To heaven and back-is even a lifetime enough there?

I realized a few days back that other than dancing like I’m in a trance, traveling is what gives me peace and contentment, next. And of course I’m not talking about traveling to work, but travel which includes exploring new places, people and of course food 😉 And this is an account of yet another such travel to a destination we had marked as part of our earlier ‘places to visit in India’ checklist- Ladakh! Even now, 2 days after our return, sitting in my office cubicle, waiting for my next meeting, all I can think about is that place and how even 10 days seemed too little.. J

So, after a very hectic week (all IT guys working with an Indian IT company would know how difficult it is to get leaves approved for more than 3 days ;)), the day of departure finally arrived and was I glad or what?!!! To be frank, I was still a bit nervous, since I’ve started getting skeptical about getting too excited about anything these days, less it falls apart, and with all the news of bad weather and landslides, I decided not to get too excited until I actually set foot at Leh 😉 hehe. We left Pune on Friday, 6th July 2012 and flew to Delhi first. Reached Delhi at 3 am in the night (stupid Go Air flights) and had to leave again at 6 am to catch our morning flight to Srinagar. We (Pinks n me) met the remaining group – Nevielle and Lampu at the airport at Srinagar itself and after a very boring wait of 2 hours at the airport, finally hopped on to our cab and checked in at Feroz guest house (I have mentioned a breakdown of the rates at the end of this article). After freshening up, we left to check out Srinagar…Our driver and co driver (his cousin) were both Muslim guys and were absolutely amazing! They were funny and caring and very polite and ensured we had a great time sightseeing J So in Srinagar, we went to a few gardens – Chashmeshahi, etc., had lunch at Mughal darbar (definitely recommend the rista for meat lovers..Simply yumm), and ended it with a shikara ride over Dal lake at sunset. Our first night at Kashmir was a success, and we opened the bottle of Teachers and had a round each to commence the most important leg of our journey the next day-a 2 day road trip to Leh!
We made an early start for Leh on 7th July 2012 at 8:30 am, stopped over at a roadside dhaba at Gunderbal district on the way for a hot and much awaited breakfast of paratha, puri, chhole, maggi and tea (I did mention traveling for food earlier you see ;)).
Our tummies full, we set off towards Sonmarg, where we would be stopping for lunch later. The drive to Sonmarg was simply beautiful. The road was smooth and lined with ice topped mountains, green pine trees on one side and the flowing river on the other side..I knew we were on the right track to heaven then 😉

We reached Sonmarg at 12 pm and went on a horse (although mine looked more like a poor pony) ride along the glacier mountain. Personally, I think I would’ve preferred to walk up, since by the end of the ride my bum was bruised with the hard saddle and the upward walk on top of my poor old pony..sigh! L We did get some respite from those hard saddles in between, where we had the option of trekking up one of the dry glaciers..but me being me (by that I mean fat and not very fit..tee hee), I had gave up after 20 steps and chose to sit on another hard rock instead, while Pinks and Lampu trekked on. I do have to mention here that those 20 minutes on that rock (even with Neveille sitting beside me) was sooo peaceful. Neither of us could talk, there was no one to see for miles, no music, no cars, no people, just the sound of the running water and the wind to give us company and the sight of those majestic mountains to entertain us, and I was captivated. I was in peace…

We had lunch at Glacier house at Sonmarg of roti, chicken, daal and coffee and the food was decent, though not as good as the dhaba breakfast was J We left Sonmarg at 3:30 pm, but sadly got stuck in a very long traffic jam at Bartal for around 1.5 hours due to the Amarnath tourists. We somehow managed to cross the long line after requesting some of the army officers there, that we needed to cross Zozila on time to go onward to Leh. We were able to touch Drass (apparently the world’s second highest inhabited place) by 7:30 pm and stopped over there for pee break and some refreshing Kehwa (kashmiri tea).
Left Drass at 8 pm (by the way, amazingly, even at 8, the sun hadnt set there!) But then started one of the worst legs of our entire road trip-the road to Kargil. I know this sounds like a serious movie Title, and trust me, we could make a really serious movie with that terrain and 5 tired souls in the middle of nowhere. The road was awful, there was no light, it was getting colder by the minute, there were no rest stops and no vehicle in sight as well! This went on for 2 hours continuously and by the time we started nearing Kargil for our night stop, I think we all had our backs and bottoms broken and bruised. It was worse for Neveille and me, since he had suffered some sort of flea infection from that horse ride and I had bruised my bottom sitting on that hard saddle for so long. We reached Kargil at 10 pm at night and checked in at this really good hotel called Hotel Zojila. Lampu and I managed to stuff some food into our tummies (don’t even ask what we had, coz it’s just not worth mentioning) and then took showers, changed and dropped dead 😀

The next morning, finally rejuvenated from the amazing sleep, I went out to our hotel balcony and was instantly awestruck with the beauty in front of me. If we weren’t short of time and didn’t have a destination to go ahead to, I swear all I would’ve done that morning was to sit on the balcony, drink in the clear sky, the huge dessert mountains and the landscape around it, simply sipping some tea and probably with a smoke. Aaahhh..bliss! But we did have a journey to complete, so after having another good breakfast of eggs, toast, paratha, sabzi and tea, we headed out towards Leh at 8:20 am from Kargil. The journey from Kargil was so much better, the landscape changes every half an hour, there were huge mountains, barren lands, sometimes rocky mountains, sometimes mountains that looked like an old man, some patches of green and even purple and absolute blue clear sky.
When you’re traveling this road, there is no need for companionship, since even in a group where 3 of us love to talk, we were all quite, since we couldn’t imagine what we were seeing.. We reached Mulbek at 10:15 am, where there is a stone sculpted with Budhha’s picture. We stayed there for pee and tea break. Now I must tell you, that this was the first place I discovered the famous Ladakh toilets-what I started calling the Compost pits! Hehehe..dont get me wrong-they’re more hygienic than most of the public toilets Ive been to, are cleaner and don’t stink as much-since people manage to put in their crap right into the hole which is around 10 feet high from another floor. I think that is used as manure for the land later, no idea though 😀 We left after 10 minutes and touched Lamayuru at 12:20 pm. Most people stop here if not at Kargil or stop here for lunch, but we decided to go ahead to Khaltse, an army check point before entering Leh, where we stopped for Lunch. Although the view as usual was breathtaking, I must say, I was a bit disappointed with the lunch at Khaltse-we had simply rice, egg curry and raajma, but it was tasteless and very spicy. I also have to mention here, that I started having a slight headache from here, which I ignored thinking it must be due to the travel stress, but later came on to realize was a symptom of AMS , which is caused due to less oxygen in the air in very high altitudes.

