route through the Sandakphu is no less than a joyride on foot. To get to Darjeeling and figure out the rest of your trek, book a cab with Savaari Car Rentals.

The entire journey is usually divided into four stages

Stage I – Manebhanjan to Meghma

The trek starts from Manebhanjan, a small hamlet, 28 Km further north of Darjeeling. Manebhanjan is a cozy Himalayan village, on the border of Nepal and India and have trekkers from both countries.

This is the easiest and intriguing part of the trek that cuts through the Singalila National Park. This first leg of the journey takes you to 2600 meters higher. This is a 4-hour trek through the forests of Chitre, at the foothills of the mountains. Lined with towering oaks, pines and fir trees, and dotted with wild orchids, this route offers a mesmerizing experience.

Stage II – Meghma to Gairibans

This part of the trek takes you another 2,621 meter higher and has two route options: One trail goes via Tonglu at 3,070 m, while the other goes through Tumling at 2,900 m. The route via Tonglu is a shorter one and goes through a sparsely populated village. The Tonglu Lake en route is a picture-perfect scenery of pine forests reflecting on the shimmering glacial water. You can also make a pit stop at the cozy inns and cafes that the town offers for travelers. Tomling, on the other hand, is a little-extended trail but scenic nevertheless. Though closer to the Himalayas, both these trails are replete with lush greenery, especially in the peak travel season.

Image source: Wikipedia

Stage III – Gairibans to Sandakphu

The third part of the trek starts getting tougher as the altitude rises. After a 3636 m climb in this section, you can reach Sandakphu. Here, the last milestone on your route is Bikeybhanjan. The steep and rugged slopes might seem like the ‘dark before the dawn’, but the vibrant alpine flora and pristine views of the surrounding mountains keep the trekkers motivated to push for the last mile and reach their goal all victorious.  

Stage IV – Sandakphu to Phalut

The last leg of the journey and the most difficult yet the most exhilarating one is a one-day trek covering 21 Km. The route goes via Sabarkhum and takes you to Phalut after a climb of 3600 m.

If you want to explore the Eastern Himalayas in its true essence, then a trek to Sandakphu is a must. Surreal, awe-inspiring, and exciting, this journey yields all emotions at once. The silent nature, the blissful environment and a breathtaking view at every turn, undoubtedly make the tiring trek a rewarding one.

Varkala – A lesser known gem of Kerala

Tucked in the southern part of Kerala, away from the typical touristy locales of the state, Varkala sits on edge of Trivandrum. Apart from being known as Kerala’s ‘Temple Town’, Varkala is also recognized as ‘one of the top 10 seasonal beaches in the world’. The endless expanse of the Arabian Sea, the golden sands, and the laid-back vibes make this town a perfect place to relax.

Getting there

Being close to Trivandrum, the best way to reach Varkala is by air till Trivandrum airport. From there you can hire a car and reach the beach town, at a distance of about 51 Km. There are also buses and trains from Trivandrum to Varkala.

Things to do in Varkala

To see

  • Janardana Swami temple– Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this is one of the most famous places of worship in Varkala overlooking the Varkala Beach. The 2000-year old temple enshrines an ancient deity of Vishnu and is an important site for Vaishnavas. The temple also houses a historic bell that had once been brought in by the sea from a wrecked Dutch vessel.
  • Sivagiri Mutt– At about 2.5 Km from Varkala town, this mutt or ashram stands as a spiritual place. Commemorating Shree Narayana Guru, a holy saint, this place evolved as a place that promoted equality of humans, irrespective of their religion, caste, and creed.
  • Papanasham Beach– Varkala Beach, also known as the Papanasham Beach is known for its natural beauty as well as spiritual significance. This white sandy beach, lined with towering laterite cliff, imparts a breathtaking vista. For nature lovers, this beach is an ideal spot to watch the sunset against the clear blue sea. The beach, miraculously, also has a natural freshwater spring which is believed to be sacred and bathing here can wash away one’s sins. Hence the name (pap- sins, nasham- to get rid of).
  • Anjengo Fort – Away, but not far from Varkala town, the Anjengo Fort stands as a remnant of Kerala’s rich historical past. From the Portuguese to the Dutch and then the English East India Company, Anjengo remained a place of historical significance in Kerala. It houses an old English fort, dating back to 1700s, which is a now a National Heritage Monument.
  • Varkala Tunnel– Established in 1867, this is a 924 feet long tunnel that runs through the periphery of the town. Built by the Dewan of Travancore, for the East India Company, this 151 canal served as an internal waterway as well as an irrigation source.

