Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary

So the last weekend of the year we travelled to Jamnagar for a road trip,ย I had spent 4 years of my life in that city and ever since I left it as a kid I had not returned there, with junior camping in the vicinity we thought spending two days in that city would be quite okay. Wife was drooling at the prospect of buying the famous Bandhani’s from Jamnagar and I was thinking of seeing my old school and eating typical Jamnagar food. Alongside we had decided to spend some time in Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary since it was winter and migratory birds would have surely come here.

 

I had heard a bit about it, however, I must confess we did not go with too many expectations, infact one gentleman told me that 20 days back he had met someone who had gone to Jamnagar that this year very few birds have come. That did not deter me as we wanted to check it out first hand but it did tone down all expectations. I had read somewhere that some 300+ species come there and infact when legendary Bird expert Dr Salim Ali had visited Khijadiya in one day he had recorded 104 species!! However, when you go with minimal expectations you always end up with much happier moments.

 

We left for the park at 6.15 from our hotel in pitch darkness to reach the Sanctuary by sunrise, its about 25mins drive from the city centre, we got our tickets from the counter. They charge Rs. 40 if a person is going to walk, if he is in a car then its 500 per vehicle, doesnt matter how many people in the vehicle. They also charge 200 for a camera. The ticketing was smooth and the guys were pretty courteous, you can also hire a guide if you like but we didn’t hire one and decided to have some own time.

 

It is pretty rare that they allow you inside a sanctuary alone, in your own vehicle and I quite liked the idea. I know many people misuse this freedom and break the limits however, I just wanted to be there on my own waiting for any bird or animal at my own patience and whim and at the same time have peace and not get into unwanted conversations that many times keep happening when you are on safari in National parks with a guide and a driver giving you information that many times you already have.

 

We drove about stopping and spotting birds, they had arrived in plenty, we even saw more than 1500 flamingos, over 30 cranes, heron, ibis, black ibis, spoonbill, mallard etc were so many and so scattered its difficult to put a count on it. The place is blessed with birds and its difficult to list them all here, over all I think we spotted more than 35 species in about 5 hours that we spent there.

 

The place is quite and serene, surprisingly no littering around was spotted by us, there was so much peace with few visitors and the park authorities have kept things simple, they have made roads near the water bodies and put benches under tree’s so that you can go sit there and quietly wait for the birds to slowly figure out that you are not a threat and come closer. I loved the whole concept, we were short on time other wise I thought spending a whole day in a park by just paying 700 from 6am to 6pm is a steal. There is no food or drinks available inside the park so when you do go, go prepared, carry loads of water and fruits and a picnic hamper there are so many places inside where you can sit and enjoy and bask in glorious winter weather.

To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marvelling at birds and revelling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.โ€
โ€• Lynn Thomson

The more patient & silent people will probably get the birds more closer to them. I actually think that a trip simply to Jamnagar can be made with just visiting this park on the agenda. I found the place so good. The freedom, the silence, the whole place that was so full of nature kind of perked my spirits up. It seemed like a nice place to go on long walks and rejuvenate I say. People who love the peace, quiet and serene nature alongside bird watching are bound to fall in love with this place.

 

Here I have a few pictures I took there, hope you like them! ๐Ÿ˜€

 

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The park has two parts walking about would be for the supremely fit as it is a pretty huge area, taking a bicycle would be the best bet, infact the next time I go, I am taking a cycle on this park’s visit!

Common Cranes flying about

Common Cranes flying about

 

A crested lark struts about royally

A crested lark struts about royally, in its own tiny world this tiny bird is a king!ย 

Godwits are here in loads and loads of numbers!

Godwits are here in loads and loads of numbers!

Then at this far off place we saw so many flamingos

Then at this far off place we saw so many flamingos

This bunch was a little more nearer and more accessible, like me they didnt care for photo's they just kept their heads down and kept eating!

This bunch was a little more nearer and more accessible, like me they didnt care for photo’s they just kept their heads down and kept eating!

Even these folks are here in plenty and they come nearer and pose!

Even these folks are here in plenty and they come nearer and pose!

Although I have seen the Hoopoe many times before this, this is the first time I have got a proper shot of one!

Although I have seen the Hoopoe many times before this, this is the first time I have got a proper shot of one!

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Painted Storks were there as well to perk up the surroundings!

Hundreds and hundreds of Rosy Starling, Many many White breasted Kingfishers and Black Drongos were also to be seen everywhere!

Hundreds and hundreds of Rosy Starling, Many many White breasted Kingfishers and Black Drongos were also to be seen everywhere!

