Sailing in Sri Lanka

 “Some years ago, never mind how long precisely, having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.” -Herman Melville

 

With that quote in mind and the infinite view of the ocean at hand, we aboard the Topaz – a beautifully maintained catamaran by the Sail Lanka Charter. We reached the Koneswaram beach in Trincomalee at around 7 am on a cool July morning. A life boat came to the shore to take us to our catamaran. A very welcoming area manager was already present that morning to make sure we reached the catamaran all okay.

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Once we were on the catamaran, we climbed up the deck and looked around the sailboat. This ocean was going to be our home for the day. We set sail and started cruising towards the Indian Ocean. With a mix of salt, water and cool breeze for company, it was the perfect day to sail.

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So, there I was with my tiny bum on this tiny deck hearing the wind whisper secrets to my hair. It was like I had stopped in time. The sail was slow and easy and blues were almost meditative.
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The views were beyond breath-taking. The clouds seemed playful that day. They changed colour shape and form with every fleeting moment.
Image_5We were called for breakfast. It was the most colourful spread I had seen in a while. There were tropical fruits of all colours possible, eggs, sausages and coffee for breakfast. While I was still sipping the coffee that was rather hot, I heard someone shout, “Look, dolphins!”

Successfully managing to not let myself or my plate slip, I ran to the deck. All around the only thing that I could see was endless blue. Blue of the ocean, blue of the sky and blue of the dolphins. At first they looked like tiny galloping waves, and then they became clearer. At first, they came in pairs. Then they came in trios. And finally, they came in schools. At once, I could see at least twenty!

IMG_3520The best part was that I saw them in their natural habitat and not in an amusement park doing some silly tricks with an over enthusiastic crowd. Well, I was over enthusiastic for sure but this was something else. A complete sense of admiration had overtaken me as I continued to marvel at them. They swam all around, did a few jumps and sailed along with us. They would surface from any side of the sailboat almost as if escorting us to our destination.

A couple of hours later, we anchored next to rocky coast. Here we could do some sports like snorkeling, diving and stand up and paddle while the chef cooked us some really yummy lunch. We took our snorkeling gear and jumped into the water. After snorkeling for about fifteen minutes, I came across a huge shoal of shiny grey fish and they spiralled towards the end of where my eyes could see. They were as small as baby tomatoes. It was funny as how still they were considering the water current. And I realised, that when you are in water, you have no other choice but to go with the flow. So I had swim through them. I had to break the picture perfect formation they had created.

Back on the Sail Lanka Charter, our lunch was ready. The chef had whipped up a delicious looking grilled fish steak with some veggies. Later, we were also served caramel custard which was as tasty as the main course.
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Looking back, it was the most extraordinary time I had in this country. The ocean waters stirred my heart, let my soul float under the blue sky. Which makes me say that I am a Thalassophile (n) : a lover of the sea.

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Leaping from the cliffs of Santorini

Amongst all the things you plan to do when set out to travel anywhere, including sight seeing, trying cuisines, meeting up with the locals, etcetera, there has to be one thing that you have never done before. When we decided to go to Greece, my sister and I had one thing we just had to check off our bucket list – cliff jumping.

During our stay in the Oia Village of Santorini, we learnt that cliff jumping takes place in the Amoudi Bay. So on a sunny September afternoon, we decide to walk the 200 steps that led to the bay glistening in the daylight. We wore our swim suits, took a couple of towels, stuffed a water bottle into our backpacks and headed out. We were pleasantly surprised in the company of donkeys as many chose to ride on them all the way down.

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The bay is tucked away underneath Oia, away from the hustle-bustle, a beautiful bay, with boats that just happily hop along with the waves. We crossed two restaurants right at the coastline and planned to stop there for a meal on our way back. The colours of the water seemed to change with every fleeting glimpse. Sometimes pristine emerald, sometimes aqua-marine blue, sometimes sea salt white. 


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Getting to the bay was only half the battle. From here on, it was a walk of about twenty minutes to reach the pristine waters from where you could swim. It was a rough and rocky path along. If you ever plan to go, be sure you wear very comfortable and sturdy shoes. Once we got there, we saw a few other travellers, just lazying around in the sunshine, getting the bronzed tan they had traveled all this way for.

