Ahmed tried to capture the picturesque scenery through his Canon DSLR camera, however everything looked hazy and out of focus, or was it just his teary eyes! Only he knew what he felt inside his heart, at this moment, in front of the Dal lake in Kashmir, standing along the empty pier, the ‘shikara’ (boat) tied to the end of it. The sun had not yet come up in this quiet and lazy winter morning. He had stealthily sneaked out of his house, in his dad’s old wooden boat, to feel the freshness at the dawn. Even though it had been almost two decades that he was away from home, the known smell of the fresh morning air, made him selfishly nostalgic. The pink lotuses on the not-so-blue Dal lake, the grey sky, the infinite horizon, the fishing net curled up inside the boat and the strange silence around him, made him feel at home.
As a child, he often went out with his dad, who was a fisherman at dawn and a tourist guide by the day. Ahmed was a happy kid and loved meeting tourists from all over the world, while his dad took them around the ‘heaven on earth’, with a gleaming pride and a modest smile. His mother was a beautiful woman who looked after the needs of him, his brother and his father. She loved Ahmed and taught him to be kind. Ahmed also enjoyed playing with his little brother Faruk. Life was simple yet good, until that evil moment changed it all.
Little Ahmed and his dad rushed home after fishing, as they heard the treacherous news of terrorist attack in their area. As five-year-old Ahmed ran and pushed open the main door of his house, he saw his mom and two-year-old brother reeked in blood, lying on the floor and still. Ahmed did not know what to do and was trembling from inside. The furniture was all broken and scattered and there was a strange smell everywhere. Broken pieces of glass and blood was all over the wooden floor. He saw holes all over the walls, similar to the ones on his mother and brother’s body. His dad immediately covered his eyes with his cold and shaky hands and held him tight. Unable to fathom what had happened, Ahmed shook off his father’s hands and ran to his mother, and started shaking her body to wake her up. His mother’s warm body felt as cold as the fear inside him. Then he ran towards his brother who was lying on his tummy, his clothes drenched in blood and his body ice cold. When neither of them woke up, Ahmed turned and looked at his father with teary eyes, hoping his father can do some miracle to wake them up!
The incident left its deep mark on both Ahmed and his dad. In two years’ time, his dad suddenly looked very old, all his black hair turned grey, he walked slowly while he stooped a bit and the talkative tourist guide hardly spoke a word through the day. Ahmed had nightmares all through the night and the emptiness of the house overshadowed the desolation of his life. He contemplated whether he was lucky or unlucky that day.
Ahmed left Kashmir three years after that incident. They had distant relatives in New Delhi, and Ahmed stayed with them. He completed his high school and eventually graduated in Photography. Often in the cold nights in Delhi, he missed his mother’s warmth and his brother’s giggles. He was regularly in touch with his father, who had lost all zest in life. Soon his camera became his best friend and he bagged an internship with National Geographic magazine. He travelled many countries and loved seeing the world from inside his lenses, he felt safe that way. When his editor asked him to go to Kashmir to cover a story, he agreed immediately.
After two decades as Ahmed tried to click this beautiful scenery, he imagined his mother, little brother Faruk, his father and him sitting together in the small boat and looking happily at the camera, smiling away and saying “cheese”!
The year 2020 has been a desolate year for travellers. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, travelling seemed a distant dream. However, towards the end of 2020, Australia had managed to control the virus to a suitable extent and travel within the state of Victoria was allowed. As soon as this news was issued, everyone started planning day trips or weekend trips to various towns within Victoria and I was no exception. December is a summer month in this part of the world and considering the weather, we finalised a place called Buxton, 104 km North-East of Melbourne. We were four of us, my cousin’s family and I. In no time, we packed our bags and were all set for a nice 2 hrs drive from Melbourne city to Buxton for a weekend gateway.
We started our drive after breakfast and soon left the city roads behind and saw the hills at the horizon and drove through curvy roads. The holiday feeling was slowly creeping into us! After an hour and a bit, we reached Healesville. It is a beautiful town on the way to Buxton where we decided to break for lunch. After having a nice Asian lunch, we explored the surrounding boutique shops, cafes and markets. We did our grocery here so that we can reach Buxton and relax for the rest of the day. We had plans to cook in our Airbnb homestay in Buxton.
The journey from Healesville to Buxton was picturesque, serene and through winding roads up the hill. The drive was beautiful with tall ferns and eucalyptus trees on both sides and mountains over the horizon. We crossed a beautiful lake while exiting Healesville and soon were amidst the rain forests. The roads turned through the hills and it started to drizzle. The wind, the rain, the roads and the sky together felt no less than an experience we have been craving all through the year. Someone as if had painted a scenery and we were driving through it! It was a blissful experience!
It took us little less than an hour to reach Buxton from Healesville. Buxton is a small countryside town with stretches of farmland and grazing animals, hills, cute little houses and narrow pathways across lush greenery. We left the main road and drove through a narrow pathway to reach our destination. It was a beautiful quaint house by the Steavenson river called “Rivers Edge”.
