A Summer holiday
Senapaty checks out various options — home and away —
for these vacations
Holidays are not
quite what they used to be. Holidays, once an opportunity to get
away from it all, are now often a chance to get away to it all.
A holiday in Africa against the backdrop of its beautiful scenery and impressive wildlife is an unforgettable experience
Photo by the writer
there is your dream summer holiday — all you have to do is
decide what you would like to do and choose from a dizzying
array of choices. Besides using a holiday to learn a new skill,
it is a great way to gain a new perspective and meet people. The
taste for adventure is always good for blasting away the
cobwebs`85a clear departure from the preferred Indian holiday
routine of air-conditioned room, cards, tambola, food,
food and more food, with a bit of sightseeing included as
But inspired by
the ‘work hard, play harder’ adage, today’s young and
not-so-young travellers are all striving to do something
different, doing things they like to do, but never seem to have
It is great to see
people getting away regularly to unheard of places. They are
willing to explore possibilities of simple village stays, treks
in the wilderness, camping, besides just visiting traditional
historical monuments. They are willing to go that extra mile to
climb a rock or paddle down a river.
On the tea trail
So a journey, tea
trailing through Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka is not such a radical
idea. A twist of the track, and there they are: the tea
plantations — ranks of bushes cascading down the slopes in a
carpet of green. It is like retreating into a time warp and much
the best way to savour the tea experience is to stay on a
plantation, in a sprawling bungalow with a library, attentive
butler service and delicious, home-made food served on the
terrace to accompanying birdsong. Here you can indulge the
fantasy of being a successful, turn-of-the-century planter.
plantations, most majestic green is the tea bush, which is quite
regal in its symmetrical planting. At a distance the tea pickers
move in silence similar to an army. One can set a day aside for
tripping over to Kitulgala and the story of its brush with
celluloid, a kind of thing that can only happen in Sri Lanka.
The Kelani river was the setting for the film Bridge on the
River Kwai, but little remains now of the bridge built for
the movie (and destroyed in its closing scenes). With names such
as Head Chopper (for its overhanging branches) and Killer Falls,
the grade-three rapids on this stretch of river sound more
dangerous than they are. For those who prefer dry feet, the
adjacent forest offers bird watching opportunities where you can
spot giant monitors and flying squirrels.
Travel to taste
Or check out a
genuine South Indian vegetarian gourmet-cooking holiday, an hour
east of Cochin, Kerala. The Pimenta is primarily a family
kitchen on a seven-acre spice plantation in the lush, forested
foothills of the Western Ghats. With modest bungalows, and
dinners round the family dining table, this is no marble-topped,
five-star extravaganza, but what it lacks in glitz, it more than
makes up for in authenticity, with classes in delicious Kerala
style vegetarian specialties led by the farm owner, who is
passionate about cooking. The school won’t just teach you to
cook the dishes, but will help you understand the flavors and
nuances of the traditional cuisine.
Fun at sea
Cruising is yet
another memorable binge! Post-Titanic suddenly everybody wants
to cruise! Imagine a floating palace where the pleasures are
unmatched. Where royalty, millionaires and filmstars have been
known to stroll on gleaming teak decks, savouring earth’s
dramatic panoramas. Welcome aboard the one and only Oasis of the
Seas, the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in
the world. An architectural marvel at sea, she spans 16 decks,
encompasses 225,282 gross registered tons, carries 5,400 guests
at double occupancy, and features 2,700 staterooms.
The cruise ships
these days are getting bigger and bigger with more and more
dazzle and many travel specialists are asking, where’s the
sky? Then there is an entire array of staff to look after you.
And what looking after! These are not mere mortals, they are
supermen and superwomen born with the ability to anticipate your
every wish, and make it come true, even before you know you want
it. Thus, they know when breakfast should be served in a hushed
whisper; when a lightly scrambled egg and some fresh orange
juice is all you can face: when you’ve bounced back
sufficiently for a pre-lunch daiquiri, or when you’re in the
mood to party and it’s going to be champagne and caviar in the
The world’s biggest party happens every month on the full moon night at Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin beach, Thailand
Once the unrest
gets over, travellers can head to Thailand, as it offers a
holiday experience on a different scale. It offers gourmet beach
holidays at Krabi and Koi Samui, where you are taught everything
that needs to be taught in Thai cuisine. Later one can head for
the "Full Moon Party" at Koh Phangan’s Haad Rin
beach where the world’s biggest party happens every month on
the full moon night. There are more than 20,000 like-minded
revellers by your side with music, food, tattoos, international
DJs, fire dances, firework displays and the works.
