A Travellerspoint blog

Taking a day off - In Maldives

Just chill.

semi-overcast 28 °C

There are quite a bunch of cool foreign destinations nearby when it comes to Indians wanting a vacation. Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali, Singapore, Dubai, Vietnam and "Maldives" are few extremely famous among travelling destinations for us. Every place offers some unique experiences. For example, you want to experience nature which could include islands, forest and mountains, head to Thailand or Indonesia, want to gasp in the glory of flawless infrastructures, visit Dubai or Singapore, but you just want to relax, spend few days, doing kind of nothing, Maldives is your go to place. (Bonus, want to visit one of the most beautiful places on Earth, go to Mauritius. Blog coming soon. )

Le Morne, Mauritius, with its underwater waterfall (its just a phenomenon, not a real waterfall.)
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So what exactly is this place. Maldives is an archipelago, or even better, a group of atolls (Ring shape small islands), size of which ranges from few hundred meters to few kilometers and is located around 500 km southwest of Indian subcontinent. Almost entire Maldives is at sea level, there are no mountains, not even a tiny one, no forests, and the place is full of lagoons. Most of the islands are privately owned by resorts, and there are some which are shared among multiple resorts.

Why you should go to Maldives, depends on what you are looking out for. In my opinion, If I am looking out for a destination to explore many places and different landmarks, I would rather visit Thailand or Bali. I chose Maldives only for relaxing and enjoying my vacation days. You see Maldives is not cheap, resorts are costly, water bungalows in the resorts are even costlier and the cost of transportation from airport to the islands will simply trash your wallet. I booked a resort named "Thulhagiri Island Resort" which was around 20 mins boat ride from the airport and it costed me 100$ per person for the both way transportation. And that is one of the cheapest fares you will find as the resort was actually quite close to the airport. If you have a resort far from the airport be ready to shell out somewhere between 300$ to 800$ per person to reach there. Also I stayed for two nights in a water bungalow and the total accommodation cost was around INR 75000, but yeah that was an experience in itself. And fun fact, my resort had one of the most budget friendly water bungalow you can find in Maldives.

But you will ask, if there are so many islands why not explore those. Thing is, when you see Maldives atolls from above, like from an airplane or using a drone, it looks amazing, but when you are on a ground it just looks like a any other island with a beach. And this will happen everywhere. I was in Phuket last year exploring Phi Phi island, and at multiple places it looked like a normal locations with some amazing beaches, but when you have a birds eye view of Phi Phi island, jaws really drops.

Phi Phi Island From Above
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In Maldives there is an option of island hopping, but it is costly, and in my opinion its not worth it. You can however engage in water sports offered by the resorts but that too will be costly. I will suggest if you are planning scuba diving but running short on budget, then save it and do that activity in some other locations like Andaman or Thailand, where the options are plenty and hence the cost low. And one big advice, just don't visit Maldives and stay in Male, just for claiming that you have visited a foreign country. I would rather strongly suggest to visit Thailand, Dubai or Singapore in that case.

So, I started my planning around a month back from the actual travelling date. I planned my whole trip by myself and didn't book it through any travel agent. There are few direct flight options from India, which includes, Delhi, Mumbai, Cochin, Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. Unfortunately there were no direct flights from Hyderabad, so I decided to book one from Cochin as the flight duration was just 1.5 hrs, and cost was low as the plane was a small Bombardier Q400 which has 2 by 2 seating. Another fun fact. This was the first time I was travelling to a foreign location in an Indian carrier and that too on a small turboprop plane designed for regional connectivity.

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While researching for hotels I found many options for resorts having water bungalow, some near to Male some far from it. I had to balance the cost of stay with cost of transportation, so I chose Thulhagiri Resort which was at a decent distance from Male, not so far, yet not to close to city, as to preserve calm and peaceful ambiance. Transportation by speedboat was arranged by the resort itself.

Thulhagiri Resort from above.
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So, finally the day arrived and early morning we left for Cochin from Hyderabad. At noon we had Spicejet flight to Maldives. Journey was smooth and as we approached Maldives the ocean revealed the Male Atolls in its full glory.

