Tag Archives: Wildlife

Escape to Manali

The constant and endless movement around the country that had once excited and inspired me was starting to make me grow weary. Apart from a few longer stays in places like Mamallapuram, Pushkar, Hampi and of course the Vipassana retreat I had barely stopped moving in the past 4 and a half months. The summer in the south was slowly creeping north and making itself known with the mercury regularly hitting 47 degrees in Varanasi when I decided I was done with the Indian summer. The Himalayas were calling my name and I dragged me and my sweat-soaked shirt into the travel agent and pleaded for a train ticket north. The agent told me there was one ticket left but it was in the more expensive AC carriage – like I was going to choose anything else at this stage.

Beautiful old houses of Manali

Beautiful old houses of Manali

I stopped in Rishikesh (more to come on this shortly) and met up with some friends I’d met in Pushkar and spent a week exploring the Ganges, the waterfalls and The Beatles Ashram, it was cooler but still a little toasty – roll on the Himalayas.

Before I managed to completely escape the chaos, India had one more surprise in store for me and that was the trip from Rishikesh to Manali. It all faded away like a bad nightmare when I rolled into Manali.

My friends from Rishikesh had arrived the day before and I sent them a message as I got off the bus – ‘Brew some coffee, I’m 5 minutes away’. Sure enough, they greeted me with hugs and coffee and I relaxed into Old Manali.

Old Manali is a cliche mountain town only this time a little different. Where most cliches leave you feeling a little lacklustre through expectations, Manali exceeded all of mine and I knew I wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.

DSC01563

The surrounding mountains are covered with pine forests that only give way to the snow line at the top, the rivers at the bottom and the waterfalls that connect the two. The mornings and afternoons are cold enough to warrant a beanie, scarf and hot coffee while the days are warm enough to consider a dip in the icy melt-water.

DSC01445

While Manali lends itself to the peace and quiet it would be hard to get through a trip here without doing at least one of the adventure sports on offer. I took a few days out of my calendar of R & R and went rock-climbing.

The trekking around Manali is world-class and even if you don’t choose to go on the multi-day treks that are offered everywhere there’s plenty of treks that you can do by yourself (the companies and guides will tell you this isn’t possible but a bit of exploration will prove them wrong). After rock-climbing with the guys at Himalayan Caravan I had a chat with them about potential treks and they gave me plenty of ideas on where to go, they also gave me their mobile number incase I got lost. Walking in any direction will take you somewhere pretty special.

DSC01424

Three months of vegetarianism would also come to an end in Manali. The Lamb burgers at Shiva Garden Cafe were just too good to pass up for $3. Manali may just have the best western style food in all of India as well as delicious Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese and Chinese dishes. Although being a melting-pot of tourists it was still possible to find some cheaper restaurants ($1 dollar momos became a staple).

The rest of my days there were spent reading, writing, fishing, hiking and sitting in the hot springs in between catching up with the constant flow of travellers through the town.

A spot of early morning fishing.

A spot of early morning fishing.

Eventually the time would come where I would have to re-pack my bags that had exploded across my room and make my way to Srinagar, Kashmir in preparation for an 8 day trek. I had made a lot of friends in the town and left knowing I would be back one day.

Have you taken a break from travel before? Where did you stop and relax?

Forget Sydney…

Well, not quite but it would be easy enough to do on New South Wales’ South Coast. Although Sydney has an endless list of attractions, which makes it one of the favoured cities by tourists and backpackers alike, you may be aiming a little high on the coastline if you’re looking for some of the best kept secrets New South Wales has to offer.

The South Coast (conveniently located 2 hours from Sydney) is known for its abundance of Australian wildlife so it’s a must for anyone looking to find dolphins, whales, wombats, echidnas, koalas or kangaroos.

Camping or camper-van is the favoured choice by the modern day explorer on the South Coast allowing you to immerse yourself in nature. Surrounded by such serenity it breeds locals to suit. How truly content they are is reflected in the way they talk about the area, upon asking where to go we were left with endless suggestions. Given that I’m a sucker for lighthouses and headlands we drove out towards Point Perpendicular on the Northern Head of Jervis Bay.

The gum-trees on either side of the road set against a steel grey sky would’ve looked equally as appropriate in an Australian Art exhibition as it did guiding us to the light house ahead.
Looking up from the grounds of the lighthouse where a kangaroo hopped around, the huge white lighthouse keeps guard over Jervis Bay. Shortly beyond the lighthouse the cliffs fall so perfectly vertical to the ocean you suspect it may be the work of a huge ancient stonemason.

While the view from the headland had left me awestruck, the highlight of the trip was yet to come…

Another kangaroo on the other side of the bay.

Another kangaroo on the other side of the bay.

A short walk through the bush opens up to one of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen, Honeymoon Bay. The fine white sand wrapped around the bay like a waning moon. The crystal clear water had tempted a kangaroo down to the waters edge and even in the chilly late autumn weather I was tempted to indulge. If skinny-dipping happened to be on your bucket list, a swim under the stars in Honeymoon Bay would be hard to beat. You just don’d find this serenity anywhere in Sydney.

After returning to camp and realising that not too far down the road are places that offer surfing, water-skiing, fishing, bush walks, wildlife tours, wineries, markets and more you slowly start to forget Sydney…