We finally reached Leh (after frolicking around at Magnetic hill- which actually is an optical illusion where downhill looks like uphill) and checked in at our Army guest house-Alpha mess in the heart of Leh City at 5:30 pm. A point to note here is that our entire accommodation in and around Leh was arranged at Army places, where even civilians can stay at subsidized rates, if it has been booked by an army person on their behalf. And I have to say, it is a steal. I’ll mention the room rates later at the end of my blog. We had 2 huge rooms with ante rooms and attached bath with 24×7 running hot and cold water with TVs and what not! But even with all the facilities here, everyone in the group was itching to check out the city, the cafes and the market place in general. Sadly for me, my headache earlier had worsened and I took a disprin from my friends, thinking that would curb it, but in about half an hour it got even worse and I had to rush back to the guest room to rest. The in house doctor advised us not to take any more un prescribed medicines and avoid fatty and non vegetarian food for at least the 1st day at Leh, in order to acclimatize. I was ordered to sleep off the rest of the evening and the boys got me some yummy yak cheese momos for dinner, which I happily ate and fell asleep again J

The next day was planned to stay at Leh at take it easy, since it is recommended to do so in order to acclimatize, before we venture out to further heights. So we had our travel guy arrange for our Inner Line Permits for Pangong  and Hunder, while we decided to explore the quaint little town. My headache had vanished, but the breathlessness was still there. Anyway, we had our standard army mess breakfast of toast, eggs, butter, jam and coffee and relaxed indoors the first half. We went out for lunch to a nearby German Bakery, which later became our favorite place to eat 😉 We ordered Chicken Thukpa, Lafa, Snitzel with hummus and our favorite drink in Leh- ginger lemon honey tea..yum yumm! After lunch, we left to visit the nearby places around 4 pm and went to Shanti Stupa, Spituk Monastery, Hall of fame and kali mata mandir. The Monastery and mandir were right next to each other and there were more of those colorful flags there, which I found to be my favorite contrast to the barren land of Ladakh everywhere we went J We returned back to our guest house by 7:30 and decided to have dinner inside and an early night, since we had an early start the next day.

Day 2 at Ladakh, I managed to do the almost impossible-get up at 6 am and be ready to leave by 7:30 am!! And I managed to keep up the performance for the rest of my trip at Ladakh as well!!! Wow..what all a beautiful place can make you do, you wonder right? 😉 So we left for Pangong Tso at 7:30 am and stopped in between at karu for breakfast. Had a heavy breakfast of alu paratha and raajma and of course, tea. They didn’t have any toilets at karu though, so I started to get in a bit of a discomfort trying to control my bladder until the next stop 😀 hehe Another 1 hour drive and at 10 am we stopped at an army base where I could finally let my bladder loose. I do have to digress here and mention that if you think the Army was only there for your protection, you were mistaken. Here at Ladakh, they almost play your host-making sure you are not only safe but have a comfortable and never to forget trip up there. They clear out roadblocks due to landslides, help you with directions, have free maggi and tea spots, and the cleanest toilets for women to use! Hats off to you Indian Army! Coming back to the journey, we reached Chang la pass at 11:30 am, had tea there and then finally reached Pangong Tso at 1 pm! Even from far, Pangong was a site to see! But before we could go any further, since we were on an army schedule, we had to stop for lunch-more raajma and chawal for lunch, but it was yummy. The army men gave me some garnets too-it seems the base was built on a place called ‘garnet hill’ famous for semi precious stone-garnet! Whew..and its all just lying out there in the open! Lol

We made our way to the lake after that, and well, words or even the pictures below are not enough to describe the beauty of this place. It was so peaceful and serene..and the best part was, you realize there is a place in India where there is no crowd! No noise! No filth and no traffic! You could just close your eyes and listen to the breeze and the lake actually! The lake in itself was blue like sapphire and one of the biggest salt water lakes in India. Surrounded by white sands and huge rocky mountains on the other side. Neveille just sat on the white sand for the entire time, like he was in a trance, Pinki and Lampu got busy trying to capture the beauty of the place with their cameras and I decided to remove my shoes and get my feet wet in the icy cold crystal clear lake water! Haha..We spent around 3 hours just walking around, sitting on the sand and watching the lake. You would think, what does one do there? Specially for people like us, who need some sort of entertainment all the time, who are used to the noise, people and getting bored at the drop of a hat, what does one do when you reach there? There are no restaurants near the lake, no washrooms, no music stations, no tv, no people to stare at..absolutely nothing except for that beautiful expanse of water. But even that gave us so much peace and contentment, it was a feeling that I never felt even when I thought I was having the time of my life with friends, dancing to loud music and drinking. This was an altogether different kind of high. I think Pangong was my favorite place in Ladakh. I wish we were allowed to camp there, that would have been just amazing! Imagine waking up early in the morning to that beautiful blue view..bliss! J

We finally left Pangong at 3:30 and checked in at another army guest house at Tangste. And oh my god, what can I tell you, my beautiful day just kept thrilling me more and more with more beauty! This guest house was again situated in some remote area, away from the village, right in front of a stream, surrounded by mountains and we had an entire cottage with a swing in the front to ourselves! The cottage was very modern with all the amenities you could think of, with two huge double bed rooms (the rooms even had an ante room, can you believe it!?), books to read, tv to watch, a lounge area, a dining area with alcohol and our own attendant to look after our food and other needs! Goodness..now this is what I call a vacation! 😉 So the attendant made us amazing cups of tea , which we had sitting outside until the sun set. Everyone went about doing their own thing, some went out for a walk, some decided to smoke by the river, while I settled down with one of the books there. We wrapped up the night with a hilarious game of 21 and poker and an amazingly well cooked vegetarian dinner.

The next morning we left by 8:30 am after a breakfast of paratha, alu and coffee. Wes topped on the way at the Hemis monastery (where we also had lunch, which was not that great, but would do), Thiksey monastery and Shey Palace. I really liked Thicksey monastery, since I had a very heart touching experience there. While we were exploring the monastery, I came across an elderly Tibetan duo- an old man with his mother. He had brought his mother for a Darshan there and once we greeted each other with the usual ‘Jhule’ (hello in ladakhi), he started talking to me. He spoke hindi and had such a happy disposition! And we found a connection too, when I told him I came from Pune and he mentioned his son worked in Bombay! What a small world. Afterwards, he offered me this white silk sloth, which Lampu explained to me is generally given by Buddhists as a sign of appreciation or a token of friendship . I was touched J (By the way, I also went to the toilets at all these places..heheh)  Reached back at our Leh guest house by 5:30 pm. Ventured out again at night for dinner and this time had dinner at this place called Wonderland café which was full of foreigners and had a very good ambience, but that’s where it ended. The food and service both were really bad, and since we were neither stoned nor high, it bothered us more than the other stoned foreigners there 😀