The hosts for our stay were beautiful cockatoos and colourful parrots. They greeted us with their loud and funny screams and didn’t hesitate to share a cuppa with us! The thin stream of the Steavenson river behind our stay and the sound of flowing water felt peaceful. There was a gated bridge as well on the river stream, it looked very picturesque. The house was cosy and soon we all took a nap to rejuvenate us for the evening.
Evenings fall sooner in the hills and it was dark really quick for a Summer day. We were cooking lamb curry for dinner and having philosophical conversations over a drink. The best part of holidays is the relaxation of the mind and the body so that it can self-heal. It’s very necessary to let our mind and body relax, so that when we are back to the grind, we can pick up the pace again. It’s imperative to slow down, breathe and let things be.
After a sumptuous dinner, we took a brisk stroll in our backyard and heard the river stream flow in its own rhythm…almost making its own music. It was surreal. The night was quiet, beautiful and the stars seemed to have formed a celestial net above us. The silence everywhere was intimidating for city dwellers like us, but at the same time it felt magical!
Mornings are so beautiful in the countryside. After our morning cuppa with our beautiful host birds, we got ready and headed off to the Stevenson Falls in Marysville, which was a 20 mins scenic drive from Buxton. The tall fern trees and the stretches of farmland on both side of the road, made us all sit in the car silently as we were absorbed in the mystic creation of Nature. A blissful moment of joy!
Soon we reached the Steavenson falls. The falls is really whopping and picturesque. After we parked our car, it was a small hike up to the waterfalls and we could hear the gushing sound of water as we walked up. Whenever I visit any waterfall, I make sure I touch the water, even if it freezes my fingers and this one was no exception. The water was ice cold even in summer but was crystal clear and soothing. We clicked lot of pictures and even video-called our family back in India so that they can virtually share our experience and happiness!
It was lunch time, so we drove down to Marysville from the waterfalls and had fish and chips in the beautiful Marysville town. The Steavenson falls is just a 10mins drive from the Marysville town. The town had boutique shops and amazing cafes with the most delicious pies. There was a quaint little shop that attracted me. As I walked inside that shop, I realised it was actually a post office! The old lady at the counter was really nice and told us that the Steavenson falls is the tallest waterfalls in Victoria. She also mentioned how the Winter months in Marysville get really cold and often experience snow. We bought a beautiful scarf from the post office and bid adieu. I have always experienced very warm hospitality from the locals in the countryside. They are so graceful in their manners and welcoming in their spirits. There is nothing more engaging than knowing about a place from a local, no google can every tell you such stories!
My First Fishing Experience
What’s travel without food! From Marysville, we went to the Buxton Trout and Salmon firm. It was a fishing farm with different sized fishponds full of Trouts and Salmons. The fishing gears are provided by the farm and whatever fish you catch, you can purchase that. The farm staff will clean and cut the fish for you and pack it nicely.
Considering this was my first fishing experience in Australia, I was very excited! The fishponds we full of fishes and every time I threw some fish food, all the fishes jumped up to grab them! I took some shots with my camera and then it was my turn to fish! After a few failed attempts, I did catch a trout and managed to get the jumping trout into a bucket. Within seconds, the trout started bleeding and the bucket was full of blood =( I wasn’t sure if this was my idea of fun and hence gave up on further attempts and resorted to my camera instead. My cousin and my nephew caught a big Salmon and we got it home for dinner. While I had fun capturing moments with my camera, I wasn’t sure if capturing an innocent fish with a sharp hook was fun…but either way, we had an exciting day and soon headed back to our holiday home. It started raining.
A Relaxing Evening
After a refreshing day of hike, listening to the gushing water from the falls, feeling the chill of the cold water and the thrill of fishing, we were back to our cosy abode with the birds! It had started raining and the nature looked more beautiful and greener than ever. I have heard people complaining about the rains when they are on a holiday, but I feel that the rain adds that extra bit of beauty. When it rains, it’s as if you can see the place in a different canvas, in a new form and also experience a flavour of the season. The bridge behind our stay looked more beautiful in the rain as we enjoyed our evening cuppa watching the rain.
We all had sneaked in a power nap and now were all excited to grill the Salmon which we so efficiently caught! Surprisingly, my young nephew turned out to be an expert chef and guided us with the cooking. We listened to some good music, heard the rains outside and enjoyed a family time while the Salmon looked delicious. We also grilled some veggies as side to compliment the pan-fried Salmon. We all sat together and had a very satiating dinner to treat the epicurean inside us. We kept reminiscing the beautiful moments and memories of the trip and felt happy and peaceful at heart. It is important that wherever you go, you should travel with all your heart! The trip then becomes memorable for a lifetime. We didn’t want the night to be over, however, we all were sleepy and hit the bed.
The next day, after breakfast we bid a fond goodbye to our quaint little abode in Buxton and of course our lovely hosts, the birds! The drive back home was quiet, we all were probably cherishing the moments and thinking of the next holiday destination!
