Sunday, December 28, 2008

Hari Hareshwar - (9/10) Beaches Mountains and much more

Trip Details in Brief -
Itinerary : Mumbai (Kurla) -> Mangaon -> Sri-Vardhan Bay(Night stay)-> HariHareshwar (temple and beach stint) ->Divaghar ->Mangaon ->Kurla (back home)
Duration of the Trip : 1.5 days (ideal plan for 2 days)
Trip cost : INR 1,000-1,500/- (including travel, stay and food)
Ideal Time : All over the year (except during rainy season)
Do Not miss :

1) Ride across Tum-Tums (Share Autos)
2) Hill-Locked shallow beaches (We ran along 1 km into the hip-deep sea)
3) Night binge upon the beach (under a single Street lamp)
4) Kurla-Mangaon Train Journey (prepared to be jostled)
5) Non-Veg coastal food (*Inputs from my non-veggie frnds)
6) Long walks across the village & the serene beaches.
7) The most beautiful naturally carved Mountain edge (see it to believe)

Things you can miss:
1) Harrowing State-Bus journeys (you would be treated worse than cattle)
2) Night Travel via Train back to Kurla.
3) Trip to DivaGhar (the temple is hardly a reason for the travel)

Additional Links
Detailed travelogue by friends
Web Site
The Trip :
We all began the trip around 2 PM from the Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Terminus via the un-reserved compartments enroute the scenic Konkan railroute for an approx 4 hours.
First Stop Mangaonone of the few great legends about any train journey as continued with the konkan route is the assortment of eateries you can load yourself with including chiku fruits, chats and ek cup chai.
From Mangaon we took a Cab (better than the bus journey) all the way to srivardhan for a pleasant 2 hour trip landing in our beach resort (There are also lot of MTDC resorts you can book before beginning your trip)

The Hang-out at Srivardhan beach resortAfter a quick wash all of us were off to our first street-lamp lit dinner at the beach (luckily we didn't get caught by the police ;) )
The next morning a few sober of us went on to enjoy the sea-side pleasures

Around 11 Am we all left for the next leg of the journey all the way to Hari Hareshwar via the splendid journey across the mountain terrains upon a Tum-Tum(share auto).

After a brief darshan of Lord Kalbhairav we were off upon the mountains which house the temple and then completing an entire loop across the base of the twin mountains.
The artistry across the mountain-base which has been formed due to constant bombardment of the sea is truly breath-taking and of course I am going to let the pictures themselves speak all the words.

Our final part of the trip was something which we could have avoided but as with the enthusiasm of any proverbial traveller we set pace to divaghar to check out the Swarna-ganapathi (Golden-Elephant) temple. Due to this, not only did we end up spending quite some time travelling in a total rickety state-bus but also ended up spending up till mid-night 1 AM stranded on a desolate station platform.

Ending the post with a couple more pics of the natural stone-worksmanship (click on them for a bigger

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Trip to Never Never Land....

Rugged mountains, dramatic coastline and lush forests where the spirit of adventure beckons; since the day that the polynesian explorers (Maoris) settled here were explored by Kupe(the great explorer) who first sighted New Zealand from afar, wreathed in cloud and named it Aotearoa-The land of the Long White Cloud.

The first moments that my eyes opened amidst the clouds shimmering white, i really felt as if i were in heaven; atop the aircraft as i saw it glide through clouds layer after layer almost land into the sea only to find a tiny trail of runway amidst the lengthy trail of beaches.... welcome to Xanadu; paradise upon earth - New Zealand.

As i pursued the travel guide; i was literally lost as to decide upon a decent itenary that would involve the scenic beaches, forlorn forests, delicate dolphins, cavernous glow-worms, dormant volcanoes, ice-capped mountains, lush wineries, heart-pumping adventure (bungy, kayak, sky-diving) and maybe also indulge across the flavor-rich Maori Culture.

Even now after the entire adventure has finished i am reeling under those golden-days as they say, once u get to new-zealand you shall take home memories or superb hospitality, virgin nature, a smorgasbord of outdoor activities as mild or as mad but just as you wished it to be.

