Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Explore Karnataka: Hampi

Virupaksha Temple, Hampi
The historic city of Hampi is about 8 hours drive from Goa. My brother suggested that I would enjoy visiting the place, since I love photography. He even volunteered to drive me and my family to Hampi, and back.

I had never been to the place before, and did not know much about it. A quick Google search suggested that one should allocate at least 2 to 3 days to really explore the place. Unfortunately, we did not have that many days left in our schedule, so we decided to do a quick 1 day tour.  One thing that worked in our favor is that most of the important places now have road access, so we could easily drive to different parts of the huge 26-square kilometer city.

We reached early in the morning and located a tourist guide. The guide traveled with us in the car explaining the history of the place - and the various places of interest.

Hampi was the capital of the Vijayanagar empire that ruled South India from 1336 AD - 1565 AD. History of Hampi can be found here.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Explore Kashmir: Srinagar

Panoramic view of Srinagar
After we completed our trekking trip in Kashmir, we had a few days left to spend in Srinagar, before returning back to Goa.

Aside from relaxing in a houseboat on the Dal Lake, we also took this time to explore some of the interesting places in Srinagar. Srinagar is famous for its Mughal gardens. These gardens were built by the Mughal kings, who used to travel here during summer, to escape the hot weather of Delhi.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Explore Kashmir: Dal Lake.

The idyllic Dal Lake, Srinagar.
Our trip to Kashmir was primarily about our Trekking tour. When I was planning the trip, I was not sure how long the trek would last, so I had left ample room by booking some extra days in Srinagar. When our trek ended, we still had 3 more days to spend in Srinagar, before our return flight back to Goa. We decided to use these days to explore Srinagar a bit more.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Wrap-Up

Gangbal Lake, Kashmir.
When I first traveled to Srinagar in July for our Trekking trip, I really had no idea what to expect. I had done all the ticket and hotel booking up to Srinagar and back. But what exactly would happen in Srinagar was a big mystery. My brother has friends in Kashmir, and he assured me that they would take care of the actual trek.

Ticket and hotel bookings were done using the online portal MakeMyTrip. A really excellent website for planning air travel and hotel bookings. Most of the air travel was done using IndiGo, but for some of the sectors, we used GoAir. Even though both the airlines are classified as "low-cost", they are both excellent and highly recommended.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 7

Shokhdari (Table Top), near Sonamarg.
To read about our Day 6 adventures, click here.

On the 7th and last day of our trek, we relaxed in Shokhdari, before heading out to Sonamarg to be picked up by our car - for the drive back to Srinagar.

I went near the edge of Shokhdari, which provides a panoramic view of Sonamarg. The morning was misty and cloudy and I couldn't get any good pictures of Sonamarg from this vantage point.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 6

Early morning at Vishnasar Lake
To read about our Day 5 adventures, click here.

Day 6 of our Kashmir trek can be best described as "The day of Shawn". This was the first time Shawn completed the entire trek without using his horse. A solid 8 hours of continuous trekking.

I had slept like a log the previous night - no doubt helped by the Rum that I had taken before dinner. When I got up in the morning, it was yet another beautiful Kashmir morning. Clear blue skies and puffy while clouds. I walked up to Vishinsar lake to take some early morning pictures. The water of the lake was very still, reflecting the mountains and making it look as if the lake has disappeared.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 5

Gadsar-Vishnasar Trek.
After a long and well deserved rest at Gadsar on Day 4, we mentally prepared ourselves for another long and hard trek on Day 5. As we did not want to get into the same sticky situation that we faced on Day 3 (i.e. not reaching our destination before sunset), we decided to start our trek early. It would later prove to be a very wise decision - though for a different reason.

We had our breakfast at 6:00 AM, and were ready to start off by 7:00 AM. It was a bright and beautiful morning. We packed only the raincoats, water and some chocolates and set off. The support team would pack everything and catch up with us. Those guys are really amazing. They make trekking look so effortless - and they don't have any fancy trekking gear.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 4

A wet and cloudy morning in Gadsar.
After a hard and long trek on Day 3, we woke up to a cold, wet and cloudy morning in the valley of Gadsar. It had rained most of the night and we were shivering in our tents.

Our original plan was to do a short trek to Gadsar lake (around 2-3 hours trek from the valley), but our support team advised us that it would be better to stay put in Gadsar for the whole day - instead of venturing into the wet and slippery trail.

I liked the idea of a full day of rest. My bones were aching from the long trek the previous day, and looked forward to a day of lazing around the valley.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 3

Another glorious morning at Gangbal lake with the imposing Harmukh peak.
After a relaxing second day, we woke up to yet another glorious Kashmir morning on the 3rd day of our trek. We were well rested and anxious to start the "serious" portion of our trek. A long trek from Gangbal lake to Gadsar. We would need to first cross the steep Zagibal pass (4000 meters above sea level), and then move to Satsar (Seven lakes), and finally skirt the Poshpatri (valley of flowers) mountain to reach our destination Gadsar.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 2

Harmukh Mountain - as seen from Trunkol.

If the first day of the our Kashmir trek was mother nature testing our strength and determination, then the second day of our trek can only be described as mother nature apologizing for the hardships thrown at us the previous day, and showing us the beauty that it had kept hidden from us the first day

We woke up and were greeted to a glorious Kashmir morning. Harmukh peak, that was hidden by clouds the previous evening, dominated the landscape with a background that can only be describe as a picture perfect postcard. The sky was a brilliant blue with white puffy clouds. We were awestruck and just wandered around our tent enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Trekking in Kashmir: Day 1

Packed and ready to go for the trek.
We started our 6-night, 7-day trek (that would take us from Naranag to Sonmarg) on a cold Saturday morning on 16th July. We were supposed to be picked up from our house at 6 A.M., but the vehicle was delayed and reached only by 7:30 A.M.

It was a 3-hour drive to Naranag with frequent delays at various security check points in Srinagar. At one check point, the cops were actually refusing to let us through - due to the unstable weather in the mountains, but our guide Muzafar (who was also with us in the car) managed to convince the security that he knew what he is doing, and they let us through.