Kavita Kanan Chandra
It was fun to ride a camel on the beach at Puri in Odisha but what an incredible experience I had doing the same in their habitat, through the Sam sand dunes in the Thar desert. The rocky start made me jittery but once I balanced myself as I started riding, the sight of the stark landscape couldn’t be prettier. Miles of sand stretched before me, the gentle breeze rustled my hair and the evening sun cast a glow all around. I fell in love with its emptiness, the silence so profound that I felt time slowing down and a sense of serenity enveloped me.
Later, in the chilly winter night, the native folk singers rendered deep soulful music, followed by the spirited Kalbelia folk dancers. The guests at the tents gathered around the crackling bonfire, joining them and dancing away till the dying flames of wood, glowing embers and ash.
Explore the unforgettable
- Italy is not just about architectural ruins but also learning to make authentic wood-fired pizza.
- Stay in yurts in Mongolia to see how nomads live.
- Travel to Tanzania in July to witness the migration of wild beasts, zebras in Serengeti National Park.
- Chase the northern lights in the wilderness of Finland in winter.
- Experience native Maori culture in New Zealand.
- Visit the village of Purushwadi in Maharashtra during May and June to see the village lit up with thousands of fireflies.
- Watch Olive Ridley turtles at Gahirmatha in Odisha during their breeding season in October-November.
- Visit Sewri mudflats of Mumbai that turn pretty with the pink plumage of thousands of flamingos which flock here every winter.
Once everyone retired to bed, silence ensued. As the night advanced, the wind gathered speed, and I didn’t know when the whistling wind across my tent lulled me to sleep. I woke up to a refreshingly calm, dewy morning, cold but welcoming. Huddled in my shawl, I poured a hot cup of tea and was lost in the moment.
Living in the midst of sand dunes in Rajasthan is something I will cherish forever. Since then, I have had several fulfilling experiential and immersive trips. It is all about the connection I made with nature, people, my surroundings, and even rediscovering myself in a new light.
Whether it was wandering in the valley of flowers at Yumthang in Sikkim, contemplating the beauty of Bhutan’s countryside in Punakha, overcoming my fear during canyoning in Bali, savouring the simple pleasure of hiking along the Alpine slopes of Switzerland, or participating in the natural salt-making process of 600 years by the Agaria tribe in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat — it made me appreciate the beauty of nature, the efforts people make to keep the traditions alive and to conserve the environment.
On my trip to the Little Rann of Kutch, it was an experience to see barren, cracked mudflats with a sprinkling of salt all around me where only the Agaria tribe lives, making salt in harmony with the threatened wild ass, locally called Ghudkhur. It is a place where no GPS works, and if not with a local driver who knows the terrain well, you are bound to get lost circling within it. Calling a temporary shack made of plastic and jute bags their home, the family with limited means didn’t shy away from being a generous host. Joining them in the salt pan and making salt, I could not last an hour. As we sat in string cots sipping black tea after a meal of bajra roti, jaggery and chilli-garlic chutney, I could appreciate their tireless work in an unforgiving terrain.
Besides appreciating nature and others’ way of life, travelling is also about us. All along, it’s a learning experience, and sometimes a new adventure or offbeat activity can even help overcome fear. For me, it was canyoning in the Hidden Canyon of Beji Guwang at Sukawati in Bali. True to its name, it revealed itself after walking a mile inside the forest. The gurgling stream flanked by scraggy and slippery rocks looked intimidating. The warning of creepy crawlies lurking in the crevices of rocks, and the narrow passages with water gushing below with high currents further made my stomach churn. However, our guide, Yoko, instilled confidence in me and I followed his instructions as I waded through water, swam a little, rappelled and jumped from one rock to another, and in the process, overcame my fear. It was then that I could fully comprehend the beauty of the rugged surroundings, the play of light and darkness among jutting trees and rocks creating visual imagery, and the spectacular waterfalls in the canyon which were worth the plunge.
There’s more to travel nowadays. More and more travellers are seeking a meaningful journey beyond mere sightseeing and ticking off the touristy hotspots. They make an effort to connect with a place, appreciate alternative ways of life, immerse in different cultures, chase natural phenomena and go for activities that appeal to their interests. They would rather spend on experiences they seek and plan itineraries around them.
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