Before i end up writing another book of adjectives upon this country, i must first complete the post with my itenary of 14 days across only North Island (the cheaper cousin of the south-island)

Day 1 - Transit Trip in Singapore ( 1 entire day of traveling the city of tourism)
Day 2 - Landed in NZ, went across to Magic Travels (cheapest and the best ever- Trust me on this one) to book my travel itenary for bay-of-island tour and checked Auckland city the rest of the day.
Day 3 -
Isite (Sky Towers in Auckland) , Kelly Tarton(Underwater world and penguins)
Day 4 -
Waiheke Islands (Scenic Beaches and Awesome wineries with free wine)
Bay of Islands tour ( 4 days and 3 nights)
Day 5 - Hole in the Rock (Pahia ) & Dolphin Cruise
Day 6 - Cape Reigna, 90 Mile Beach tour & Sand Surfing
Day 7 - Russel (Biking), Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Day 8 - Hoitangi Passing, Kauri Trees and Tane Mahuta (The god of living - Maori)
Back to Auckland
Day 9 -
Mt Eden, Nightlife @ Auckcity
Waitomo, Roturo & Taupo Exploration - Northland Exposure Tour ( 3 days - 2 nights)
Day 10 - Waitomo Glow-worm caves, Maori Tamki Village experience (Taupo)
Day 11 - Jet Skiiing (Huka Falls) , Rotorua Thermal reserves, Lady Knocks Geyser
Day 12 - Taupo Bungy, Exploring the city
Back to Auckland
Day 13 - Onahu Bay, Kayaking, Sky Tower, Sky City Casino
Day 14 - Teary-eyed departure back to India

The entire trip costs me around 80,000 INR/- (including the flight tickets); compared to 2-3 Lakhs offer of the cheapest guided tour operators from INDIA; which i must add would still be worth the experience.

So without much further ado, i must say for the next globe-trotter who chances upon this site; be sure that u have at a Tick in the southern-hemisphere all across NZ in this life or the next :)

Be sure to check out my detailed exploration across each and every day in NZ and also a few additional Tips and Tricks up my sleeve.

Travel Secret : Enjoy Singapore without spending a DIME

Singapore has always been on the global spot-light for transit options; not withstanding the fact that Singapore Airlines(their major one) does not exactly offer basement bargains ??!!
In order to explore this anamoly DD (that's Detective Deepak) put across his pointed hat and his Dad's credit card to zoom away on a trip to New-Zealand and a single day transit at Singapore.
To his surprise he discovered, that transit options simply expand his horizons as far as travel benefits he was entitled to.. which includes not having to wait for a VISA stamping, or paying for it either, and experiences he would surely experience on his stay.
Armed with a Detailed Map and his piped curiosity he set around to discover Singapore without spending a DIME.
(Note Timings and $ are all Singapore unless specifically mentioned)
9.00 AM - Flight arrives into the land of Lee Kuan Yew, this ensures that DD gets his breakfast on schedule. Everything going as per schedule.
9.30 AM - Rushes across to the end of Terminal 2 (Landmark : the forest settings) where you shall find two counters; one of them for the Free Singapore Tour and the other for the free Transit across to Singapore.
Upon closer inquiry with the beautiful lady behind the counter DD realizes that his options boil down to either the "Colonial Tour"(All major land-marks of the city and the Bum-boat ride (no pun intended)) or the "Culture Tour"(tour around lil india, china, japan, et all).
After all for DD juggling options are much like catching speeding bullets, and within a blink of the eye (not cause of the girl behind the counter) he decides to book for the 11-1 PM Colonial Tour.
11 Am - 1 PM - Accompanied with a tour guide whose only other side job was to tickle us with his PJs and arm us with the rich history of Singapore we set ahead to explore the major land-marks of Singapore including the Mythical Merlion, the opera house (or the building that looked strikingly similar to Sydney's opera house), strolling across victorian type houses and mordern goliaths of steel and concrete and last but not the least the awesome bum-boat ride.
With the help of the guide he also marked up all the places in the MAP (in case he needed to come back later)
1 PM - Rushed back into the visitor center after they scrutinized my well forged passport (jus kidding), and minutest later hopped on to the 1'0 clock Free Shuttle which goes into the city. Good for him, he also got a free Lunch coupon which he did readily consume(not the coupon of course) upon the course of his arrival at Bugis Street.
Just as his stepped down upon the streets there appeared a momentous task of finding directions throughout the labrynth of Bugis Street and Lil India(which is around 15 min walk from the drop-point). Unfortunate for him though, he did not have bread-crums and hence could not do a 'la hansel and grethel to mark his directions from the contact point till his shopping spree but thanks to the mordern day GPS system he could swing back and forth across the places upon foot.
Here he was DD dandily swaying across the streets of singapore and then suddenly a mental sms arrived to remind him of his assignment-part2 : To find the cheapest electronic store in Singapore; quick as a photon surfs upon the cosmic wave he took to his task and unearthing another untill now not-known fact beside a tiny not yet discovered Electronic shop called Naranjan Electronics (Location : Close to Mustafa's Mart - THe shopping mecca of Singapore, behind the Mosque) .
Here is a sample survey which is presented to redeem himself
Case in Study : Samsung 7.2 DigiCam (with ASR, 4x , et all)
Indian - Costs around 15,000 INR/-
Singapore Shops - 430 S$ = 12,900 INR /-
Mustafa - 330 S$ = 9,900 INR /-
Naranjan Electronics - 270 S$ = 7,100 INR /- (including a 2 GB card)
7.00 PM -After indulging himself in a shop-till-you-drop scenario he arrived back to the pick-up center to avail his free shuttle back to the airport around 7 PM .Note: You only need around 1 hour before your flight departure to check into Chiang airport (which by far is the fastest i have seen or heard about)