It had been a year since we were experiencing the pandemic and this gateway was much needed. The quietness and serenity of Buxton made our minds calm and gave us the hope that this too shall pass! Sometimes when we are far away from the city’s commotion and take a break from our daily regime, we have clearer thoughts and can experience the calmness within. Buxton was a perfect spot where nature had embraced us with its simplicity and charm!
Marysville on the other hand was quaint and picturesque which made us appreciate the things we have and the bonds we share. Personally, I love waterfalls, it makes me calm even though the water gushes down from the hills to the earth with so much pace, it teaches me to keep moving and not let anything stop me. Also, the warmth of the locals in Buxton and Marysville made our trip comforting and fuller. A simple smile can create wonders!
Thank you, Buxton and Marysville, for giving us hope and positivity and a heart full of memories to cherish, until next time!
It had been more than three years since our Cambodia & Vietnam trip and life had transformed a lot, but I guess what hadn’t changed was our love for travel. I was meeting my best friend, Apala, after 2 years, only for 4 days! She was flying from Dubai to my place in Kolkata for the New year’s. We just had 30th Dec to 2nd Jan with us and I had literally not planned anything. I just wanted to sit and talk and keep it quiet & simple. We had a lot to catch up and I wanted to play with her toddler. But she kept nagging me to plan some trip which forced me google “weekend gateways from Kolkata”…
It did not take much time to decide on ‘Bawali Rajbari’, a heritage building, just two and half hours’ drive from Kolkata. Luckily, I got a one-night booking on Jan 1st, 2020. It was the last available room and felt pretty pricy, but I booked it irrespective.
Apala, her son Kian and I left after breakfast from my place on the New Year’s Day and reached the Bawali Rajbari around lunch. The road was not very straight forward but GPS guided us well. After crossing the second Hooghly bridge, a.k.a. the ‘Vidyasagar Setu’, we took the Khiderpur road and then the Budge Budge Trunk Road. We crossed the Budge Budge Institute of Technology and it was another 14 mins drive to the Rajbari from there. On the way, we stopped for ‘bharer cha’ (tea in a clay pot) and some roadside snacks. The roads were busy considering it was the New Year’s Day but our driver did well to drive us on time. The Rajbari was inside the village, Bawali. What’s interesting when you are travelling in India is that it’s easier to ask the route to the bystanders than looking into the GPS! So, with the guidance of the locals, we soon were entering the old yet beautiful heritage building of the Rajbari of Bawali.
We were greeted with the blowing of a conch shell, a tradition from the old times, some delicious sweets and a welcome drink. The welcome was grand, yet warm. In the Indian culture, guests are considered equivalent to the Gods and our welcome made us feel no less.
Walking the lanes of History..
“The Mondal Dynasty of Bawali has an extraordinary family history, dating back over four hundred years, one which started with the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great, His Commander in chief, Maharajah Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur and a promising army officer, Shoba Ram Rai, originally from Uttar Pradesh. In return of having quelled a rebellion of peasants and pirates, he was gifted over 300,000 acres of land in far from present Bengal.” (excerpt from the official website of the Rajbari).
The Rajbari (King’s Palace), was built around 250 years ago. With time withering and the “Zamindars” (landowners) loosing most of their wealth after India’s independence in 1947, conserving this huge palace was more a burden than a pride. Finally, in 2010, the building was restored, yet every corner of the Rajbari still has the essence that went back to the famous Mughal emperor Akbar’s time. After the property was restored to its glory in the small homestead of the district of 24 parganas in West Bengal, it is now a luxury heritage resort.
The Rajbari has very distinct sections, like the main rooms where we stayed, the dining area, the pond, the rooms in the ground floor, the corridors, the library and the huge portico. There was also a courtyard where a traditional dance event was organised for the guests during the sunset. The ambience took us back to history and made us feel quite royal.
Every piece of furniture, décor, photo frames and even the clay utensils spoke of the royalty and yet closeness to the earth and the villagers. There was an underground prison, which has now been transformed into a museum but might send a few chills to think of how prisoners might have spent some tough days in there.
We spoke to the staff in the property and most of them were locals. The resort had given them a source of employment in their own land. The big bucks I had paid for the stay, felt justified.
There was a separate area where the Rajbari conducts “Durga Puja” (Dussehra) every year and the staff said that it’s worth visiting the place during that time. We could only imagine how amazing that could be considering “Durga Puja” is the biggest festival in Bengal and lasts for five days!
Let’s talk food
What’s travel without food! When in the Bawali Rajbari, don’t miss the “Zamindari Thali”, an exceptional unlimited buffet lunch, which might fill your tummy but surely not your soul! Served with delicacies which are now almost forgotten by the present generation and were only prepared by our grandmothers and mothers. There was both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options and each and every dish was made in the utmost traditional way! From “luchi” (fried puffed bread made of white flour, popular in Bengal), to the “kosha mangsho” (slow cooked mutton with potatoes, another traditional dish in Bengal), the taste was exceptional and the clay utensils which were used to serve the food, simply added to the taste and the ambience. In Bengal, the dishes are served in courses and the waiters kept serving us non-stop until it was time for the incredible desserts, “notun gurer sandesh” (sweet made of milk and jaggery which is found only during the Winter months in Bengal), payesh (sweet rice pudding), to name a few!
