ADVENTURE IN INDIA
Take a look at the Raid De Himalaya-quite easily the toughest Rally in the Indian Subcontinent --Experience the sublime and sheer splendour of this picturesque Himalayan village of beautiful blooms and monasteries --the last post on the Indo-Chinese border -- Discover nature in its most pristine form at the Andaman and Nicober Islands -- a perfect getaway for those who love the sea,sand and surf ----- Sift through the following places to find the weekend holiday haunt that suits your mood and money power -----

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A BREATHTAKING DRIVE ----

Raid the Himalayas.A posse of some 200 vehicles ,four-wheelers and two-wheelers ,all geared up and modified for some heavy-duty rough terrain rallying,cleaved in and out of the Western Himalayas in a race of time,distance and speed in what is arguably the toughest rally circuit in India.

                  At CHATRU BRIDGE towards KAZA

The 10th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya,India's longest ,highest and most strenuous motorsport event,go under way from the picturesque hill town of Shimla on October every year.

During these days,the 150 teams totalling 250 motor enthusiasts put their nerves and their vehicles to the utmost test of endurance as they negotiate the harshest of terrains where roads are practically non-existent.And among them are doughty women,including overseas motorists who participating in the most challenging two-wheeler segment.Bikers rough out not just the roads but also the often unpredictable and truant weather without the cover and comfort of a cabin.

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Maruti Suzuki SX4 cruises the More Planes to LEH

Flagged off at Shimla ,the vehicles across three categories -Xtreme for professionals in four-wheelers with 80 participants,Adventure Trail for amateurs in four-wheelers which have 130 competitors and 4- Xtreme Bikers - covering a distance of approximately 2,400 km spread over eight legs through Manali,Kaza,Patseo,Kargil and Zanskar to culminate Leh

                A POLARIS all-terrain veicle in action

The Raid climb over some of the highest motorable passes in the world including the Tanglang La,which is second highest motorable pass in the world.The Jalori Pass,Rohtang Pass,Kunzum La and the formidable Baralacha La offer not just breathtaking views but also some of the most challenging routes every year.

Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya ,listed on the off-road rallies calendar of the Switzerland -based Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme,is the only Indian motorsport event that draws attention from the international rallying circuit.

                     Towards KAZA in SPITI VALLEY

On an average ,the rally covers a distance of 300 km a day.About 60 percent of a day's drive is through the narrowest of roads snaking along high,narrow mountainsides.

LEGS

1.Shimla - Manali

2.Manali - Rohtang - Gramphoo

3.Kaza - Kaza Gate

4.Kaza - Rong Tong - Losar

5.Patseo - Nakeela

6.Leh - Khaltse

7.Kargil - Panikher

8.Kargil - Leh

 

IN LOVE WITH LACHUNG---

 

 

 

Lachung,a small picturesque village in Northeast Sikkim ,is as simple as the people inhabiting the place.The hamlet is a visual delight given its location beside the quietly flowing Lachen and Lachung rivers ---tributaries of the Teesta.While spring sees this village bathed in a variety of blooms,winter sees it covered in a blanket of snow ! Lachung is home to some of the finest orchids and rhododendrons.

Lachung ,meaning a small mountain,is the last village on the Indo-China border.History has it that this was a trading place between Tibet and Sikkim before it was annexed to India in 1950.

Splendid snow-capped mountains,waterfalls and a profusion of blooms offer some quiet moments for rumination.All through the year the mountains remain snow covered and on a clear day you can see the Kanchenjungha !

 

 

BEYOND BORDER -----

Your next destination will be Yumthang Valley which is about three hours drive from Lachung.All along the route,you will have steep gorges,snow-covered mountains and waterfalls for company.As also the sparkling Lachung.You drive a few kms uphill and then would be surprised to find the road dissapear !

Once you reach Jadong/Yumesamdong, which is the last point of India,beyond the blue mountains would be China !You need to take a special road permit from Gangtok to go to Yumatsandong or Zero Point.River Lachung begins here.Here,do take a good pair of mountain boots with you if you want to snow walk,you can also hire them.

 

Hot Tip ---

There will be very few provision stores along the route to Jadong .So it's best to stock up on food,water and medicines at Mangan

 

FACT FILE -----

How to go : Take a flight to Bagdogra and then from there hire a car to Gangtok which is about 4 hours drive.Lachung,located at a height of 9,600 ft ,takes about 7 hours to reach from Gangtok.So it's best to go for a night halt at Gangtok & then drive down to Lachung the next day.The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri

 

When to go : October - May

Where to stay : Modem Residency;Hotel Sonam Palgey;Le Coxy Resort;Fortuna Lachung and Fortuna Lachen among others

Contact the Sikkim Tourism Office in Kolkata or at Gangtok for further information 033-2281-5328/2282-5813

What to see : Hanuman Mandir ; Lachung Monastery,Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary ; Yumthang Valley; Jadong which is the last post on the Indo-Tibet border and check out the beautiful orchids

Must carry : Sun glasses are a must if you are planning to take a walk over the frozen Lachung River !   

