Dandeli is a town located on the Western Ghats region in Karnataka. The Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest in Karnataka and houses tigers, leopards, black panthers, elephants, bears, and deer amongst other mammals, several varieties of reptiles and over 250 different birds. The Kali river flows through Dandeli adding to the scenic beauty of this space. I spent my time here at the Dandeli Mist Jungle Stay. They offer three types of accommodation – tree-houses, luxury cottages and tribal cottages. Every meal provided was an excellent buffet of local dishes. We were taken on night safaris and to various view points around Dandeli. Every moment spent here was one with a view. I’m so glad I found another beautiful location so close to home. ❤
As you approach Dhenkanal on National Highway 42 it is almost impossible to visually locate Gajlaxmi Palace. The Palace is the home of the Dhenkanal royal family and is quietly tucked away on Megha Hill overlooking vast stretches of forests. Jitendra Singh Deo and his wife Navneeta welcomed me into their home with warmth and generosity.
After a wonderful home cooked lunch we headed out to visit a small artisan village. This village comprised of no more than 50 homes with all its residents working on the craft of Dhokra. Dhokra is a non-ferrous metal casting method that uses the lost-wax casting technique.
The next morning we went on a nature walk that took us through another small village and around the royal family’s property.
Tragically I had to leave soon after. I missed out visiting the Joronda Temples, the Satakosia Sanctuary and so much more. Can’t wait to go back…
On the 22nd of February I headed to Bhitarkanika National Park which is located in the Kendrapara district of Odisha. It is placed at the delta of the Brahmani – Baitarani rivers and is an estuary. This sanctuary is spread over 672 sq.km. The flora of the area comprises of 82 species of mangroves and the fauna includes saltwater crocodiles, king cobras, pythons, spotted deer, sambar, otters, dolphins and over 200 species of resident and migratory birds. During my time here I saw many crocodiles, 3 different kinds of kingfishers, a few egrets and other birds along with a few spotted deer.
That night I stayed in the heart of Dangmal Village at the Bhitarkanika Nature Camp located about 300 meters from the main entrance into the sanctuary. I had an amazing host who cooked great food and was extremely helpful in every way possible. I stayed in a Swiss tent for the night and planned my dive to Calcutta for the next day.
With a nice cold, foggy start to the morning I headed to Chilika Lake, Odisha from Borra caves On the 21st of February. The journey was less than 400km in total. Initially I drove through a ghat section that had beautiful roads all the way to Odisha courtesy of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department.
While driving around the country I have always come across situations in which people lose their patience and it has always left me wondering where everyone was in such a rush to get to. Right before entering Odisha a few of us on the highway were stopped at a railway crossing for about 11 minutes. People in larger vehicles had no option but to wait but most of those on bikes kept ducking under the barricade with their vehicles to get to the other side. Being in the ghats we did not have much of a visual of the train tracks as they curved with the mountains. Sometimes I really feel like telling all these people that being safe is so much better than being impatient.
As I entered Odisha there was a complete scenic change. From the hills and mountains of northern Andhra Pradesh to the flat plains of Odisha. I passed by so many water bodies, so many rice fields, and so many Toddy palm trees. This state seemed to be so wonderfully lush and green.
Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon which is spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha. It covers an area of over 1,100 kmsq making it the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest in the world. The lake has a vast range of fish making it an ideal place for small fishermen villages to flourish all around it. Chilika Lake also has the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent, sometime hosting over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. Tragically I managed to lose over 100 pictures I took here due to some technical difficulties so I am unable to give you a full visual of my experience here.
OTDC (Odisha Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.) provides a range of rooms and cottages located by the lake starting from Rs.800 a night. Their development at this location is called Panthanivas Barkul. It is extremely clean and is safe for everyone.
Borra Caves are located about 90 kms north of Visakhapatnam in the Ananthagiri hill range of the Eastern ghats, located at Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh. These limestone caves were discovered in 1807 by the British geologist William King. Borra Caves are naturally formed and are believed to be over 150 million years old. Small streams flowing down the Ananthagiri hill range towards River Gosthani are what have formed these caves over the years. The humic acid in the water reacts with the calcium carbonate in the limestone and dissolves the minerals causing the rocks to gradually break.
The main entrance of Borra Caves is located at an altitude of 705 meters above MSL while the interior goes down to 625 meters above MSL. The total length of these caves are about 200 meters, but you can walk around exploring over 350 meters of the space. Surrounding these caves are breath taking hilly terrains that are covered in forests filled with a vast population of wild fauna.
This cave is one of its kind in India and is open to tourists between 10am and 5.30 pm everyday.
York is a city that is rich in heritage and offers a vast range of historic attractions. This city was founded by the Romans in and then captured by the Vikings in . Finally in AD 954, King Edred managed to reclaim York in his successful attempt yo complete the unification of England.
Clifford’s Tower was originally constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a statement of power over the region. This building was originally a wooden construction that stood for just over a century before being burnt down during one of York’s bloodiest and most tragic moments, when, in 1190, the entire Jewish community of York consisting of 150 Jews were massacred at this site.