To experience

  • The expansive beaches of Varkala offer an array of beach activities like swimming, parasailing, and windsurfing, or simply sunbathing on the golden sands. There are surfing equipment on rent and also the Surf and Soul school which provides surfing training for beginners.
  • Kerala is known for its profound understanding and practice of natural remedies and traditional Ayurveda. And Varkala has are a host of Ayurvedic centers and spas, offering therapeutic treatments.
  • Stay at one of the yoga retreats on the beach which offer yoga therapies and meditation sessions for a relaxing vacation.
  • Get rejuvenated at the natural spring which is rich in sea minerals and clay, and is known for its healing properties.
  • Try snorkeling at the Thiruvambadi Beach or Papanasham beach and explore the underwater.
  • Shop at the beachside shops or from the vendors selling jewelry, locally handcrafted trinkets, and colorful hippie goods.

To eat

Kerala’s cuisine is known for its eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary flavors.

  • Head to Jicky’s Rooms, Oottupura and Hotel Suprabhatham for simple and delectable vegetarian flair.
  • If you are looking for international flavors, then Café Del Mar is the perfect place for Italian and Mexican food.
  • The beachside eateries like Dolphin Bay and Funky Art Café are backpackers’ pit stops and make for great places to hang out on the beach.

Chorao Island – Goa’s Best Kept Secret

Image source: Wikipedia

Adventurous, exciting, memorable, relaxing, rejuvenating- Goa can be anything you want from your ideal vacation. However, besides what you see and what you know about Goa, India’s favorite beach destination has more to it than what meets the eye. And hidden in its greenery and beyond the waves are little secrets of ancient treasure. One such best-kept secret (not so much of a secret anymore) is the Chorao Island. Replete with antiquated churches, colonial homes, and cemeteries, the island is steeped in history and still emanates the old vibes.  

Reaching Chorao Island

Located 5 Km northwards from the capital city of Panjim, the Chorao Island is a historic Portuguese settlement along the Mandovi River. You have to take a ferry from Ribandar to reach the island. The ferries are well equipped to haul a car and other smaller vehicles. The island is also connected to the nearby towns of Mapusa at 10 Km and Vasco at 50 Km. So, if you are traveling from any town or village within Goa, you can hire a car to reach Chorao.

History of the island

The Chorao Island is the largest (in land area) among all the 17 islands of Goa. As much as the island is connected to history, it also has a mythological reference to its existence. It is said that this piece of land emerged from under the water when Yashoda, Krishna’s mother threw away a handful of diamonds into the sea. And hence, the island was named Chudamani (precious stone) in Sanskrit. Later when the Portuguese noblemen landed here, they named it to suit their nobility and lifestyle and called it the Ilha Dos Fidalgos or the Island of Noblemen. Further to suit their linguistic ability, they transformed the name to Chorao.

Exploring Chorao Island

The highlight of Chorao is its widespread bird sanctuary, which is the largest in Goa. The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary spreads across 178 hectares of natural land. Surrounded by dense mangroves from the inlets of the sea, this natural reserve is home to numerous species of birds like kingfishers, coots, egrets, pintails and more. You can also spot some random wild animals and Goan crocodiles along the swamps. The best way to tour the sanctuary is on a canoe or a local dingy.  

Take a ride through the countryside. As you walk/drive through the palm-lined roads of the Charao village with its clusters of mud houses and thatched roofs, you could feel as if time has stopped here, centuries ago. The distinctive Portuguese architecture with white-washed churches and the colorful homes with intricate woodwork speak of the island’s rich heritage. And, all this amidst sun-kissed greenery, makes this island look like right out of a picture post-card.