Day 4, we left our mess after a breakfast of toast and eggs by 9 am for Khardung La pass and Hunder. The roads to Khardung were much better for the first half of the journey than we had travelled so far. We stopped before the pass at an army check post for tea and as usual, for me to use the washroom. After an arduous drive for an hour, we finally reached Khardung La and it was laden with snow! And the best part of it all was it started snowing there!!!! This trip was just getting better and better for me! I saw snowfall for the first time in my 29 years! We totally lost control, specially Lampu and me, and started jumping about, played with the now, threw snowballs at other tourists and then got breathless with all that jumping and laughing! After half n hour, we were told to go, since its not advisable for normal people to stay at the pass for more than that, else they would fall ill from the height, cold and lack of oxygen. So we left Khardung at 11:40 am and reached Khardong village at 1 pm. Had lunch there of maggi and momos..what yummy maggi and what amazing momos…lip smacking! Pinki and I then peed in the open with the one shielding for the other..haha! Left for Hunder and after another amazing drive and games of antakshari and word games, we reached Hunder at 3 pm. Imagine seeing a snow capped mountain and a sand dune in the same day in a span of just hours! I had rolled in the snow earlier in the day and then I rolled in the sand later…what fun! I also did get a lot of sand in my pants though, but I didn’t really care at that time. The boys went on a camel ride on one of those double humped camels, while I clicked them.

We left the sand dunes and reached our guest house for the night at Partapur by 5:30 pm. Thankfully we reached there just in time, since after that it started pouring like mad there. This place was as good as the Tangste guest house in terms of the facilities, but the view wasn’t that great, plus it was raining. So we stayed indoors, watched Sita and Gita on TV, the boys had alcohol, while I finished my book in the other room. We had another yummy simple dinner and I had thought we would wish Pinki at 12, since it was his bday the next day, but the morons had had so much to drink, that we all crashed at 11 am itself J

On 14th July, Pinki’s 31st bday, we left Partapur at 9:30, after another yummy breakfast of alu parath and tea. Stopped by at Diskit monastery on the way, where Pinki and Lampu went inside, but Neveille and I preferred to stay outside and just sit and talk about random stuff. It felt so good though J
On our way back, we stopped over again at Khardung La, and had lunch of maggi and tea there. The trip was almost over, and we reached back at our guest house in Leh by 4:30 and just chilled out for a while. Lampu went and got a plum cake to cut for Pinki’s bday, and Neveille got him a Tshirt which said ‘I got Leh’d’..heeh (which by the way, I have snitched from him now ;)) We celebrated his bday indoors with a couple of drinks and went out for dinner later to a place called ‘Mintokling-apple garden’. Again, the place was pretty with apple trees and candles and lamps, but the food wasn’t that great.

Finally on our last day at Leh, we just walked around the city, picked up knick knacks for our friends and family and had another amazing breakfast at our favorite place-the second german bakery near our guest house. I had cheese and mushroom omelette with my favorite ginger honey lemon tea and we had another amazing lunch of oven baked thin crust pizzas at la Pizzeria.

We lulled away the afternoon at that place which had low lying cushions to sit on overlooking the Leh mountains…sigh! We were all quite and quite sad really, that we had to leave that beautiful place with its beautiful people and return to our so called action packed mundane lives. But all good things do come to an end right? We had an early dinner at the guest house and left the next morning at 6 am by flight from Leh to Delhi.

P.S.: Although we have managed to tick this off our list, Priyank and I have made a pact, that if we’re still alive and together when we grow old, we’re going to come back here again, but on bikes this time 😉 aha!

A wedding and an anniversary

A wedding and an anniversary – in God’s own country: Kerela!

One fine day, Pinki and I made a list utilizing the office resources of places we wanted to visit in India and the top two destinations on our list were at polar ends of the subcontinent – Leh in the north and Kerela in the south J

Luckily for us, cupid struck and two of our closest friends fell in love and decided to get married in Kerela! What better excuse to visit this beautiful place than to celebrate our second wedding anniversary (yeah, we managed to survive two years together! ;)) and a wedding?! So, as usual, Pinki the husband did all the research and booking and travel plans on how we’d make the most of the few days that we had in Kerela. All I did was day dream, until the day to travel arrived 😉

We left on 26th November 2011, Saturday morning..caught the Volvo to Mumbai and got a flight to Cochi. Reached Cochi at around 6 pm and our adventure began. Dad had arranged for our pick up and stay at the Naval guest house at Kochi. We were promptly picked up from the airport and dropped at our guest house. All during the way, we both had our cameras out (me with my tiny Canon and Pinki with his professional Canon DSLR..ahem), and tried to click in the Cochi city flavor and culture. We finally reached the guest house around 6 pm and simply loved the place! The rooms were spacious like a 5-star hotel and it was right facing the sea front! What more could’ve we asked for?!! And then we realized, we could’ve asked for an English speaking attendant 😉 hehe.. The care taker’s name was Jojoba..(not pronounced like ‘hohoba’ , by the way) and we had to communicate with him using our hands and expressions..so much for living in the 21st century..sigh!

So, we unpacked, freshened up a bit and head out in the car to the city center to try out some authentic south Indian dosas and idly and chutneys. Unfortunately for us, it started pouring by the time we reached the city centre, which made it almost impossible for us to walk around, since we had forgotten to get umbrellas for the journey L So we had to run to the nearest joint we could get and ate roast chicken with parotha there, which wasn’t too bad really. By then, the rain had slowed down a bit and we started walking around a bit more, still in search of the authentic dosa chutney combination. We found a restaurant finally in an alley way, and settled in-being the only two people to eat there that early in the night..hehe..and what do you know – the minute we ordered, the lights went out! I was really afraid initially, since we were alone there in a strange restaurant with no lights and scary looking men outside, but the fear turned into an interesting god given candle light dinner of authentic south Indian idlies after all! What luck! J

So interesting candle night dinner, and another short walk in the rain, a ride back along marine drive in the car, we were back at our guest house to crash-after all, our journey was yet to start! So we watched a couple of movies and snugly went off to sleep in the cozy room to the sound of rain and the ocean next door J