As most of you would know, the Greco islands were born
out of a massive volcanic eruption in the middle of the Aegean Sea. So, the coastline is dotted with mini islands made of rocks. Being the efficient planners we thought we were, we figured that we would have to swim for about 50 odd meters to reach the island. Then, climb the lava rocks to the point from were we could dive into the sea. The cliff was cut to make a platform from where we could see people splashing into the water.

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And so it began. We entered the water and started to swim to the cliffs. This was my first time in the sea and I had really underestimated the saltiness of the water. Spurting the salt water out our mouths every few seconds, we reached the bottom of the cliff. Rock by rock, we began our ascent. Because we were bare feet, we grazed our skin a couple of times, but that didn’t deter our spirit. Sometime during the climb, my sister said that she was getting tired. Scared, I was too. But I told her to just stay focused and follow me. The path that we had chosen wasn’t the easiest. The rocks were solidified lava. They were pointy and sharp. They stuck into our soles and palms. It felt like walking on a bed of nails. And if we slipped, it would’ve resulted it nothing but broken bones.

And before we knew it, we were up there! Exhaustion from the climb didn’t stop us from doing a mini dance of celebration. Now came the time of the courageous plunge. I walked up to the edge to see the water from above. It looked like a great deal of height. About 25 feet. I was scared and excited at the same time. Maintaining the endurance and determination I had displayed so far, I decided to go first. A huge breath in. A huge breath out. I ran towards the water. And stopped. I couldn’t do it. It was like, as if I had experienced a bout of acrophobia.

As I stood there frozen, my sister said, “I’ll go”. So there she was. With a small run up, she jumped with her eyes closed splashed straight into the water. I was dumb founded. Like a worrying mother, I ran over to the the cliff edge to see if she was okay. I was all smiles to see that she was all smiles. Now, it was my turn. There was no shying away. There was no escaping. There wasn’t another way. I had to jump. I gave the long horizon ahead a short look and with clinched fists and tightly shut eyes, I dashed. I found myself next to a giggling sister, as I struggled to catch breath and cope with the pumping adrenalin.

We had done it! With no safety gear, no guide, two bare footed souls, climbed 35 feet up a rocky cliff and jumped! The salt stung our bruises but we didn’t care. There was nothing like swimming in Amoudi Bay and looking up at the view of Oia.

An hour later, we found ourselves sitting at the Sunset Taverna. None of us spoke much that evening. As the sun went down into the sea, we shared a refreshing Greek salad and a smile.


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View more photos from the trip here.

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Solace in Sikkim

City-life monotony comes in all shapes and sizes. For me, it came in the form of mustering up all the courage I had, to go on a solo trip to Sikkim. So, there I was with my tickets, a small bag, a couple of books and a heart full of anxiousness, at the Delhi airport waiting for my flight to Bagdogra.

I had done my fair bit of research and everything seemed to be in place. The taxi was to pick me up from the airport 12 pm, I would be in Gangtok by 3 pm, check into the AirBnB guest house and be all ready to explore the town that evening. All on my own. But, impulsiveness comes with its own set of shortcomings. It was monsoon time. It was June and not the best time to visit Sikkim. It was raining. My flight got delayed. We had to make a stop at Kolkata. Dealing with a worrying mother and incessant phone calls from the cabbie, I reached Bagdogra Airport by 5 pm, and to the guest-house only by night time. So much for ‘planning’. All of that said and done, that didn’t dampen my spirit.

I was staying at this beautiful AirBnb called Bookman’s Bed and Breakfast – a 5 minute walk away from the market. Built over a cozy book shop and cafe called Rachna Bookstore, it was just the perfect thing for me. thumb_Image_1024

So what does a 26 year old in the middle of Gangtok do on the first day of her first ever solo-trip? She dumps her bags, gets refreshed and heads out.


After such a long day, all I wanted was a tall glass of chilled beer. I set eyes on this small pub called Downtown. I climb up the dingy staircase and enter. There were at least 15 pairs of male eyes that froze on me as I experienced a few seconds of awkwardness. Brushing that aside, I walk in further, and take seat in the smallish balcony overlooking the market. I order for some beer and mutton momos. This was finally happening! I was all by myself in a beautiful town, looking at the glistening cobbled stone market road below and the chatty shadows of people walking under the street lights. A couple of boys sitting next to me were playing soft guitar. I joined them, jammed, sang, had some great conversations and that was a super ending to day 1.