The quaintness of the Chorao Island also extends to its temples and churches. Majority of the churches on this island date back to the 16th century, when Portuguese arrived here and established places of worship for their people. The most prominent one of all Catholic Churches is, St. Bartholomew’s Church. Built in 1569, this church reflects a classic Neo-Roman architectural style with multiple spires and subdued façade, but still emanates an aura of old grandeur.

Another noteworthy place of worship is the ‘Our Lady of Grace church’ with its spotless white façade with a blue bell tower. For those who want to unexplored the unknown, there is also a small village chapel, which is not named but is frequented by the local villagers.

There are also a few ancient Hindu temples on the other side of the island. One of the most famous ones being Saptakoteshwar Temple at Narve.

With a strong influence of the ancient Saraswat Brahmins to Portuguese noblemen, the Chorao Islands still hold onto its heritage and make this tiny settlement a must-visit place in Goa.

This hill station in Kerala will become your new favourite destination

If you thought Kerala’s beauty starts with its golden coasts and ends in the backwaters and plantations, then maybe, there’s one more place you should discover. In a quiet corner of the southeastern part of the state, sandwiched between the mountain ranges of Western Ghats, is a quaint little hill town called Ponmudi. With the rolling hills of dense greenery, waterfalls, streams, and tea-gardens, this Kerala destination is perfect for those who love to spend a few days in the lap of the mountains but stay away from the extreme cold.

Image source: Wikipedia

Ponmudi is situated about 55.2 KM north-east of Trivandrum city. You can fly to Trivandrum and then book a cab to reach Ponmudi. The settlement got its name from a peak of its namesake on the Western Ghats. Also, translated as ‘The Golden Peak’, in the regional language, this mountain remains the highlight for travelers.

Things to do in Ponmudi

Image source: Wikipedia

Mountain climbing

Scale the heights of Agasthayarkoodam- the highest peak of the region at 1868 ft. above the sea. You would, however, need permission from the local Forest Department. You can also trek to the Ponmudi peak from its base at the Golden Valley.

Explore the Golden Valley

The foothills of the Golden Peak is replete with dense tropical forests, plantation, with gurgling streams and rivulets, cutting through the land at every turn. The valley offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The Kallari River is a major water body that runs through the wilderness of Ponmudi and makes for a great adventure. Trek through the nature trails or waddle through the pebbled bed and cool waters of the rivulets. You can also spend a day fishing on the Kallari. The colorful wooden and stone cottages clustered over the grasslands make for exquisite photography subjects.

Spot some wildlife

The Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most notable and popular sightseeing places where most tourist go. This is a part of the Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve. Spread across 53 sq. km. this nature reserve is home to numerous wild animals and birds like Asian elephants, sambar deer, Indian leopards, lion-tailed macaques and more. For avian lovers, you will find birds and butterflies aplenty in this sanctuary. Information is that about 59% of Kerala’s bird population is found in Ponmudi. The forest grasslands are breeding grounds for Malabar grey hornbills, Wayanad laughing thrush, broad-tailed grass birds, Nilgiri Pipit, among other species.

Image source: Wikipedia

Visit the Meenmutty Falls

The highest and most popular waterfall, the Meenmutty Falls sits amidst the forested mountains, at about 3 km from the Kallar Main Road. The highlight of these falls lies in its access more than the site of the falls. Trek through the lush greenery and natural ponds to reach the Meenmutty Falls. The rocky embankment at the base with a pool of clear water makes for a perfect respite after a long walk. The best time to visit this place is during or after the monsoon when water levels are high and unravel the real beauty of the waterfalls.

Experience a regatta

Regatta or long boat races are one of the key elements of Kerala’s culture. An age-old tradition, the Aaranmula Boat Race in Ponmudi, is a sight you cannot miss. Every year, in the months of August and September, the boat race takes place on the Pampa River. This water sport forms a part of the Aaranmula Temple festival. Watch the skilled oarsmen as they cut through the water with finesse and beat the competing teams. This is the time when thousands of rural folks visit from the neighboring villages to take part in the celebrations.

