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Friday, 23 June 2017

How to travel with small children -16 useful points

    Most of you will agree that travelling can be most enjoyable when the kids are still young.It is the time when you do not have to worry about schools reopening,classes to catch up with or upcoming exams just after the holidays.So one should not miss out on travelling during those very carefree days.We do not  go for long tours even if we wish to ,as the thought of children falling sick during the tours keeps us waiting for them to grow up.
           So let us not waste more time and enjoy travelling with our very cute and adorable little ones.

1-Do some homework before you embark on the travel----
Get any due vaccinations done.
More importantly-we should start inculcating the habit of eating fruits in your child a few months before you start the tour.It is actually easier than you think.Instead of forcing the child ,the parents can enjoy eating the fruits before the child.The child should only get the idea that it is something very yumm. Have patience.

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Though quite a known fact ,it is so important that I thought I should underline it once again.Provide only mineral water of reputed companies to the child when on the way.When eating out I actually the  carry mineral water to the table especially at roadside dhabas.This takes care of half the problems.

WE should avoid giving very spicy food to the child even if he enjoys it.He will eat well for the first few days but it will take its toll on his system soon when you travel for many days.As a matter of fact even we adults cannot go on a spicy diet for a long time.

You may also read- Rakcham ,that beautiful mountain village
                               Kamru fort,Sangla (Kinnaur)
                                 The Magic of Mcleodganj

While travelling,snacks form a very important part of the diet.Children sometimes miss their meals completely .So I take special care of the snacks menu.I have never stacked the trunk of the car with chips and synthetic tetra packs of drinks..This has taken care of nausea to  a very large extent.Tetrapacks of fruit juices can keep a child well hydrated .Instead biscuits (non cream Variety)or fruits (excepting grapes)form a great menu.

5-Carry a tiffin box-
A child's mealtime will never match with the parents.He will either be hungry before or after mealtime.So as long as my children were very young I carried an empty tiffin box with an airtight lid with me  everywhere.It had so many uses.
Firstly when we had breakfast or any meal I  always ordered for him ,even if he did not eat.It was packed in the box and reserved for later(preferably order a one pot meal like veg pulao),when he would be hungry and we would be on our way.He actually enjoyed eating in  a moving car.
I have  cut fruits into pieces and packed them in a box before I left my hotel room.Once hungry children relish on the fruits on their own (just provide them with a fork).You can carry a pack of seedless dates with you,two to three a day can be very helpful.

6-Carry a small plastic fork and a knife (sharp enough for fruits)

7-Jams and pickles
As you can see children call for a very different packing. I have taken with me my child's favourite jam  and pickle .Rotis can be rolled up with jam and pickles come handy when you don't want  a mess with the idli chutney . See your child moving around enjoying warm rotis as you relish your dinner.
8-Thermos flask
Yes ,it proves to be very handy as you can actually pack hot milk from the hotel dining with you,specially in the mountains.It can be filled in feeding bottles later.so this applies only if you have a baby with you.

IT is very important to keep the child hydrated through out the journey.So keep providing the child with tender coconut water and buttermilk during the day.(If you are travelling anywhere in India excepting the mountains). Even for babies one feeding bottle a day of these wonder drinks can keep a lot of anxiety at bay.

  BY now you must have noticed that have quite a few points regarding the diet of the child.the reason being,I believe that proper diet and  rest can keep the children fit and fine through out the journey.That brings us to our next point.

10-Sleep No matter how tightly packed our itinerary is ,we should ensure that the child gets  a good nights sleep .Sleeping in the backseat of the car does not actually count for good sleep.There can be nothing more damping than a crying baby or an irritated child in a trip.

11-Crowd -Crowded places are best avoided when a child is travelling with us.Not only is is difficult to manage with a child,they also pick up more infections.