Early next morning, with a breakfast of bread, omlette and awesome filter coffee, our bags packed, we left in our hired cab around 10 am to Munnar. The ride to Munnar was an experience in itself, starting with palm trees when we leftcochin, to waterfalls, winding roads and beautiful ghats while nearing Munnar. We stopped on the way a few times for water, pee breaks and taking a few pictures at a waterfall (while I was busy hogging away on cut pineapples and banana chips ;)) We finally touched down at Munnar after a drive of around 6 hours and we thought we had entered heaven! The roads were smooth like butter, there were hardly any vehicles or people around, the clouds were hanging down on the road and everywhere you could just see green tea plantations or just green! We had booked our stay at this lovely homestay called ‘Reinberg’, so we checked in there. Now, before I move on to the better parts, a bit of a traveler’s distress here-it was after we reached Munnar that we were made aware of this weird logic of hired cars charging in Kerela – they don’t charge by the km per se, but charge double or to and fro to a destination. So if you’re planning to go fromCochin– Munnar- Allepey – Gurvayur-Cochin (which was our plan)- you had to shell out money forCochinto Munnar (to and fro), Munnar to Allepey (to and fro) and so on..even if you were actually not making those trips! Insane isn’t it! And with all the strikes happening in Munnar at that time, I think most of our travel expenses went on just paying the hired cabs! So I’d suggest either planning a journey so you can make most of it by train, or going in a group, so it’s not as painful on the pocket 😉

All right- back on lovely vacation track- so our room at the homestay was quite simple really, small room for 2 with an attach bath with geyser, blankets and a small TV. It overlooked the town below and had an outside table if you wanted to have your meals outside. They didn’t cook meals at home, so you have to ask the porter to get you something from the market, which is fine as well really J

So we dumped our bags in the room, freshened up and headed down to the town centre for lunch and to explore our trekking options nearby. Munnar town is a very small little place filled with shops that sell sweetmeats and banana chips or umbrellas or road side cafes (the Indian kinds and not the pretty European kinds ;)) and one can easily walk around the entire town in half an hour! You’ll also see a lot of tourists – either honeymooners or lonely trekkers or foreigners flocking the town. We settled to eat at a café which was packed and devoured the fish biryani, dosa and chicken curry and how can I forget – the masala chai J yummmm

Tummies full, we bought 2 umbrellas from the local market, since it was perpetually raining there and we had very conveniently forgotten to pack ours :-/ and set of to trek around the town a bit. Now in Munnar, you cant do much once the sun sets, since there aren’t any street lights or night life- so its best to spend most of your day trekking out so you can come back home by sun set and enjoy a quite and relaxing evening in your room either with some home made wine or filter coffee or masala chai – whatever your heart desires then 😉 We stuck to tea and coffee during the day and the amazing home made port wine to keep us warn at night 😉 So we walked a lot, walked when it didn’t rain, walked when it was pouring, walked through unknown territories, walked through the town and back and just walked! It was amazing and I had never had so much fun just walking! We came back to our homestay around sunset, visited a church nearby and settled in the evening with amazing dosa and wine for dinner-after all we had another big day planned ahead and needed to get all our strength back J

Although next morning was amazing, since it was chilly and raining and we gorged down on a yummy breakfast of bread, omlette, sausages and filter coffee, our porter gave us some very bad news. So there was a political tumult happening on the division of a river between Tamil Nadu and Kerela and people were protesting against who should be the rightful owner of the water (the stuff people fight over these days, really!) and due to this, there would be a two day strike in Munnar and neighboring areas, which meant no shops or public transport would be running from 6 am to 6 pm! But adventurous that we were feeling, we didn’t let that dampen our spirits and decided to take our porter’s suggestion of sight seeing the nearby areas in a shared auto! Yes you’re right – we braved the strike and went sight seeing in Munnar in an auto! Hahah! It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since we felt like VIPs moving through absolutely empty streets and lanes and shops! So we covered a lot of places that day – walked and ran on the tea gardens, took lots of pictures, saw a big tree of bee hives, had maggi and masala chai at a small road side shop (which was just yummy by the way), went to a flower exhibition (just breath taking the amount and variety of flowers they had), visited a lake which was also an echo point and wrapped it all up with the blue mountains (no, not the one in Australia)- these mountains are famous for their wild deers and blue flowers that bloom once in 8 years I think, which give the mountains that color (unfortunately we could just see the deers, since we hadn’t gone during the bloom season), but it was still fun trekking along misty mountains.. J

We came back to our homestay, and our porter told us there were some kathakali shows happening in the town  -Kathakali is the state dance of Kerala and famous for their dancers using masks to enhance their facial expressions – it’s a very difficult dance form, not due to the dance moves per se, but due to the amount of practice and talent you need to control your eye and facial muscles to convey various emotions. So tourist mode that me and my husband were in, we decided to go for it- the show was for around 45 minutes, where they showed us an introductory round of different feelings first, and then enacted an entire play. The experience was beautiful and frightening at the same time and we were completely blown away by the talent these performers had!

We packed ourselves some more dosas and biryani for the night, ordered in some more port wine and prepared to leave at 2 am in the morning for Allepey. Now, it’s not necessary that you have to leave Munnar at this ungodly hour, but due to the strike, our porter warned us that all roads out of Munnar would be blocked from 6 am in the morning, and if we wanted to keep up with our plan, it would be best to leave early, so we would have crossed the border before the strike blocks were put in place. So sleepy eyed, husband and wife braved the cold rainy night with blaring malayalam music (our cabbie had to stay awake right? So he had rolled down the windows and blasting away his music) for the next 5 hours! Whew, talk about adventure…we reached Allepey in the wee hours of the morning and decided to freshen up at another homestay room until it was morning and we could get to our houseboat. So we were up and ready by 10 am, but unfortunately for us, the strike was there at Allepey too! Talk about bad luck..so since there were no autos or cars to take us to our houseboat, we had to piggy back behind two bikers with our luggage to be ferried to our houseboat! Interestingly, we weren’t the only ones who had to travel this way since we saw a lot of foreigners on bikes being ferried to their respective boats as well…I must say, these stupid strikes made our trip inconvenient, but adventurous at the same time 😉

We finally reached the houseboat Priyank had booked for us-so initially our plan was to spend the night at the houseboat, but we found out that our houseboat was one of the cheaper ones and wasn’t air conditioned, and they would dock at the pick up point bay during the night – now this bay was at a very dirty and congested place, with flies and mosquitoes around and even in winters it was very warm and sultry. So we decided to just go ahead with the day trip and cut our trip short a night earlier, so we could relax one night at Gurvayur (where our friend’s wedding was taking place and where they had arranged a very good accommodation for us).