Many tourists had come on a day trip, only to visit this remarkable architecture and taste the “Zamindari Thali”. There was live music being played by two local artists, one who played an antique piano and the other sang songs of the famous Indian poet and scholar Rabindranath Tagore. Overall, felt magical and heartfelt! The real taste of rural Bengal!
The Starlit Evening
They say it darkens quicker in the villages and it was true. The evening gave a completely new experience, which we had not expected. After the dusk, there was a prayer held inside the main building with the traditional “arati” (illuminating candles for the Gods) and chanting of the mantras. It felt so serene and peaceful. Multiple oil lamps were lit and suddenly the Rajbari looked like a beautiful bride! The quietness, the sound of the night, the starlit sky and long pending conversations with my best friend, I couldn’t have asked more on the New Year’s Day.
We had a few drinks and then a delicious dinner. We walked around the estate, the night felt beautiful and we could visualise the glory of the royals from the past! Every piece of brick told a story untold. We didn’t want the night to end, but I guess every good thing comes to an end.
The next day, we had breakfast and then were bid a fond goodbye, with the same warmth as we had our welcome!
We live in a world where technology rules and tradition and culture have taken a backseat with modernisation being the sole definition of progress! However, our roots make us who we are, and our traditions and culture are the backbone of our future. This sudden plan, the amazing stay, the warmth of the staff members, the rare & delicious dishes, the ambience, the royalty, the company of a beloved one and the history, made our experience an everlasting one! A place so near to Kolkata and yet relates so long back to History. A place worth spending your bucks because it gives employment to the villagers and an unforgettable experience. The smiles and hospitality of the villagers are priceless after all!
Bawali Rajbari, you will always be in our heart, until next time!
Today while cleaning my bookshelf I came across my old diary. I randomly opened a page where I read the below excerpt dated May, 2014…almost six years back…
“Melbourne, the city of music, food and culture. The city which has embraced the culture of the world in itself. The city knows how to enjoy life, how to sing fearlessly, dance frictionless and live endlessly! It’s been more than a year here and I have never even looked at it honestly. But today, when I smell Autumn, I feel I am still alive, somewhere inside.
What do I love most about the city? Oh, the maple leaves, just love them! Red, green, brown, yellow, so many coloured maple leaves, I just love them! They teach me life, they make the city colourful, they are just so Victorian!
Now it’s Autumn here, the city is all Red! The smell is fresh and wild. The weather is calling. When I walk alone and the strangers smile back, I feel less scared, I feel more like home now.
Do I love Melbourne? Why not! The city has changed my life in just a year. It has taken away everything but returned back my own self to me. I am knowing myself now and honestly am much better a person than many! I now love myself, take care of myself and don’t have to rely on anyone! I love this unconditional me. Everything is gonna be okay.
When I see people, street artists dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, so carefree, on the road, with all their passion, I feel strong. I feel I can make it…make it to live, to love and be loved.
May 24th, 2014”
I couldn’t stop smiling and also had tears after I read this. The innocence in the writeup and gust of emotions hit me, but what amused me the most was my positivity!
Today we live in a strange time. COVID-19 has taught us many life lessons, shown us the reality of many friends and family and also made us value both things and people more. Life is never easy and you don’t need a virus to remind you that! But we have to sail through, we have to at least try…after all these years, whenever I see someone on the road, walking sadly, I smile at them because I know that once I was that sad person and how powerful a simple smile can be. The tiniest gesture of kindness can heal a soul, mend a broken heart and bring happiness to someone. We all are flawed, none are perfect, we make mistakes and learn and then make the same mistakes again. We all are fighting our own battles and hence kindness matters, more than before now. Treasure your loved ones but most importantly, treasure yourself, you are all you have! 🙂
In the busy Melbourne life, suddenly I got two weeks break while changing jobs. Being a traveler at heart, immediately decided that am off to somewhere for a week! Considering its winter in July in Australia, the cheapest and best option was New Zealand. Within couple of days I booked my week-long trip to South Islands, New Zealand.
I wanted to have a relaxing trip and hence decided to visit only two cities – Christchurch & Queenstown. This was a solo trip, so I kept the itinerary simple. In no time I found myself in the JetStar flight from Melbourne to Christchurch! I had dozed off during the flight and woke up with the Captain announcing that the flight is landing. I opened my eyes and looked out of the window, the view was breathtaking. Something inside me said that my trip was going to be amazing!
The TranzAlpine train trip
Checked-in to Ibis, Christchurch. The hotel is located at the heart of the CBD (main city). My day 1 was just walking around the city and getting myself used to the cold. I called it a night pretty early as I had an 8am Tranzalpine train to catch the next morning to visit Arthur’s Pass National Park.