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The views were just jaw dropping, it simply looked like as if someone has drawn a boundary in between ocean and placed a ring in it. We landed at Male airport around 1.30 pm, and the immigration process was the fastest I have seen till date, just two mins with least amount of paperwork. Indians get Visa on arrival, and though it is recommended to carry multiple documents, all I had to present there was my passport, hotel reservation doc and return flight ticket. Airport was small but well maintained. A guy from the resort was at the arrival area to welcome us. As you come out of the airport you will have the pier on the other side of road and boats ready to take you to your resort. 20 mins later we were at our resort. Calm, beautiful and serene, it was the first experience for us for staying on an island size of which was no bigger than a cricket ground.

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We checked into our room, with a huge bed, wooden furnishing and a private sun deck with ladders dropping into the lagoon. The water around was clean and clear and was proper aqua in color. We spent our evening resting and walking as that's the thing you do in Maldives. Dinner buffet was served with so many cuisines to choose from. Taste wise it was mix of Continental, Italian, Indian and Oriental. Again it was a free time for us after dinner during which I did some long exposure night photography and then went to bed.

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Next day, similar activities, had breakfast and just walked around island and beach taking pictures, videos and relaxing. Had three swims that day, twice in sea and once in pool, so much for the free time. The island also hosts beautiful tiny parakeets and parrots. That day was a weekday, and honestly I had never felt that free in past few years. Even weekends are quite busy for me work-wise. Same night routines like previous night and we went to bed.

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Next day, we had to return back in afternoon. Again, same activities in the morning, just walking around and taking pictures. Got ready and left for the airport, and finally returned to India. Yes it was just a two night stay but it was beautiful. Unlike my previous blog about Rupin pass this one is quite small as honestly all we did was relax.

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In my opinion Maldives is a perfect romantic getaway, when travelling please be with your better half or at most family.
Travelling there with friends... Naaaaah.

My suggestion to all who are planning trip to Maldives, book a resort with private island and try to book water bungalow. Though costly they are a must have experience. There are hardly few places in this world which offers water bungalow facility. One of the very famous place which I know is Bora Bora islands, which is in middle of Pacific, one of the remotest place on earth, extremely costly and extremely far from India.

Bora Bora Island
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If you can't afford water bungalow for entire duration, try to book a normal room for entire duration except one and spend at-least last night in the water bungalow. Carry just 100 to 200 dollars for emergency, as the resort will have credit card machine and all the payments can be done using that including boat transfer charges. Indulge yourself in some really tasty sea-foods and other cuisines. If you have truckload of money do experience seaplane ride. And last but not the least, respect local laws.

Thanks for reading. Happy Travelling.

PS - If you need any help in planning your trip, to any location, you can reach out to me on shashank.s4u@gmail.com .

Click here for Maldives Video Tour

Posted by shashank511 20:27 Archived in Maldives Republic Tagged sea islands ocean nature beach travel country camera dinner romantic maldives destination asia buffet male indian_ocean atolls lagoons shoot seafoods cusine parakeets Comments (0)

Rupin Pass

A heaven which can give you one h**l of an experience

snow -5 °C

Coming up with my first blog let me introduce myself first. I am a married man working as a Software Development Engineer in an IT giant, doesn't get much time to travel. But whenever I do get, I travel and travel a lot. It all started with my wife getting an onsite assignment in UAE during starting of 2019. I had plans to visit Sikkim during May month, but because of that assignment that plan was cancelled. I was alone and then it came up in my mind to up my ante and do a trekking in Himalayas. I had done a day or two days trek in South India, challenging ones too, but never in Himalayas. So my options currently were two of the most famous Himalayan trek, Roopkund and Rupin, former of which was currently banned by honorable Uttrakhand High Court, courtesy of fellow trekkers who have utter disregard for environment. So I was left with Rupin, an extremely popular high mountain pass at an altitude of approx 15400 feet, around the border of Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh and is considered an moderate-difficult trekking.