So, we kept our bags in the houseboat and chugged away on to the beautiful Kerala backwaters to celebrate 2 years or being married-yes, our second anniversaryJ. We were given some soft drinks as welcome drink on the boat and were introduced to two old men – one the chef (and he seemed to be a very good chef with the recommendations we read and later with the food we tasted) and the other, our Captain and he called himself ‘the Captain’ too! Wonderful and friendly men they were, kept talking to us and giving us our space whenever we needed it. We just lounged away on the deck the entire time, taking in the peace, the quite and the beauty of the back waters – it was warm and breezy and very relaxing the entire time. We saw lots of other boats, mostly with either honeymooners or foreigners soaking in the sun, passed through villages on the waters, which reminded you of an Indian Venice, and saw a huge flock of baby ducklings being shepherded by fishermen for their eggs..they were just adorable! J

We stopped over around mid day at a local floating fish market where you can choose what seafood you want to eat for lunch, along with the usual fish fry and chicken and other vegetables – so we bought ourselves 4 big king prawns and god were they king size! So while our chef/cook was busy making us an amazing meal, our ‘Captain’ took us to this ayurvedic massage place so we could get a relaxing oil massage and build up an appetite as well 😉 Since we didn’t have a lot of time, at 400 per person, both of us got amazing back massages done and it just felt heavenly! I could’ve fallen asleep there! Finally, our lunch was ready and it with our ravenous appetite now, we devoured the yummy food and it was totally worth it! We set off again, and tried to digest our huge lunch by just lazing on the deck while the Captain navigated through wider areas in the back waters where the breeze was even better. At around 4ish, our wicked Captain felt like treating himself and us to the local alcohol – toddi..it’s similar to feni that you get inGoa, but made of fermented coconut water. Apparently, its best had when its freshly brewed and you can easily drink up an entire bottle since it actually tastes like pungent coconut water! But we didn’t want to risk our tummies, so we had a glass each, just to know what it tasted like, accompanied by our evening snacks of banana fry and fish fry..yes, food again, gluttons that we were 😉

Finally, our lovely day and anniversary was nearing an end, and we docked back at the bay around 5 pm. Our cab was ready to take us to our next destination – Guruvayur, where we would attend a typical Kerela-Andhra wedding of two of our close friends.

The trip to Guruvayur took us longer than the earlier road trips, and by the time we touched the town, it was almost 10:30 pm. I was tired and hungry and desperately longing for a nice air conditioned room to sleep and some good food to eat. Before I dive in further, a brief on Guruvayur – this is actually a religious destination in Kerala famous for its Guruvayurappan temple – an avatar of Lord Vishnu. The temple is very renowned in the South and people come here all through the year to take the blessings of the Lord. Marriages done here are given special blessings; hence, our friends couldn’t have chosen a better place to get married. This place is totally non vegetarian and tourists are advised to wear covered clothing to respect the Lord and his devotees present there. Coming back to my story, luckily for us, the hotel our friend had booked us into was just what we needed. The rooms were clean, spacious and air conditioned, the bathrooms were clean and very big and the service was good as well. The hotel had an in house restaurant which was luckily open when we went in, so we quickly ordered some idly and dosa and watermelon juice and finally relaxed. We went for a short walk to stretch our legs around the town and finally crashed on our lovely soft beds in the hotel.

Next morning, we woke up late, had breakfast, lazed around a bit in the hotel room finally headed off to our friend’s engagement ceremony after lunch. It was a usual ceremony, but was good to catch up with other friends there – weddings in Indiasomehow are always fun with all the colors and yummy food, as long as it’s not yours! Lol J After the ceremony and dinner, we walked back to the hotel again to get an early night, since the wedding next day was early in the morning. Next morning, we got ready in our ethnic wear and had a great time at the wedding. It was quite simple, but there were a lot of ceremonies which were quite different from an Oriya or North Indian wedding that I have attended. We had an amazing south Indian buffet for breakfast and totally stuffed ourselves! Since we had an early flight to catch fromCochin, we had to leave the wedding towards the end, and take a cab back toCochin. The ride back toCochin was quite short and we made in good time and reached the airport.

Finally, it was time to board our flight back to Mumbai and bid farewell to God’s own country –Kerala…

The Metallica Experience

THE METALLICA EXPERIENCE

WHEN: 30TH OCT 2011

WHERE: BANGALORE PALACE GROUNDS

WITH: PRIYANK, RICHI, SHAWN, DAHIYA AND PALASH

When I was depressed and suicidal in Delhi, during my unemployment period, I sat down one day in my dingy Malviya Nagar garage home and wrote down my bucket list to give me strength to get through that period. And one of the items on that list was to watch Metallica- Live in concert!

Almost 2 years down the line, I’m out of the most shitty period of my life and everything seems to be going smooth in my life for a change (except for this strange problem where I need to rush to the loo very often), that this chance finally came! And what do you know, we didn’t even have to plan or save enough money to go outside the country like we had expected, but the Gods came down right next door to our City!! India and that too Bangalore!! It was as if my dreams were going to be realized any time now, but the pessimist in me didn’t want to believe in anything good until it really happened.

So as expected, until the last minute, I was unsure if I’d actually get to see them sing for me…in front of me. It started with a delay in the tickets first, when we finally got it, we heard the awful news about how the crowd went berserk in Delhi where Metallica was supposed to open their performance to the F1 race, following which, they cancelled their concert in Delhi in lieu of safety concerns! So Priyank and I, with heavy and hopeful hearts, piled onto our train to Bangalore. The train performed its share of mishaps by running over a bull at night and having a short circuit, but we managed to reach Bangalore safe and on time! J

The time for ‘THE METALLICA EXPERIENCE’ was nearing with each passing minute and as we went in our hired car to the destination, on every mode of transport you could see- bus, auto, cars, bikes- all we saw were young people in Black-also going to the concert. Thankfully, we had the insight to eat a heavy lunch and reached the grounds at 4:30 pm…Gosh…Just seeing the swarm of people buzzing like black bees in search for their honey gave me goose bumps! It was totally chaotic and the crowd was suffocating me with their sheer number and zombie behavior induced by all the weed…But somehow, we managed to squeeze in through this buzzing crowd and got a spot quite close to the stage. Obviously, all was not be to be well, knowing me and my tantrums-so I started feeling the crowd coming upon me from every side, my heart started constricting and I thought I was going to be suffocated to death before seeing Metallica! I was in such a dilemma, I’d come to a concert for God’s sakes! There were going to be people and this is not a private show that Metallica was going to do just for me! But no matter what my brain said, my chicken heart wasn’t able to cope up. And that’s when I realized I had two amazing people to take care of me J My husband and my little sister stood beside me like rocks and even agreed to go a little further behind, so I’d get some breathing space! And all this without any complain..Just love both of them for being there that evening…

So, on came a Scottish band ‘Biffy Clyro’ to open for the Gods and gosh, some energy they had! They sounded a lot like Greenday, but they were amazing! And to top their energy, the rain Gods decided to give us a visit as well…so all the animals in the animal farm were given a healthy dose of water to wash out their tiredness for around an hour. We were all drenched, but were enjoyed every minute of it. Rain, weed, muddy grounds to walk on and music- we had our own little India Woodstock happening that evening! But Biffy left the crowd a bit too soon, and the crowd was left to the sound of their own cacophony for a good hour. Thankfully, Richi, Priyank, me and Dahiya had our own dose of lame jokes and snide remarks to pass and kept ourselves entertained and alive until the Gods arrived. But our torture wasn’t to end so soon- On comes this big fat bald American with a goatee urging the crowd to move back and make more space. He kept repeating, ‘Tonight our motto is –Safety First’ and we thought he might just take out a large condom to explain what he meant. Gosh, I must say, the Delhi guys managed to scare the shit out of these guys- for all their songs on darkness, fear and faith-unfortunately, My Metal Gods seemed a bit too human to me in those minutes, with their desperate plea for security. So, after a traumatizing hour listening to Mr. Safety First’s monotone, crowd – who had been standing in the slosh without food or water (in fear of losing their spots) with aching muscles, decided they had had enough and made sure that they complied with what this guy wanted, so we could just get on with the bloody concert! Haha!

