My entry for this Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting.
The pictures are from the Kundala Dam Lake area in Munnar, Kerala, India. I found it to be a very beautiful spot that instantly charmed this city dweller who got drawn to this serene, peaceful place and felt the perfect nature’s paradise. I wished we could stay longer and explore the area, do the boating, but we could not. The boating was closed and we could not enjoy the water more. The extremely tall Nilgiri (Eucalyptus) trees all around, and the thick forest with different variety of trees some with colored leaves (we had visited Kerala in March month) reflecting in the water below, it was a very silent and soothing time for me, perfect escape from bustling madness and traffic chaos of the place where I live.
The Houseboat stay and ride through the backwaters in Alleppey in Kerala too was thoroughly enjoyed, calming and soothing with fantastic view all around, a must include.
I would highly recommend a tour of Kerala, rightfully called as Gods own Country, if you have not yet visited it.
This picture is from my most recent India visit, returned home just last week. This was clicked when visiting my dad’s village near the banks of the river Wainganga, around noon with the summer temperature being above 43+ deg C. The huge tree provided the must needed shade when we got down from the AC cars and took shelter under the tree. Most were unawares of the danger lurking around with the creepy crawling creatures moving nearby, my eyes caught this little fellow changing color and I quickly captured the picture.
(Can you all spot the Chameleon in the picture ?!) 🙂
For this weekly photo challenge I have decided to share some pictures from God’s Own Country 🙂 , yes our Kerala tour, capturing nature’s bounty of some of the dense fruits and flowers that were seen around the cities in Kerala, India.
Ashu wishes you all a very Happy Gudi Padwa / Ugadi. A happy Chaitra Navratri too.
Gudi Padwa is a festival celebrated in Maharashtra on the first day of the Chaitra month, it marks the beginning of the new year of the Hindu calender. It is the time to welcome the mango season 🙂 . Ugadi is celebrated in Andhra as the first day of the new year.
The rituals followed for this auspicious day are making colourful rangolis on the front entrance of the house, tying a marigold flowers and mango leaves toran at the entrance door. A gudi is setup and worshipped and an elaborate vegetarian meal is cooked and offered as Naivedyam. A Shrikhand Puri, or Amrakhand or Puran Poli sweet is made. Pachadi too is made in some houses, it is a neem leaves, tamarind and jaggery mixed liquidy dish. I do not make this, never learnt it, though my mother used to make it. Raw mango dishes too are made.
Sharing couple pictures from today. I have not made many a dishes like the masale bhath and raw mango daal etc, made puran poli for sweet though I got Alpohsnso mangoes for the Amrakhand that I did not make 🙂 , will make it for the weekend menu! I made Bharli Vangi, mixed daal vadas/pakode, alu vadis, varan baath and mattha and fulkas. Even though I skipped some dishes but this itself was a heavy lunch, couldn’t stop with only one puran poli😀.
I have always been fascinated to click pictures of the road that lays ahead or passed by while I am sitting in the passenger seat of the moving vehicle. These pictures are from our Barbecue picnic outing with friends in the month of January 2017 to the Jabal Al Jais mountains in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. We have to crisscross through the mountains to reach to the point at the top until where the road is open for public use, construction is still seen in progress further up this point.
The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.
This is the view from one of the mountain top that we had hiked to after parking the car at the end of the motor-able road that is open to public. The view is breathtakingly beautiful to see from here; the cotton candy clouds, the sun rays giving a golden glow, the blue clear skies and the chilling winter air that sends a shiver through us, it indeed was a beautiful long drive that is worth driving on.
You can check out my post on the Jabal Al Jais mountain here.
This picture is from my recent travel to India. While visiting the Ganpati temple in a city in Maharashtra, India, I stopped to chat with this smiling lady, a fruit and vegetable vendor. I requested her for permission to click her picture, and she smilingly agreed telling me that many stop and click her picture 🙂 .