Try a green
holiday in Africa where you could stay at a conservation lodge,
which is well facilitated to accommodate volunteers. It has
large dorm rooms, hot-water showers open to the stars and a
large open air communal area, complete with a fire circle and a
barbeque pit — all of this against a truly remarkable backdrop
— the beautiful scenery and impressive wildlife of the Limpopo
river. Volunteering for this project will be hard work, good fun
and extremely interesting and involve moving from place to
place. You will get involved in wrapping trees to prevent damage
from elephants, removing alien plants and collecting scientific
data on the birds and elephants in the reserve. You could even
learn how to do GPS tracking of elephants and wild dogs at a
South African Nature Reserve, and also learn how to enjoy camp
life under the stars.
Yes, seeing things
is good, but doing things makes it better. Holidays are a
necessity and can be great if you plan right. Things you thought
mattered simply vanish. This is what the new breed is aspiring
for. As we edge wearily towards the times ahead of us, the
new-age tourist is constantly in search of a simple, yet
all-too-rare-formula: elegance mixed with active holidays.
A toy train on the heritage Kalka-Shimla rail track
Photo: Amit Kanwar
a break this summer with your clients or staff for
company? A picturesque journey in a chartered train on the
century-old Kalka-Shimla rail line could be just the
answer, especially for corporate honchos.
Railway is running a chartered train service on the
Kalka-Shimla section. Any company or individual can hire a
train comprising six coaches with a capacity to
accommodate up to 180 persons. "A one-way trip
between Kalka and Shimla for a chartered train costs
between Rs 20,000 and Rs 60,000, depending on the class
you are travelling in," says commercial inspector
(Railways) Amar Singh Thakur.
attraction while travelling on the chartered train is that
the tourists can decide the number of stoppages on the
96-km-long rail track, which has been chosen by Unesco as
a world heritage site. "But the journey has to be
completed within the stipulated time," adds Thakur.
railway station superintendent G.S. Rajput says:
"Foreign tourists, particularly from Britain, are
keen to enjoy a joyride on this track because of a
coal-fired steam engine. Though right now a diesel-powered
engine is in use."
engine-operated train runs between Shimla and Kathlighat.
The fare is Rs 59,000 for a round-trip and the one-way
journey between the two stations is 22 km.
have a 1903-made heritage steam engine but it has been
sent to Amritsar (in Punjab) for repair. We are getting a
good number of inquiries regarding its
re-introduction," adds Rajput.
Kalka-Shimla rail track was built by the British in 1903
to ferry Europeans to and fro to Shimla.
102 tunnels on the rail line. A train takes about three
minutes to cross the longest tunnel at Barog (5,000 ft).
The other big tunnels en route are at Koti (2,276 ft),
Taradevi (1,615 ft) and tunnel number 103 (1,135 ft),
which is near Shimla.
route also features in the Guinness Book of World Records
for offering the steepest rise in altitude in a space of
96 km. More than two-thirds of the track is curved,
sometimes at angles as sharp as 48 degrees.
railways has also introduced a ‘honeymoon special’
bogey for newlyweds on the Kalka-Shimla route from the
first week of June. "A Kalka-Shimla train will again
have a special bogey — Shivalik Queen — for couples
from next month," adds Rajput. The service, by
Northern Railway, had been discontinued for the last few
months due to renovation. At least, four couples can
travel in a bogey at a time and the fare per couple is Rs
750 one way
Apart from couples, there
is another special bogey called Shivalik Palace that is
available for family or friends, who want to travel
together. The Shivalik Palace fare is Rs 4,970 from Kalka
to Shimla and Rs 3,595 from Shimla to Kalka. — IANS