2014 was a great year for travel. Overall I was on the road for over 10 weeks of the year, spending most of my vacation in India and some in Turkey where I am right now.
My partner Chad and I spent close to two months in India during April/May this year – it was hot, humid and probably the worst time to travel. But we did it! The main reason to go was my sister’s wedding. But after that was done, we headed to the north east side of the country.
Meghalaya is one of India’s Seven North-Eastern states. Shillong, the capital, is spread across a number of hills. It’s a pretty place, but it was also quite noisy so we left it quickly. We spent the next few days around Cheerapunji, or Sohra as it is known locally. This place holds records for being the “wettest place on Earth” and it’s easy to know why once you get there.
Highlights of the trip were hitchhiking to the Bangladeshi border, and walking for hours through thick rainforests to get to this extremely unique and mind boggling construction – Meghalaya’s living root bridges.
↑ The locals bruild bridges over river gorges by training tree roots to grow in a certain fashion. This process can take up to 15 years to complete and some bridges span over 100 feet. The bridges are thought to last 500–600 years and are naturally self-renewing and self-strengthening as the component roots grow thicker.
From Meghalaya we headed up to Guwahati in Assam, the central and most populous of the seven sister states. It was sweltering, but we had fun nevertheless. Among the top spots, I’d say crossing the mighty Brahmaputra river and visiting the Kamakhya temple complex dedicated to the blood thirsty goddess and visiting the temple where the God of Love was burnt to ashes.
↑ Cruising across river Brahmaputra.
West Bengal / Gorkhaland
The heat of Assam was very exhausting and we took a train out as soon as we could. Darjeeling, famous for its tea, was our next destination. At 2,050m/6,700ft, the place was cool, relaxed and just what we were looking for to lounge. I was very excited to see the UNESCO heritage train that chugs down the hills towards the plains of West Bengal.
↑ The colourful Mahakaal temple complex.
We were quite surprised how different Sikkim was compared to the region around it. This Himalayan Buddhist kingdom amalgamated with India in 1975. Sandwiched between India to the south, Nepal to the west, Tibet (China) to the North and Bhutan to the East, this state is immensely beautiful and very warm and welcoming locals. My family joined us for a part of this trip and we drove (excessively far) to North Sikkim to places like Lachung and Lachen.
Goecha La trek
One of Chad’s objectives for this trip was to hike to 5,000m/16,300ft. We choose the Goecha La trek since the route almost reaches that elevation over a period of five to seven days. Being foreigners, we had to pay extra to make travel arrangements and permits. The trek was spectacular, starting from the dense forests of the Kanchenjunga park and steadily rising to an alpine terrain. Beautiful flora and fauna, some of the birds and animals I had never seen, such as pika, blue mountain sheep, yaks, etc. The trail passed through swaths of rhododendron forests, with vivid and beautiful colours stretching across gigantic mountains. Once we crossed the tree line, the weather got harsher, but we were kept company by massive mountains and glaciers under starlight. Climax of the trip was hitting the Goecha la view point to see the Kanchenjunga mountain range, the third highest peak in the world. I’ll certainly recommend this trek to anyone that wishes to experience the beauty of the Himalayas.
After three weeks in the far corner of the country, we returned to my homestate of Maharashtra to spend a week on the coast. This is the season when there is a bounty of mangoes, berries and other fruit that you can go and pick yourself.
Cycling 400km from Ottawa to Toronto
In July, over the Canada day long weekend, I decided to bike from Ottawa to Toronto, passing through little towns in Eastern Ontario. I enjoy cycling a lot and it was a great way to see more of the province. I saw many animals – deer, fox – on rural cycling trails, besides some hilarious experiences such as getting pulled over by cops for cycling on the highway.
Couple of trips to USA this year – a brief cycling trip to Buffalo and the mandatory trip to New York City!
New York City
NYC is my spiritual hometown and I really like it there. This year we visited for an extended Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, hitting my usual spots and many many more.
↑ Looking to spend time in Istanbul, Konya and then on the Southern Mediterranean coast.
This is my second trip to Turkey and Chad’s first. We spent time learning Turkish, so it’s quite fun. I am hitting mostly different places this time, except Istanbul which only gets better with each visit.
What’s coming in 2015?
Besides a serious plan to revive travel blogging, mostly as a couple, we have also started planning trips for the spring/summer. My wish list keeps growing, and it’s a fun struggle to find the right balance between work and travel.