The old lady is portraying the Maharashtrian look of a married woman, wearing the traditional nine-yard sari called ‘Navvari, the Maharashtrian jewelry-the Mangalsutra, the Motiychi Nath (Pearl nose pin), the green glass bangles called ‘Chuda’ with the gold Patli (bangles) and the red Kumkum (Vermilion) on her forehead. It felt wonderful to capture the warmth and happiness in her smiling face, the long journey of hardship of life seen in the somewhat tired eyes, yet the pride with which she wore her traditional attire. For me this was a graceful and elegant old lady, hence my choice of photograph for this WPC.
The UAE is a country that is a federation of seven kingdoms or Emirates. The capital is Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven Emirates, and the other six Emirates are-Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah.
The first impression of the UAE as a tourist way long back was that it is a Desert country. Back then I had visited Dubai with little or absolutely no knowledge of the country (yes, how ignorant I was I to wonder now!!). It sure was a very different place as compared to now, none of today’s famous landmarks like the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Mall or Atlantis, and not even the Metro, but still I had loved my visit. It was beautiful to visit this place where one could see people from so many countries living in harmony. The visit to Mall of the Emirates left me awestruck , never had seen a Ski slope inside a mall. The Desert Safari too was the most exciting and magical experience, a must do for visitors I would say. The thrill, and at the same time the scare, of the SUV ride climbing and coming down through the steep sand dunes was a first ever experience, the beauty of the Desert sands, the wilderness around and the camp in the center, it sure is something one should experience if you ever visit this country.
I am now a resident of this beautiful country and I sure love this place. The country, especially Dubai has seen tremendous growth, and I am witness to the ever growing change in this place, something new is always upcoming and we see constant development. The infrastructure, the public service transport, the civic facilities are top class, the greenery too is so evident and the seasonal flowers add so much color to the roads and surroundings during the harsh summer months. The pristine beaches, huge well-kept parks, are the best to enjoy family gatherings, barbecues, and also picnics with friends during the cooler months.
This country not only has the Desert sands, the beautiful beaches but also has magnificent mountains too. The landscape completely changes as we travel to Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, the other smaller Emirates of the UAE. The car drive trips up the Jebel Hafeet Mountain are the best mountain rides I have had, and was keen to do the Jabal Al Jais mountain road drive since I came to know about couple months ago. I was looking up to go on as the weather became cooler, and finally in December 2016 I was able to go. The road was fairly recently opened and is still under developed in terms of tourist interest things, but one can simply enjoy the long drive.
I enjoyed this drive and if you looking out for a long drive experience and being in nature then you might too. The vegetation around would be only the Ghaf trees that is seen in these parts of the desert, we do spot mountain goats that are seen roaming around, some even very high at the top of some mountain. The road passed through the rugged, wind scared surface of the mountains that which gave it a beautiful and carved look. It was very cold at the top of the mountain, and by evenings the temperature dropped and was too cold for a single hoodie and jeans clad me. The heater of our SUV was our rescue. A word of caution, if you are driving in the December month be equipped with proper winter wear as the temperatures drop in the evenings at the top of Jais Mountains.
Driving to Ras Al Khaimah from Sharjah takes about a little more than an hour, depending on the traffic. As one drives on towards Ras Al Khaimah, the road passes through the desert surroundings and on entering the emirate we can see the mountains in the backdrop.
I have driven through the other mountainous regions-Kalba, Fujairah, but first time to this Jabal Jais and hence the excitement to know what lay in store ahead. The Jais mountain is part of the Hajar mountain range bordering Oman. The tallest part of the Hajar mountain range lies in the neighboring Oman and the Jais mountain is the second largest of it that lies in the UAE.
After entering Ras Al Khaimah, following the Google Maps App of the cellphone we were lead on to the road leading to the mountains. I did see proper sign boards guiding us to the Jais Mountains. We had selected the cafeteria at top of the Jais Mountains on the App. It was a cloudy and windy day and the late afternoon sun played hide and seek, it sure gave some spectacular view of the surroundings, a nature lover couldn’t ask for more.