Blessed with a temperate climate all year round, and pure natural surroundings, and a vibrant culture, Ponmudi will surely redefine your concept of a typical holiday in Kerala.

Haflong – Experiencing Assam’s best

If there is one place in the evergreen state of Assam, you should add to your ‘must-visit’ list, it’s the hill town Haflong. Otherwise replete with tea gardens, rolling hills and clear lakes, Assam conjures up a picturesque scenario for an ideal holiday. But the state’s only hill station is in the scenic town of Haflong. Rich in natural beauty, culture, and heritage, this hilly hamlet of Assam is thronged by Indian and international travelers, all year round.

Reaching Haflong

The cozy town of Haflong is located in the southern part of the state near Silchar. To reach Haflong, you would have to fly down to Guwahati, the nearest major airport. From there you can easily book a car and drive down NH 27 for about 7 hours, to reach Haflong.

Sitting at 680 meters above the sea-level, the weather of Haflong is quite pleasant throughout the year and makes it conducive to travel anytime. However, the region receives heavy rainfall during the monsoon months and makes it all the more verdant. For those who prefer to travel during the dry season, the best time to visit Haflong is between the months of October and February.

Experiencing Haflong

Haflong Hill Also called the White Ant Hillock, the Haflong Hills offers magnificent views of the surrounding mountains, wrapped in greenery. The hilly terrain makes for a scenic trail to trek through.

You can also opt for paragliding activities that are conducted for tourists around the hills, and enjoy the panoramic views of the mountains and the valleys.

Haflong Lake This is one of the largest natural water bodies of Assam. Located in the heart of the town, the Haflong Lake had gained a lot of popularity among tourists and travelers. The hanging bridge overpass adds an adventure element to the lake area. If you love water sports, then go for a boat ride or other activities on the lake. This water body is also a major breeding ground for fishes and is a recognized angling spot where you can try your hands at fishing.

Maibong At about a distance of 47 Km from Haflong town, you can reach Maibong. A historically significant spot, Maibong still carries ruins of its regal past and attracts history enthusiasts. Maibong was the erstwhile capital of Dimasa Kachari Kingdom, an ethnic community who ruled Assam till the early 1800s, before colonization by the British Empire. The ruins also house an ancient temple that is believed to date back to the 12th century. The Ramchandi Temple is another notable place to visit in Maibong.

Jatinga In the winter months, exotic migratory birds throng to this greener and warmer locale in Jatinga, on the spur of the Haflong Ridge. Jatinga became popular for a strange phenomenon called ‘bird suicide’. There is no scientific explanation for this occurrence, but numerous birds seem to above the mountains and fall dead on the ground, in the monsoon months.

Food of Haflong The cuisine of Assam is known for its subtle, yet distinctive flavors. A unique blend of local herbs and spices, the dishes make a memorable impression on your palate. Hence, if you are in Haflong, you cannot but sample the exotic dishes the state has to offer. Also, being closer to Meghalaya, Manipur, and Mizoram, the cuisine had the influence of its neighboring states. The Tribal Kitchen in Haflong East, and Khasi Hotel in Dibarai are two noteworthy places to explore local cuisine.  

Chavang Kut Every year, in the month of November, the town celebrates its harvest festival called Chavang Kut. Traditionally a celebration of the Chin-Kuki tribe, the festival is a revelry of the new yield and paying homage to nature for its gifts. Watching the locals don their ethnic garb and dancing to the folk tunes is uplifting.

With traces from its British colonial past, blended with the purest form of nature, Haflong is indeed a paradise for those who are looking for a peaceful holiday!

Explore Offbeat Destinations in India: Vagamon

Vagamon or Wagamon is a sleepy little hill town in the south-east corner of Kerala. Yet another idyllic locale in God’s own country, Vagamon partly occupies the Kottayam district and partly the Idukki district of the state. Not more than 1100 meters above sea-level, you would find this cozy hamlet to be your perfect place of serenity, far from the maddening crowd of cities. Perched on the hills of the border of two major districts and blessed with natural wonders, Vagamon offers great opportunities for eco-tourism. Head to Vagamon this summer – book a Cochin taxi service to travel there with ease.