The Kiwi rail personnel picked me up at around 7.30 from my hotel and dropped me to the Christchurch station. The Tranzalpine train was already standing there and looked very striking and impressive. This train is operated by ‘The Great Journeys of New Zealand’ in the South Island over the ‘Midland Line’; it’s often regarded to be one of the world’s greatest train journeys, for the scenery through which it passes. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours. I had decided to go half way till Arthur’s Pass and then return back the same day.
The train left the mainland and soon was running amidst the mesmerising Southern Alps. We crossed snow clad mountains, rivers and waterfalls. There was a pantry inside the train, from where I got a nice coffee while I enjoyed the views. It felt both peaceful and exciting at the same time! The co-passengers were from different countries and they seemed to love New Zealand as much. With every turn the train took, there were more mountains and sometimes tunnels, overall this was my best ever train journey!
View from the Kiwi Rail
Arthur’s Pass National Park
The train reached Arthur’s Pass at around 11am. Few of the passengers got down here. The scenery was breathtaking! I couldn’t believe nature can be so beautiful.
It was freezing though, but I was all wrapped up in my jacket and beanie. I found my way to the Visitor Centre, collected some maps of the area and chose to do a hike to the Devils Punchbowl Waterfall. My return train from Arthur’s Pass was around 4.30pm in the afternoon, so I had around five and a bit hours to myself, to explore this beauty.
Started my hike, there was ice on the way but no one else around! I was very excited as I have not seen much snow in Melbourne or in the other countries I have visited, so it was a very different experience. Kept walking on the trail, was getting exhausted as it was uphill, but then I met some tourists coming from the opposite direction, who said it’s worth finishing the trail! The track crossed through a sparse forest and I could see snow-clad mountains from some points, the cold was getting intense but when I heard the birds chirping yet felt the silence of the place, I was feeling happy and ignored the cold. It was an experience I never had before! Finally, I reached the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfalls.
The Devil’s Punchbowl Trail
Waterfall forming a stream
Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall
The waterfall was massive and really worth the hike! On one side was the waterfall and on the opposite side was this huge snow-clad mountain. I felt an immense happiness inside me. Nature had waved its magic wand again and made me ecstatic! I spent some time by the waterfall, just hearing the sound of water gushing down and then forming a stream. The return trail felt shorter as I was already so gratified and had all my energy back from the picturesque magnificence around. I reached back to the base and grabbed some food in the Wobbly Kea Café and Bar. Then I explored around little more and soon headed off to the station for my return to Christchurch. Chatted with the co-passengers on the journey back and shared my solo journey experiences with them with a glass of wine! Nothing feels better than telling your stories to strangers, who are your friends in a strange way! Arthur’s Pass had made my day and so did the transalpine train journey. After a quick dinner at Christchurch, I crashed off to bed.
The city which recreated itself
As many of us know, the intense earthquakes in Christchurch in 2010 & 2011, created widespread damage to buildings, infrastructure and human life. My third and final day in Christchurch was exploring the city and enjoy a laidback day before I head off to Queenstown. I walked down to the Canterbury Museum after a sumptuous breakfast and coffee.
The museum had a beautiful adjoining garden and some really amazing piece of architecture. After spending some time there, I walked up the street to do a punting tour on the Avon river. It was a perfect day for punting! A leisurely trip along the picturesque Avon River, being punted by a friendly, informative guide felt very relaxing. There was lovely scenery in the Botanical Gardens. We were given blankets and hot-water bags to make us feel warm. The short half an hour tour felt even shorter when the surrounding was so breathtaking!
After the punting tour, I walked across the ‘Bridge of Remembrance’, dedicated to the soldiers of the World Wars and then reached the Christchurch Cathedral. As I got to see more of the city, I noticed how much damage was caused by the earthquakes and how the people here had accepted that and bravely rebuilt the entire city! Met many locals, who spoke of their loss during the earthquakes, but they loved this city and embraced all that they had to face because they felt Christchurch is where they belong! Many of them were immigrants from Afghanistan, Israel, Bangladesh and India. You learn so much, when you travel!
I was pretty tired by late afternoon, had some food but kept thinking of how brave the locals were and how much they loved this city. I reached the hotel by evening, went to my room and packed by bags as I had an early flight the next day. I went out to have some dinner in the Indian restaurant just opposite Ibis, called Mumbaiwala and had a happy tummy!
When reality strikes!
It was around 9 pm and I was watching the television in my room, almost half asleep, considering I walked a lot around the city that day. My mind was full of thoughts and my body was tired. Suddenly, my bed, the television, the tables, chairs and everything in the room started trembling horribly! My first thought was that I was dreaming, since my mind was full of those broken buildings which I had witnessed throughout the day. But it took me couple of more seconds to realise, that it was an actual earthquake!!!