Finally, the clock struck and at 8 pm…THEY CAME!! METALLICA – James, Lars, Kirk and Rob- They came and we saw! I saw! Oh and what a sight it was! They sang – I heard, and Oh, what a sound it was! For a bunch of 50 year olds, I would salute their energy! They played and conquered and entertained the crazy crowd that we were for over 2 hours!!! They were relentless! Lars and Rob just stole the show with their antics…and I think I had a crush all over again on a 48 year old married man-James-Forgive me for my sins Oh God…but the way he sang, I just couldn’t take my eyes or ears off him. Kirk was the subdued chilled out guitarist who played like the Gods, but kept his feet and head on the ground..\m/..I had goose bumps the entire 2 hours and was so excited that I thought I peed in my pants, but I just wouldn’t want to move from there. They had me mesmerized and wanting for more-and by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one who was cast under their spell! Lo and behold was a crowd of 50,000 high on weed and Metal, singing along with the Gods as if we were in an ashram and chanting our hymns together and asking for an encore so we don’t break the wall of surreal energy that has us in a trance…They played Creeping Death, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Fuel, Ride the Lightning, Fade to Black, Cyanide, The Memory Remains, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Sad But True, All Nightmare Long, One, Master of Puppets, Blackened, Nothing Else Matters, Enter Sandman, Am I Evil, Battery, Seek and Destroy..Whew!!!

But like all great things, this had to come to an end as well-no matter how much we pleaded, we knew we were running out of energy and we definitely didn’t want our Gods to feel lousy after visiting us. We gave them a goodbye to remember and they gave us a show to remember…and as I walked out of that ground, in the darkness of the night, with an army of tired craving souls like me, each in his thoughts of the night- I couldn’t help thinking and smiling to myself- that I finally conquered and struck off one item from my bucket list- and Oh, what a feeling it was! J No regrets, no pain, just this strange sense of peace…

It’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve been back with Priyank, back to Pune and back to the grind..but we both seem to be living in that moment. I tried telling my friends what I felt that night-but words just weren’t enough, specially for the skeptics around me-but like Moulder, I know what I saw and what I experienced that night- the Truth and the Music! And I shall never forget that feeling…’ And the Memory Remains…..YEAH!!!! \m/’

My experiences at the ‘GYM’!

So, after a lot of prodding from my husband and friends and watching a certain bollywood damsel move her pancake flat belly like jelly, I finally agreed that it was high time I got into shape as well. And since I had no clue on how to do that by myself, other than dancing or rather jumping like a maniac to some hip hop and bollywood music, I decided to overcome my fear and made my New Year resolution to get back in shape and stay fit by going to the GYM!!

I know I know, you’d think, hey, I’ve heard of people having fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of closed spaces, fear of creepy crawlies…but fear of the gym??? Man, this gal really is bonkers! But you’d realize my fear is very genuine once you enter a real gym…as if it were not enough to enter a room full of equipment which look like they’ll trample you and squeeze every bit of life from your body the minute you touch them, there are other aspects like your co-gym-people, who for some reason always are hotly dressed and already toned and make you feel like a weird fatso the minute you enter the gym! And finally, the keepers of this hell, the gym instructors! If you thought your project managers were evil, you need to meet one of these creatures to realize what evil really is…brr…they wait in anticipation of the next unworldly soul, the next weakling who is condemned to enter their territory and oh so stealthily, they’ll pounce on their prey with their smiling faces and chiseled bodies and before you realize, they’ve chalked up a plan for you over the next 3 weeks (I guess that’s how long it takes for one to die at the gym) to rip off your flesh and soul bit by bit…hiahahahahh (evil laugh)

Day1:

So, in spite of my ‘fear of the gym’ due to the obvious reasons stated above, I decided to put on a brave front and took one last look at the corridor leading to the gym, messaged my husband that I loved him, and entered the land of no return. As if on cue, a female ‘gym instructor’ came up to me and asked me if this was my first time at a gym (‘of course it’s my first time! I don’t think anyone survives the gym after the ‘first time’! I thought...). So, after getting my confirmation, she proceeded me to something that looked like a bicycle and tuned in a program for me and said, ‘keep pedaling at 30 and do not stop until the entire program is over’ (and she could have added, even if you think you’ll die halfway through this regime, do not stop). So I mustered all my strength and gave it my best shot…. (’Ha! I’m going to show it to her that I’m stronger than her…I’ll do this and walk away victorious! In fact, this isn’t that tough at all! I’m pedaling faster than 30! At this rate, my 15 minutes will be up in no time)…Pedal pedal pedal… (‘2 minutes gone’)…Pedal pedal pedal… (‘2.1 minutes gone…man, this bicycle clock must be slow…’), and then suddenly, the program changed! The pressure on the pedals increased and to my dismay, with every passing minute it just kept increasing! (‘Ahhh…so that was her evil plan…’), but even though my speed fell down to 21 now, I kept pedaling on that godamn thing and when I got off the machine at the end, my legs turned to jelly and I thought I’d lost my legs!! Unfortunately, even after seeing my fragile condition, the ‘Gym instructor’ did not relent and ordered me to run on another scary looking machine called the ‘treadmill’ for another 15 minutes! Thankfully, God was on my side that day, and she got distracted with another ‘meek looking victim’ and I ran towards the doors and escaped!!! Whew…Survived the first day!! But just as I was starting to jump in the air, ‘she’ called from behind saying ‘I’ve made a fitness regime for you and I’ll be expecting you to be here tomorrow sharp at 7..and do not try to miss tomorrow’s session or else today’s workout will have serious repercussions on your body’ (Shit! So, this is how they trap their prey…as if every muscle in my body wasn’t already in pain!)