The City Walls surround the heart of York. This is the longest medieval town wall still standing today in all of England. It is 3.4 kilometers in length and can take up to 2 hours to walk around at a leisurely pace.
York Brewery opened in May 1996. This brewery produces 4 ales all year-round. It is located in central York and offers tours of its facilities to the public. The guide and the employees were extremely friendly and a lot of fun to spend time with.
York Minster is the second largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. It took almost 250 years to complete this massive structure. This cathedral had 3 towers that are 250 feet high. York as a whole, and particularly the Minster, has a long tradition of creating beautiful stain glass, some of which date back to the 12th century.
The Original Ghost Walk of York is believed to be the first exclusive ghost walk in the world. With tickets priced at just £5, this is a walk anyone visiting York should experience. The walk starts at 8pm outside the Kings Arms ‘the pub that floods’. As the group gathered we were first introduced to our guide, Mark Graham. Dressed completely in black this man has the perfect scary storyteller voice. As he took us from one site to the next I found that the most amazing thing about his stories were the historical facts he was able to provide. This made everything so much more believable. At the end he gave us the option of rubbing his ‘head’, the head of his walking stick, for good luck. Overall I had a very enjoyable time and recommend this walk for all those who visit york.
After a good nights rest we headed on to Jaipur, Rajasthan. Our first stop was at the Jal Mahal (meaning water palace)-
The view of Maota Lake and Garden from Amer Fort.
We then visited a weaving center near by and got to see the artisans at work. As evening approached we wandered back into the city just to find ourselves in the middle of a large procession on elephants, camels and horses…
This state has so much to offer. Cant wait to go back…
En rout to Kargil we witnessed a driver take a turn a little to sharp and his car fell into the drain. The truckers who had stopped for lunch nearby walked over and lifted it out of there with such ease it was impressive! We continued on to Srinagar and rested for the night.
The following day we stopped at the Kargil War Memorial had a filling breakfast and continued on to Amritsar.
Here we visited the Golden Temple. It is a Sikh Gurdwara that was built in the 16th century.
We then headed down to Agra to spend a day taking in all the beauty of the Taj Mahal.
On the 20th of August we began our journey into Nubra Valley.
As we made our way over the Khardung La pass there was a small landslide that had occurred. We were held up at the top of the pass. We spent our time talking to the army personnel who were around.
They all seemed to be very amused with the fact that a woman was driving three men all over the country.
After about an hour we heard a blast and a few minutes later we were on our way down. We spent the night at Diskit, the capital of Nubra Valley.
The next day we went to the Diskit Monastery.
It is the oldest and largest monastery in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh. There is a 106 foot tall statue of Buddha located on top of a hill below the monastery. The statue is positioned facing the Diskit village. It is said to protect the village, to prevent further war with Pakistan and to promote world peace.
As I sat in the car waiting for the others to come down I got a chance to talk to the taxi drivers that had got other tourists over. They all complimented my driving saying that they had noticed me driving around Ladakh and that I drove around the mountains better than most male taxi drivers. They too were highly amused by the fact that a woman could drive. They stared at me with disbelief when I told them that I was the only one in our group who knew how to drive and repair minor car problems. When the time came to leave they told me that they would look out for my car in the distance as I raced ahead of them. We wished each other safe journeys and headed on to Hunder, the land of sand dunes.
After playing around in the sand for a bit we continued on to Turtuk. This was the furthermost village we could go to in this direction as the India – Pakistan border lay just a few kilometers away. After a good nights rest we headed back to Leh.
After a long tiring drive we finally arrived at the most beautiful place I could have imagined. I parked as close to the lake as I could and wandered out. I found myself a spot and got comfortable. I sat there gazing out at the shimmering shades of blue that the lake had to offer. I had never experienced anything like this before. I had no reason to worry out here, no reason to be stressed. It was all very new to me. For a while all I could think about was why I wasn’t thinking about anything. Up here I felt like I had found a place I could call my own. With no one in sight I lay back looking up at the sky. The clouds seemed to be cleaner. The sky was a more vibrant blue. All I could hear was the steady, calming sounds made by the waves breaking on the shore.
The shadows of the clouds added to the enchantment of the mountains. As the sun set the display of clours across the sky and reflecting of the lake was spectacular. With the sun almost gone we opened a bottle of Old Monk (rum). This was a life saver! I was freezing till i finished a couple of drinks. At night the sky cleared up. I had never seen that many stars in my life. I walked closer to the lake. On the shoe for a moment it felt like I was wrapped in a blanket of stars. The four of us shared a tent that night. We were given nice warm sheets so it wasn’t hard to stay warm and cozy.
After a good nights rest I stepped out of the tent. The view was picturesque. It took me moment to remember that I had actually come to such a beautiful place. I wasn’t ready to leave just yet. Actually I didn’t want to ever leave but we had a schedule to keep to. A few hours later, as we left, we realised how close we were to so many international destinations. Maybe a road trip for another time. 😉