12-Friends are so important
Travelling with kids can be a big pleasure if you can manage to travel with another family having  a child of the same age group as your child.The duo entertain each other and you are left free for that perfectly romantic holiday.
Needs no mention ,but still ,keep the child well covered in cold places especially the ears and feet.
14-Hair dryer
Yes ,now it is even more important to take it with you.Comes very handy when the child has wet his hair in a waterfall or an accidental drizzle

15- Electric kettle-This can come in use for an urgent warm water requirement.You might need that if your child has  a sore throat

Chemists are not easy  to find especially when you need them .So take your stock with you.The very basic for fever ,cold and stomach ailments,with the correct dosage penned down on paper.Yes, that antiseptic cream is not to be forgotten.

So go ahead and enjoy your trip watching your child frolicking with you,you can bless me later.

Our successful itinerary to the Kinnaur Valley of Himachal Pradesh

This has been my second visit to the state,The first being the one in which we visited Shimla, Manali and Dharamashala.I was told about Kinnaur by a fellow tourist ,who highly appreciated the valley. Since then Kinnaur was in our bucket list till it happened this year in April end.
  I am posting this itinerary at the request of many of my readers who wish to visit the valley.

Bangalore---------Chandigarh------------Narkanda-----------Rakcham--------Chitkul ---------------Sangla----------Kalpa---------Sarahan---------------Shimla---------Chandigarh--------Bangalore

Date of starting from Bangalore-April 26 th
A total of 11 nights and 12 days
Day 1-Start from Bangalore  by flight----------reached Chandigarh by 12 noon.
      We had our cab waiting at the airport.The cab was booked in advance from Bangalore.
     Without wasting any time we headed for Narkanda starting at 1p.m. The traffic in Shimla slowed us down considerably, had a hasty lunch at one of the eateries after the traffic started becoming sparse. Eating at Shimla can be difficult as you might have to walk up to the parking. We wanted to reach Narkanda before it was dark ,but finally we could reach only about 7 p.m. WE had our bookings at the HPTDC property of Hotel Hatu.

Day 2-Visited Hatu peak-followed by breakfast at the market place. In the evening strolled to the skiing ground. Alternatively you can have an early lunch and also visit the Tannu Jubbar Lake.

2 nights at Narkanda

Day 3-Checked out of Hotel Hatu next morning to start for Sangla

We never miss the novelty of having breakfast at the roadside Dhabas . A delayed breakfast is also better as you tend to have less nausea and you can start very early.
The road to Sangla is very treacherous ,so starting early has its own benefits.
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From the front seat,Narkanda to Sangla

Distance from Narkanda to Sangla is nearly 180 kms.It takes an approximate 7 hours if weather is fine.
Once you reach Tapri (about 133 kms from Narkanda)  on the way do not miss lunch at Papu Ka Dhaba  Read post here.   You shall remember it for along time to come.

Entrance to the Sangla valley
                   Read post on----HOw to travel with small children,few useful points.
 We reached Sangla at about 4 in the evening.  Our stay was not booked at Sangla. We looked for the available options but when we did not find it to be satisfactory we decided to drive to Rakcham. As it was getting dark we checked in hastily at Hotel Rupin River View, and never regretted our decision. Read post here on Rackcham.

Day4-So we spent the night here and after early morning stroll around the village and breakfast decided to visit Chitkul.( only 8 kms from Rackcham). 3 hours is enough for a visit to Chitkul unless you wish to stay there for the night.
So one night at Rakcham.

Back to Sangla,this time we booked Hotel Mount Kailash with a magnificient view of the mountains from the balcony. After lunch visited Kamru fort the same afternoon. People who have difficulty in climbing steps can omit this visit as it involves a lot of steep steps. Read post on Kamru Fort here.

We had to miss the Bering Nag Temple at Sangla which is a little distance from the market place.     Every temple here has similar kind of architecture of carved wood and stone ,still their locations and ambience makes them very unique. We spent the night here. So one night at Sangla.