You would be thankful to find that this hill town is still untainted by the ill-effects of commercialization, making this place retain its originality.

Reaching Vagamon

Vagamon is situated about 100km from Cochin, which is also the nearest airport. So you can take a flight if traveling from any major city. From there you can hire a cab or rent a car till Vagamon and travel down the hill highway. It is a fulfilling experience with endless views of the hills and vales and the winding roads cutting through the mountains and dense forests. Alternatively, you can also take the train till Kuttikanam at 22km or Palai at 33km.

Exploring Vagamon

The rolling hills enveloped under blankets of greenery, the steep slopes, the velvet countryside makes for a much-needed relaxing holiday with your friends, family or special someone.

Wake up to the view of the morning mist veiling the valleys – a picture perfect setting that can bring you instant joy. The lush valleys, expansive meadows dotted with wildflowers, dense pine forests and waterfalls are indeed bliss for all your senses. Such a scenic landscape comes with abundant options to explore and experience this homestead in its own way.

You can choose from any of the adventure activities like trekking, paragliding, mountaineering and rock climbing. Did you know that Vagamon is a paragliding hub for flyers? Paragliders from different parts of India and abroad join the International Paragliding Festival which is held in the months of January and February every year.

Other recommendations in Vagamon

Vagamon and its three hills- Thangal, Murugan, and Kurisumala reflect complete religious harmony, with Hindu, Muslim, and Christians- all cohabiting in the same place.

The Kurisumala Ashram is a spiritual center but also holds ample natural beauty. If you are so inclined, you can visit this abode of peace. Otherwise, the area is surrounded by vast tea-estates and natural lakes.

Head to the Murugan Hill near the Thangal Para. A temple dedicated to Lord Murugan sits atop the hills and enshrines an old stone carving.

 

Walk through the Vagamon Meadows. These undulating hills and sloping landscapes engulf a lake, which renders a painting like a scene. For photographers, writers, and other creative souls, this location is indeed inspiring.

Explore the pine forests. This is where lofty pine trees stand in rows and make this dense forest eerily beautiful.

You can also visit the Mooppanpara canyon, a V-shaped canyon that serves as a viewing point for the surrounding. A short trek through the hills and forests will take you to the summit.  It is here that you can get a stunning panoramic view of the town below.

There’s also the Ulipponi Wildlife Sanctuary. Though known as a natural habitat for flora and fauna, this location of Vagamon works as a great picnic spot or a day trip to just absorb nature. You can also take a boat ride on the lake located in the sanctuary. There are a lot of exotic flowers and orchids that grow in the wild and add vibrancy to the place.

Laid back and sleepy, yet uplifting with nature’s bounty, the scenic town of Vagamon needs to be explored more. After all, nature gives us these wonders only to cherish, isn’t it? Book a taxi service in Trivandrum and head out to Vagamon for a perfect idyllic holiday.

Parwanoo – A paradise undiscovered

For the city dwellers of Delhi, Chandigarh and neighbouring towns in Haryana and Punjab, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to a quick weekend getaway. Nature’s bounty along the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh make for abundant options of exploring. Parwanoo is one such surprise package of a place.

Image source: Wikipedia

How to reach Parwanoo

Bordering the Panchkula district of Haryana, Parwanoo is located at 35km from Chandigarh and is easily accessible from Amritsar, Kalka, Pinjore, and Shimla. For a more exciting journey, you can take the Kalka-Shimla heritage railroad. This is one of the most scenic routes in this region, cutting through the mountains via tunnels, crossing cliffs and around the winding slopes. The nearest station, at Taksal, is about 4km away from the town center. If there’s a road trip on your mind, the best way to get to Parwanoo is to book a taxi service in Chandigarh.

Things to do in Parwanoo

Apart from its economic recognition, being on the Shivalik Range, Parwanoo holds the quintessential Himalayan beauty. The landscape remains snow-clad most of the year, which allows you a cooler escape from the sultry city summers.

Ever since travelers started exploring the mountains, lakes and the natural wonders of Parwanoo, this quiet hamlet opened up to discovery and exploration.