Day 2:

I had a meeting which went on longer, no, umm, I’m not well (who am I kidding), umm..I just ate,..Cant gym right after that right?’..arrghhh..None of these excuses seemed good enough, plus everyone would laugh at me for chickening out on the second day itself! No, this won’t do…so halfheartedly, I trudged along back to the place of no-return. But lo and behold! What do I see when I enter the Gym-no instructor! Yep, that’s right! I felt like jumping up and down like a ping pong ball with joy and relief! I decided to make the most of my newfound freedom and checked out some of those machines from afar, did some perfunctory stretches and finally got on the bicycle and took my final revenge by setting the program to the easiest one and cycled away to glory! This was definitely a turning point towards my feelings for the Gym and I thought, maybe it’s not going to be that bad after all…little did I know, that this was just the devil smirking away in the corner, rubbing his hands in glee for what was to come the following day..

Day 3:

So happily, thinking about the previous day and oblivious to devil’s plans, I entered the dreaded Gym with a gusto I never knew, once I confirmed that the instructor was not there again! What luck! Just as I settled in to cycle at my ‘lazy speed program’, one pointy finger crept up from my right and like a flash reset the program to the hardest level!! I turned to see who would dare do that, and looked straight into the evil smiling eyes of my instructor! She was back and looked as menacing as ever! These devils, I tell you, they have the faces of angels and they smile at you like it’s you they’re helping, but only I know the truth behind those smiles and those words of encouragement…I was doomed. ‘So, we’ll start with 10 minutes of cycling today, and then I’ll teach you some other exercises to tone your body’, she said, her eyes gleaming. I wondered, ‘other exercises?! Here, at the gym? God knows what awaits me’…Finally, when I finished cycling on that monstrous cycle and my legs had gone back to being jelly, she got me out in the front, so that everyone on the god-awful Gym could look at me and take delight in my slow death.

‘Stand straight and put some distance between your legs, look up straight, suck in your tummy, don’t slouch! Ok, now slowly try and squat and push your bottom outwards…More! More! Yeah, that’s better, no, don’t push yourself in front…you’re doing it wrong again…Your bum should be jutting out! Yes, that’s better, now this is called SQUATS’ said the lady instructor in strict overtones. I felt like I was a monkey at a circus with her being my ring leader, plus it wasn’t helping that every time I would have to stick my bum out, I’d be conscious of all the other gym goers looking at my fat bum! Finally, my 20-20 sets were over, but the circus performance was far from getting over. ‘Now, the next exercise is called LUNGES. Put your right leg in front, further, further, further (‘She’s trying to split me apart! Nooo!’), Yes, now stand straight so that your left leg is stretching and the foot is lifted so that the heel is off the ground, yes better, chin up, chest out, bum out! Don’t slouch!! (‘I hope this exercise ends at just trying to balance in this weird pose, man!’) Hmm, that’ll do, now do the squatting exercise with this posture, your body weight should be on your right leg when you go down, but make sure that your knee is in line with your feet’, said the lady instructor (‘now, how the hell am I supposed to do that’??!) So she said I was supposed to do 20-20 sets each, but apparently I kept doing it wrong (‘duh! Anyone would do such an awful exercise incorrectly’) and I ended up doing 30-30 instead! Hmm, maybe she was a spy or a secret service agent before she became the gym instructor, because this sure as hell is a form of advance torture technique where they slyly devise to break your knee, every time you ‘lunge’ with your whole body weight on one knee, so you can’t run! After this and some more weird exercises, I thought I’d had enough and told her it was time for my bus. ‘Oh, so soon? But it’s only been half an hour! (‘As if that wasn’t enough to kill me already’) Ok, but before you leave, you need to do 5 minutes of stretching. (‘Great! More stretching??’) Ok, so hold you right leg from the toe and bring it back to touch your hip with your heel, while you’re standing and without bending your knee. And to balance, you can put out your left hand like you’re taking a pledge in the air’, She said. Oh god! So this is the final blow…if the physical torture doesn’t kill you, resort to mental torture, humiliate your victim and make them do things they’ll never forget. I felt like a standing superman (‘make it standing shaking superman, because I couldn’t balance, even with my arm out like that!’) and I could feel everyone laughing inwardly at this ridiculous stretching pose of mine! I felt like I’d gone 6 years back in time to my engineering ragging period where my seniors had taken great delight in making me put a hand out towards the sky and jump around like a retard pretending you were superman…Sigh! And I thought I had escaped tyranny.

But, like the previous days, I managed to survive, and somehow, by the end of the 3rd day, when I reached home and took a hot shower and settled down for dinner, I felt rejuvenated! I was completely awake, and had a pretty good appetite as well. I was quite surprised. Could it really be possible that what my husband and my friends said about the gym actually being a good thing be true? Could my tyrant of a lady instructor actually be working wonders on my muscle? If I continued this strictly, could I get a fabulous body like Angelina Jolie??? (‘Ok…Even I know the last wish is a bit farfetched ;)’). With all these questions in mind and a happy feeling, I fell asleep like a baby and didn’t have to fidget in bed for an hour to get to sleep that night…amazing!

3 Months Later:

What?! Going to the Gym? And me? Oh no, that place is cursed! It is actually the real hell with those instructors being the king and the queen of the ‘Gym-underworld’, waiting for unsuspecting, unhealthy victims like me, so that they can suck out every bit of life from us! I just won’t allow you to persuade me to sacrifice my life like this, even if it’s for free and even if you say you look and feel younger because of that place. I just won’t!! See what they’ve done to you now! You look like one of ‘them’ with your toned body and that pro-gym talk. How did they manage to change you? You and I were supposed to be the ‘anti-gym’ crusaders!’ complained my friend, who’d just joined our company and moved to our city and all I could do was smile all-knowingly. Wink!

Trip to Diveagarh-19th Feb ’11

 

The entire week since Pinks told me about going on just a twosome getaway to a nearby beach, all I could think about was the beach and what fun we’ll have there! We had decided on a short trip, leaving home by Saturday (19th Feb ’11) around 11 am and returning on Sunday (20th Feb ’11) post lunch from Diveagarh (the beach we were going to).

So, before I start my version of our trip, let me brief you on the destination a bit. Diveagarh is a small secluded, non commercialized beach, around 170 kms from Pune. It is one of the Konkan beaches and became a tourist destination just recently, when a farmer found a gold headpiece of Lord Ganesha in their field! So this gold piece was established in a temple near this village and the remaining part of Lord Ganesha was crafted in brass with gold plating. So, that is how this small village with its calm and serene beach became a tourist hotspot and most people visit this place when they plan a 4 day trip to Harihareshwar, Shrivardhan and Diveagarh (they are all beaches, but popular due to religious places associated with them). The Diveagarh beach is around 7-8 km long and one won’t find any shacks or vendors on the beach (except maybe a nariyal paani wala), which in a way is a pleasant relief, since it keeps the beach clean.