DAy5- Sangla to Kalpa distance-40 Kms. Takes approx. 2 to 3 hours.
 Morning breakfast at the hotel and we started for Kalpa as early as possible.
On the way to Kalpa we took a quick detour for the mountain village Batseri. Spent about 2 hours at Batseri. Apart from being a Himalayan village,it houses a very beautiful temple.  Let me tell you here that in this trip we visited four Himalayan village and discovered that each one has its own character. So I shall say...if time permits go for them.
By the time we reached Kalpa it was afternoon.WE had our rooms booked at the HPTDC property The Kinnaur Kailash for one night. The landscape changes from Sangla to Kalpa.  The beauty of this place has to be seen to be  believed. We loved the resort,we loved the views ,we fell in love with the place.So what next ,we extended our booking for another 2 nights here.

This evening we could find only enough time to visit the monastery and the temple adjoining to it at Chini village. Had momos and thupka at the nearby cafes and strolled around to soak in the lovely paradise.

Day 6-A quick breakfast and we drove to the Himalayan villages of ROghi and Kothi. On our way back had lunch at Rekong Peo ,followed by some shopping.

Day 7-Breakfast and started for Pooh ,with a plan for the Nako Lake in mind.The distance from Kalpa to Pooh is approx.70 kms. takes about 2 to 3 hours if the roads are in good shape.The terrain gets very rugged here,landslides are very common. Pooh is again a small settlement famous for almond,apricots orchards and vineyards. If you can extend your itinerary by another 2 or 3 nights you can continue on this road till Tabo or Kaza..The landscape changes drastically and the only greenery you can see are the trees planted for timber by the local people. But as we were little apprehensive of the roads and the weather ,returned with a quick visit to the cold desert at Pooh.We did not go till Nako.
If you have Kaza in mind then you shall have to take the Paori- Kaza road. Paori is 5 km. from Rekong Peo.

So three nights at Kalpa 

Day 8 -Started for Sarahan ..Reached Sarahan late afternoon. Checked into the hotel(had no advance booking here. We had just enough time for the magnificent Bhim Kali temple.If you have Sarahan in your itinerary do keep in mind the rooms at the Bhimkali Temple.That is the best stay option in Sarahan. Alternatively their is a Hptdc property too .WE visited the temple again in the morning and then went strolling to the stadium ,and the King's and the Queen's palaces nearby.

One night at Sarahan.

Day 9-After the stroll and breakfast we headed for Shimla. Reached Shimla late afternoon,with a lunch on the way.After booking the hotel went for a leisurely walk on Mall road.

Shimla Mall

Day ends.We had visited Shimla and its whereabouts in our last tour. In this tour we stopped and stayed overnight at Shimla only for some purposeful break.

Day 10-The last phase of our trip,started for Chandigarh.By the time we had our lunch at Chandigarh it was late to visit any of the places.

Day11-Visited Sukhna lake and the rock garden..We did not visit the rose garden as the heat in the month of May was becoming unbearable.

Day12-Morning Flight to Bangalore from Chandigarh.

This trip was one which had some beautiful surprises packed for us every single day.The mountains the roads or the villages never became monotonous to us. The Kinnaur valley is less crowded if compared to the more popular destinations like Manali or Dharmashala. Thankfully it is less exploited. However,it attracts a huge number of tourists from West Bengal. So in Kalpa one can find numerous Hotels serving Bengali food.

 Food joints
Here it would be very appropriate to mention that the roadside eateries are not as frequent as they are on the Shimla- Manali  Road or the other roads in that circuit. So if you are traveling with children it is better to ensure that you have some food with you.The general food that is easily available here is the typical north Indian style menu,with flatbread or tawa roti dominating everywhere.Though Rice lovers  get rice at every place.

There is very little scope for shopping  in the entire circuit.I could only find dry apples at Reckong Peo and few more apple products like apple jams and pickles at the HPMC outlets in the entire trip. Of course I bought a few shawls and souvenirs at the Shimla Mall road.