A quick trip to Parwanoo calls for these touristy activities:

Ride over the Timber Trail

Image source: Wikipedia

When in the mountains, a view from the top gives you a refreshing perspective. A cable car ride across the Timber Tail gives you a 360-degree view of the entire Shivalik range. But just to be cautious, this activity is not for the faint-hearted. For a nominal price, this 1.8km ride lasts for about 10 minutes and takes you to the top of the Timber Trail at the resort of its namesake.

Enjoy the magnificence of the Kaushalya Valley, from a height of 5,000 ft above the sea level. A trip to Parwanoo would be incomplete without this scenic cable car ride and photographing the birds’- eye view of the landscape.

Discover Dagshai

About 28 KM from Parwanoo, lies the old settlement of Dagshai. Established by the East India Company in 1847, this timeworn cantonment town, still displays traces of its colonial past. The highlight of this town is the Dagshai Church, an ancient church built under the British rule. The colonial architecture reflecting sheer brilliance adorns the church’s façade and interiors.

The old-world charm of its construction never fails to enthrall the tourists and admirers of ancient art. Though there are no accommodation options here, Dagshai makes for a good day trip and picnic destination.

Visit the fruit orchards

If you are anywhere in Himachal, you will not be spared from the intoxicating aromas of apples, plums, and peaches. And probably because the economy of Parwanoo was based on fruit-based industries, the orchards became a fun-filled destination for tourists. The orchard tours will be a treat to your eyes as well as to your taste-buds. The array of reds, orange, crimson and green are indeed like a page out of a picture book. Indulge yourself in samples of fruit jellies, jams, pickles and other goodies to mark a memorable end to your orchard exploration.

Explore the Gorkha Fort

For history enthusiasts, a visit to the Gorkha Fort would be of great interest. About 16 KM away from Parwanoo, the Gorkha Fort sits on a hill in the village of Subathu. It was established by the Gurkha army chief Amar Singh Thapa to fight the British troops, this fort is a testament of strength and power. There is a museum associated with the fort, preserving exhibits dating back to 1815.

Once a somnolent little settlement, this hamlet has grown to become a trending destination for Himachal Tourists and still needs to be explored. If you’re exploring hill stations around Delhi or Chandigarh, we highly recommend adding Parwanoo to your list. Book a Shimla taxi service to get to Parwanoo and explore some of the other quaint towns and hill stations on offer in Himachal Pradesh.

Dawki – A Divine Discovery

India is a land of wonders indeed. They say, the country has so much to behold, discover and explore, one lifetime seems insufficient. All you need to ask yourself- where do I want to go next? And, you will find it all here. But the ones who travel in a predetermined way would never discover the miracles that are there in the nooks and crannies of this subcontinent.

Hidden away in the thickets of North East, are numerous such treasures, waiting to be unraveled by the hungry traveler. Have you ever heard of Dawki? If you haven’t, then, this might inspire you to book a car rental in Guwahati and explore this gem of Meghalaya.

A gem of North East

Dawki, Duki or Dauki is a picturesque town in the district of West Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya. Snuggled between the borders of India and Bangladesh, Dawki developed as a trading town for the two countries. But as explorers started discovering the real charm of the place, it soon became open to tourism and started welcoming travelers from far and wide to experience the wonders of nature. The lush greenery, the play of green and blue in the rivers, the crystal clear streams, and the serenity of the surroundings make this place a worthwhile retreat.

Image source: Wikipedia

Whether you want to do an introspective solo trip, a romantic getaway in nature or a fun-filled break with friends and family, Dawki makes for the perfect setting. But for each kind of trip, you must figure out the right time. Like for solo trips or family vacations, the months of January, February, June, and July are good. But, for couples, the best time is after the festivals- between September and November are better with the weather being more favorable.

Reaching there

Image source: Wikipedia

Because of its geographical location, reaching the town of Dawki could be a little challenging, especially if you are expecting a cakewalk travel. Dawki is about 200km from Guwahati, a major airport and railway head in the vicinity. You can either fly to Guwahati or take a train. From there, you can book Guwahati to Shillong cabs or take the taxi directly till Dawki. For a more exciting journey, take the helicopter ride from Shillong. However, for the roadrunners, a cab ride through the hills, gorges and dense forests can be more fulfilling.

