For most travelers, a vacation in Kerala has become synonymous with the backwaters experience – cruising down the labyrinthine waterways in your own houseboat or enjoying the sights and sounds of nature through the eyes of your resort. While the waterways of Alleppey and Kumarakom, the cultural experiences in Kochi or the idyllic beach life in Varkala are major crowd pullers – we decided to forego all of the above for a tête-à-tête with Kerala’s mountains and forest reserves. This was my second time in ‘God’s Own Country’, and I decided to travel to the eastern part of the state this time. If like me, you’re returning to the southern state the second time around or looking at extending your trip post the mandatory backwaters experience, this Kerala itinerary may be of help to you. Read on –
When we think of Manchester, we think of football, and justifiably so. Manchester is the second largest city in the UK and home to two of the largest football league clubs in the world. But the city has a lot more to offer apart from football stadium tours and live matches. (Though I really think you should see atleast one United match at Old Trafford if you ever happen to visit.)
But Manchester’s history is long winding and arduous. It is the world’s first industrialized city owing to it’s significant contribution to the textile manufacturing industry during the industrial revolution. It is culturally rich with a vibrant art and music scene that is constantly evolving. And more recently, Manchester has been voted as the most LGBTQ-friendly city in the UK, and has the largest LGBTQ population outside of London. All these reasons make Manchester a cultural hot-pot, often overlooked by tourists and overshadowed by it’s larger more popular siblings – London and Liverpool.
In the last of my three part series documenting my travels through South Africa, we explore and appreciate South Africa’s Drakensberg mountain range located in the Kwazulu-Natal province.
‘Great things are done when men and mountains meet. ‘William Blake
As we left Durban and drove down further into the countryside, I couldn’t help but notice the landscape undergo a drastic paradigm shift. We were leaving the hustle and bustle of the sunny city, and driving into an idyllic countryside filled with lolling fields, grazing cattle and wooden barns – not to mention a random ostrich strolling down the highway. A drop in the temperature, pristine air quality and plenty of greenery around could only mean one thing, we were approaching the mountains!
The Drakensberg Mountain Range is South Africa’s highest and longest mountain range stretching to over 200 kilometers in length. The original Dutch settlers christened the mountain range as ‘Drakensbergen’ or ‘Dragon’s Mountain’ owing to the sharp peaks that may have resembled a dragon’s scaly back. Apart from being home to some of the most picturesque views, what makes Drakensberg a popular hiking tourist destination are its accessible passes and slopes. It is also home to the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park – a world heritage site where you can find rock paintings of the San Bushmen from 40,000 years ago. While these mountain ranges offer plenty of options right from hiking and white water rafting to horse trails and canopy walks, here are my recommendations to enjoying Drakensberg and its beauty to the fullest…
There are so many ways to explore a new city – you could cram in all the touristy spots in a day, ticking them off your list as you go through. Or you could eat your way through the city, understanding how food influences their way of life. Or you could go museum hopping, learning more about the city’s past. I had all these options buzzing through my head on my recent visit to London. Having a measly 48 hours in the city (not enough!), I decided to forego them all and do the unthinkable – explore London through the eyes of Harry Potter. The minute I read about Harry Potter walking tours being conducted across the city while I was researching a probable itinerary, I was sold – hook, line and sinker! I packed the husband off to Lord’s cricket stadium for the day, and set off for the walking tour of my dreams.
Now, I’ve read the books a million times, seen the movies a dozen times (the books are better!), blogged about my love for the Harry Potter franchise (read that here), and even contemplated signing up for a degree in ‘Harry Potter’ at Durham University. Yes, that exists. And if you share the Potter love as much as I do, here’s a step-by-step, self guided Harry Potter walking tour of London that you can do too! This features some of the landmarks that either inspired Rowling or were used as filming locations in the film series. So get on your Nimbus 2000 and fly along –
In the second of this three-part series documenting my travels through South Africa, I tell you what I learnt from my very first safari experience.
‘In the jungle
– the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. In the jungle
–the quiet jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.’
This song from The Lion King reverberated in my head as we set off on one chilly morning for my very first game drive on the last leg of our South Africa trip. I’d barely slept the night before out of excitement, and was up and awake before the crack of dawn, slathered in sunscreen and mosquito repellent, binoculars strung around my neck, and a nervous anticipation seated in my stomach. You see, I’d never been on a safari before and I was blessed that my very first time was going to be at South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park.
A South African vacation is incomplete without getting a taste of the jungle life, and there are plenty of smaller game reserves scattered across the country that offer the safari experience. However, Kruger is the largest, most popular, and offers plenty of options ranging from luxury lodges to government owned properties. No matter where you stay, you’re guaranteed plenty of animal viewings – it’s Africa after all! I was in the jungle for two days, went on three game drives, and here’s what I learnt…