WE visited the valley in the beginning of the tourist season.It was not tough to get accommodation in most of the places.You can book the HPTDC property Online in Advance.We had booked at Narkanda and Kalpa as said above ,but you might have noticed that we  did not book hotels in advance at many places.This was just to ensure that we do not get tied up ,in case we wish to stay longer at some place.Do save some hotel phone numbers with you for convenience,as internet connections cannot be taken for granted at many places.

What to expect
You would be visiting teh apple orchard of teh country.
If you wish to see the apple blossoms -visit Around april -May .
Apple flowers

To see the apples growing on the trees -Visit in or around the months of  July till September
If you wish to relish apples the entire tour,visit around October and November.
In the month of May we could get some freshly Harvested Cherries.

In the first week of May there was light snowfall at the higher altitudes.Two layers of warm clothing is what I feel is enough.It would be good if you carry a windcheater to ward off the breeze and the intermittent drizzles. At the places of higher altitudes like Rakcham and Chitkul the air can get sparse,so it is advisable to make  a note for elderly people or people with breathing difficulties.
The Kinnaur Valley is covered in snow for nearly four months. So the best time to visit is from April to November.

No worries,speak Hindi to your hearts content and enjoy.

You would have noticed that this itinerary is fit for a family with kids .The visits and stays have been optimized enough to allow time for rest and  travelling has been  avoided after dark.

So enjoy your trip and let me know about any exciting new adventures that you come across. Meanwhile let me tell you that the words in this itinerary and any post in this blog are entirely mine ,but the itinerary has been  painstakingly planned by my dear husband whose careful planning and methodical execution goes behind all our pleasant tours.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Rakcham .Why we preferred it to Sangla (Kinnaur)

We reached Rakcham in a drizzly chill evening.Our hotel was not pre booked ,so we just happened to enquire at the only stay option in sight ,The Hotel Rupin River View. With the appealing scene around us accommodation was no longer a priority.The place fulfilling all our basic requirements of stay and food, and with a magnificent view of the stream flowing adjacently from the balcony,we decided to look no further.

The ranges which accompanied us for quite some time ,now seemed to be at hands reach and the small rivulets  which flowed down the folds, froze on their way to the stream .We could distinctly hear the gurgling sound of the water flowing through the apple orchards next to our balcony.

Sunset from the hotel balcony

 With a very palatable  dinner,we decided to call it a day,quite sure that the next day promised to unfold a lot more.
Three layers of quilt did not seem to be enough to keep us warm with the children refusing to take off their socks to bed. The temperature had actually dropped below freezing point in the night.We could make out that the evening drizzle had precipitated to light snowfall in the night, when we saw that the trees which were green the previous evening covered in a layer of snow in  the morning rays. We could not have asked for more.

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   Words defied me ,as we walked on the dusty cobbled roads of this Himalayan village.The landscape wore a brownish hue this time.It was a scene dominated with stones of different shapes and sizes and logs of wood.I had never seen a bigger collection of stones before,which demarcated one field from the other.With every splash of rain the landscape was slowly sprouting back to life. I guess ,people​ visiting the place after us would have seen Rakcham  in a different colour.With the melting of the snow ,life was slowly staggering back to normal in this lesser known village of Himachal Pradesh.

  We refused to have breakfast at the lodge,and decided to take a stroll around the village.Having breakfast out in the open ,at one of the shacks, under the warmth of the morning sun is what we had in mind..We were living on alu parathas for breakfast since the beginning of the journey,but had still not grown tired of them .Needless to say the lady running the shack prepared the tastiest of parathas ,with her very deft hands. Breakfast followed with a conversation on the day to day life of the people in the  valley.I was surprised to find myself ,a regular tourist ,out on my annual quota of fresh air ,to be so interested in the lives of the people in this distant land.Was it the call of the mountains or merely a curiosity delible with time,I wondered.......

