Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Kaas Plateau : Valley of Flowers

Most of us have heard stories of the famed Valley of Flowers in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand – where the entire valley is engulfed in wild flowers of all colours, for a couple of months in a year. My father had the good fortune of seeing it for himself back in his younger days and he cannot help gushing about how beautiful it was, every time the topic comes up. However, that phenomenon is not limited to Himalayan peaks alone. Here in Maharashtra, in the district of Satara, there is a plateau of Kaas (locally called Kaas Pathar) which too gets covered by wild flowers, when the monsoon rains recede.

These wildflowers blossom for a very short while – just a couple of weeks – but they cover the full plateau with it. The Western Ghats in the monsoons are already at their most magical, with all the hills surrounding Kaas in a verdant green. Lakes are full and waterfalls in full flow. Amidst all this, imagine a plateau kissed by clouds & fog, covered with pink, blue, yellow and white flowers all over. And if you are lucky, you will have a clear day without the mist – with blue skies above and flower carpet on the ground (as this photo below. Photo credit

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fratellli Winery

As with the Indian wine market, Sula Vineyard near Nasik has the top-of-the-mind recall for winery visits if you are from Bombay. In fact, quite a few people struggle to name Indian wine labels apart from Sula, given how ubiquitous it has become. However, there are smaller, newer winemakers who think they can do a better job than Sula, at coaxing good wines out of the harsh Indian climate.
Vallonne is one such new brand that has impressed us lately. And the other is Fratelli.

While most wine makers – old stalwarts like Chateau Indage and Sula, as well as newer entrants Zampa and Vallonne – have made the valleys surrounding Nasik their base, Fratelli has chosen to set up its vineyard near the town of Akhluj, in Sholapur district. Best way to describe its location is midway between Pune and Sholapur.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Croatia : Part II - Dalmatian Coast

After finishing capital city Zagreb and the beautiful Plitvice National Park in Part 1, we reached Split on the Dalmatian Coast

Croatia’s oldest (and second largest) city was founded in 305 AD by Roman Emperor Diocletian. He built a magnificent fortified palace by the sea as his retirement home, after he gave up the throne in Rome (he was apparently the only Roman Emperor to have retired voluntarily from his throne). Till today, the walls of Diocletian Palace and some structures inside survive and form the centre of the town of Split. It is supposed to be one of the finest surviving examples of a Roman palace and in 1979 UNESCO declared Diocletian’s palace a world heritage site

Split is the site of a natural harbour and it is a port of call for many Mediterranean cruise ships. The passenger ships berth right next to Diocletian’s Palace

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Croatia : Part I - Zagreb & Plitvice

Croatia ? Sounds vaguely familiar, but don’t quite know or remember ?
Croatia is on the Mediterranean sea, across the Adriatic from Italy. There are thousands of islands off the coast - also called Dalmatian coast. Lots of coastal towns, pretty as a postcard, with their orange riled roofs. It is one of the erstwhile Yugoslavia republics. Like most of the other East European countries – Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic – Croatia has opened up to the world only in the late 1990s and it is still not fully explored. It also helps that the country is generously endowed with a beautiful Dalmatian coastline, lots of Roman outposts, the magnificent Plitvice National Park (pictured above) and genuinely nice citizens.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rann of Kutch

160 kmph on the speedometer. Engine screaming near 5000 rpm.
The road wide, smooth and shimmering in the heat.
On both sides of the road is barren yellow land. Dry, with occasional scrub here and there. No sign of life for miles.

It is cool in the car, but our senses are wide awake – lots of adrenaline pumping as the car goes faster than it ever has. Eyes are intensely scanning the road ahead for any pothole or any vehicle/human on either side of the road. But nothing comes into view as the occasional mile marker flashes by, counting down the numbers. The road is not perfectly straight, but you don't care because there are no abrupt turns - you don't have to go below 120 kmph anywhere.

Finally after running a while at 160kmph, sense takes over and we drop to 140kmph, which we held on to for the rest of the trip. If you are enthusiastic about driving in any form, you have not really driven in India if you haven’t driven in Kutch in Gujarat. The Ahmedabad Bhuj highway is a driver’s dream

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