Exploring Dawki

Once you are here, you would just want to sit and stare into the magnificence of nature- the endless horizon, where the blue rivers meet, flanked by foliage in all shades of green.

The highlight of Dawki is the Umngot River, which is like a floating mirror. The green water of this mountain fed water-body is so clear that you can actually see the riverbed. This river forms the natural boundary between Ri Pnar/ Jaintia Hills and the Hima Khyrim of Khasi Hills. The water-body also acts as the gateway to the major export/import point in Bangladesh.

The Umngot River is a popular venue for the Annual Boat Race that happens every March (till April). There’s a suspension bridge above the river, built by the British officials in 1932, which you can cross on foot for some added thrill.

You could consider camping on the river banks with guided tour groups. Or, you could easily go kayaking, snorkeling, and boating on the Umngot River. There are Zipline rides as well.

Local Food

The cuisine of North East is unique and out-of-the-box in its own way. Though there aren’t many restaurants and eateries in Dawki, you can still head to the local ‘dhabas’ and try the traditional recipes. Jadoh, Dohneiihong, Makham-Bitchi and Jhur Sideh, are some of the hard to pronounce but lip-smacking dishes of Meghalaya.

Surreal yet fascinating, charming yet mysterious, Dawki unfolds itself differently to each traveler. And the place has the magic of staying in your memories for years to come.

Explore the gorgeous Loktak Lake

As a traveler, you would often hear about the mountains, deserts, beaches and the megacities of India. But little does one know about the hidden jewels of our country, tucked away in its north-east corner. Nestled in the arms of Manipur, is one such gem of nature- the gorgeous Loktak Lake, located near Moirang. It is the largest freshwater lake in entire North East India and stretches across 980 sq. km. of the catchment area.

Image source: Wikipedia

The Loktak or the ‘end of stream’ (Lok- stream, tak- end), this lake is a natural wonder in itself, with floating islands or locally called ‘phumdis’ all across its surface. These islands have their own mass of vegetation, flora, fauna, and other organic matter, which makes for a mini eco-system within the lake. Wonder why it’s famous? Because the largest island of 40 sq. km. houses the Keibul Lamjao National Park which is the only floating national park in the world. Now, isn’t that something you would want to witness?

Getting There

If you are expecting a hop, skip and jump kind of travel to Loktak Lake, then you’d be disappointed. However, you can easily reach the Lake from Imphal. You can either catch a flight till Imphal, from major destinations across the country or take a train to Dimapur, which is about 215Km from Imphal. From there, you can alight a local bus to Moirang. The rest of the way, you can book taxi, trek, or even hitch-hike.

Exploring the Loktak Lake

Image source: Wikipedia

Whether you like to explore the wildlife or photograph the magnificence of nature, Loktak Lake has something for everyone. Even if you want to simply row around the islands and absorb the lush greenery, then there’s nothing more serene and peaceful than this vast expanse of water.

You cannot help but get overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the entire scenario. The labyrinth of waterways through islands, crystal clear water, and the verdant surrounding, are sure to take your breath away. And if you can manage to view the sunset, when the entire lake area is soaked in a crimson hue, you would indeed feel as if you are on another planet.

Loktak Lake Fishing

Being a freshwater patch and the largest so of the region, the Loktak Lake serves as a livelihood for the local fishing community. The lake yields about 1500 tons of local fishes every year, which has led to the development of fishing wharfs and villages over the islands. On any given day, join these fishermen and you could watch them keenly laying out their nets and patiently waiting for the catch. If that intrigues you, try your hands at fishing for a first-hand experience.

Wildlife on the Lake

Image source: Wikipedia

Parts of the Loktak lake area are under paddy cultivation, while some of it is inhabited and the rest is covered in dense forests, marshy lands, and organic wastelands. The National Park including the rest of the lake area is rich in biodiversity- with 230 species of aquatic plants, more than 100 species of exotic birds and 425 species of animals.