We ate our homemade packed lunch amidst the flat ground that was surrounded by the mountain range from all side. This ground area is with toilet facility, a camping & barbecue site. It is a favorite recreation for people living in the UAE to go outdoors or camping in the winter /cooler climate. Long drives, barbecues, picnicking are some of the most sought out activities during the Nov to Feb months. I too had gone for long drive and camping to Musandam in Oman (Hajar Mountain range) a couple years back during the Eid break in October.
After lunch and clicking numerous pictures with the camera and also selfies in my cell phone, we continued on our drive uphill. The ride was smooth except for the occasional speed breakers with most drivers driving cautiously, and the sun helping to give us spectacular view and different shades of the mountains. It was a magical experience at times with lovely sun rays highlighting some parts of the mountain and same time making other part dark. Though I missed on the thrill of driving on this road, but was enjoying the view and clicking pictures sitting in the passenger seat of our SUV.
Nearing the top we did see stops for viewing the panorama and one could halt and park the car to soak in the view. The look below of the zigzag road around the mountains to reach to the top was spell-binding from the top. The humongous natural beauty reminded me how minuscule my existence in contrast to the surroundings. In spite of this, each one of us matter and are important on this face of the Earth, a thought that I absolutely love. The view was breathtaking, the wind was super cold, and the sun was at its best, disappearing and surfacing again and giving us the perfect picture moments.
The top most part is still not accessible, but we can drive to almost near it. There is space allotted to park, camp, as well as to view the mountain from the top part. We saw many families were seated around with bonfires, some using their barbecues, some even had set up tents, and many simply crowding near the cafeteria that was set up in a truck. It was serving hot Karak chai (hot tea), coffee, soft drinks, water, snacks, biscuits. It was well stocked on the basic supplies that a picnicker would need, even disposable plates and glasses. So even if the picnic party is short of any eatables or essentials the cafeteria guy seemed to have it all. The garbage pickup trucks were busy collecting the garbage and ensuring the place is clean. It is very difficult to see many folks litter around and spoil the natural habitat, I feel it is so very important to do our part to collect our own garbage when visiting such locations and help to protect the environment. It is upon us to preserve the natural habitats.
It was almost dusk and hence low visibility for the camera to get the best shot of the construction and development below that was seen from the top.
The sea was visible to the naked eye, but the camera picture does not show it very clear. For this I do plan to visit the place again, and also to wear my sneakers that I had completely forgotten as it was not a planned outing to the mountains. Do wear comfortable footwear if you love hiking, it could be a painful fall if one missed a step on deciding to climb the reachable mountain tops after parking the car. I did see many visitors climbing the smaller peaks of the mountains and getting the hiking experience, something that I missed as I was wearing fit flops. After enjoying piping hot cups of the Karak chai and coffee and cookies from the cafeteria and watching the lovely sunset colors on the horizon, we started our return drive downhill.
Do note the road has no electric poles and hence the zigzag drive downhill in darkness would be very risky. We started the drive before it was pitch dark.
I did read recent newspaper articles that stated people camping for the night at the top. It would be a very very cold night out at the top with temperatures dropping to very low in December-January months.
I loved sharing my experience of this long drive to the Jais mountain top. Hope you readers do find it interesting and get the joy of this drive on any of the days as long as the weather permits it.
My entry for this week’s photo challenge: Relax are a few photographs from my visit to the beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel, Dubai, UAE.
I enjoy and always look forward to visiting the beach. Just standing on the beach in the sand near the waves that are lashing the feet, the feet sinking further into the sand with me completely engrossed looking out ahead at the vast stretches of the sea and the distant horizon, totally lost to the world around, the perfect moments that make me happy and totally relaxed. Dubai and also some other places in the UAE have amazing beaches and parks to visit to.