We even managed to spot one male and 6 female Nilgai's (bluebull) grazing about

We even managed to spot one male and 6 female Nilgai’s (bluebull) grazing about

Bird watchers are a lovely bunch, I like them, quite and unobtrusive, immersed in nature and always fancying their binoculars they all revel in places like these!

Bird watchers are a lovely bunch, I like them, quite and unobtrusive, immersed in nature and always fancying their binoculars they all revel in places like these!

This is just one spot, the park has many many spots like this, where in you can decide to sit and become a part of the surroundings, sleep, take a picnic lunch and spend time letting the birds come nearer and soak in nature

This is just one spot, the park has many many spots like this, where in you can decide to sit and become a part of the surroundings, sleep, take a picnic lunch and spend time letting the birds come nearer and soak in nature

Mandu -A conglomeration of cultures

Indian history is so vast and diverse that studying it in one lifetime perhaps is not possible, the records of such a long time are available and the fact that it is such a vast country and there is so much diversity makes it an interesting subject no end. Whilst I was taught history in school, honestly, I was not that fascinated, for in exams that would ask which year who defeated whom and all that and remember the AD and BC and all that seemed a super headache. Perhaps the system of testing instead of narrating stories was what killed it. Whilst the class would invariably be interesting, the exams would be dreaded by all of us.

 

What the history classes did not achieve was ultimately achieved by ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ย 

 

Reading these books whilst growing up is one of the highlights of my life and also a stark reminder that history always fascinated me. Especially when narrated well nothing can beat the stories from the past. So during this road trip to Pench NP, we decided to drop anchor at Mandu for a day.

 

Mandu, previously known as Mandavgadh, is an amazing location, ideally to be visited in Monsoon, is an amazing conglomeration of cultures and tells you so much about India’s diverse history. The story of invasions, prosperity, art and culture booming, eventually cultural invasions and most spectacularly even architectural conversions!!

 

As our guide narrated, originally founded by Raja Bhoj, Mandu was once a prosperous town, well populated and pretty educated and liberated society. It is said even the then lowly considered weavers would be able to write shloka’s in Sanskrit back then, that high was literacy during the times of Raja Bhoj in the 11th century. Eventually as the centuries passed, it was won over by the Afghans, the Ghuri dynasty was established and began Mandu’s golden age. (source : wiki)ย ย The subsequent take over the the Khilji’sย and during the reign of one of its most colourful king Ghiyas ud din who buillt a harem of almost ย women to equal the number of wive’s Krishna had (as per our guide) tells you how many tales this place holds.

 

The most popular story, which has been told a lot and even has had a popular hindi film made on is of the romance between Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati. The tale as narrated by the guides here is stuff of so many unbelievable happenings and makes you wonder as to how the people of that generation thought. The entire truth again is probably lying somewhere in between. How a Muslim king and a Hindu princess fall in love, their palaces which look to have been ย built for practicing and performance of music and dance, the Rupmati pavilion built for her to worship the Narmada river before she ate anything overlooking the Narmada valley tells you of splendors and whims of the rulers of that era.

 

Mandu today has several World Unesco Heritage sites, its architecture from the days gone by tell you of the engineering that might have been used in those days. The swimming pools, to hot water showers, to sauna’s, numerous escape routes, the music rooms that involve telephonic technology almost are a delight to view and soak in. Do hire a good guide and do take in all the story he tells you with a pinch of salt, history they tell you might be distorted a bit, the narration however, helps build a more interesting experience. The architecture of the place as the guides show us has several traces of so much diversity Jain, Hindu, Muslim and Farsi influences are clearly visible telling you that each one came in and tried to leave their mark on history.

 

Although I visited it in March, a relatively dry and barren time of the year, ideally visit Mandu during Monsoon, not for nothing did the Mughal’s including Akbar treat this as a monsoon retreat. It is a pleasure that must not be missed. The Jahaz Mahal during the monsoon is a visual treat you do not want to miss.

 

Here are a few pics from our trip there :

On the far right is Jahaz Mahal, the entire area is flooded during monsoon, it also has a lake on its back side and appears like it is a floating palace in the monsoon. A sight you do not want to miss.

On the far right is Jahaz Mahal, the entire area is flooded during monsoon, it also has a lake on its back side and appears like it is a floating palace in the monsoon. A sight you do not want to miss.

