Sri Lanka with GG in Rs32000/ $500 (Kandy)

Early morning we were at the Colombo railway station. Breakfast for us was Nescafe and puffs.(Eating less and selective is the secret of not having a Delhi belly). A narrow gauge train, which looked similar to our Shimla toy train arrived at the platform. We boarded our coach, non ac but 2nd class. Apparently Sri Lanka hardly has any Ac coach in its trains.

After enjoying our 4hrs of journey we reached Kandy. The station was small, clean and less crowded. It felt like we were at a hill station, since the weather made us put on our jackets.

We took an auto from outside the station to our accommodation- Backpack Lanka Kandy (the same chain of hostels where we stayed in colombo) this one had a pool as well. Here we booked a twin room with balcony. (Don’t start to fancy the room readers, we had to use a common bathroom which was 20 steps from our room but was very well maintained). The other part of the story is that we were the only residents and it gave me creeps to go to the loo at night. The best part about the hostels is that they have a kitchen and water dispenser which ars accesible to the distressed guests like us😅

We had limited time in Kandy and had to make the most of it. I consulted the guy at the reception and he showed me multiple tour options. The one which attracted me the most was “The tuk-tuk tour”, that costed us 2400 Srs. The hostel had there own tuk-tuk. With no delay we jumped into the auto, grabbed an on-the-go lunch and were on our way to the beautiful sites.

Temple of the sacred Tooth relic

Girigama tea plantation

Bahiravokanda vihara Buddha statue

Railway museum

Kandy lake

Ranawana temple

Sri Lanka with GG in Rs32000/ $500 (Colombo)

It was october and I got a new job while the joining date was in December, I had to take out some days to plan a voyage between the switch. I asked multiple friends to accompany me but who knew a girl from school will become my travel partner. I immediately booked Jet airways flight to Sri Lanka which costed me Rs18000 two way. E-visa is available for Indian citizens which is trouble-free to apply and costs $20. Itenerary-Colombo>>Kandy>>Ella>>Yala>>Mirrisa>>Hikkaduwa>>Bentota>>Colombo Early morning we landed at the Colombo airport with no local currency, funny that the forex exchange counters denied accepting Indian currency( we were the victims of demonetisation) And my ATM card was not internationally enabled, luckily my freind’s card was a saviour. As per my usual budget trip rules, we took an auto to the nearest bus stand which is 2km from the airport. Secured a seat in a local bus that took 45 min to reach Colombo (30km from airport) Note:Auto’s are pretty expensive and charge like 200 S.Rs for 2km. Ohh did I forget to mention that we were not having iternational internet activated, so finding our accommodation was another story. We were finding it all around when it was right under our nose. We booked “Backpack Lanka hostel”, they were accommodating to our ,way too early checkin and let us crash in their lobby and cater to all our requests for food, charger, bathroom, toilet etc😆 We both were done with our morning chores ready to explore the city on foot. Took the feel of wide roads, cleanliness and the way people cross streets. Colombo doesn’t have much of attraction points so one day is good enough. In this one day, we booked the train tickets to Kandy and to Ella, also visited the Kelaniya temple. Local bus was our mode of transport to and from the temple which we boarded from, near the railway station. In the evening after taking a nap, we took a stroll at the “Galle face”. Family spent time here enjoying the local snacks and the breeze from the sea. It was a exhausting day and we had to catch the train the next day , hence we bid gudnight to our 1st day in Sri Lanka.

The cold dessert of Lahaul & Spiti (KAZA)

Kaza the main town of Spiti valley. Long journey trucks, halt here. It has a petrol pump, bunch of cafes, grocery and personal care stores  (which is a luxury).

But for me opulence was in “Zostel”. They have a combination of dormitories,  private rooms, tents, Swiss tents, colourful common room and open area with cannopes. They also allow travelers to pitch there own tents for a minimal cost. Staying there is in itself an experience.

This was the hub where all lost reunited.

It was already afternoon by the time I reached. I decided to take a stroll in the town on foot. A local fair was going on at that time. Traders from downhill came and exhibited various goods. Going further deep, I saw multiple cafes serving Israeli food, pasta but I was drooling at the sight of German bakery 😊.

The Sun had set, the moon was gleaming in the sky and I was back to Zostel where I ordered Rajma and rice for dinner. That’s when I realised that I need not hunt for food in the town. They had some excellent cook. The dishes were also priced reasonably.

SLEEP TIME….

I woke up to the view below.

I asked for ginger tea, cherishing the moments and sipping the epic beverage. Breaking the calmness of the dry valley I chatted with fellow backpackers and travelers.