  People in the Kinnaur valley have their own Kinnauri language ,but everybody seemed to be very proficient in Hindi.There was a good many things I learnt about their lifestyle, from the couple.(the lady and her husband). Surprisingly they never complained about their hardships,though her talk was frequently punctuated with phrases like "apke shahar me to bahut achha hota hoga ,ji".   "It must me better in your city," referring to any comparisons between the city and the  mountains. I smiled silently as we headed to explore the rest of the village, wondering how truly it is said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

What followed was  a leisurely walk in a village amongst the mountains. The beauty of the mountains and surprises in a far off land ,took turns to charm and entice us in  ways so unknown.

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  Scenes reminding us that life can still remain so simple in many parts of the world,where ones daily chores revolve around the very basic needs.
Men folk primarily look after the cattle while the women do the rest of the household chores.

Time to go home after a hard days work......

The ranges from the bridge

Wood left in the open for building houses and to be used as firewood.

  While the people and their capacity to deal with the hardships intrigued us endlessly,we stumbled on another utility which supports  their sustenance .We caught sight of  the kathar (as called in the local language) , which are wooden godowns for storing food grains for the year, reminding us that the place is remote and provisions are scarce ,and the roads we had travelled to reach this place could get blocked by landslides with any casual downpour. Also ,for a place that remains covered in snow for nearly 5 months a year,people had to store enough  food to last them for at least few months.



   Strolling in between the wooden houses, we visited Buddhist and Hindu temples which complemented each other perfectly.They were built in the same premises.We had seen a similar amalgamation of the two religions in our visit to Sangla Kamru Fort.  The proximity to Tibet had brought in some changes in the cultural and religious practices of this region . Hinduisim had adorned itself with several Buddhist practices .So the people now follow a religion common to both.......

....... All said and done can we deny the fact that the only religion of people here  is that of cohesion and teamwork,without which it would be difficult to keep things going.

   Rakcham is a small hamlet at an altitude of 2900m,comprising of a population of only 800 people. This picturesque village on the banks of the Baspa river can be reached on the way to Chitkul.The village is a very clean place but with very few stay options.In many ways it is self contained inspite of being in a very secluded place due to physical barriers. This has won Rakcham the status of "Modern Village"by the Himachal Pradesh Government.The place does not have any ATMs or Petrol stations,so it is best to do the necessary from Sangla. The place we stayed in can be booked online. According to me the rooms here provide the best views of the valley and the stream. Food here was excellent ,something beyond our expectations in such a remote place.I would suggest spending a night here instead of Sangla would be better,as we can also visit Chitkul (only 8 Km from here) on our way back to Sangla. As already told the place gets very chill at night,so carry at least two layers of woollens.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Kamru Fort ,Sangla(Kinnaur)....History along the Baspa valley

  The tall dark coloured tower of the Kamru Fort stood out clearly in the white backdrop of the mighty snow capped ranges as we looked up from the main market place of Sangla .The colour of the structure was enough to tell its age and spoke of years of supremacy that it had enjoyed.Not much had changed since then,only a few houses which sprung around it ,at places replacing wood and stone with concrete now.The houses were probably of the distant kins of the kings of the erstwhile Bushair kingdom who ruled there thousands of years ago. The Baspa(a tributary of the Sutlej) still flows in all its elegance,and the mighty ranges stand tall even today fortifying the people in its folds.Talking about the people ,their faith in the mountains Gods remain as firm as ever.

     Over the years I have developed a strong liking for places which relate to history,the  more ancient the structures are ,the more I am lured towards them,to the extent that our manager at the hotel at Sangla ended up asking, if I am doing some research in archaeology.The place with  its abundant beauty ,a 360 degree view of the snow capped mountains and the mere feeling of staying so close to nature should have been more than enough for an urban dweller like me.  But a constant harping to an already irked driver, resulted in him leaving us till the last motorable spot on the way to Kamru fort. And then a steep climb through the houses on the mountain slopes,with an overcast  sky above and rain drenched steps finally took us panting to our destination.  Kamru Fort finally happened. It was worth all the effort and left us with no scope to repent for.

