Chasing the Monsoon

     Print Edition: Aug 19, 2012

Deep Kalra, Founder, MakeMyTrip.com
Deep Kalra, Founder, MakeMyTrip.com
Perch yourself on a dripping tree, sink into a flower bed or bike along a mountain pass. A travel industry insider shares his list of monsoon experiences you simply cannot miss.

TREKKING THE VALLEY OF FLOWERS
Nature's pallet isn't always a mix of greens. The monsoon not only brightens up the green belts but brings out colourful hues of flora and fauna. The Valley of Flowers, a national park in the Garwal region of Uttarakhand, is an artistic illustration of this. Hidden from civilisation, this fairytale land is home to rare flowers like the white beauty bhramakamal, the pastel blue poppy and the snake like green cobra lily. The valley turns into a magical profusion of colours as these flowers blossom. The silence of this picturesque valley breaks with the sound of streams and the occasional chirp of a Himalayan monal and the snow pigeon.

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Getting There:
Hop onto a Rishikeshbound Shatabdi and drive from here to the base camp at Govindghat. Go on an exhilarating 14 km trek from here.

Tip:
The first day of your vacation will be spent in travel, so hit the sack early after you arrive and be fresh for an early morning trek.


TRAIN-RIDE ON THE WESTERN GHATS
The sheer beauty and splendour of the topography make a train ride on the Western Ghats a memorable journey, at any time of the year. But the monsoon showers turn the landscape from the west coast of Maharasthra all the way to Karnataka into a celestial abode with lush green hills, stunning rock formations, jetting rivers and waterfalls. You can deboard and take night halts at the little stations en route. Walk into the hinterland of the Sahyadris and relish Konkani foods like pathrode, a coastal delicacy made of colocasia leaves, and jeer mirya kadi, a spicy curry.

Getting There:
Opt for the Konkan Kanya Express which takes you across the Konkan belt from Mumbai to Goa.It halts at beautiful stations like Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and North Goa, en route to Madgaon.

Tip:
The little towns en route serve as weekend getaways for locals, so book in advance.


SAO-JOAO FESTIVITIES IN GOA
Goa in the rainy season has its own idyllic charm. Since you can't venture too far out into the sea, this is the best time to observe and immerse yourself in cultural and architectural experiences that the state has to offer. And a feast observed solely to celebrate the onset of monsoon is what completes your Goa-in-the-monsoon experience. The Sao Joao festival has every element of celebration, from dancing to food, wine and even a procession. Most wells in the region are full, and these serve as a backdrop for the festivities. As you watch the local youth sporting wreaths, carrying bottles of feni and splashing in and out of wells, you'll find yourself joining them.

Getting There:
There are a number of luxury cruises that run between Goa and Mumbai.

Tip:
Getting drenched in feni, their version of a rain dance.


PERCHED IN A TREE
You may have done the usual drill of hill cottages, forest camps and luxury suites in city hotels, now how about going 'back to the basics' and perching yourself on a tree? Enjoy the sound of water dripping down a cluster of leaves in a tree house resort. Should you wonder about the comfort quotient of such an experience, these are furnished with comfortable beds, shower cubicles and entertainment systems. Just step down and walk in the woods or go on a jungle safari in the tropical rain forests. Wake up to the benefits of eco-tourism and indulge the child in you.

Getting There:
Various tree resorts are being managed in Jaipur, Munnar, Coorg and Wayanad and these make for an ideal getaway for nature lovers. Most locations are accessible by road from the nearest big city.

Tip:
An ayurvedic monsoon massage is highly recommended


BIKING ACROSS LEH
Ladakh's brackish lakes make great camp sites
Ladakh's brackish lakes make great camp sites
A road trip to Leh's barren roads is an adventure of a lifetime. Avoid the nose-bleed inducing chilly winters and ride up there during the rains instead. At this time, the snow has melted and the temperatures rest at a pleasant 15 degrees. If you're riding from Manali, you can camp on the roadside or take a home stay in remote villages en route. Still, if you wish to ride up in one go, you could take small breaks and absorb breathtaking views of the Himalayas.

Getting There:
Charter flights have significantly brought down the cost but biking through Khardung La gives the best adrenaline rush.

Tip:
Make sure your GPS is in mint condition before you set out.


ROMANTIC GETAWAY IN OOTY
Nilgiri Railway Line
Winding its way past waterfalls and green valleys, the Nilgiri Railway Line was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
With your hands clasped around your loved ones, walk into the quiet woods, take a boat ride on a full moon night and herald the morning with a golden sunrise. In Ooty, you can't help but feel like a character from a romantic Bollywood love-tale. A local porter will make a reference to the popular Chaiyya Chaiyya song which was shot there. Situated deep inside the towering Nilgiris, Ooty's tea gardens and gurgling streams will set the mood and the sound of raindrops will further build up the romantic fervour.

Getting There:
The Nilgiri toy train from Mettupalayam is a delight.

Tip:
With the Moyar flowing below you and tea estates all around, the Kodanadu view point is a must-visit.

DEEP KALRA
Founder, MakeMyTrip.com

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