10.00 PM - Sipping his much needed Orange juice he relaxes with the in-flight dinner. Job Well Done

I sure hope that DD has now given you a good enough reason to explore the option of Singapore as a Transit option and also to explore the entire singapore with only a __________ in your purse.

Nov 5th :Northland Exposure - Bay of Islands (Day 1)

Started off on a slightly rainy day(weather forecast had been mildly warm) and i almost missed my early shuttle Magic Bus (The tour operator) by 5 minutes only then realizing the stark difference between India and NZ, here even Buses operate by the minute; luckily the staff was very helpful and they directed me to the nearby pick-up point.
Itenary of the day -
7.15 Am - Start the tour with our knowledgeble bus driver, who doubled up as the guide offering us immense knowledge about the places, local customs and also having intermittent quizzes (lest we sleep off ignoring the beatitude of the countryside). We crossed the Auckland Harbor bridge for a early morning break @ Sheep-world
9.45 AM - SHEEPWORLD, Decent break-fast (veg roll or sandwich) and coffee ($3.5) being my savior. It has a nearby shop which sells any wool related items and displays and also a park ($10) which can be ignored.

12.45 - Reach @ Pahia Harbour
The first thing that strikes you is the quaint sea-side village (much akin to the gauls). In fact Pahia is the first center of European Settlement in NZ (shall be talking later about another island called RUSSEL) and is known as the "Jewel of the Bay of islands". Refer to the ISite prominent in the harbour for details regarding Dolphin Cruise, Hole in the Rock, Swimming, Kayaking, et all.

1.45 -Hole in the ROCK
Around this time we started off in KINGS ferry (bookings and ferries are right beside the iSite) for a 2 hour journey @ Jet nautical speed (caution : Lighter the breakfast the better) across the sea for one of the most magnificient scenes of Nature, such as the Robinson's island.
We also had Dolphin sighting and had a chance to see them showing off their skills up close and personal for almost half hour mid-way.

And then we were all delighted as kindergarden kids when the final cynosure of all eyes, the "HOLE in the ROCK" arrived in the mid-sea; it is basically an volcanic or seismic jutting which has a huge hole right in it's center caused (argubly so) by the waves. But believe me, once u set your eyes upon this sculpture of Nature you would rather be awed by the spectacle rather than analyze the creation of it .

As i would say, the pictures here do not / cannot capture the serene nature of the HOLE in the ROCK which is encapslated when u see it all alone right in the tempest of the sea, unbridled and unaffected. And the best part is that it was one of the marvellous sights of Pahia.. just can't wait for the rest.
(Tip: if you travel via FULLERs then there is a possibility that your trip to RUSSEL would be complementary)
5.30 PM - Return to YHA (Bay adventurers)
One of the most essential elements for any back-packers are the youth-hostels which are in plenty in NZ, with prices ranging from 25 $ for a Dorm bed till $50 for a room these are the essential meeting grounds for travellers all around the world. The facilities for this amount includes access to Kitchen(fully furnished with micro-wave), video & Book library, free Bicycles & Kayaks and friendly people who help you plan out your activities Free of cost. Added to these, these rooms are spick and span and the beds are really a royal treatment.
After the once-in-a-lifetime view of Hole in the Rock, you just can't help it getting back to the dorm and sleeping off in glory, especially when rains affect your bike ride to Oaha Trails
7.00 PM - prepare Dinner for self in the kitchen, watch a movie or two and then check out the streets of Pahia.

Nov 6th - Northern Exposure - Cape Reinga

I had a 6 hour driveway till the northern-most point of NZ - Cape Reinga, reached this pinnacle of beauty with an over-whelming view of where the tasman sea intercepts with the Pacific ocean all of this sitting atop a cosy lil light-house; witnessed the majestic waves intercepted by the fast roller-blades of our bus across the "90-Mile Beach Road", marvelled at the Maori Architecture and a pleasant walkway across the ancient Kauri Trees but still my mind keeps beating "SAND -SURFING"

Itenary for the day :-
7 AM - First stop-over @ Whaoganroa bay for some good old breakfast and packing your lunch (highly recommended)

11 AM - Reached the Ancient Kauri Kingdom and walked the path that was laid out for The British Queen (Sans the red carpet i.e) and just got lost amidst the gigantic trees.