An abandoned shrine at Kamru fort

  The cluster of houses that we saw around us was actually the village of Kamru which is at a distance of 2 kilometres from the tourist hub Sangla.Climbing the path was strenuous,but the surroundings was a scene to behold. Apple orchards,walnut and apricot trees lined our paths .The apple blossoms made us promise to ourselves that we shall be back again to this land of gods in the harvest season. Cosy little wooden houses along the slopes painted the perfect postcard with the mighty ranges behind.

Apple orchards

And finally the gates of the fort with wooden carvings on either sides of Gods and Goddesses carved to perfection.A Buddhist temple welcomes us,each shrine intricately carved out of wood.We look right and surprisingly in the very same premises stands the most important Hindu temple of the region.The temple of Badri Vishal (a Shiva temple).

The temple of Badri Vishal

Intrigued as we were ,we looked around for someone to answer our many questions.We had visited the place in the odd hours of the afternoon when the temple was closed(both the Hindu and the Buddhist temple are opened during the mornings). Though we could not get darshan  ,this seemed to be a blessing in disguise as we had the whole place to ourselves ,in complete silence, to appreciate its oneness with nature.

This was the first time in the trip that we had come across this kind of an amalgamation of the two religions .We soon learnt that due to the proximity with Tibet and a very long standing trade relation with the country , the people in the mid Kinnaur valley follow a unique mix of the two religions.

Fascinated , enlightened and undoubtedly uplifted, we left the temple premises to climb a few more steps to the fort tower.

    A five story ancient structure made out of wood and stone stood there overlooking the entire valley.It was built in the typical architectural style of the valley.Entry to the tower was strictly restricted only to the priest.In front of the tower was the shrine of Goddess Kamakhya Devi.  The idol is believed to be brought by the kings of Kamru from Assam.We were at the stronghold of the Bushair kings.

The shrine of Kamakya devi at Kamru

An old door at the Fort

The history of Kamru
Kinnaur was a part of the erstwhile princely state of Bushair. Kamru was the capital of the Bushair kingdom which was later shifted to Sarahan and then to Rampur,which are places lying in the lower Kinnaur  Valley.The tower and the fifteenth century old temple of Badri Vishal were made by the then kings of Kamru.

Sangla is close to the ancient trade route to Tibet.Years of trade with  Tibet has left a indelible mark on the people of this region .With the infusion of people from Tibet the place saw a slow change in their culture ,food habits ,clothing ,looks and most undeniably ,the religion.
One can only wish that the blessed Dev Bhumi remains just the same with all its beauty,simplicity and beliefs.

Places to visit in Sangla
Sangla in itself is a beautiful village set above the right bank of Baspa. From the entire trip to the Kinnaur valley  I can infer that one need not visit any places of interest in particular.The entire valley is replete with clusters of houses ,fields and orchards ,lending so splendid a scenery that one can spend few days simply relaxing in the hotel.Almost all places to stay are located in marvellous locations with wonderful views of the magnificent snow capped ranges of the Kinner Kailash.
The places to visit in or near Sangla are-
The Kamru Fort
The Bering Nag Temple 
Batseri village(deserves a separate post...coming soon)

View of Sangla from the Kamru Fort

Sangla is at a distance of approximately 240 kms. from Shimla,and is a7 hours drive from Shimla.Natural beauty apart it is an important place in the Kinnaur valley as it is equipped with restaurants, petrol pumps,ATMs, medical facilities ,bars, etc.Though it does not own a HPTDC property it has numerous other staying options.A stay of 3 nights and four days can be optimum for a relaxed visit to the place and the sorrounding places of interest .One can stay in Sangla and visit the nearby places like Raksham  ,Chitkul, Batseri, etc.
Sangla to Raksham-14 kilometres
Sangla to Chitkul-22 kilometres
Sangla to Bastseri_7 Kilometres