Wednesday, September 29, 2010

7 Reasons Why the World is Best Explored on Foot

Ritemail: 7 Reasons Why the World is Best Explored on Foot

We travel the world for pleasure, business or to meet family and friends, and mostly, we let ourselves be transported by planes, trains, cars and whatever means are appropriate. But, if we stop for a moment and think about the origin of the word 'travel' we will realize that we often neglect the most natural means of transport - our feet.

'Travel' derives from the Old French word 'travail' which means work. This in turn apparently goes back to the Latin word 'tripalium' which was a three-legged sort of whip used by the Romans to drive slaves. Being on the move was work, walking miles and miles to get from A to B, getting dirty and sweaty in the process.

No modern-day traveler is required to submit himself to torture, but a little bit of 'travail' by exploring our destinations on foot, as opposed to hopping on a tour bus and letting yourself be guided to pre-selected destinations, goes a long way to increasing the pleasure of travel. We travel to satisfy our curiosity and to discover the real side of the country of our choice. If we don't put in a bit of legwork we will miss out on all of the following:
Meeting the locals

You have arrived at your destination and the first thing you do is get your bearings. More after the break...

Plan in hand and shunning a guided tour, I made my way to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. As inevitably happens, the map always looks different than the reality and I decided to ask directions of an elegant lady on the street. We fell into a conversation. "If you are looking for something really typical of Santiago," she said, "you should visit the statue of the 3 Marias, our local heroines."

She continued to explain that said Marias had been three sisters who, during the times of Franco, had suffered serious hardship. Bound on pulling themselves out of misery, they began to design and sew their own clothes and, every day at the dot of 3pm, set out on a walk around the city center, modeling their clothes and, as they had a lot of wit and a sharp tongue, flirting with the students and providing entertainment for an entire city during dreary times. After their death, a statue was erected in their honor and Galician poets even dedicated poems to them. No guidebook mentions this story, which I would not have discovered without taking to the street.

Beating the traffic
Have you ever thought how many taxis, buses and minibuses are needed to ferry tourists around and what that does to the environment? Take to your feet and you use the 'greenest' means of transport possible and, more often than not, you arrive faster than anybody on four wheels.

Our cruise ship had just docked in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. I saw that the town center was approximately 2 miles away and decided to walk along the ocean front up to the 99 steps which I wanted to visit. My fellow passengers were not inclined to follow my example and headed for the buses and taxis. "Two miles," one gentleman huffed, "you can't walk  that!!" No? I thought to myself. Watch me.

Charlotte Amalie is a small town and the roads are not equipped to accommodate the sudden influx of thousands and thousands of cruise ship passengers, all arriving at once and all headed for the same direction. Result: they got stuck in a traffic jam and looked slightly miffed when I overtook them on foot, happily waving at some very long faces. Moreover, I arrived at the 99 steps and the World Amber Museum well ahead of the crowd and had the place to myself.

Exercise while seeing the sights
There is yet another benefit to exploring on foot. Just think that even one hour of walking at a leisurely pace burns 38 calories at a body weight of 150 lbs. That allows for a little extra treat without fear of putting on the dreaded holiday pounds and beats a treadmill any day.

Avoiding the tourist crowds
Tourist guides and hotel staff will recommend restaurants full of other travelers, but I prefer to go and take a look at where the locals assuage their hunger.

I was richly rewarded for this in Kusadasi, a lovely Turkish port town on the Aegean Sea. Discarding the more elegant places, I opted for a small, half-open place called "Toro" where I saw a lot of Turkish businessmen having their lunch. It had long communal tables and benches and an open hot and cold buffet where you just pointed at what you wanted. Or you could ask for fish and then sit down by the waterfront and watch fisherman pulling out what you were about to eat a few minutes later. The lamb shanks I had were so tender that I didn't need a knife and a rich fruit platter came as free desert. The total bill was a lot cheaper than anywhere else, because if not, the locals would have protested.

Discovering curiosities
The real joy of travel is to come upon sites which aren't mentioned anywhere and that's only possible if you deviate from the beaten path - on foot. Another stop of my cruise was Tortola and its tiny capital Road Town. Meandering along Main Street, I happened upon a folklore museum which was the smallest museum I have ever seen - just one room and easy to miss. I was the only visitor and the curator told me a lot of local stories, which taught me a more about the island life and mentality than any guide book could have.

Seeing nature up close and personal
Taking to your feet allows you to enjoy tropical flora and fauna at close quarters. A botanical garden is fine, but a 'jungle walk' on your own is a much better adventure.

Again in St. Thomas, I saw the Skyride, a cable car going up and down Flag Hill to Paradise Point. I admit, I took it up, but when I discovered a path leading down, I decided to follow it. My first companion was a bright red butterfly which settled on my shoulder and stayed with me all the way. I saw colorful birds and lizards scuttling out of the way and enjoyed wonderful views of the island and the ocean peeking through the trees. Best of all, I was all alone.

Feeling like you belong
In my eyes, that's the best of all. Anybody moving in a group or climbing out of a tourist bus is instantly tagged as a tourist and treated as such. Walking the streets on your own gives you a real feel for the place and - at least for a while - you belong. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cycle rally to popularize tourist spots

Chief minister B S Yeddyurappa will inaugurate a cycle jatha on October 8 at Castle Rock, said B Mallesh, Haliyal deputy conservator of forest. Addressing reporters at Haliyal on Monday, Mallesh said the two-day cycle jatha is aimed to popularize important tourist locations like waterfalls, historical spots, places of pilgrimages and beaches in Uttara Kannada district. 

The jatha, which is being carried out in connection with the Greater Canara Green Tourism, will cover 250 km from Dudhasagar Falls to Jog Falls. The jatha will begin at 8 am on October 8 and reach Jog on October 10. 