For this entry I have selected pictures from my visit to the open beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel, one of the most famous Dubai landmarks. It also has a long jogging track, a fantastic place to visit for walking or jogging on weekends or on any other day for that matter 🙂 if one stays nearby.
As I thought about the things that matter so much during this festive time, the November & December time of the year, so many things came to mind to post about without which it can never be this season of the year. Selecting just a couple of them for this post.
It will never be Diwali festivity without the oil Diyas, the floating candles, the fresh Marigold and Mango leaves garland to hang on the entrance door of the house, the rangolis, the Diwali faral/snacks etc. etc. and my list would go on and on 🙂 .
Maharashtrian Diwali Faral/snacks can never be complete without this goodie-Anarsa on the plate.
The winter season brings with it the seasons best fruits and vegetables, the holidays would not be complete without these fresh and sweet juicy Nagpur Oranges, the Nasik Guavas, and the Singadas. The taste of these delicious fruits is so badly missed every winter if I am not visiting India.
Finally, the December month brings to mind the memories of the house filled with divine & heavenly aroma of my homemade freshly baked cakes, the Christmas time would not be complete without the special Dry fruit soaked Cake.
For recipe of the Dried Cranberry & Blueberry Loaf click here. Do checkout ashus other cakes and muffin recipes in the archives.
Just writing this post makes me want to bake something right away , but I know I will have to wait as I have other plans for today :), it is the 45th UAE National day today here in the UAE 🙂 .
My entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge- Magic dated November 18, 2016.
Walking through the Ancient city of Petra itself was a magical experience!
Petra in Jordan is a beautiful place to visit. We first walk through The Siq, a natural Sandstone gorge, a little over 2 Km or so walk winding through the ancient city of Petra to open into the most magnificent site that I ever saw -the treasury also know as Al Khazna, hence I choose a couple pictures from my Petra tour for this WPC-Magic.
After a 2 Km or so walk through “The Siq”, one gets mesmerized by this beautiful sight in front of our eyes, the most spectacular monument carved by the Nabataeans, it is 39.5 m high and carved out of a single block.
If you love travelling I would definitely recommend a visit to this fantastic place. 🙂
My entry for the WPC: Tiny dated November 11, 2016.
This beautiful picture is from my Nepal tour, took this out from my photo archives to share here.
We had just checked-in to our hotel in Nagarkot in Nepal and went out for a stroll in the evening, the sun was yet to set and we wanted to see around the neighborhood. This mother hen and her tiny chicks came walking along from somewhere, and the vast stretch of the road and dried leaves provided the chicks the perfect camouflage. It was a beautiful sight and I could not miss opening my camera to capture it 🙂 .
My entry for the Weekly Photo Challenge dated November 4th 2016 : Chaos.
This is the scene one witnesses as soon as a Mumbai local train halts in the station, rush and chaos of people on the staircase leading them out of the station. Those couple minutes on the train platform are truly spellbinding :). I too had just descended on the platform from the local train that is seen in the picture and was about to walk to the platform staircase, but then this scene had to be clicked first! 🙂
When visiting the beautiful country Georgia, one has to include visits to the lush green vineyards, orchards, wine cellars and not to forget to taste the locally made wine.
Georgia is famous and known for its ancient traditional method of wine making, and this method is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list. Wine is a very integral part of every Georgian’s daily life with all the festivities and their different rituals. Wine making is a national occupation, almost all houses have grape vines growing in their land and the method of wine making is passed on from generations to generations. They use the wine making method in which an egg-shaped earthen clay pot known as Kvevri or Qvevri is used to make wine.(I am not sure about the spelling). The Georgian farmers use the Qvevri for making the wine, ageing it and then storing it. Hence this method of wine making is known as the Qvevri method.
Our Georgia tour package included a tour visit of a 300-year-old wine cellar as mentioned in the brochure given to us by our guide Nino. It was something new, different and a fabulous experience to visit the wine cellar.
