Photographs: Reuben Varghese (Picture for representational purposes only) Abhishek Mande
We continue our special series on unconventional travels.
Kalpana Bhogle* and her husband Ashutosh* are a typical Mumbai-based Double-Income-No-Kids couple. Both are in their late 20s and plan not to have kids at all. The two love to travel and a child's school schedule is bound to tie them down.
Kalpana says: "We try and go out of town at least once every month. So far we've covered most of Maharashtra. We stick to travelling to places around Mumbai (where we stay) since most of our travels happen on the weekends.
As college students we participated in a lot of treks and backpacking trips with our friends. Although we've grown up, this is one aspect of our lives we haven't left behind. Sometimes we take our car and drive down. But on most occasions we like to take the train or a bus. When we want to get adventurous, we take a state transport bus! It is a great experience travelling that way.
Our bags are always packed: three sets of clothes and toiletries are ready to be thrown into a bag at any given point.
The only precaution we take is to avoid travelling after sunset. So far we haven't encountered any problem but I do recollect one occasion when our train was delayed and we found ourselves in a desolate bus stand. It was getting cold and we thought we'd missed the connecting bus to our hotel. As luck would have it the bus was late too and we reached the place safely.
Tips for amateur backpackers
1. Research thoroughly. You don't need to plan by the minute but it helps if you have some idea of when you will reach where.
2. Book hotels in advance. I know a lot of times young people like to go on a whim. We've done that too. But these days, many people travel a lot and book their hotels in advance. A long weekend is a traveller's nightmare because roads are jammed and hotels packed. These things can be easily avoided if you plan well.
3. Be ready to rough it out. Travel second class or take a state transport bus. The latter, especially has a great community feel to it.
4. Meet people; interact with them and don't be stuck up. It is ok if you don't get mementos. The idea is to come back with an experience you can cherish all your life.
Head out to these destinations from Mumbai
Photographs: Abhishek Mande (Picture for representational purposes only)
Mumbai to Malshej Ghat
Approx distance: 154 km
Ideal route: The nearest railhead is Kalyan on the central line. There are buses and private transport options that take you to Malshej. You can also drive to Malshej via Murbad.
Approx cost for one night: Rs 6,000 (including fuel cost if you're driving down)
Where to eat: At Malshej there are very few options except the one in the state tourism resort. It serves pretty decent food. Else you can simply head out to any village nearby. The local eateries there can throw up some interesting surprises. Junnar is closeby and is a popular tourist destination known for being the birthplace of the Maratha king Shivaji.
Where to stay: Yet again the state tourism resort is the best option you have. It is on the top of the hill and offers breathtaking views
Look out for: Spending quality time by yourself or check out the Buddhist caves and the Shivneri Fort, which is about 45 km from here.
Mumbai to Tarkarli
Approx distance: 546 km
Ideal route: The nearest railhead is Kudal on the Konkan Railway line. It is an overnight journey and the best train to take is the Konkankanya Express from CST. From Kudal you can simply hire a private car and drive to Tarkarli.
Approx cost for one night: Rs 8,000
Where to eat: We'd suggest you stick to the state tourism resort here. It's the safest thing to do as it serves fresh and authentic meals. You could check out some eateries in the market, all of which are just as good (or bad) as the other.
Where to stay: The state tourism resort is an idyllic place to live. It is quiet and tucked away from the commotion surrounding it.
Look out for: Dolphins, Sindhudurg Fort and long walks and sunset along the beach.
Head out to these places from Kolkata
Avid backpacker Piya Bose suggests destinations from Kolkata:
Kolkata to Murshidabad
Approx distance: 205 km
Ideal route: Train or long distance bus from Kolkata
Where to eat: There are several small restaurants serving good Bengali food. Don't miss out the yummy chanar bora (sweets made of cottage cheese that are black outside and red inside) available in most sweet shops.
Where to stay: Hotel Sagnik in Murshidabad
Look out for: Murshidabad, on the banks of the River Bhagirathi was an important administrative capital of Bengal and has several remnants of the last of the royalty.
Hazaar Dwari (Palace of thousand doors): Watch out for the unique mirror as you enter the palace doors where you can see everyone except yourself!
Kath golaber bagaan (the garden of wood and roses): The sit out of the nawabs that you see once you enter has a giant golden ball where one can see people approaching from at least a mile away. It also has underground tunnels that the Nawabs used to escape in case of an attack.
Also check out the tomb of Siraj ud dulla and buy Murshidabad silk.
Kolkata to Puri
Approx distance: 495 km
Ideal route: Take an overnight train from Kolkata. There are over half a dozen trains from Howrah Junction that reach Puri anywhere between 4.30 am to 7.20 am
Where to eat: The main market area in Puri has a variety of eating options in a budget. Don't miss out on the sweets there.
Fish lovers shouldn't miss out on the fresh fish cooked on the beach in shacks.
Where to stay: What makes Orissa a backpacker's paradise is the cheap accomodation. One can rent a holiday home on the beachfront in Puri at a bargain. These homes come equipped with a fully functional kitchen also.
Look out for: The renowned Jagannath temple that attracts hundreds of devotees and don't miss out on the delicious bhog served there!
The beaches are of course a major attraction.
One can do a day trip to the stunning Konarak sun temple and also check out the other beautiful beaches en route.
A day trip from Puri to Raghurajpur and Pipli is highly reccomended. Raghurajpur is a heritage village where every villager is involved in the art of making 'patta chitra' or paintings on palm leaves with brushes made of hair from rat's tails!
Pipli is a must go for shopaholics who want to pick up some lovely samples of appliqu work.
If time permits, a trip to Bhubaneshwar and Chilka Lake famed for the migratory birds is recommended.
Part two in this series: Motorcycle Diaries -- Taking the road to Freedom
Part one in this series: How young India ditched the travel agent
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