I held the bed frame strongly and was scared to death, started thinking of my family back in India and every fraction of second felt like ages! After around 30-40 secs, the shake stopped. I was still immobile on my bed and was having a brain-freeze too. As I regained my senses, I jumped off the bed and dialled reception. The lady from the reception seemed pretty calm and said there is nothing to fear, this was just a minor tremor! I was freaking out on the other side and immediately hung up and rushed to the ground floor! Saw many frightening faces like mine in the lobby, all with the fear of what that city was infamous for! The receptionist calmed us down and after spending an hour in the lobby, anticipating another tremor, I was too drained out and returned to my room and felt asleep!
From the first day itself, Christchurch won my heart! The way this city has faced the most dangerous natural calamity and has accepted that fact and rebuilt itself, is sheer bravery and courage. Rebuilt not just buildings and infrastructure but also their minds, their hearts, their history and their future.
Life’s never easy but happy are those who face their fears and move on! No wonder the receptionist that night was so calm! She has experienced much more intense earthquakes than that minor tremor. Christchurch taught me that history and culture of a place is not only to treasure what was created by our ancestors, but it is also what we create as we progress. The history of Christchurch is not the infamous earthquakes, but it is the people who love that city more than their lives and properties. They say, ‘a thing of beauty, is a joy forever’, and Christchurch, you will be the most dangerously beautiful city I have ever been to! Stay safe Christchurch, until next time!
This blog post is dedicated to all the brave hearts who were sacrificed in the Christchurch mosque shootings, March 2019. I have visited this city and seen how brave are the people of Christchurch. My heart goes out to all the families who have lost their near ones in the shooting. May they rest in peace wherever they are! Hope the world becomes a better place one day.
Last few weeks I have been feeling fervently quite low due to several reasons. Mood swings, unsolicited tears, drifting apart in solitude etc. Guess we all go through this phase once in a while in the journey of life. Not everyone is perfect or let’s say none of us are perfect!
When I have my lows, I feel that, the moment a dear one comforts me or even speaks to me in a kind way, I feel like I’ll break down and can’t control my tears. Even if someone just touches my shoulders in a comforting way, I feel like a kid and start crying. It’s probably an accumulation of my emotions which just comes out with the human touch. After the tears leave me, I feel so much better!
I have observed that the human touch work wonders to me. Holding the hand of a close friend while walking the known pathways, giving a good-bye hug, greeting someone with a peck and a hug and similar small gestures of being human is sometimes healing. Many of us stay by themselves and don’t have family nearby. There is understandably a feeling of loneliness and solitude. But when another human, who loves you, makes their presence felt, you feel happy, you feel there is someone who cares!
The world these days is delimited by definitions, it was not so when I was a kid. If two guys walk with their hands on each other’s shoulders, we blotch them as ‘gay’, similarly if two girls kiss, we say they might be ‘lesbians’, or if a guy and a girl hug each other, we say they might be dating! Things were not like this when we were kids, we used to happily walk hand in hand with our friends, be it a guy or a girl. We would kiss and hug each other without thinking even once! It’s so easy to show hatred, have fights, arguments, even kill each other, then why is it so hard to love each other just as humans without the discrimination of race, cast, creed or sex! When our parents love us, when our grand-parents hug or kiss us, when our friends cuddle up next to us, it’s all a very human touch! It makes us feel alive, feel a part of the world, feel human!
The human touch is therapeutic to me when am feeling low. I used to cling on to my bestie all the time whenever we would travel, and she would always shrug me off from her and ask why I am ‘glued’ to her all the time =)! I would reply saying that we live in opposite hemispheres, when you are with me, I want to feel your presence! Well, each of us is different in our own ways and how we feel or how we heal. But I guess the small gestures of love which I call as the ‘human touch’ is necessary to signify the presence of love in this world without the precincts of demarcations!
If it’s easy to show your hatred, trust me it’s easier to show your love! Just hold your friend’s hand while you walk, give your mom a hug when she is angry on you, tell your sister how much you love her and care for her and that you are always there, call your father more often, smile at the passer-by on the road. We all have our pains, all have our own battles to fight, the small gestures of love keep us going. Life is all about the small things, cherish them and smile! xoxo
It was the last day of my New Zealand holiday. I was in Queenstown and already quite mesmerised by the beauty of the place and the country. Since my flight was in the afternoon, I had booked myself in the TSS Earnslaw Vintage Cruise in the morning, so I can spend some relaxed time and also enjoy sailing on the lake Wakatipu. I checked out of my hotel after breakfast and reached the Steamer Wharf by 9.30am. The boarding had already commenced, so I queued to board.