The Jahaz mahal is said to have been a harem that housed some 16000 women, in the monsoon I am sure the Sultan boarded this ship till the rain's gave up! ;)

The Jahaz mahal is said to have been a harem that housed some 16000 women, in the monsoon I am sure the Sultan boarded this ship till the rain’s gave up! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Hoshang Shah tomb made of marble that is said to have inspired the architect's of Shah Jahan who were responsible for the Taj Mahal

The Hoshang Shah tomb made of marble that is said to have inspired the architect’s of Shah Jahan who were responsible for the Taj Mahal

The walking path in the Rani Rupmati Pavilion

The walking path in the Rani Rupmati Pavilion

This used to be the swimming pool in Baz Bahadur's palace, amazing is how they managed the water cleaning system and all.

This used to be the swimming pool in Baz Bahadur’s palace, amazing is how they managed the water cleaning system and all.

Hindola Mahal, the place where the women kept in the harem would entertain themselves on swings.

Hindola Mahal, the place where the women kept in the harem would entertain themselves on swings.

The hindola mahal from inside, said to have had huge swings in its time.

The hindola mahal from inside, said to have had huge swings in its time.

A perspective of Jami Masjid in Mandu

A perspective of Jami Masjid in Mandu

Mandu is a delight for any photographer! A must visit place

Mandu is a delight for any photographer! A must visit place

The wanderlust in you will love this place over looking the Narmada Valley!

The wanderlust in you will love this place over looking the Narmada Valley!

 

Sarafa Bazaar – Indore

Caution : Do not read if on empty stomach. This post contains harmful photo’s and details if you are on a diet!

 

There are markets and malls and then there are Sarafa Bazaar sort of markets, the one in Indore tells me just how much I love window shopping as well, just the right products need to be advertised! Cliche’s all I tell you that say only women love window shopping. There is just so much food available in the Sarafa Bazaar in Indore that you cannot imagine the kind of orgy my mind indulges in each time I visit it. I have to concede I have not seen any Sarafa Bazaar of this scale. My mind is unable to make a decision what to eat and what to leave for next time. There is just such a huge variety of food available that even my epic appetite has to select what desires to satiate.

 

Per se, Sarafa Bazaar, means a Bullion Exchange, however, this bazaar for me has nothing to do with Gold. Indore’s Sarafa Bazaar becomes even more throbbing, happening and crowded ones all the Jewellers close shops. This is when the food stalls make their entry, as all the jewellers go home, their shop verandah’s and the whole street is littered by food stalls. Now, I have seen a lot of street markets, indulged in them, yet, this one stands apart. Two things, for me that separate it are one the fact that they are not selling the overly popular dishes, the major dishes here are not easily available everywhere else, you just have to come to Indore for them, like Bhutte ki Kees, Garadu, Sabudana Khichdi(nowhere else you get it like here), Jalebo(imarti) etc and secondly I have not seen any place where so many sweet stalls are put out on road, temporary ones at that!

 

There are a few popular fixed shops that run day and till late in the night like the Mittal Kachori/Samosa wala, Vijay ki Petis and Joshi ke Dahiwade but them apart a majority of them are temporary stalls that come to existence after the goldsmith’s have gone home after minting money. The stalls come to mint money and people make a beeline not seen during the day by the goldsmith’s.

 

Let me just list a few things you never want to miss out on if you are there :

1.) Bhutte Ki Kees (my personal favourite, I prefer it extra nimbu maarke)

2.) In winters never miss out on Garadu

3.) Joshi Ka Dahiwada – The man is a showman, the way he will feed you is completely unique. He is on youtube too if you want to see himย .ย 

4.) Vijay Chaat ki Petis – This is divinity I tell you! hat

5.) Aloo Tikki Chat

6.) Jalebo – A sort of a jalebi/imarti that is as fat as your thumb! One piece does it for 5 people!

7.) Rabdi with Malpua.

After having eaten all these if there is still space in your belly, there is Sabudana Khichdi, Samosa’s, Kachaudi’s, Kulfi’s, Kala Jamun’s(hot), GulabJambun’s (hot), MoongDaal Halwa(hot), Gajar Ka Halwa(hot & seasonal), Pizza, PavBhaji, Cheese Faafda’s, Dosa’s, Fruit Chat, Chinese, Pani Puri and Chats & Bhel Pakodi’s and what not, the list really is never ending!

 

But yes one thing you will need before you do any of this is drink a Jaljeera first! ๐Ÿ˜›

 

The sheer scale of food that is available in this small market of that you can walk through in a matter of 3 minutes, that is if you can beat the crowd, isย surely going to flood the place with your drool! ย This place opens at around 8-9 in the night and goes on well till about 2 am in the night. When you are there you cannot comprehend how many people are eating at this ungodly hour! The market is throbbing and bustling with gluttony in the middle of the night! You just have to go there to see and believe what I am talking about.

