Our trip started quite late, so we decided to first take a detour to Frankfurt with the intention to arrive at Eltz the next day. In hindsight, it was the right decision as its a rare treat to witness a city as big as Frankfurt be entirely calm and devoid of any traffic – vehicular or pedestrian. It reminded me of a trip I made to Hamburg during Christmas a few years ago
After a leisurely all-you-can-eat breakfast the next morning, we started driving. And within the hour, this sight was bearing down us.
Few hours of later, we began our return journey through the spectacular countryside of Germany. The rolling hills and sprawling greens had the classic WindowsXP look.
Soon we were passing through several towns. The decision to stick to secondary and tertiary roads as much as possible, did not disapoint us.
And just like that we were out on the highway and on our way home.
When the prospect of exploring the Himalayas popped up, I was above and beyond ecstatic. Most I have been around mountains was outside India. There were only a handful of occasions I saw them in India in over two decades. Part of the tradition to explore India every time I visit, following a trip to Agra, a friend and I made impromptu flight reservation to fly from the capital of the country to the capital of the Himalayan kingdom – Leh.
As soon as we landed in Leh, we were left breathless both metaphorically and literally. At 3500m, not only did the lack of oxygen had caught us unawares with altitude sickness but also the cold. Excitement turned into grumpiness. Breathlessness, grumpiness and of course drama enveloped us.
One hotel customer was kind enough to chide us for being unprepared and gave us medicines for altitude sickness. That breathed life into our miserable souls and lifted our spirits up. With that, we hired a taxi and proceeded to explore.
Pretty much everything around Leh is built by the Indian Army. The amount of engineering that had to be done to make life possible there was beyond imagination. Living in the Himalayas is hard. There is no internet, water supply, fresh foods, for weeks or maybe even months during winter (which spans almost the entire year). And yet, somehow human spirit found ways to survive and thrive.
The morning dose of chai at an altitude that exceeds most peaks in the Alps certainly gave me goosebumps.
Pretty much all infrastructure is built and maintained by the Indian BSF (Border security forces). Civilians are allowed to use most of it with an exception to certain roads which restricted to foreigners.
There were several temples that we visited. The peace and tranquillity I observed, momentarily left me wanting to give up life in the urban rat race and live there.
Sitting atop a small peak, Leh Palace was a stunning sight and it had incredible views.
Next stop was the Lamayuru Monastery in Kargil.
The most ubiquitous piece of gadgetry in the Himalayan range turned out to be Satellite TV. The satellite dish antennas were everywhere! In hindsight, it seems obvious now, but I was amused to see them. They were perhaps the only means of connection to the outside world.
Cricket – not surprisingly, was the most popular pastime. I loved seeing kids dressed in monk’s red-orange robes playing the game everywhere, brought a smile to my soul.
Recently I made a trip to Portugal. While I landed in Lisbon, after a couple of days I was tempted to go see the Atlantic ocean, and so I ended up renting a car and driving about 750kms in 2 days, all the way to the south-westernmost point and along the Atlantic coast of Portugal.
The main subject on my agenda was to see the coastal cliffs in the town called Sagres. The views brought back memories of Etretat in France, with the biggest difference being the splashing sounds of furious ocean waves.
Standing alone on a secluded beach was such a delight
I drove a little further to see the spectacular sunset from the light house
As the light waned, I made a reservation in a nearby hotel, where I woke up to spectacular blues – both in sight and in mood for I didn’t want to leave that place.
Now I look back, dream of the day I drive along this road again, back to those blues.
During one of the long weekends a close friend and I went out on a 2000km long drive towards the french coast starting from Amsterdam. Etretat was the first stop where we hiked on the gigantic cliffs overlooking the coast of english channel which except for the complete absence of waves looked no different from an endless ocean, for it stretched far and beyond the visible horizons.
This was my second trip there. The first time I ended up there, I was on an unplanned and impromptu solo trip that came to be after I had gotten a free upgrade to a Mercedes-Benz and I spontaneously decided to divert from the original plan of just driving along the dijks to go a little further towards Belgium, the french border and eventually to the french coast in Normandy.