He said the jatha will showcase the green tourist spots of the district, apart from conveying a message to protect the forests and environment. It will also give job opportunities for the youths, he added. 

Cyclists of national and international fame will participate in the jatha, along with cadets of National School of Defence, Bijapur, for whom, a cycle race of 70 km will be arranged. The first three victorious candidates will be awarded the Greater Canara Parisarashri award. 

Mallesh said it is mandatory for guards, foresters, forest officers and assistant conservator of forests to participate in the rally, while interested youths, college students can also join in, he added. 

The CM will inaugurate it at the Railway school ground at Castle Rock on October 8, along with cricketer Anil Kumble, vice-president of Karnataka Wildlife Suggestion Committee. Tourism minister Janardhana Reddy will inaugurate the adventure camp and forest minister C H Vijayashankar will participate in the rally, apart from ministers, MLAs, MP, other public representatives, environment experts and writers. 

Read more: Cycle rally to popularize tourist spots - The Times of India

Trek to Yana (Karwar District, Karnataka)

YanaThis is a featured page

Location: India>Karnataka>Karwar
Nearest Towns: Sirsi, Kumta.
From Bangalore: 400+ km From Sirsi: 40 km From Kumta: 25 km From Karwar :86 km

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Route: From Bangalore you come to Sirsi though Haveri where the major distance of the drive would be on NH4 else from Shimoga route, which is the Bangalore–Honnavar highway.

Route I: Take a bus from Sirsi which goes to Mattighatta,devanalli via hegadekatta.Get down at a stop called "vaddi cross" and walk 6+kms from there.Route II: Take a bus either from Sirsi or Kumta get down at a place called Anegundi near Kathagaal. This place is after the Devimane ghats if you are coming from Sirsi. From here it is around 16kms walk. Jeep is the best mode of transportation anywhere in North Kanara. You can hire a jeep either in Sirsi or anywhere your base camp is and take convenient drives. 

Best Time To Visit: November to May
Worst Time To Visit: Monsoons - June to September

Summary: This place in thickets of the Sahyadri hills of the Western Ghats is around 45 km from Sirsi and about 25 km from Kumta. Two huge rocks are the center of attraction here. There are two temples, temple of Shiva inside a cave and a Ganesha temple nearby. The other places of interest are a small waterfall and the forest itself.
On Haveri route to Sirsi, one would arrived at the place called Vaddi cross. Earlier all the motor able roads would end here and the trek to Yana from here would be 17 km. Now we have roads, which take very close to Yana. The road ends 3 km from Yana. One can start the trek from Vaddi cross. There is well-defined path from here to the Yana used by devotees and trekkers here. After walking 3 km, two gigantic peaks towering around all the forests and mountains will appear, the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and the Mohini Shikhara. These two shikharas are the ones, which have made Yana distinct from other regions in the Sahyadri and have captured the imagination of generations of people. These two peaks are one of the mysteries of the Mother Nature yet to unraveled as two how there are here in the midst of forest terrain. The taller one, Bhairaveshwara Shikhara stands 120 meters and the slightly smaller one, Mohini Shikhara is 90 meters from its base. They are solid composition of black, crystalline limestone. At the base of the Bhairaveshwara shikhara is a cave temple, a natural formation where resides the Lord Shiva . Water drips from the projecting rocks over the linga, and devotees call it Gangodbhava. The cave also has a bronze icon of Chandika, an incarnation of mother Goddess Durga. Trickled from the rocks form a small river, 'Chandihole' which joins the Aghanashini river at Uppinapattana. There is a grand jatra held every year during Shivaratri for 10 days and is attended by around 10,000 people. Devotees are allowed inside the cave only on these days .These peaks have a myth associated with them as to be the place where Lord Vishnu as Mohini killed the Bhasmasura, a rakshasa. One can camp at the temple. Mind you this place is very sacred and the priests have to be notified about using the premises. Infact you are not allowed to walk with the footwear on the whole the Bhairaveshwara shikhara itself is revered and looked upon as Lord Shiva abode. Out of the temple starts out the steps, which lead to the Mohini Shikhara. There is a descent of around 30 to 40 feet. At the foot of the shikhara is Goddess Parvati’s udbhava murti. Here one can find many pitch dark caves and can hear the noise of bats. The rock formations are terrific. A guide is recommended as it is very easy to get lost in this area if we miss a turn. You may take a deviation into the forests and explore. The variety of flora is amazing. You can go around the shikhara and this place is a very good spot for Rock climbing. Many caves are present amongst these rocks and are a very good place for camping. The terrain makes it very difficult to walk in the darkness even with torches as it is very dicey with all the slopes covered by trees and shrubbery. One can camp near the temple and good thing about this place is that it has all the facilities for toilet and water. Next morning, you can go to see the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara, the place that beckons the people to Yana. There is a well charted route to take a pradakskina of the peak which on its own is the pradakshina of the temple as the lord Shiva is sanctified within the peak
After climb for some distance, you come across a huge cave with a opening at the top just enough to allow the light. From the mouth of the cave, you get a panoramic view of Yana forests and is a superb view. We climbed high up the peak as far as possible wherever the effort needed was less. These peaks are swarming with bees. After the peaks, you can pack lunch and go to the Vibhuti Falls. You need to trek back the 3 km to our van and take a ride to the falls. This road is very narrow and winding as it descends down the valley and ends 2 km from the falls. A jungle trail used by people goes to the falls and we took this track and trekked to the falls. This trail is very enchanting as there are agricultural field on the right and the jungle on the left. There is a big water falls of about 20 to 25 ft and a small one of 3 ft. This site is very good for camping and offers some mesmerizing sceneries down the valleys. This river streams forms many such waterfalls on its way down the valley.