The lady who was managing the place was very courteous. I asked her if I could get a car that could drive me to the “Key Gompa, langza, Hikkim and Khibber” and she arranged that for me in INR 2200 (which wasn’t a bad a deal at all)”. It was a full day tour ending at 5pm.

  • Langza- famous for its huge statue of Lord Buddha and you can find little kids selling fossils. It has scarce population, I could count the number of built houses.
  • Komik- till some time back there were no motor-able roads to this place and hence Khibber was the 3rd highest motorable village in the world, 1st being “La Rinconada, Peru”. But after roads have been built, Komik has grabbed this tittle.

  • Hikkim- known for the world’s highest post office. It’s located in a house. All the visitors send a postcard to there dear ones from here. Even I did but sadly it never reached.

  • Khibber-  is a well inhabited village. Has some restaurants and homestays. If one stays there, they can closely be connected to the lifestyle of local people.

    The high altitude definitely makes you breathless. But it is worth the view.
    I was back in the evening to the Zostel. As I entered the place I was delighted to see ‘the saviours’ our very own Mumbain freinds. We Ordered for tea and enjoyed the evening sitting in the cabana in the front yard of the place and discussing the experiences.

    The next day I was supposed to go to “Chandratal”  but decided to tag along with my freinds, so stayed one more night. 

    The cold dessert of Lahaul & Spiti (NAKO-TABO)

    I know I haven’t written for a while, I believe that’s how daily life consumes you. But trying to relive the memories, and completing the the unfinished. 
    Chitkul was a short stay but worth the tiresome journey. I was lucky enough to see a ‘Kinnauri wedding’. It’s always a joy to experience different traditions.
    Since the only bus of Chitkul was busy with wedding, my driver from the evening agreed to drop me back to Kharcham from, where I was supposed to board a bus to Nako.

    Waited for almost an hour and I could not even hear distant honking noise of the bus.

    *Folks do not travel to Lahaul and Spiti, after Chitkul without your own conveyance. You would be stranded for hours and hours.

    I hitchhiked with 2 guys from Mumbai who were driving a ‘Zoomcar‘ going to the same destination. They were my saviours and who knew we would make such good travel buddies.

    4 hrs of rides and the scenery transitioned from wet green landscape to dry brown high mountains.
    I could not resist clicking the picture of the board ‘you are travelling on the world most treacherous road’.

    I was confused should I admire the nature or fear it. We were climbing height intermittently.

    It was evening and we were there at “the windy village of Nako“, from where everything looked antsize

    Nako has multiple accommodation options, ranging from INR 500-2000. They are easily available. Namely there is no major attraction but whats there to do is to understand the lifestyle of Nako people, acclimatise to the weather,  admire the structure of the houses in the village, survival stories during winters. Moreover it’s a stopover for bikers and travelers on the way to Kaza.
    Ohh I forgot to mention it is at an altitude of 11000 ft/3300 m and the only phone/network  connectivity is of Bsnl. I could complete only 6 hours of sleep. The altitude was still not very comfortable for me.

    The only disappointment was that the route I thought to be raw and tucked away but it was full of bikers and backpackers. I would have loved more isolation. I guess I chose the wrong time.
    It was time to move towards the main town of Spiti valley- Kaza. We had planned to visit Tabo & Dhankar monastery on the way.

    I was backpacking and taxis there ask for redundant amount of money for short distance, God bless the Mumbain friends.  I tagged along.

    TABO

    I would have loved staying overnight however couldn’t , shortage of time. But visited “the Tabo Monastery ” estb in 996. There is no light in areas where ancient artwork is done. One can use phone lights to have a glimpse of these exclusive paintings.  What I figured out was there was a lot of Egyptian art influence in the paintings.
    Post the heritage walk we had a sumptuous lunch.
    And we hit the road again.
    DHANKAR GOMPA

    This was built in a form of fortress. One can only wonder how was Dhankar Gompa created on these anthill structured mountains .

    My traveler freinds were supposed to go to  Pin valley,  they were very kind to find me another ride to Kaza from the point where they took a deroute to Pin valley. The vehicle I boarded came out to be BRO (Border Roads organisation). The officer was very warm, he welcomed me to Kaza, arranged for evening tea in his office  and also made sure that his subordinate dropped me of to the hostel I booked in.It’s hard to  find such people in Metro cities.

    The cold dessert of Lahaul & Spiti (NARKANDA- CHITKUL)

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    After 3 months of no travel, finally the day came when I could get on with my wishlisted trip of lahaul  and spiti circuit.
    Left on the Friday evening,  took a volvo till shimla. Our badluck, it rained on Friday in delhi, so the consiquence was a major jam, which caused delay.

