Paradise on Earth- Part 4

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Pahalgam turned out to be very beautiful too, with the roaring Lidder and the rocky snow clad mountains complimenting each other. After finishing our breakfast, we headed for our first destination, Betaab Valley. It is so called as it was once the location for the filming of the film, “Betaab”. It was also the background in many scenes from the Ranbir Kapoor starrer, Rockstar. To reach the valley, a detour has to be taken from the road leading to Chandenwadi. It is located beside a much calmer portion of the Lidder, and with its artificially planted forest, does give the feel of being in the UK. Although Betaab valley is slightly commercialized, it has a very calming effect on the nerves.

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Picture perfect beaches on Jolly Buoy

The Emerald Islands of Andaman and Nicobar

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The view from underwater is breathtaking. Corals, oysters, sea weeds, colored fish  and the surrounding blue water is mesmerizing. Touching endangered species such as corals are  not allowed. The best part of the sea walk actually came when we fed pieces of bread to the  fish. As soon as you hold up the bread pieces, fish of different colors gather around you and it does get a bit ticklish but it is definitely a wonderful experience.  After 20 minutes of  “seawalking”, the divers  escorted us back up to the pontoon. When you climb up, one is likely to experience  the pressure factor again . At the end of it, the whole experience leaves you spellbound and the sparkling blue water always tantalizes you to go back underwater.

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The Gol Gumbaz

A Deccan Odyssey

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On the final day we visited the Tunga Bhadra dam in Hospet which is a multi-purpose dam for irrigation and electricity generation. The dam which was completed in 1953 is a source of prosperity for farmers in Koppal and Raichur Districts.

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The retreat of the tide

The Emerald Islands of Andaman and Nicobar-II

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Our plan was to take a government ferry to Havelock and halt there for two days. For our return journey we planned to take the Makruzz back to Port Blair. We had to wake up at 5 in the morning to catch the ferry which leaves at  6:30 am. The harbour at Port Blair is lively even at these early hours as it caters to to the goods coming in from the mainland, as well as from nearby countries like Thailand. The ferry which we were to travel on, was operated by the Shipping Corporation of India. Our reserved seats in the first class compartment akin to the Indian Railways chair car coaches made our travel comfortable. During the journey to Havelock, you are free to go on deck. Travelers can hear the soothing sound of the waves hitting the craft and enjoy the vast expanse of the ocean. The blue sea, and the green emeralds dotting them, complement each other, and add to the experience. After standing on deck for 15 minutes, we decided to get a quick nap. When we woke up, the ferry was docking at the Havelock Jetty. After getting off the ship, we were picked up by a taxi our friends had arranged.  We were dropped at our hotel, a government enterprise called the “Dolphin Hotel”. There are various grades of rooms available and it is important to reserve the rooms early.You may reserve the rooms through online payment on the website. Make sure to get a sea facing cottage. The drawback about Dolphin Hotel was  that though it was set in a nice sea-facing location, it did not have a beach.There are a multitude of options to stay at in at Havelock, which suit all budgets.

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Kinnaur-The land of apples (Part 2)

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After about two and a half hours we reached Reckong Peo,or Peo, as it is popularly known. Peo is situated at an altitude of around 2200 metres above sea level and is at the base of the Kinner Kailash massif. From here, Kalpa was a short 20 minute drive and by lunch time we reached Kalpa. Our plan was to halt at the PWD rest house, which turned out to be a cottage with an excellent view of the mountains. Staying in Kalpa can be compared to living in the lap of nature. Overlooking the Kinner Kailash range, this is one of the most picturesque  hill stations one can ever visit. This quaint town was once the headquarters of Kinnaur district before it was replaced  by Reckong Peo. The collector’s office has now been taken over by the HP Irrigation Department while the old SP office is now a small police outpost. The old building of the District Hospital is visible behind the new building of a recently constructed Primary Health Centre.  From Kalpa, one can spot the famous Shiva Linga, nestled in the middle of the Kinner Kailash massif. It is a 2 day trek from Kalpa for the strong and sturdy.

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Blue sky country

Kinnaur-The land of apples (Part 1)

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On day 3, before starting off for Sangla, we were in a dilemma on whether to make the short trip to Hatu peak or not. As we had to reach Sangla before it was dark, we decided to skip Hatu peak, which is about 8 KMs from Narkanda. Thus, we hit the NH22 directly and road conditions being good, we reached the town of Rampur in about 2 hours. We refuelled the Ertiga here and noted a mileage of 15-16 KM/Litre in hilly road conditions.  After, Rampur, the highway, which was once known to the British as the Hindustan-Tibet road, leads you further on to Jeori before entering the district of Kinnaur at Chaura. After entering Kinnaur, the road, cut into sheer rock, rises steeply above the Satluj River. It follows the Satluj and is one of the most vertiginous roads in the whole country offering a spectacular view of rugged mountains.

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Raven

Paradise on Earth- Jammu and Kashmir (Part 3)

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We passed the first town enroute – Ganderbal, within an hour. It was after Ganderbal that the real beauty of the drive commenced. After Ganderbal, the snow-capped Himalayas greeted us bang on. Every turn gave us panoramic new scenes, which always seemed to better than the previous one. Complimented by the untouched beauty of the Sindh River, the landscape was picture perfect.

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Paradise on Earth-Jammu and Kashmir (Part 2)

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These floating pieces of land are used by the landowners to do some kitchen gardening and are bound to the floor of the lake through a long pole. The boatman informed us that often these floating pieces of land are stolen in the stealth of the night and the police are left with no alternative but to register a case of ‘stolen land’!

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