The next day, I awoke to the pitter-patter of raindrops falling on the roof. I jumped out of bed, brushed my teeth and headed down to Cafe Fiction in my PJs. I found a cozy spot for myself, ordered a coffee and club sandwich and just read through the first half of the day.

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Later, I set out to explore the capital city in daylight. Sadly, there wasn’t any. Walking around the narrow lanes with an umbrella over me I couldn’t help but realise how breathtaking Gangtok looked in the monsoons.

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The cloud cover was thick that day and the rain just didn’t seem to stop. And I just took the city in, had endless cups of Americano, watched people get about there daily lives from the top of The Coffee Shop.

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Not for a second did I miss company of any sort or the urge to talk. Being on my own just made me happy.  And I realised silence had a voice too. A reassuring voice with a tendency to calm you down.

Sleep comes voluntarily to me. Even After so much of coffee, I went back my room for a short nap. In the evening, I headed back to Downtown. And this time, the place pleasantly surprised me with karaoke! My night was made. Dheeraj, the owner of the pub, let me take the stage for a good two hours. And I sang. Sang my heart out. Sang like there was no tomorrow. Song after song. Sometimes a duet, mostly solo, while it continued to pour outside. I made some really good friends that night.

I had planned that the next day I was going to Nathula Pass while making a pitstop at the Tsomogo Lake. With a rickety old Wagon-R as a cab, and a very sweet man as a cabbie, I set out early morning. I kind of started to get irritated with the rain at that point, because it just wouldn’t stop. And the road up to Nathula wasn’t the safest. The BnB owner warned me about some landslides up there. But I continued to surprise myself with my swift decisions.

A few hours later, I found myself standing by the lake and the freezing winds gushing through my body. With not a soul in sight, this had been the second most peaceful experience of my journey so far.

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We stopped at a small cafe from where the Himalayan range was big and bold. Slurping on my bowl of soupy Maggie, me and my furry friends and sat there, watching the endless cover of green.

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I made up a story in my head of a woodsman who lived in the forest and came down to the river catch some fresh fish. And as I told myself the story, the started to rain slow down, the clouds started to part away. And there she was. The mighty Kailash Mansarovar Parbat. And needless to say, this was the most peaceful view of my trip.

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As I had just started to familiarise myself with the town, the next day went by in a flash. I treated the cabbie to lunch in the cafe under the guest house. He told me about his family. I told him about mine.

I ate some, I drank some. I read some, I wrote some. And just like that, I was on the plane back to Delhi. Looking back, I had the most extra-ordinary time. With just myself. It was as easy as going to the closest supermarket for a packet of crips.

So, all of you trying to strike the ‘solo-trip’ off your bucket list. Just pick a place, book your tickets, get up and go. You will be happy to know how great company you are to yourself.

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DIY Terrarium

So this weekend, we took up a DIY project of how to make a mini-garden full of beautiful plants. Our very own terrarium!  Super simple to make and super beautiful to look at, here’s a step by step photo guide of how you can create your own little eco-system.

What you need:

  • A glass container
  • A piece of wire mesh (or old plastic)
  • Gravel or pebble stones
  • Some charcoal
  • Soil
  • The plant you want to sow
  • Garden accessories if any

STEP 1: We did the exciting bit first. We strolled around in the community park and brought some twigs and dry leaves to decorate our terrarium with.

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STEP 2: Collecting gravel. We didn’t have to buy it because we already had some pebble stones which I had brought back from a trip to Santorini.

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STEP 3: Then, you obviously need a planter in which you want to build your terrarium, which for us, was a fish bowl we bought from a pet shop nearby.

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STEP 4: We started off with putting some pebbles or gravel as the base of our terrarium. This is the first step of creating a drainage system for the plants.
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STEP 5: Then, we put a mesh on top of it. Now this one can be a little tricky to source, so we cut off an old kitchen sieve and placed it over the pebbles.

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STEP 6: Then, we placed a thin layer of charcoal over the mesh. What this essentially does is that it helps excess water to drain out to the bottom without affecting the roots of the plant. If you cannot find charcoal, you can use an extra layer of gravel.

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STEP 7: After this, we added a layer of potting soil over the coal and carefully planted a cactus and some wild plants.FullSizeRender

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STEP 8: Now our favourite part – decoration time! We added some shells, pebbles, small twigs to our terrarium. We also covered the opening of the container with some rope to give it a rustic look.