So the journey started with researching about the trek organizers where I shortlisted three of them, Indiahikes, Bikat and Trek The Himalayas (TTH). I had a fixed travel date around May 8 to May 10 as I had to return back before May 21. India hikes was full at that time so I was left with later two. First I was thinking of going with Bikat but then later found out two better things about TTH. First, the reviewers said their food was great and second they provided transportation to and from the starting and ending point, which was not the case with Bikat. Finally, I decided and went ahead with booking with TTH, a decision I was glad I made. You see, the year 2019 weather had been harsh on Himalayan states and Rupin pass too was affected by it and there were reports of waist deep snow around the summit area. Indiahikes playing safe had cancelled their trip during that week and Bikat too had postponed their trips by 2 to 4 days. TTH on the other hand being more adventurous went ahead with their schedule knowing the risk.

Day 1. It all started on May 9 when I left for Dehradun were the transportation was arranged for next morning, May 10, the Day 1, and that marked the starting of our journey into this trek and to Dhaula, a quaint little village in the lap of mountains which was our base camp. The journey to Dhaula took around 8 hrs and throughout the journey big mountains and Yamuna river gave us company. And just before reaching Dhaula, Rupin river welcomed us with thunderous flow and sound.
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During sunset we reached Dhaula were the camp was already prepared and for a brief while we retired into our tents before heading out for an evening walk. Tea was served after that, trek leaders briefed us about the rules and journey, introduced the team, had dinner and finally we went for good night sleep.