Get a chance to see some of the rare and endangered species, living in the reserve like Indian pythons, Sambar and barking deer, the Sangai or brown-antlered deer, among others. For bird lovers, you might be lucky to spot the migratory waterfowl, dabbling and diving ducks, or even the wide variety of hornbills. Other species of wild animals like the rhesus monkeys, hoolock gibbons, macaques and marbled cats, also have their homes in the lake’s wilderness.

As our national tourism campaign rightly says, North East India is indeed a paradise undiscovered. And the Loktak Lake is a classic example. On your next vacation, book a cab with Savaari Car Rentals and put this gorgeous beauty of nature on your travel list!

A Historical Exploration of Pachmarhi

Panchmarhi, is a hill station in Madhya Pradesh. Standing at an elevation of 1067m above the sea-level, amidst the Satpura mountain range, Panchmarhi is the only hill station of Central India. It is often fondly called the ‘Queen of Satpuras’, owing to its sheer natural beauty with waterfalls, rugged landscape and dense forest cover. The highest point on the mountains is Dhupgarh, at 1352meters. The entire hill town and its natural resources collectively form the Panchmarhi Biosphere Reserve. If you’re planning a trip to Pachmarhi some time soon, we recommend booking Bhopal to Pachmarhi cabs.

Image source: Wikipedia

History of Panchmari

If you are a history enthusiast, the existence and development of Panchmari would be of intrigue.

Etymology

Local story has it, that the Pandavas were residing in the forests of this region, in the thirteenth year of their exile. Eventually, they built the caves to make it a safe abode. Thus, the name got derived from Panch- five and Marchi- caves.

Indian mythology

Though mythological, the story of Panchmarchi still holds true, with all the five caves standing atop a hill and have attracted visitors for generations. The beauty of the caves lies in its structure and is now a protected place. All the five caves were cut out of a single sandstone and grouped around. The location of the caves makes for a great location to get a clear view of the mountains and valleys below.

From an archeological standpoint, these caves are said be of the Mesolithic era. An excavation in 1935 revealed painting on the walls of the caves. The motifs and symbols depicting the lives of hunters and gatherers speaks of ancient humans of that time, settled in this region.

Image source: Wikipedia

Another legend has it – that the plateau area of Panchmari was a huge lake guarded by a giant serpent who terrorized the pilgrims visiting the sacred shrines of the Mahadeo Hills in the area. This angered Lord Shiva who threw his trident on the serpent and stuck him in a canyon, which took the shape of a pot. However, as a side effect, the wrath of Shiva dried up the lake and it became a plateau, which today is Panchmari. As surprising as it may sound, modern day botanists claim that any flora only exists around water bodies in this area.

Panchmari and its natural reserve also holds significance in Buddhist mythology. It is said that in the 1st century AD, this hill town became a shelter for Buddhist monks.

The East India connection

Because of its forest cover and discreet location, the British officials chose Panchmarhi to build a sanitarium. In 1870, under the supervision and patronage of Sir Richard Temple, the first building of the area-the Bison Lodge was built. The building became a military center after few years. Today, the site is a military museum, which attracts tourists and visitors from all over.

This hill-enveloped plateau was said to be precious to the British, because of its natural beauty and serenity. Hence, they never allowed urbanization or commercial development of the land and restricted construction of tall buildings. That is why, even today, Panchmarhi remains a quiet, and quaint little hill town in the heart of Madhya Pradesh.


How to reach

Panchmarhi is almost centrally located in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Thus, it makes for convenient access for tourists from Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and neighboring cities. You can reach Panchmarhi by bus from any of these cities. It takes 5-6 hours if you book a Bhopal taxi and about 10-11 hours from Indore to reach this hill station. Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (MPTDC) run AC buses at regular intervals and are the most popular bus-line for this region. You can also opt for a train route to Panchmarchi. There is not railway station in the town and the nearest railhead is at Pipariya, about 47 Km from Panchmarhi.

As much as this hilly plateau is known for its historic connection, there are quite a few natural wonders to be found here. From a host of waterfalls to lakes, ravines and wildlife sanctuaries, Panchmari stays to be the most sought-after natural retreat of the heart of India.