 

CALL OF EMERALD ISLAND-----

It has the only active volcano in the country,boasts of having one of the biggest and oldest saw mills of Asia,uninhabited islands ,white sand beaches,clear blue water,underwater coral gardens,is an excellent destination for scuba diving,snorkelling,camping ...Andaman and Nicober Islands is all of this and much more.It's a one-stop destination for adventure and marine life enthusiasts and for those seeking peace.Inhabited by people of various communities,it is often described as mini-India.

The archipelago of 572 islands ,with just 36 inhabited,Andaman and Nicober are also called Emerald Islands.The cluster actually looks like a large piece of emerald from the sky ! Port Blair,the laidback capital of this Union Territory,is the gateway to these islands.

CAPITAL CAPERS ---

It's the freshness of the air at Port Blair that charms you.Let lazing around be your only mantra on the first day.Explore the city on foot,chat up with locals and have fresh seafood with plenty of tender coconut water.Hit the crescent shaped Corbyn's Cove beach for a swim.One of the most beautiful beaches in this bunch of islands,it is lined with palm trees,making it an ideal place for swimming ,surfing and sun bathing.The uniqueness of the islands lies in the fact that while it can be sunny on one side,the other side might be experiencing a drizzle.Watching the sunset from the beach is an awesome experience.But the most intriguing place on Port Blair is the Cellular Jail.The three-storey colonial-era prison reverberates with heart-wrenching tales of torture on freedom fighters.The Chatham Saw Mill,built on a small island ,is connected to Port Blair by a bridge and is now one of the oldest and biggest saw mills of Asia.For some shopping head to the famous Aberdeen Bazaar from where shell crafts and wooden handicrafts are best buys.The local redwood is very popular for handicrafts and you could pick up some souvenirs in redwood.Since the islands are heavily dependent on their daily supply from the mainland,any delay in flights or cancellations take a heavy toll on the markets.

JUST CORALS ---

Havelock Island is the most visited island here along with Neil Island.There are seven beaches at Havelock.It was rated one of the best beaches in Asia by Times magazines in 2004.The unpolluted air,unspoiled beaches and the sound of waves gently hitting the shore work like a balm for tired senses.For ecotourism head to Jolly Buoy and Red Skin islands where glass-bottom boats help you see corals and turtles.

The Clinque Island has a sand bar joining two islands while the Barren Island has the only active volcano in the country.In terms of biodiversity ,these reefs are second to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.However,the sheer sight of endless stretches of colour and marine life can be simply fascinating !

HOT TIP !

The islands offer great opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving.Underwater corals and marine life can be seen by taking a ride in glass-bottomed boats

FACT FILE !

How to go : There are flights every day from Chennai and Kolkata.Passenger ships are also available from Chennai,Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam

Best time to visit : Nov-April

Where to stay : Welcome Group Bay Island,Megapode Nest,Palm Grove Eco Resort,Peerless Beach Resort ,Citi King Palace,Shompen,Jungle Resort,Coconut Groves eco-friendly huts

Must see :Cellular Jail,Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park,Corbyn Cove Beach,Radhanagar Beach,Jarawa Reserve,Viper Island,Neil Island,Long Island,Ross Island,Barren Island Little Island and Jolly Buoy Island

Note :Thereis a ban on plastic in many of the islands.So abide by the rules and also don't bring back any plant or coral.It's a punishable offence.

JAIPUR -----

Travel : Rs.3200(train) + Rs.800(bus) from Kolkata.Since there are no direct trains from Kolkata,a break journey via either Jodhpur or Delhi are the best choices.Hop on to the Jodhpur-Howrah Express or take the Rajdhani to the capital and then a Volvo bus.Delhi is just 259kms from the Pink City and is connected by the NH8.

Stay : To get a feel of the royal life,stay at a palace hotel(not less than Rs.3000).But for the budget-minded ,comfortable accommodation fopr around Rs.800 is also available.

Food : Rs.1500.Rajasthani and Marwari food are scrumptious,with delicacies like gatte ki sabzi and dal bati churma in addition to sweets like moong dal ka halwa and ghewar.For foodies,a trip to the village resort of Chokhi Dhani is a must.Here,a hearty Rajasthani meal served desi-style costs Rs.245 and the hospitality will keep smiling for days.

Sight-seeing : Rs.1500.The city comes with a historical buffet as well,including Amer Palace and Jaigarh,Nahargarh and Amber Forts.Raj Mandir is rare pre-independence palatial movie hall,with nominal entry charges of Rs.20 to Rs.40.For shopaholics,the meenakari and jadau trinkets at Johri bazaar are great bargain buys and the rainbow-coloured Rajasthani skirts at Babu bazaar are pop picks.

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