    At 10am the volvo dropped us at the outskirts of shimla, and since I had backpacked to this place before , so knew taxi was an expensive option, instead we boarded the intracity bus and got dropped ahead of old bus stand. From there the lift to the mall road was a walkable distance. Suprisingly there wasn’t the amount of crowd I expected to be on a weekend. We quickly freshend up and had our lunch. Post that we walked through the market downhill towards the bus stop, through the long canal, amidst locals, with an 8kg backpack and on the top, it was rainning !  We had to board a bus to Narkanda , luckily got into one which was just about to leave, it was packed, no seats were available.  We had been travelling for almost 18 hrs by then, needed a seat badly , we did get it but after 2hrs of standing in a Zig Zag ride and swaying at every turn. Body and eyes were shouting for a warm bath and a comfy bed.

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    After 3 hrs 30 min we were at Narkanda which has 3-4 roadside motels, exorbitantly priced. Got into one, paid 1600 per room after negotiation.

    Next day was a long one, we targeted 8 am to catch a bus to ‘karcham’ . Unlike Shimla bus stand we had to wait for 1 hr for the bus. The bus journey was beautiful. The landscape became more scenic as we headed from district Shimla to kinnaur.

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    But through out the way it was rainning,  which made the route, all the more riskier.

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    Day 2- Travel time to reach destination (CHITKUL) was 8 hrs.
    Reached karcham after 6 hrs, it is just a name on the map, you cannot  find even a chai or a cigarette shack there. Thank God we immediately got a bus to Sangla. It’s a detour of 18km from NH22 and has a very limited bus service.

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    A 1.5 hr of roller coaster ride on the narrow, twisty and deconstructed  road literally got our hearts in our mouth. The Baspa river gushing on one side. On reaching we took a sigh of relief, ate some “assorted  veg Pakora and teas” to calm us. It was cold, we had to take our quilt jackets out.  Now was the delima , since it was already 5pm and we planned to reach Chitkul which is 1.5hrs further, the same day. But sangla was not a beauty and we didn’t want to waste our day. There is only one bus which is owned by the resident of sangla, so it moves as per the situation of the village. If there is a wedding the bus will go in the baraat, and will leave the travellers to figure out their own mode of transport.

    Alas we got a cab, on negotiation we brought him to Rs1000 for just dropping us 24km further to sangla. In delhi ncr I ride an uber for 30 km in just Rs400, so this came as a shocker.

    Good that we went to chitkul because it was worth a night stay.

    Chilling breeze
    3 small restaurants
    Accommodation ranging  between INR 400-4000
    Tibetan dogs as size of me.
    A beautiful temple.
    Travelers to share experiences.

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    Glimpse of Tibet- Mcleodganj

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    Not so far up in the himalayas is this hustly bustly town of Mcleodganj , once the residence of the great Dalai lama.

    It was a road trip for me – Enfield, Zig Zag road, view of snow capped mountains and pure air. This was in the month of February.  Folks please do  not choose this month for the  bike trip as it will freeze your bones.

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    It is a 14 hrs ride from Delhi,  there are luxury buses and volvos also available for that route which takes exactly 12 hrs one way.

    Enroute please do stopover at the small joints to have veg Maggie and some of the shacks serve delicious home made mutton curry and rice.

    STAY
    There is nothing much  to do in dharamshala, so when you reach Mcleodganj,  firstly  take a room. There are  multiple options to choose from (please refer trip advisor for the same).

    EAT
    And the second very thing is a heavy tibetan brunch at the ‘Tibet Kitchen’.
    *Steam chicken Momos a  must try.

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    SHOP
    Adjacent to this restaurant is a showroom selling all the tibetan ethnic commodities. I found this shop to be resonably priced than any other shop in the town….Ladies it’s shopping time.

    DRINK
    Evening coffee at the casual cafes.

    CHILL
    Two km away from the city is the naag falls- it is too much crowded, so peace lovers may find a place at the shiva cafe or at the foot of the fall to avoid  the footfall.

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    TREK
    Last but the best attraction is the ‘Triund trek ‘. Adventurers can stay the second night at DHARMAKOT which is 2km away from the town centre and can start the trek early morning. It is a must do trek if you have time and the correct company.

    PURIFY
    Early risers should go to the main monastry , sit and introspect.

    ADMIRE
    End the day with mesmerising sunset. For that you need to keep an eye at the right spot. I figured mine.

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    So people, pick a weekend , club a Friday and shoot for Mcleodganj.