So, now that I’ve educated everybody with my great knowledge on Diveagarh’s history and geography, let me start off with my experience! Finally! As usual, being a woman, I got a bit late getting ready on Saturday morning (in my defense, weekends are the only 2 days I get to sleep late!) and we managed to leave home by 11:15 am. So armed with our supply of munchies and music, we set off towards Paud road. The view and roads until Tahmini ghats is just amazing. The roads are smooth like butter with huge mountains on the left or pristine blue lakes on the right. There are a lot of cafes on the way to Tahmini as well, where travelers can stop to take in the view with a cup of tea, but we decided to carry on and stop somewhere else. So some kms down the road, we found a lovely spot where you could walk down to touch the water of the lake and it had some makeshift hay huts, where Pinks tried his photography skills while I tried to model aroundJ. Once we crossed Tahmini ghat, there were some more ghats with really huge mountains on either sides of the road, but the roads weren’t that great after that. Still, we stopped in a couple of other places on the way where we thought the view was just breathtaking to click some pictures. I have to say, that the drive does provide some good options for any photographer. We crossed an industrial area called Ville DIMC which led us to Nizampur, a small town. After that, we crossed Mangaon and Morba and finally reached our destination, Diveagarh village. Once you cross Nizampur, the ghats give way to flat lands and since we were driving during the end of winters, it seemed to be a dry and boring landscape.

So, Diveagarh is actually the name of the village and that’s the place one enters first. Thankfully, Pinks had warned me not to expect anything as bustling with life as Goa or Pondicherry and as per his words, when we entered, it was hard to believe there was a beach hidden somewhere nearby! It actually felt like we’d entered into one of Kerela’s lanes with very tiny roads, lots of cats and dainty little huts surrounded by big coconut trees. The cool breeze was a welcome change from the dry lands that we had crossed earlier and all I wanted to do was fill my tummy with some lunch (since we hadn’t stopped to eat anything on the way and we reached Diveagarh at 3:30 pm) and then check into our home stay and rush to the beach! Didn’t want to miss the sunset after all J so we found a little open hut place to eat and hogged on chapattis, lobia, cabbage ki sabzee, pickle, papad, some coconut chutney and the best part of all, fish fry! My god, I hadn’t had fish which was so fresh, so soft and completely devoid of bones in a long time. And the spices they had coated the fish with, even though a bit on the spicier side, was just heavenly! We were so hungry and being major fish lovers, we had unlimited thali and two surmai fish fries each! And all this for just 250 rupees for both of us! I thought I’d die of shock, since in Pune, you’d get 1/10th of the part of a fish for 300 rupees J So our tummies full, our next task was to locate our accommodation, which was supposed to be a home stay, i.e., people rent out rooms in their own huts in the village at very nominal rates (ours was 800 rupees for a twin sharing room per night) and provide you with fresh home cooked food. I personally feel that if you’re travelling to a small place, you’ll get the best experience of the culture and cuisine of the place at such home stays. Unfortunately, we both realized that neither of us had any signal on our cell phones! Apparently, Diveagarh does not have Airtel’s network, so travelers need to be prepared accordingly. Luckily for us, another young couple came to our rescue and lent us their phone to use. After losing our way in that tiny village (now I know why signboards are so important!), we found our home stay- ……….. The care taker was a sweet, timid fat fellow, who showed us our room. Again, if you’re one of those travelers, who just can’t do without the common luxurious resorts, then you’ll be disappointed. As I’d mentioned, this was a village and we stayed in a villager’s hut, it turned out to be a tiny dimly lit room with a small bathroom with Indian style toilet and a small area in the front where they had kept chairs and a table. I thought it was cute and quite cozy for the two of us. The room was pretty clean and surrounded by coconut trees, cows and hens. J So after dumping our backpacks and changing into the beach gear, we walked off to the beach. It was a 2 minute walk through a dense coconut tree and red sand covered path to the beach from our home stay and the minute we touched the opening to the sea, I had goose bumps all over and tried to fill in my lungs with the lovely sea water breeze. This isn’t a beach like Goa or Puri (that is in Orissa), where the waves are angry and splash you around, but it is one of those calmer beaches with a huge beach area and water which laps up at your feet. The beach had the softest and cleanest sand I’d seen (obviously can’t compare it to a foreign country or the ones at Andamans), but it is still a lovely place to walk, run, play or just sit and stare into the vast expanse of water. The only problem was that the beach was brimming with baby crabs! Not like any of them bit us or anyone else on the beach, but it’s still a bit disconcerting when you think you’re stepping on a crab while walking along the beach! Haha! So we jumped into the water, soaked ourselves, ran around like children, got tired, had a couple of amazingly sweet tender coconuts on the beach and finally settled down to watch the beautiful sunset, while Pinks tried to capture it all and try out his photography skills again. Since this beach isn’t a commercialized one, it’s difficult and not safe to linger on the beach after 7 pm. Also, the tide starts growing after that, so the water comes right up to the entrance of the beach. So we left the beach around 7, got back to our home stay, took turns to shower and settled for a relaxing night. This place again does not have a night life, and since it’s a village, I think the norm is to have an early night and not make too much of a hulla bulla. If you’re staying at a resort, then you might have a mini bar or something, otherwise, the best thing is to carry your own drinks and munchies, maybe a small portable music player, since most of the home stays allow you to drink and smoke in your rooms, but do not serve alcohol. I was content, since I got some really good quality time with my husband without the distraction of TV or anything else ;). We listened to music, talked and played 20 questions, and finally around 9 pm, had another round of very spicy, but amazingly yummy fish thali. We ended the night after a short walk around the village, which was a different experience altogether, walking along small kuccha roads with lanterns and nothing but the sound of crickets to give you company. By 10 pm, we were fast asleepJ. We woke up early next morning, did our ablutions, (which wasn’t a great experience due to the spicy food the night before), had a cup of tea and headed off straight to the beach again. It was again a lovely since the sun was just getting out, so it all looked blue and yellow at the same time, but interestingly, the beach was already full with the few tourists, either bathing in the sea, or jogging, or walking or doing something else. We went in the water again, after which I set off to look for shells as souvenirs to take back from this lovely beach, while Pinks did some more photography. We also had our breakfast of bread omelet with sweet tender coconut to quench our thirst from the same vendor! I tell you, it’s such a small place, that even he gave us a smile of recognition and asked, ‘malai wala hi chahiye na didi?’ J Finally, we got back to our home stay to shower and pack up for leaving. We decided to have lunch here itself, so satiate our hunger for fish one last time, and after stuffing our tummies again and taking some more pictures in and around the village and the beach, we set off, back to Pune and back to the city life around 1:30 pm. The journey back wasn’t that exciting, since I slept most of the way..heheh..But we managed to reach Pune by 5 pm, to a welcoming home. All in all, I give 8/10 to Diveagarh, especially as a couple’s getaway, if you want to spend some quality time with your loved one without the hustle and bustle of the city life. Not to forget a place for fish lovers to gorge on fish as well!