Day 2. Here comes our big day, the start of actual trekking to a village Sewa. Around 8 KMs from Dhaula, the trail was mostly easy with few challenges at some point and height gain was hardly around 500 ft. You see one of the challenge with Rupin pass is that most of the day you gain lot of height but also loose some. You are not on an constant inclination path, which means even though routes will be exhaustive you wont gain substantial heights. This route introduced us some nice valley and Rupin river view, we stopped for few breaks and reached Sewa campsite before lunch time. After lunch and before tea time we also went for an acclimatization walk to a beautiful view point which showed the path to our journey ahead along with a big snow capped mountain in the background.
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Day 3. Fairly easy and a long walk from Sewa to Bawta, this was the easiest trail of entire trek. Hardly a kilometer in our trail, we descended to Rupin river and came across a wooden bridge, which marked the border of Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and from here onward we trekked in Himachal. Most of the trails had relatively low inclination and it was only the last kilometer which was steep. In a nutshell this was the most boring day of the trek. By lunch time we reached Bawta, a silent beautiful village where our stay was arranged in a home-stay and not tents. Nestled among the forest these areas were frequented by leopards, and you would see every house having a dog with a pointed neck collar for safety.
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Day 4. Not a difficult one, the trail from Bawta to Jhaka was though very steep in last 3 to 4 km. Views and sceneries were amazing today. After leaving Bawta, we first crossed Jiskun village, were people did some trekking gear shopping for the journey among snow. This was the last place were someone could buy trekking gears, after this there are no places for these items. After 30 mins of leaving Jiskun, we descended again to Rupin river and crossed a wooden bridge, after which it was all ascent and a steep one. Took few breaks in between, and also had Maggie and tea at one Maggie point. The view from this Maggie point was beyond amazing. Reached Jhaka during lunch time and again retired into a home-stay, though this was not as comfortable as the one in Bawta. Jhaka is also known as "Hanging Village" as all the house here are built on cliffs, giving a perception of huts hanging from the cliff. In evening we went for an acclimatization walk and played gully cricket with local kids. Everyone was getting prepared for the next day, as our comfort zone was gonna end today, and the real challenging difficult trek was gonna start next day, no more villages, no more home-stays, no more easy trails and the biggest one, our first interaction with snow. Till day 4, weather too supported us, but everything was gonna change the next day, literally everything.
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Day 5. Our real challenging trek was gonna start this day. From Jhaka to Dhanderas Thatch, trail was long, difficult, risky and slippery. It was raining since early morning and never actually stopped during entire day, it only changed from rain drops to wet snow to snowflakes. We started early morning around 7 am as we had to travel entire day and were carrying packed lunch along with us. Started with some ascent to reach top of Jhaka Village and continued on a flat trail for a kilometer. Took some rest in an abandoned hut, famous on Rupin pass trail for portrait photography and we too took some pictures. From this point onward trail became very difficult at various sections. Finally reached our first encounter with snow in a form of a huge snow bridge over Rupin river. Walking over it has its own satisfaction in itself. It was becoming colder and colder the further we climbed. Took a break at a Maggie point after crossing the bridge. This was the last Maggie point in our whole journey. We continued and encounter with snow patches started becoming more and more frequent. With the help of local guides accompanying us we were traversing through difficult trail points made even more dangerous by wet snow and a violent Rupin river flowing just beside us. One slip in this river and our body would have reached the starting point of the trek. Afternoon we halted for lunch in a yet another abandoned hut. Just few meters from here we could see Bikat Adventures camp site. It was extremely cold made worse by our drenched bodies. Guides lit up fire using some dry woods, and after having lunch we started again further climbing up and finally coming across huge patch of snow fields. It also started raining wet snow from now, and people started feeling effect of high altitude with too frequent rest breaks. I for most of the time avoided using hand gloves till one point my hand became numb and finally had to take decision to wear one. After lunch we couldn't even take a single picture as we were so exhausted and were only aiming to reach the next campsite at Dhanderas thatch. Few of the fellow trekkers by evening time were completely exhausted and were barely able to walk. Anyhow around 5 pm we finally reached the campsite with a clear view of huge Rupin waterfall standing right in front of us which we had to climb next day. After reaching the campsite people just changed into some dry clothing and retired into their camps. This was the second most difficult day of the trek. Most difficult was yet to come.
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Day 6. Today it was all about steep ascent. We just have to go from base of waterfall (Dhanderas Thatch) to Upper Waterfall camp, which was just 3 km, but only in this distance we had climb 1600 feet. Started at a comfortable time of around 8.30 am as the duration was supposed to be about 3 to 4 hrs only. The climb was through Rupin waterfall which flow in three stages. The route was completely covered in snow, and the last bottom most stage of waterfall was completely invisible. Only top and middle was visible. Armed with Micro spikes and Gaiters we started our journey but effect of height became visible barely half a km in the journey. Few folks were hardly able to walk. Anyhow slowly and steadily we moved ahead. Further we moved further steep the trail was becoming. Micro spikes helped us a lot without which a slip was certain. It was a very funny day too, you see, ladies in our team were supposed to be in front of the queue and they used to stop midway on a small flat patch just after some dangerous cliffs to catch their breath and folks coming from behind were getting stuck on that and shouting for their life asking them to move forwards. Well it was risky but made for some funny and memorable moments. Around 12 we reached the Upper Waterfall campsite from where we could see the U shaped valley we left behind in its full glory. You will find pictures of it below, but take my word, no picture can describe its beauty and vastness, you have to be standing at that point to just flow in its awesomeness. We had this discussion among few trekkers and everyone agreed to it. Took rest in afternoon and went for acclimatization walk in evening to the tip of upper waterfall. Starting from Dhanderas Thatch camp every inch of land was covered in snow, and it was snowing whole day and night. We had our dinner early and everyone went for sleep around 8.30 pm. Most important, challenging, exhausting and rewarding day was coming up and we had to start early in the morning around 4 am.