12 AM - Reached Cape Reinga, completely bedazzled by the light-house soaring about where the waves across both the directions clash indicating the point where the Tasman sea and the Pacific ocean meet

1.15 PM - Te Paki QuickSand Stream (Named by Samuel yeats, Te Paki means pleasant weather), where we stopped amidst gigantic sand-dunes to just slip down them with a surf-board. It was pure adventure for us to climb for more than 10 mins and scream down the same within a matter of seconds.

2 PM - All of us went directly into the sea (Literally speaking) across the 90 mile beach road... aesthetically it was the most divine experience as you watch enraptured the roll-out of beach waves hitting your bus and just the entire sea thundering beneath the bus wheels.
Incidentally according to Maori Myth; all of the souls come across to Cape Reinga and perch atop a Tree (which is visible just below the Light-house) and then fall down. If they have been living according to morals, then their spirit sprouts silver wings and fly to heaven else, you just fall into the ocean to be devoured by the mighty sea-creatures.

Friday, November 16, 2007

13th Nov : Kayak @ Okahu Bay, SKY Tower & Gambling Den

So, what else can be as adventurous to offer after a day of tumulous Bungy Jumping ? was the first thought that flashed across my mind as i awoke.... and just off the record, i must say today i was also completely satiated.

Today was a true example of how things happen on-the-fly, my first option was to indulge in the FREE Auckland Tour (kiwiXperience), which was squashed as they didn't have any free seats available (Guess, there must have been other equally enamoured tourists with the word "FREE") unfortunately my thrifty Indian god-fathers would have been mighty pissed off for this inadverdant miss.

Then i went across to the iSite in Auckland (which is in the Transit base for Sky Tower building), and labored long between two really enticing options :-
Option A) "Coast to Coast Walkway" : You get detailed brochures and Maps about this 4 Hr north-south walk within Auckland City from the Viaduct Harbor till Onehunga Bay cruising across Albert Park, Auck University, Mt. Eden and couple of other sights most of which i had seen earlier.
Option B) "Waitakere Ranges" : 1 Hr Travel from Britomart, it is home to an amazing beach, couple of last-remaining Kauri Trees, Regional Park, Minature Trams which criss-cross Glow-worm Caves.

Unfortunate for my quirky Adventure Antennae overtook my senses and i hopped onto Okahu Bay (D13 Bus Stop) to Ferg's Kayaks for a one hour journey across the windy beach surf on my Kayak.

A few points to note, if you are an amateur in Kayaking :-
1) Get your shorts (else u might have to rent a pair for 5 $)
2) Open Kayaks are easier to operate for the beach ends, while Closed ones are a must for longer journeys.
3) Ask for a round of guidance, which they would readily offer to you in loads.

So for $25 myself and my mate had a wallop of fun rollicked by the beach waves (which unfortunate for us was a bit too windy that day). Pity we could not take a video.
Couple of more pics of the beautiful shore (remember to get down at Okahu rather than mission bay in the bus)

After being washed across the shores almost twice, we finally relented and returned back to the shores. Just when you reach back, and see the entire beach along with the ferries, and Auckland City view... it is simply mind-blowing.

Later on, we returned back to the city and had a brief shower and sleep scooted across the the ICONIC monument in Auck city - SKY Tower, lingering a mamooth 328 mt (Twice the lenght of my Bungy jump), this place really gave me the jitters (esp after seeing the how-it-was-all-made video), you really cannot imagine how they have constructed this lean tower to become the tallest Building in the southern Hemispher. The view from the Sky tower is simply fabulous, you can see around 80 Kms all around you along with a view of nearby islands (Rangitoto, Waihike) and also glare down to find the floor made of GLASS (talk about vertigo). Also don't miss out the "eye of the sky-tower" camera which gives you a zoom in view (much akin to Google-earth)

For the Adventure-relic check out the sky-dive (which is a mere fall down -not bungy) from the top tower, at least try to get to the observation desk.. as this is one sight you might not want to miss :)

Later on, i went across to the most populated area in the entire New-Zealand... yes, you guessed it right; the Gambling den in Auckland (which is also in the First floor of the Sky Towers; it was almost the size of a Baseball ground littered with coin-eating machines and rows and rows of Black-jack and roulette machines. And as i was warned earlier, almost 90% of the gamblers were chinese with squinted eyes, they were simply rolling off their money as if it were mere water (According to stats the gambling industry is the most highest revenue earner for NZ tourism) and given the size of that place i am sure it must be too.

Around 6 pm as the sky filled with dark skies, we basked under the silver lantern of the SKY-tower(the entire tower glows in different colors mostly purple or silver).
Another wonderful day has passed by in this ever-wonderous place...