The vintage steamship is 105 years old and one of the oldest one in the Southern hemisphere. The ship was quite big, and the crowd was mostly kids and families. It was freezing that morning in Queenstown, more so because I was near the lake. After I boarded and found myself a nice window seat in the upper deck, I realised that the kids had started opening the windows and were enjoying the icy wind. I was feeling cold and got some coffee from the onboard café. The cruise started with a classic hoot, the surroundings were breathtaking, snow-clad mountains, the beautiful lake and small houses across the lake. While I was enjoying the view, I was also a bit pricky by the cold and feeling a bit lonely in the crowd =(
To my surprise, after the ship sailed, I could hear a beautiful music of somebody playing the piano! Never thought there could be a piano onboard, so I started walking towards the music. There was not only a vintage piano onboard but also an old lady playing the instrument with ease and beauty! She was lost in her own world and had a beautiful smile while she entertained the crowd. I was charmed at once and went and sat near her. She looked at me and smiled and immediately I felt a bond as well as found the companion I was probably seeking! I was lost in her music and forgot about the cold or the icy wind. She played old songs one after the other and after a while took a break when the ship docked at Walter Peak. Most of the people got down in this port making the ship almost empty.
The piano player asked about me and where I had come from, we started talking and I got to know that she had started playing the piano as a teen and as she grew up, she had to give up her love for sustenance. She has been a farmer and her life were all hard work for family. When she retired from farming, she decided to get back to her lost love for playing the piano and here she was, playing the piano onboard, in the oldest cruise of the Southern Hemisphere! She said she will quickly grab a bite before her next session starts.
I kept observing her, she must be in her 90s, old, yet so elegant and graceful in her manners. She walked very slowly holding a stick, the fingers of her hand had bandages, may be due to playing the piano every day, her hands were shaky when she walked or when she made her tea but not when she played the piano, like magic! She sat and looked at the lake and the mountains while having a bite. Wonder what she was thinking, maybe she was thinking that she had a gratified life or maybe she was thinking what she will cook for her grandchildren whom she was meeting that evening for dinner!
She could say if it will snow or not looking at the sky, her favourite season was Summer since as a farmer it was tough for her to work in the fields in the winter months. She told me how March, April and May are the most beautiful months in Queenstown and also how much she enjoys meeting new people every day in the cruise and playing the piano for them! I could have listened to her all day but soon we reached the marina and it was time for me to say goodbye. She gave me a song book and said I can keep this as a souvenir. I took my pen out and requested her to autograph the song book for me =) She was quite surprised by this request and seemed quite pleased too and smiled at me and then scribbled some words with her quivering, soft and elderly hands. I took the autographed song book and gave her a hug before I said goodbye, she said “The world is very small, we will meet again very soon!”
I disembarked from the cruise, took the song book out and read what she had written, “Best wishes from Elenor, Queenstown, NZ”. My heart melted by her kind words and the beautiful memory Elenor gifted me which will be with me forever. Suddenly there was a gust of icy wind that hit my face but this time I smiled and felt wonderful, life was good. Will miss you Elenor but like you said, we will meet very soon! =)
My friends and I decided to travel to Noosa this year January. Noosa is located on the southern end of Queensland, an Australian state and is in the Sunshine coast. Noosa Heads, a town and suburb of the Shire of Noosa is located approximately 136 kilometres north of Brisbane, the state’s capital and is in the main hub.
We flew to the Sunshine coast airport from Melbourne and then rented a car from the airport and drove down to the Peregian beach where we had booked our accommodation. It’s a scenic 24km (approx) drive along the coast with the sea in sight now and then. We had booked our stay through Airbnb and must admit that it was one of best houses we ever stayed!
On the way to the Peregian beach we stopped for lunch and had some wonderful Thai food. The weather in January was hot and a bit humid too. However, the sunshine was welcoming and the beautiful beaches stole our heart.
The beach was even more mesmerizing in the night! The starlit night, the lashing of the waves, the quietness and the companionship made us cherish every moment and feel at peace.
A Day well spent
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we decided to explore Noosa by ferry. We boarded the ferry from the Noosa Yacht & Rowing Club and there begun a wonderful journey in the Noosa river waters. It was a beautiful sunny day, the sky and the river water was clear blue and the weather was impeccable for a river cruise. We disembarked at the Sofitel Noosa Heads and gallivanted in the Hastings Street famous for its boutique shops and restaurants.
We had a wonderful Indian lunch at Kali Gourmet Indian restaurant . The restaurant had delicious Indian food and warm and welcoming staff. We then explored the beach at the Noosa Heads and the colourful boutique shops in the Hastings street.
We took the return ferry in the afternoon and then decided to view the Sunset from the Laguna Lookout in the Noosa National Park. It was a spellbinding sunset. We were captivated by the landscape and life felt good!
Fraser Island – Adventure reloaded
The next day we had planned a day trip to the famous Fraser Island. The Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island stretching over 120km. We got picked up by the tour providers at 6am and then headed off to our first stop where we boarded a four wheel drive tour bus. We crossed the Noosa river in the cable barge and stopped at the Rainbow beach for morning tea. It was a scenic journey so far and the rainbow beach was true to its name.
Next, we had a rocky ride inside the forest area to the crystal clear freshwater Lake McKenzie. It was an absolutely beautiful lake with tropical turquoise water, fine white sand and surrounded by forest. After our rocky ride, the lake was welcoming and we immediately jumped onto the water. We spend time in the lake exfoliating ourselves with the white sand and splashing water on each other. It felt like we voyaged back to our childhood! Soon we felt hungry and were served delicious “Aussie style” bush barbecue with a varied assortment of fresh salad and drinks. We stuffed ourselves and soon it was time to head back to the mainstream.