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Day 7. Finally the day which we were so eagerly waiting for was here. Woke up around 2.30 in morning with extremely cold weather outside, had breakfast and got ready for the final push. We started from the campsite around 4.15 and were targeting to reach summit by around 10 am. It was crucial as after the summit we had to continuously descend for 9 kilometers. Joining us today were 3 members from TTH technical climbing team, without whom I don't think we would had made it. Within few minutes of starting itself we hit a major roadblock. It was not about the trail, it was about us. Many people were feeling extremely exhausted. They were hardly moving and we were continuously stopping on inclined trails, which was very risky as fresh snow are not that stable and can slide anytime, which could have resulted in all of us going down with it. Weather too was not supportive in those early hours as it was continuously snowing. I remember one of the technical member saying us that we will walk 50 steps and then we will stop for a minute to catch breath, but just after few minutes, we heard Meenakshi, our trek leader saying we will walk 10 steps and then will stop for rest. 50 to 10, wow, 10 steps is like walking from one room to another. But we kept pushing. After 2 hrs of walk we came to relatively easier trail. Here the trail was not that steep and also there was no risk of snow sliding down. This area is a famous Rupin snow field common across web. We moved slowly, steadily with taking rest stops every few minutes. And then we finally reached the famous Rupin gully, a 200 meter in length, 70 degree vertical passage which marks the summit of Rupin pass trek. Well, this was the most scary trail of our entire trek. We were instructed not to look down, as the Vertigo was guaranteed, and not to look up as well, because its common in trekking that, looking at a destination which is at a high inclination actually plays a mental role in killing the stamina. And honestly we followed that instruction. Our eyes set only on the trail, in a zig zag manner we climbed the gully and finally, finally, finally we were on the summit. At 9.40, on the summit, we were the second trekking batch of 2019 to make it to Rupin pass. Stayed there for 30 minutes, taking pictures, having coffee, we bid good bye to those technical folks and proceeded with our journey. Now came the fun part, snow slide. So much of it. I think we would, in parts, had descended around 700 feet just by sliding. But then weather started to worsen, heavy blizzard and no shelter, we moved ahead. We even had lunch in that blizzard. Trails after lunch were quite tricky in patches, as the snow was less revealing underneath ice, which made the trail slippery. And these were on mountain slopes so one slip and you would go down that slope. Here our real trek heroes, our Guides, Goldy and Parmesh helped us a lot in navigating that. And finally around 5.30 pm we reached our last campsite. Had Samosa for snacks, then dinner we finally retired to our tents for a good night sleep. Mission accomplished.
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Day 8. Finally the last day of trek. It was a 14 km long trek, all downhill. With mixed emotions we left at 9.30 in the morning, aiming to reach Sangla town by 2 pm, from where our drop to Shimla was arranged. The early trail showed similarity with yesterday's trail with few tricky sections after which it became quite easy but unforgiving on knees. Few minutes into the trail, the view opened up to large valley, with holy Kinnaur Kailash range in-front of us with Sangla town at its foothill. We walked quite fast, as everyone just wanted to reach the town for lunch and end this journey. Finally after few rest stops we reached the town, got our mobile signals back, had a quite delicious lunch and left for Shimla during evening time.
Stayed one day in Shimla and explored the town, after which I took a bus to Chandigarh and then flight to Hyderabad. Journey ended!!!! Or is it????
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Things to know. This was my first big and challenging trek and I didn't took it lightly. The first thing everyone should do is prepare for it. Focus on stamina, do cardio exercises, run for 3 to 4 km every day. People die on high mountains if they don't have enough stamina, mainly due to exhaustion and this is something not to be taken lightly. Second, buy or rent quality trekking gears. Don't and I repeat don't compromise on the quality because of budget. Trekking shoes, poles, micro spikes and down feather jackets are life savers and a good quality rucksack will keep your belongings safe and secured. Research on the essential gears on web and get them before heading out for trek. Mental preparedness is also important. No matter how much is your stamina, if you give up mentally, it would become highly difficult to finish the trek. And last but not the least, consult a doctor for health, and prepare your first aid kit based on their recommendations. Also know this, trekking is not a luxury tourism, it will force you to get out of your comfort zone. There will be times you will regret your decision to go on a trek but once you have reached the summit and finished the trek, there is no better sense of achievement than that. So go out, explore the Earth, she is beautiful, make memories but respect her.

Special thanks to Meenakshi, Manish, Goldy, Parmesh and our porter (can't remember his name) for making these 8 days most memorable time of our lives.

Thanks for reading this blog. Happy trekking.

Posted by shashank511 04:10 Archived in India Tagged waterfalls mountains snow hills mountain river himalayas hike summit forest high pass peak rupin Comments (0)

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