The farmer had both the Red and White wines that he removed in front of us from the Qvevri that were buried deep in the ground in his cellar. The cellar was dark inside, no sunlight could come in, the walls were thick, stone and brick made. There were many old vessels, machinery, lamps, wine making tools and quite a number of assorted pots, pans, pitchers and jars that were displayed of which some might not be in use now.
Their were number of empty wine bottles stacked very neatly in the wall, big jars, bottles filled with liquid and lemon cubes inside.
It is a Georgian tradition to offer the local bread Shotti along with the wine, this farmer too offered us the bread. I loved the wine pots and pitchers, but unfortunately I could not buy any as souvenirs as I kept thinking I will see them some place, but did not like the ones that I came across in the souvenir shops.
Our guide Nino helped us understand how the wine is made, as the farmer could not speak English. I am writing and sharing here whatever I can recollect of the Georgian wine making method that she told us, everything was so new and interesting that I had no time to jot down each and every word of hers :).
The grapes are collected, pressed and the juice then poured into the Qvevri along with the skin, stalks, and the pips. It is then sealed and buried into the ground so that the wine can ferment for five or six months before it is opened and drunk. The wine is then kept for ageing. The Qvevri facilitates the process of formation and ageing with the minerals that are part of it’s composition. This method of wine making is found all over the country. After the wine is removed the left over chacha-skin, stalks and pip is used to make the drink called chacha through a process, and this drink Chacha (Georgian name) is also know as Vodka. We can see that nothing from the grape plant is wasted, the whole plant gets used to make both the wine and Vodka. The local farmer at whose house we ate the Georgian lunch served us all types of drinks- Wine both red as well as white, Chacha/Vodka, and Champagne. I will make another post of the Georgian feast, Supra as they call it.
The grape varieties used determine if it is Red or White wine. We visited the many monasteries in the country and could see the wine cellars using this traditional wine making methods. The Rkatsteli and Mtsvane varieties of the grapes are used to produce the White wine. The Saperavi grape variety is used to make the Red wine.
The Satsnakheli is a wooden trough usually made from a single wood that is used for as a manual foot stumping wine press.
It was no longer used by this wine maker as told by our guide. The grapes are put into the Satsnakheli, then manually foot pressed and the juice is directly collected in the Qvevri. Later the grape skins, stalks and pips left in the Satsnakheli are put into the Qvevris.
A visit to the wine cellar would not be complete if we did not buy the farmers homemade wine, and we bought one bottle of the red wine.
As we sat and chatted along with our guide, the farmer was busy with another group of tourist who had come to visit his wine cellar.
As I already mentioned at the start of the post that this Qvevri method of wine making is inscribed in UNESCO intangible heritage list, hence, if you are visiting Georgia, do visit a wine cellar or winery and see it in person and get the joy of tasting the local wines.
I had a great trip and hence wished to share few details of the trip for those tourists who look up websites, blogs for information before traveling or picking up a travel destination. Are you one of them? I sure am :).
If you want to check out my other posts on Georgia click the below number links-
The Hindu month of Bhadrapad brings with it the auspicious Ganpati festival. It is a ten days festival, but in my house we celebrate it for five days. This year we celebrated this festival from 5th September to the 9th September. It is a busy time with the daily Prasad or Naivedya offerings to the Bappa and the pujas and artis. Many guests are invited and friends visit to have a darshan of the lord and to attend to the pujas. The last day of the festival marks with the immersion of the idol.
This year I thought of sharing few festival pictures of the celebrations done at my home.
The pictures below are clicked during the boat ride in the Periyar Lake, in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, Kerala. It was amazing to click the birds that were perched up high at the edge of the dried tree branches that we saw right in the middle of the lake. As we took the boat ride in late afternoon, the light was not quite adequate in some parts of the lake to click perfect shots with the camera that we had. The pictures are from our 2011 Kerala tour.