On the way back, we dropped by the magnificent Rainforests. We walked inside the cold, dark pathways of the forest. It was thrilling and we praised nature at every step. The luxuriant canopy of palms and vines made each moment memorable.
We returned back by evening, tired yet rejuvenated!
My friends and I have a busy life in Melbourne like many others. We planned this trip to Noosa with an agenda of relaxation and holiday. On the last day of our trip, we had checked the boxes! Noosa is not only one of the most beautiful places we had visited but it felt like the sea, sand and sunshine have hitched to make Noosa magical! If you love beaches, Noosa is where you should be! Every moment we spent here was full of awe! Australia has many beaches and I have visited many of them, yet Noosa had its own appeal and will make me come back again when I want to liberate and revive myself! Noosa, you stole our hearts with your charm, see you again someday! Till then, keep travelling!
It was the Easter weekend and my friends and I had decided the weekend away to Bendigo which is around the centre of the state of Victoria and approx.150km north west of Melbourne, Australia. The best way to travel together was to go in the V/Line train which departs from the Southern Cross station at regular intervals and reaches Bendigo in approximately 2hrs.
After having a delightful train ride with picturesque view on both sides, we reached Bendigo. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining bright. We walked our way to our accommodation at the Old Crown hotel which was around 10mins walk from the V/Line train station. The city was well organised with small unique shops and cafes. There was zebra-crossings at every place for ease of the pedestrians and the people around seemed warm and friendly. We placed our bags in our hotel and then headed off to explore the scenic city.
Central Deborah Gold Mine – a thrilling experience!
We had pre-booked our tickets at the Central Deborah Gold mine which boasts of Bendigo’s golden heritage and was a “must-visit” in our list! An old gentleman greeted us at the gold mine and guided us towards the mine tour guide Natt. Natt welcomed us with a big smile which spoke heaps of how passionate he was of his job and presented the safety instructions in his soft yet firm voice. We went down the gold mine in an antediluvian lift where we were equipped with safety gears like helmets with lights on them. It was all very fascinating to us and we could already feel the thrill of the underground mine trip. The temperature was quite less underneath and the pathways were wet and sometimes a bit muddy. Natt took us through trails inside the mine and stopped at designated stops and shared us the history of the place and also made us aware of the life of a miner, the equipment they used and the hardships they faced operating in mines!
We were both fascinated by the facts and sad envisaging the challenging life of a miner. The trip ended in around an hour and we came out in the bright sunlight with a bagful of memories and cognizance. We also visited the Gold Mine museum, attended the gold-digging workshop and had some fun finding precious gold and gemstones!
The Vintage “talking” Trams – time travel to History!
After the Gold mine tour, we grabbed some food near the Pall Mall and decided to do the Vintage tram tour! We could see frequent trams plying in the city and jumped onto one of them. An old tram conductor approached us and gave us the tickets. He also obliged us by posing with us in one of the photographs inside the tram, for our memory! He was such a kind, wonderful gentleman. He told us that he is a volunteer and that two-third of the members of the Bendigo tramways are volunteers. When we asked why he was volunteering for this fascinating profession, he said he is trying to conserve the endangered species called ‘tram-conductors’!
The tram took us to multiple stops including the Bendigo Tram Depot, Central Deborah Gold mine, Lake Weeroona and Joss House Temple. There were two or three different trams which were painted artistically and looked distinctive.
Bendigo City – quaint and contemporary!
We visited the major sightseeing spots at Bendigo in the Tram and we got down from the tram near the Pall Mall. The city was full of vibrant colours of autumn, busy cafes & restaurants and happy faces. Some astounding vintage cars zoomed across the city and made us awestruck! There was also a Vintage car exhibition and Easter carnival which attracted tourists from far and near considering it was the Easter weekend.
Another remarkable spot in Bendigo city is the famous Shamrock Hotel which is known for its historic and architectural significance. The hotel was built in 1854 as the Exchange Hotel and then rebuild and rebranded several times. The hotel was the accommodation of choice of visiting dignitaries in Bendigo during the gold rush time! The hotel not only boasts of the history of Bendigo but also is one of the best accommodations in the heart of the city and a suitable eatery.
The Bendigo Information Center is also worth a visit with the friendly staff, an exquisite collection of souvenirs and heaps of information on Bendigo and the places to visit.
In short, the overall experience in Bendigo was very peaceful and relaxing. The city has its own history & culture, some nice eatery, beautiful scenic views and warm & friendly people. Would highly recommend if you want to experience the small-town-life of Victoria and the one of the best weekend gateway from Melbourne. Easy to access and nice to visit. Leaves a smile on your face all day and you return feeling fresh and rejuvenated! See you again Bendigo and thanks for your hospitality!