Tag Archives: Travel

Breath-taking Locations to Motorhome

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

Motorhoming or camping is for those who want to seek solitude and the beauty of the natural world.

Our first campsite was Loch Ness Shores a franchise of The Camping and Caravanning Club. What newbie campers must know in advance is that campsites do not operate like your regular hotels, there are office timings (9 am to 6pm in most places, but do check) to be respected as well as quiet timings (11 pm onwards) to be strictly adhered to. Some places even have barriers to enter and are locked down at 11 pm or thereabouts. We being unaware of these rules arrived at 10 pm and were ticked off by Donald, the warden, for arriving late. An elderly gent he was right to do so having been at work form 5 a.m. In our defence the drive from Edinburgh to Loch Ness is so scenic and the fact that at 8 pm also the day is so bright that one easily loses track of time completely.
Any which ways, Donald showed us to our pitch.

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

A pitch is the word used to define your reserved space at the campsite. They can be either soft (grass) or hard, soft pitches are for tents and smaller campervans. The hard pitch is for the Motorhomes. A pitch will be provided with an electric point and a water tap, you hook-up your home on wheels to both these for the duration of your stay. The electric hook-up saves you the use of fuel and gas to heat up the interiors and the water tank of the motorhome can store up to a 100 litres of water. At the campsite you will also find well-appointed shower rooms and toilets, a space to wash utensils as well as paid washing machines and dryers. A café and provision shop also are quid-pro-quo. Other features are disposal points for grey water (kitchen and bath) and black water (chemical toilet.)
Once we had hooked up and felt less like chastised teenagers, we set out to explore Lochness shores, the only campsite we had booked beforehand from India. Tucked away in a corner of the banks of the loch, Scots for Lake, famous for the Loch Ness Monster here is where one can find a solitude that is soul reviving. The highlands frame the lake and the rippling, yet calm waters belie the threat of a Monster lurking in its dark depths, but then the legend of Nessie dates back to the 5th Century A.D. and is still a phenomenon that science has neither explained nor refuted completely. An anticipation of the promised beauty of the Isle of Skye was tinged with regret as we left Loch Ness two days later.

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

My first view of the morning at the Glenbrittle Campsite the next morning made me quickly forget any such regrets. Clean cold air laden with moisture and a hint of salt, the waves soundlessly crashing on the dark sandy shore and far on the horizon the pinkish blush of the sun hiding behind a thick blanket of pregnant clouds.
Sitting by the sea always makes me feel as if I’m at the edge of the world and when you get the opportunity to view this majesty meters away from you the moment you open your eyes, you might agree with me that the state achieved is total Nirvana.

Our next stopover was at the Glencoe Camping & Caravanning Club site. A 1963 song by John McDermontt the words Oh, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe. And covers the grave o’ Donald makes one wonder at the bloody history of a place described also to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

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Picture Credits: Namish Gulati

As one crosses over from the picturesque town of Fort William to the verdant Glencoe, the views of the highlands flanking it are truly sublime, even a blink is too much time to take off them and while I soaked in the gorgeousness of it all, I felt only gratitude towards Nature for her selfless bounty.

Upending the Beaten Path in a Motorhome

 

To explore is as basic a need for humans as to breathe. The world and all its horizons having been explored and splattered across Facebook and Instagram, awoke in us the need to do our exploring a tad differently. If you have fond memories of childhood engrossed in the wondrous world of Enid Blyton, you would recall the Caravans that added to the allure of them. So, we decided to embark on our much anticipated discovery of Scotland ensconced in what could only be called a home with a motor and therefore a Motorhome. dsc_5766Having booked one from Desh, procured the necessary insurances to go for it and watched enough You-tube videos to have a false sense of bravado at the enterprise; My Spouse (who shall henceforth be lovingly referred to as The Man), two teens and I landed in Glasgow ready for a dash of adventure in a monster which can carry and sleep 6 adults or children within its caravanous hold.

I must amend my narrative to point out that, while the parents were bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to experience the Lowlands and the Highlands, the two disgruntled teens were not. They would rather have experienced Scotland via warm rooms in comfy Hotels vis-à-vis life experienced outdoorsy with toilets that required to be emptied out like chamber pots.