Here it is. Tadaaaa!

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The Ascent of The Udaipur Moon

As the lonely city nights linger through the darkness, the sleepless owls stay up hooting into the mournful moon.

The owls. That’s us. We are the owls infesting our cities with curiosity and secrecy, not giving a moment of solace.

But this darkness was like no other. As it would turn out, this tiny town had gone to bed early. I think the only people awake at that hour were my two friends and me.

We saw it the first night by chance. The effect was such that we couldn’t wait for the next day to come and nightfall to rise. The air was cool, the waters were placid. The leaves of the Peepal rustled in front of us. The smell of fresh rain mixed with blossoming night Jasmine lurked around. And we sat there in the dark, sipping red wine, playing the ukulele, taking turns with song requests. Every few seconds, the breeze would come in and give our cheeks a cool kiss. I can’t say about the other two but it definitely gave me more than a ‘cool kiss’. It gave me goose-bumps. I had to put on a light sweater to wait through the wait.

Slowly, the silhouettes had started to rise beyond the lake. A noisy Bagula swooped down below, ruffled its feathers and took flight again. Once more, there was silence. Apart from the Bagula, it would have been just us three, chatting away, merrily breaking the silence of the night.

Faraway, little prayers lay afloat on the water. The winds must have brought the diyas away from the Ghaats, I thought to myself. From where I sat, they looked like fireflies prancing and dancing, making magical formations. Two wine bottles later, the arched frames began to glisten. Like a baby’s belly after a nice meal, the moon seemed fuller and fatter than ever. It tiptoed slowly from behind the hills and made its way into the heart of the sky. It rose higher in the sky with each fleeting moment. We froze.

And it was in that hushed moment, the soul of the lake lit up with two moons; one in the midnight blue of the sky, the other in the midnight grey of the lake.  A shimmer lay over The Pichola. Like a hex, the same silent shimmer had slunk over the lake, crept over the royal pavilions, crouched through the rustic streets, and climbed the walls to reach my hands strumming the ukulele.

The sight from the window of the Mewar Haveli was beyond mesmerising. It was like white-out in darkness. With a mysterious halo around its ivory skin, the moon had the three of us bewitched. The clouds pirouetted around it and we just sat there, gazing into the sight, without a word. Just like the night, our conversations had fallen silent now. Chin in my palms, elbows on the sill, I tried to seize the picture perfect moment. I ogled at it for as long as I could, as if casting a spell to make it stay. But it had already begun its supple but swift descent, leaving its twinkling friends to our company.

Back in the city, I look up at the sky from my bedroom window. There is no moon tonight. There are no twinkling friends. But there is a view. One of the glowing moon and its dramatic ascent that went over the hills, skimmed through the lake, to make it to my eyes.

Here are some more pictures from the trip:

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Sky. Sea. Santorini.

While the clouds got ready to waltz over the Aegean, the sky opened it’s wardrobe every evening and wore the prettiest dress to the ball.

 

This is my photo essay on Santorini, a small island tucked away on the corners of Greece. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

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*All pictures are original and bear copyrights on them.

Tomorrow

I heard the waves whisper to me,

They said, what is temporary is only sorrow.

The moon-lit horizon is all you need to see.

Whatever falls, is bound to rise tomorrow.

 

Grey.

I am the wrath of the sky and sea.
I am the strength of a cliff.
I am the eye of the storm,
when nature plays a raging riff.

I am the silence of the mist.
I am the sadness of a love song.
I am the emotion of a loss.
I am the pain that winters prolong.

I am the inertia on dusty books.
I am the grime on old shoe strings.
I am the soot on the forgotten fireplace.
I am the release that maturity brings.

I am dissonance.
Not much, only slight.
Some might call me an imbalance.
I’ll prefer a harmony of black of white.

Girl in the city

The curtains are drawn,
And the moonlight trickles in.
As I sit beside my window,
To see a cold city warmly tucked in.

Wrapped in a shawl of mist,
The world sleeps slow.
With me is only a ticking clock,
That distantly says, ‘hello’.

Once wrapped in a comforting embrace,
I dreamed of pretty horses in a willow,
In mine, was a hand soft yet firm,
That I refused to let go.

Because the curtains once got drawn,
And the moonlight trickled in.
My mother came to my bed,
And lovingly tucked me in.

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