FMLM – Exploring North India – By Sandeep

Travel – of my bucket list and bucketful of happy

I love #travelling and I can tell you with confidence that some of the best experiences of life can be had only through travel, by exploring unknown cultures, meeting new people and simply observing the unfolding of life and events around you in an unfamiliar place.

While I have had the happy privilege of travelling to many new places, the one that stands out in my mind is when some of my friends and I decided on an impromptu travel plan.

My wife and I flew to #Delhi from #Kerala and from #Delhi, where two more friends joined us, we went on a car drive across four Indian states. And in keeping with our adventure spirit, we decided to use a #MarutiSuzukiAlto, an unlikely ride for such travels!

We first drove to #CorbettNationalPark in #Uttarakhand. It was November 2016 and we were in the thick of #post-demonetisation aftereffects. So, money was scarce but experiences aplenty! Every small thing was arduous but human spirit can surprise you when you least expect it to. The locals were quite helpful and we managed to wade through the place without having much cash in hand.

The tigers were a let down though. We didn’t spot any of the 200-odd that live there. We attributed it #demonetisation effect. Everyone was turning into an economist at that time. We figured, why not us?

The next day we made a day trip to #Ranikhet. It’s an army base and boasts of a picturesque skyline adorned by the snow-peaked Himalayas. We visited the #JhulaDeviTemple, a Durga temple adorned by hundreds of bells. On the way back to Corbett, we tasted many local delicacies. If you are there, you must taste the pakoras and curd combination. For south Indians such as myself, curd rice is a staple. So, this was a tasty break in palate.

But here’s a friendly warning. Beware of nails on the road. Roads are literally strewn with nails so that the local shops can step in and help out when you have a punctured tyre. We didn’t know this and had a flat tyre. But then help is always handy, by design.

The next day we drove to #Nainital, another beautiful hill station in the state. It was pleasantly cold and just bright enough to keep our spirits up. We decided to just laze around the #NainiLake and explore the local markets. The place however is a major tourist hub and was quite congested. We took a while to find parking space for our car but then when you are on an adventure, these little discomforts only add to the overall experience, right? We took a stroll around the lake and it was a calming experience. The lake was reflecting sunlight in mystical ways, showing us its different shades of blue.

After a lip-smacking roadside bhelpuri (#musthave), we drove to #Aligarh, the famous University town in #UttarPradesh. We didn’t really spend much time here but we were amazed at some of the brass works done by local artisans.

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The next stop was #Agra. We visited the #AgraFort in the afternoon and if you are a history junkie like me you will thoroughly enjoy the rich stories that have been enacted in its corridors. We did the typical #JahangirHauz, #ShahjahaniMahal and #Bengali Mahal tours. While it’s a crowded place, the fort is filled with so many stories and mysteries that we were totally glued in to its sights and sounds.

We ended the day binging on street food. #pethas, #parathas, #mughlai,#bhalla, #dalmoth, #jalebi, #shawarma, #paneertikka and everything else in between. It’s a foodies’ paradise! 

 

We hired a local guide for the #TajMahal visit the next morning. We went to Taj Mahal early morning as we were warned that the floors could get very hot during the day.

The Taj Mahal was everything it promises to be. Its beautiful, symmetrical and truly stands out. But there is also a lot of hype around it. I have seen some temples down south that are lost to obscurity because there isn’t much media hype around them. Of course, that’s not to steal the Taj’s thunder. It deserves all the media glare it gets.

For breakfast, we had Agra’s famous #Bedhai. It’s a kachori that’s served hot with spicy potato gravy and is highly recommended by the locals because of its sweet and tangy taste. Well, it was yum! We ended the day with some hot milk in kulhad before driving back to Delhi. In a span of a few days, we drove more than 1300 kilometres covering over four states.

The roads aren’t great and will seem worse if you are from #Kerala (where state highways are a pleasure to drive on). That said, it was a wholesome trip with many little challenges.

But then can we really narrate an interesting travel story without some challenges thrown into it?

Afterall, sunshine all the time makes a desert.

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