After a bit John’s (our helpful instructor at Atlas Motorhome & Campervan Hires) lilting Scots accent became familiar we finally understood the myriad workings of the interior of the van. It seemed daunting to remember so many details till he shared the written guide on everything that we could carry, I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly stopped concentrating.

Soon, excited and not in the little bit perturbed we set out and got our first learning that it might not be as easy as we had thought. With a well equipped kitchen the Motorhome carried there was a noisy issue for the crockery and other kitchen equipment rattled loud as the van meandered out through the cobbled streets of Glasgow onto the Motorway towards Edinburgh. To understand the full scope of the sounds, I can use no better expression than the one used by the Man, who soon would christen the rig a Haryana Roadways Bus! There would be many more learning along the way as we spent seven nights in our home literally on the move.

The first thing is size. Motorhomes are big. Really big. Ours was a monster that comfortably housed a not so slim couple with their five and half foot plus teenage kids. Delightfully called a Premier Motorhome – 2-6 Berth with a rear lounge or realistically the Rollerteam 746 can be a comfortable nest to explore the outdoors.  However, driving it is not as easy even though the vehicle is only two feet larger than an ordinary car. Judging the extra length while driving and reversing it as well as finding parking near cities is problematic. To top it all the wind speeds in Scotland can rattle the most confident of drivers, which The Man certainly is. Nevertheless the locations you can spend your holiday literally in the lap of Mother Nature make up for the ruts along the way.

Do look out for the next piece on Motorhoming:

https://vasudhachandnagulati.com/2019/01/04/breath-taking-locations-to-motorhome/

 

Kargil Memorial: A lesson in Humility

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Photo Credits : Namish Gulati

I had not heard of Kargil till it made the headlines in the summer of 1999. Like everyone in India we followed the news in those days and debated the whys and wherefores of the conflict between the Indian and Pakistani armed forces. We all heaved a sigh of relief on July 26, 1999 when the war came to an end. Slowly the headlines changed to whatever was the burning issue of the time and barring a few mentions Kargil became another name stored away in memory.

Last summer when planning a road trip to Ladakh, Kargil became a destination on our itinerary. A nondescript hill town with a swollen, muddy river flowing down the center was my first impression as we pulled into the town late in the evening. A river in a rush were the last sounds I heard before I dropped into a tired slumber. The next morning was bright and sunny, looking out from the hotel window at the snow covered ridges surrounding Kargil was a treat in itself, the Suru River was still muddy, but now in the daylight the town looked charming.

We did not linger long there and headed towards out on the Srinagar-Leh Highway towards The Dras War Memorial. Do take a local guide to point out the various points of interest along the way or you will miss out on a lot many details. Our guide pointed out the towering wall that the Engineering Corps of the Indian Army built in a single night to protect from shelling the road that is the supply lifeline of the rest of Leh and Ladakh. We stopped to gaze in wonder at the Indus that starts its journey in India and the Saru as it flowed into Pakistan. There was no barrier and the unbound waters danced on unaware from my country to the other. As I gazed across the landscape the guide pointed out to bunkers on ridges that belonged to Pakistan, I was struck by an oft heard abstract thought that became so real there that nature does not create barriers, humans do. The land on both sides of the LOC is the same, similar flora and fauna, even the people including the soldiers and yet the divide is so great that so much of our human potential just goes into drawing up lines of demarcation.

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Photo Credits : Namish Gulati

The landscape as we drove towards the Kargil War Memorial in Dras on both sides was breathtakingly beautiful with snowcapped mountains visible in the distance and rolling hills of soft green grass, rivers flowing on one side and fields being tilled on the other. Signposts along the way ominously remind you of the area being under temporary ceasefire. Then from a distance the guide pointed out Tiger Hill, the decisive 11 hour battle here had turned the tides in our favor on July 4, 1999, after which the Indian Army had regained control of Dras and soon managed to drive the insurgents away. There was silence in our car after that. Soon we were at the Memorial, Vijaypath built by the Indian Army in Dras with Tiger Hill overlooking it.