 

Indore is called the food capital of Central India, I don’t think anyone can contest that, I mean apart from the Sarafa Bazaar there is another such crazy hangout zone called ‘Chappan Dukaan’ (meaning 56shops)ย obviously of food all lined up. The highlights are just unending you know, be it Laal Balti ki Kachaudi or Johny ka Hot Dog or Daal Baafle, the Indori’s are oneย crazy foodie bunch I tell you, from morning Poha Jalebi or Poha Ussal’s to the Malpua’s late in the night! The amount of Namkeen, Sweets, food these people consume is stuff of legends. These folks have my respect I tell you!!

 

If ever you happen to be going to the Hindustan Ka Dil, Heart of Incredible India, as MP tourism dept puts it make sure you are spending atleast 2 days in Indore for just indulging a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜€

 

Here are a few pics of the foodie heaven of Sarafa Bazaar from a couple of days back when I was passing through and I stopped specially for this.

Perhaps start with a Paani Puri

Perhaps start with a Paani Puri

Thodi Bhutte Ki Kees extra Neembu Maarke ;)

Thodi Bhutte Ki Kees extra Neembu Maarke ๐Ÿ˜‰

Aloo Tikki and Bhutte Ki Kees vendor at work

Aloo Tikki and Bhutte Ki Kees vendor at work

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Aaj Kya loge ji? Kalajamun? Gulab Jamun? Ya Rabdi ke Saath Malpua!? ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜›

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Jalebi to gareeb log khaate honge.. Indori’s eat Jalebo! ๐Ÿ˜›

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The sheer amount of Ghee and Tikki’s that are eaten is awe inspiring!

If you want, we are ready with Gola's! Sirf Flavour bataiye!

If you want, we are ready with Gola’s! Sirf Flavour bataiye!

Stuck in a snow storm!

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โ€œAll Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snowโ€
โ€• Hashin, Japanese Haiku

For people like us from the plains, who are used to hot weather and pleasant winters snow is but exotic, its like something we yearn for, we look forward to seeing, touching, feeling atleast once in our lives. We look forward to going to the Himalaya’s once, above all the thing that is most on our minds is to see snow, atleast for the first time, we have never seen it, we are not sure how we will react, how it will feel and what all naughty things we will do. On my first trip to the Himalaya’s the first sign of snow from miles away on the road to Manali, we stopped and started taking pictures although it was so far and yet, we gushed excitedly, look snow!

When finally we did touch snow it was like carved ice, cold, very cold, making the hand numb-er than it already was whilst we were on our way to Rohtang Pass. As we slowly soaked the feeling of being there and actually having millions of tons of snow all around us began the fun of playing with it, making a ball and throwing it at someone, my son, my wife, my mom we all were having our first experience of snow! It was fun, like a young 10 year old I was rolling on the ground, my 60 year old mom was carving snow filling her hands and flinging it at us! We would marvel at the snow, blow air from the mouth that we could see and actually for a while we didn’t feel cold.

I am sure you can imagine how excitement overpowers your feelings and you don’t even feel cold! We had all seen snow, on another trip my wife and son experienced a snow fall, I sadly was not a part of that trip. Then came this trip to Leh, in December, on our journey back from Nubra to Leh during our ascent to the Khardungla Pass the weather as they said it was bad and we were going to get snow.

Snowfall!? Hang on, there was one person in the jeep who was not at all dreading it, he was looking forward to it! Then it slowly came, we could see flakes on the glass of the windshield, it was 4.30 pm, we were late, we had to cross Khardungla soon and get to Leh before it got really dark. So they wouldn’t stop to enjoy the snow, the Kashmiri driver, our guide from Nubra all said lets not waste time and lets do what is safe. I obliged, sitting on the window, I would roll down the glass from time to time, try to catch some flakes, marvel and sigh! Phew!

Eventually, at one bend, the Innova wouldn’t climb, it would slide, that was scary I must admit, it didn’t look like the car was under control. The temperature must have been I am quite sure less than -30 degree celsius and it was decided the car tyre needs to be applied with chains. Everyone eventually got out, no points for guessing who was the first one out! I had to feel the snow, falling on my face! Whilst most of the people were busy getting the chains on the tyre, a herculean task I tell you, I was busy absorbing my first snow fall, soaking it all in, clicking pictures and just dwelling in the moment. A cigarette came out and I smoked to glory!

