2014 – My Year In Travel: 8 New Countries, 7 New Places In India
While 2014 has been a year of change, what’s with leaving Google and (surprisingly!) surviving almost a year at a new job and not getting kicked despite all the traveling, the highlight of 2014 has been all the travel!
25 flights, 100+ buses, trains, and the countless local transport from KSRTC buses to autos to ferries doesn’t begin to cover it!
From unplanned weekend trips to sometimes unknown destinations in India, to impulsively booked but heavily researched vacation abroad, 2014 has seen its share of travel craziness and now.
Not to mention, from trips that cost less than ₹1000 to a Europe solo trip clocking over a lac, the pocket has taken some serious pounding too. However, no regrets. This year has been one of the most enriching, active and of course fun ones.
And what made the whole deal sweeter, right at the very fag end of it, is winning (for the first time ever!) two travel contests- both with free travel for winning booty!
While I’ve done individual blogposts on most of these trips through the year, and I’m skipping the many trips to Delhi, Bombay and Hyderabad, here’s a Listicle style review of the top 10 trips of the year.
(The photos are from Canon 7D with the 18-135 lens)
(Click on the titles to see the individual blog post on the trip)
1) Khajuraho, Pench and Orccha
What started as a weekend trip to Pench to spot some wildlife and meet a couple of friends turned into a week long adventure spanning 3 Pradeshes- Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh! While we didn’t spot any tigers in Pench, our impulsiveness landed us in the land of the famous erotic carvings of temples around Khajuraho, unheard of palaces in Orccha and of course gorging on the famous Poha of MP. This trip also marked traveling in the general compartment of a train for the first time and realising that impulsive, impromptu and unpretentious traveling is the way to go.
The day was Valentine’s day and the timing couldn’t be more perfect as we (Who’s we? Go figure! :P) spent the night lounging at the Auro beach, under a glorious full moon, sipping some wine, (And cheap wine at that, since Pondicherry being a Union territory has the cheapest alcohol ever) and going back to a sea-facing treehouse-like shack for a hotel room. Giving a miss to the Aurobindo Ashram, we spent the remaining time chilling at the French Side of Pondicherry.
3) Araku, Vizag
Looking to get away from the sweltering heat of Hyderabad, we went to Araku- a small town located on the Anathgiri hills, a short distance from the coastal city of Vishakhapatna. Araku is famous for its green hills, coffee plantations and tribal population. Though for me, this trip revolved around coffee! From learning the nitty gritty of coffee processing with a friend who worked on the farm, to chilling in the local and only cafe of the place to visiting a “coffee museum” we did it all, for coffee.
Also threw in a small side trip to see the very impressive Bora Caves.
This trip was meant to be a “catchup” occasion with a couple of friends who’ve moved too far, but it turned out to be just me and another friend and Nepal- the humble neighbour country was chosen, thanks to an incredibly low fare by Spicejet. While Nepal in itself looked underwhelming- the travellers’ curse: the more you’ve traveled the less new places inspire or stun- it was exciting to be in the shadows of the mighty Himalayas, crossing a border on foot and opening up my adventure sports account with white river rafting!
5) Kochi and Varkala
With a long weekend in hand, and almost every place within the 600km radius of Bangalore-Hyderabad done, we decided to go further down south and check out God’s own country. While Kochi impressed as a clean, quaint fishing town, the highlight of trip was discovering Varkala- One of the prettiest and most underrated beaches in India (thank god) and spending a night at an abandoned shack- ah the wonders of non-season travels!
The big daddy of all the trips. In this 21 day vacation in a rather decent autumn, I started and ended my trip in Rome, and did a taste of Venice, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Bordeaux, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges and Berlin (phew!) in between. Now, I’m no stranger to impulse traveling or traveling solo abroad, but this adventure in Europe was special for more ways than one.
It was the first time, I’ve done more than one country consecutively, all on my own.
This trip was done under $2000 all incl, a feat I’d have never considered possible before actually doing it.
Surviving rather well, 21 days without a phone, thanks to the adept pickpockets in Rome!
7) Hampi 1 & 2
The historic ruin site, at a very friendly distance of 500 kms from bangalore suffered from no dearth of attention in 2014 what with total of 2 trips and a 3rd one in the offing. I also brought in my birthday at a river-side shack in Hampi, to the music of Beatles and beetles and other nightly creatures and a torrential rain, followed by a day of chilling at the scenic Sanapur lake, getting bitten by the monkey at the monkey temple, and realising that the best holidays are not necessarily expensive or fancy, but ones spent those with loved ones.
What also deserves a mention is covering Badami, a small town, located just a couple of hours away from Hampi, once a site of the historic Badami empire. It’s famous for its cave temples which made for a scintillating evening.
The 2nd trip to Hampi was all about the chilling, with days turning to nights at our now favourite Gopi shack and cycling all around the highways and lil villages around Hampi.
I’ve been to Goa 4 times now, but little did I know that just a short while away from the hustle bustle and the commercial nausea of the Bagas and the Calangutes, subtly lay Gokarna and its pristine beaches. Whether it was the 100/night shack at the Om Shanthi Cafe, the softest sand at the Kudle beach or the Planktons lining the coast at night being the only source of light, I’d never know, but I know Gokarna is where I’d run off to whenever I seek Nirvana.
9) Nazirabad, Telangana
No points lost if this place doesn’t ring a bell, Nazirabad is home to the elusive “Lambadi” community- the original gypsies who traveled all the way from Rajasthan and settled down all over India in tiny villages called Thandas. Very little is known about the community, even lesser documented; even google didn’t prove helpful so we decided to travel to one such thanda called Nazirabad ourselves, even if it included traveling on a tractor, shared autos, hitchhiking and spending a day in a village. This video managed to just catch a glimpse of this vibrant community, maybe just in time before it faces extinction due to rapid urbanization.
Coorg almost didn’t deserve two trips as apart from the natural beauty, it has very little to offer, but when the second opportunity to go to Coorg came in the form of the Storm festival- a camping music festival- to which I won a pass in a contest- it couldn’t be better.
Two days of camping in a tent, in the middle of some lush hills, against live music and a winter chill, the year could not end and the new year couldn’t start on a better note.
Even as I write this, I’m getting over my travel fatigue from all the beach bumming at the beautiful beaches off Udupi and gearing up for a trip to Cambodia next month.
Here’s to even more travelling, unraveling new places, people and stories, and to coming back safe and sound, (Pertinent point given all the flight accidents of late :() to be able to blog here more often.