 

The sandstone wall in the open has the names of all the army personnel who laid down their lives during the Kargil War. Your breath will catch in your throat as your eyes skim over each name. Walking into the Manoj Pandey War Gallery you will experience the war recounted with every step that you will take melting even the most hardened heart at the ultimate sacrifice of our soldiers. As tears flow down your cheeks the epitaphs on each tombstone will humble you. The freedom that we enjoy comes at a price that the soldier pays to protect us. I did not lose any loved one in the Kargil conflict. I was not affected by it in any way till that day that I stood at this monument of bravery and courage of the Indian soldier and my heart was full of pride and my eyes full of tears. The silence here was palpable, what a contrast to those days and nights of the summer of 1999 when guns thundered and patriotism bloomed in the hearts of those brave men who laid down their lives while I slept safe in my bed.

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Photo Credits: Namish Gulati

Junagarh Fort, Bikaner, Rajasthan

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The Glorious Anup Mahal

 

Sometimes you visit a place and it lives up to more than your expectations. Junagarh Fort for me was one such place. I enjoy reading History and visiting monuments wherever I travel. Somehow, with my very active imagination, these places come alive to me. On a road trip around Rajasthan last year, our second stop was at Bikaner, the erstwhile capital of the Rathore’s of Bikaner. Founded in the year 1488 AD by a Rajput prince Rao Bika the younger son of Rao Jodha of Jodhpur, the state of Bikaner played an important role in the History of India.

The Junagarh Fort at Bikaner is an excellent peep into the History of the Rathore’s who trace their ancestry back to the Gahadavala Kings of Kannauj. The sixth ruler Raja Rai Singh built a new fort called Chintamani during 1589 to 1593 AD. It was renamed Junagarh or old fort in the early part of the 20th century when the royal family moved out of it to the Lalgarh Palace.

Junagarh fort is one of the few forts in the world that is not built on a hill and the modern day city of Bikaner has grown around it. When one walks into the Suraj Pol (Sun gate) of the fort you leave behind the hustle and bustle of modern life to take a leisurely walk down the annals of History. The fort is a composite structure, the result of building efforts of a number of rulers through four centuries. An audio guide accompanying you with its soothing rendition of the past brings alive the various palaces created by every ruler making the fort a vibrant jewel in the middle if the Thar Desert.

One walks into the sandstone structure into a white and pristine Karan Mahal, built in classic Mughal style, this was the Public Audience ‘Hall.’ The Anup Chowk that the next few palaces are built around has been featured in many movies and as one walks into it images of peacocks and bustling maidens come to mind.  The first palace to visit is the Phool Mahal, motifs of trays, flower vases, and rose water sprinklers stucco work and glass inlay is reminiscent of the Jehangirian era. Then into the glorious Anup Mahal or the Privy Council Chamber, breathtakingly beautiful to which no words can do justice and should be seen to be believed. Bikaner is famous for this kind of gold vermillion varnished work and you may have seen some of it earlier.(See Picture Above) Then onto the Badal Mahal, reflecting the longing for rain in an arid landscape. The room is soothingly blue with clouds and rain drops depicting the Monsoon.

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Badal Mahal

 

Then onto to the Gaj Mandir and Dungar Niwas with their white walls decorated with elaborate niches and mirrors in the Mughal floral designs and style.

Here the past ends and the British influence begins to be seen the rest of the fort was built in the Indo-Saracenic style and houses the first lift installed in India and the Durbar Hall and Vikram Vilas. It is here that one finds the ancient sandalwood throne of Kannauj and various war souvenirs, howdahs and the famous Nalki, one of the honors conferred by the Mughal rulers.

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Honors Conferred by the Mughal Rulers

 

This is but a short synopsis of the many treasure that the Junagarh Fort houses. I have visited many heritage sites in my country, a lot many are more popular; this fort however provided to me the best insight into the grandiose living style of the rulers of Rajputana. So if you like to tread down the annals of the past as I do, do visit the Junagarh Fort.