Brrrr…. eventually the cold bit through bringing me back to reality, the toes inside the shoes and two pairs of soaks seemed to have gone numb, I couldn’t feel them. The other hard working parties had successfully applied chain to one tyre but it seemed the chain on the other tyre was just not long enough, the fingers so numb and trying to pull iron in such weather was no mean a job! It just wasn’t happening and everyone was freezing, it was almost 5pm now. Our guide fired the driver for not having proper chains and not putting them on earlier when he asked him to do so eventually said we must return.

Khardungla was just about 10 kms away, we had to go back 125 kms and yet, that was the smart thing to do, go back and come back again the next day. In high altitudes, sensibility and not bravado is what makes you survive. We all returned, I must admit not at sadly, but actually pretty thrilled about the fact that we got stuck in a snow storm, braved it and actually came back to tell the tale! ๐Ÿ™‚ For us it was an experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives!

Here are a few more pictures from that day in the Snow at an altitude of approx 15000 feet in -30 degrees celsius ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ and folks those smiles are warm I can assure you that! ๐Ÿ˜€

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This is where the car gave up and refused to go any further and we had to get the chains on!

 

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and that is how you apply chains!

 

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Men at work in snow!

 

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There was nothing or no-one around!

 

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In a matter of minutes! The car was covered with snow!

 

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Fresh snow that was like powder, Ladakh is pretty dry and hence the snow doesn’t melt at all! That is all fresh snow I am standing in!

 

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a selfie with snow! ๐Ÿ˜€ Thats a first for me!

 

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Zor Laga ke Haisha!

 

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Finally we reached North Pullu a check post and from there on the snow was less, you can see the snow on the car glass yet! Phew

Cabo de Rama

DSC_5819This was my first visit to the actual tourist capital of India ! It all seems pretty trivial now, all my resistance to go to Goa and my arguments of I don’t drink, I can’t swim and I don’t eat fish so what will I do in Goa. Apparently it seems I have a genetic resistance to doing what is popular with most people, but for once I gave in and ended up with a wonderfully relaxing holiday. I guess it being monsoon Goa was taking a break from the tourist season and with very few people around it felt wonderful to be in the state. Most people insist Goa is green throughout the year and its not just the monsoon that makes it so beautiful. I just loved the bright, vibrant greens I discovered at all the places.

The above picture was taken from Cabo de Rama Fort, said to be the place where Lord Rama took refuge during his exile from Ayodhya !!! See even the God’s knew the place to vacation in India !!!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ This was a wonderful place ! Slightly offbeat, you had to trek a bit to get here but trust me the views are worth every penny err I mean every drop of sweat you spend. (There is no entry fee to see this fort.)

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I learnt about this place from the internet whilst searching short small treks that would be suitable for a 8 year old alongside and the history of the place kinda intrigued me. We hired a Activa and left for the fort after a short snooze after lunch around 3 pm. To our utter delight we discovered that Goa has a life, they all enjoy a siesta ! I truly believe people who get to sleep in the noon are actually the ones that have a most fulfilling life ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ :mrgreen: Throughout our journey from Kolva to Cabo De Rama it was difficult to find anyone to actually ask the directions !!! The whole of of South Goa was sleeping, no tea stalls, no stalls, no shops open… Tar roads surrounded by greenery all for just us !!! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

It took us around an hour’sDSC_5787 drive with two wrong turns taken one of them led us to another new chapel with a very pretty view of the sea that we discovered trying to find Cabo De Rama. That is the fun of travelling without schedules, packages and exact location knowledge ! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ It was fun all in all and the best thing about driving a two wheeler in Goa was no dust ! no mud storms… there was so much grass everywhere there was no chance for any dust… super fresh air, trees ๐Ÿ˜€

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The fort has a very sneaky hidden pass that leads to another peninsula connected to the fort which was a wonderfully secluded place and a brilliant place to sit and ponder in the pleasant evening sea breeze. Watching the sunset from there would have been ideal but we were not carrying any torches and the road was a bit tricky and with junior alongside we decided to watch the sun set from somewhere nearer to our scooter ! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Can you see the small trail below that connected the fort to this other peninsular type land. Laden with coconut trees and seriously breezy and actually quite secluded and lonely to actually even be a bit mushy ! SIGH ! ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜›

Can you see the trail that connects the other hill !!! the crossing was very pleasantly windy :D

Can you see the trail that connects the other hill !!! the crossing was very pleasantly windy ๐Ÿ˜€

This was an ideal place to just sit and gaze…. just watching the waves crashing on the rocks the palms swaying in the wind and experiencing the quiet and listening to the sounds of nature was seriously blissful !

And Hobbes I have also visited Goa now have you visited Himachal !? or Uttranchalย  !!!!! I did that !!!! I couldn’t resist the dig !
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