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In the lap of Le Bouchon

In the course of my travels, I have come across hundreds of enthusiastic travellers who have Mauritius featuring in their bucket list but there’s something funny too: many have no idea about Mauritius. They have neither heard nor read about it. But, are they to be blamed? I think no. We have an important role to play too in educating the rest of the world about this part of the world. I write about my travels also for this reason- to tell stories that few might live, to promulgate the colours and contrasts of places and to help people soak in different cultures.

Mauritius is not only about the sunbaths and the playful children absorbed in building sand dunes on the beach. It is not only about the star-filled sky. It is not only about the shopping malls. It is about green villages tucked away from the busy cities too. It is about the struggling hawkers too. It is about the chirping birds that render the alarm clock useless in the morning too. And, it is about Le Bouchon too.

I was made aware about a rescue operation that began at Le Bouchon after the Liberian vessel, Lib MV Benita, was shipwrecked near the coast. On the bright Saturday morning of the 23rd July 2016, I decided to travel to Le Bouchon to witness this scene. I had no idea about what I would be seeing. I drove from Pamplemousses, a village located in the northern region of the island, to Le Bouchon, situated in the south east coast. It took me nearly one hour’s drive to reach the destination. I’d recommend you to pack some bottle of waters and eatables.

There’s a reason behind everything; even behind the shipwreck of Lib MV Benita. It was not just a mere coincidence. I think it was meant to be. It was a call to the people of Mauritius who have perhaps closed their eyes to this mesmerising place.

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I walked through the rocky terrain with my camera hanged around my neck. My eyes weren’t tired of scanning the place. I saw few cows grazing grass in the surrounding.

Lib MV Benita did not seem to be boasting its pride but rather, it was resting serenely in the lap of the ocean. I had to take a picture of the helicopter while it was unloading the goods from the ship but in the gist of the moment, I totally forgot. Nevertheless, I may not have pictures of it but I have the memories, for my eyes have observed and my heart has felt.

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The rescue team was so engrossed in their operation. Everything was so neatly coordinated. They seemed not to be disturbed by the onlookers.

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The place wasn’t crowded but as time flew, more and more people came. I looked around and caught a glimpse of two children. The picture speaks for itself.

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Not too far away from this scene, I saw an old man sitting on a stone with his fingers interlaced and his attention unswerving from the ship. I could not decipher what he was contemplating upon but something was apparent: there was something that he was confiding to Lib MV Benita. 

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I toured around the place and met the inhabitants of the locality. I love spontaneous conversations with strangers. There’s always something to learn from them. Le Bouchon is more than just a public beach for some people. It’s their workplace. I met this determined lady who was selling fruit salads.

Until Benita is here, I am earning more“, the lady said.

A deep line, isn’t it? Can you imagine how?

Le Bouchon is not much frequented but since the shipwreck of Lib MV Benita, more and more people have been visiting this beach. Lib MV Benita has been a blessing in disguise for the few hawkers who have been toiling hard under the scorching sun. They have been selling more that they usually do.

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I could not resist the fruit salads. I’m sure you would also not have left this place without tasting the salads. I ate some and then walked leisurely to the other extreme of the beach. It took me around seven minutes to reach there. It was a lot more greener and calmer compared to this side.

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I kept clicking as many pictures as I could, but I also made sure to put my camera down from time to time and to feel the magic of the place.

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I spent nearly two hours in the lap Le Bouchon. It was the first time I’ve been there and I’m sure that it won’t be the last time. I’ll visit this place again in the future. I hope that the outstanding natural beauty of this place will not be interfered with.

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I still remember the tales from Dubreuil

Travelling isn’t about the miles we cover with our vehicles; it is the miles we cover with our soul.

On Wednesday, 6 June 2016, I woke up with no plan for the day and ended up trusting the road to guide me. Tank filled with fuel, oil level verified and tire pressure checked; I embarked on another adventure into the unknown. This time, I wasn’t alone. I was accompanied by two like-minded brothers, who added the sense of humour to the trip.

“Where are we heading to?”, asked one of them curiosity in his eyes.

“The road will answer this”, I replied cheerfully.

The enthusiastic chit-chatting began to die as time flew by, and as lethargy permeated in the air, no voices could be heard coming from the back seat. Uneven rumbles of the tyres on the road surface and the soft music in the car, were all that could be heard.

After almost an hour’s drive, we travelled through a road lined with green trees on both sides; as if it was the road to paradise. I did not pursue the trip any further until I took a walk down the street. The air was filled with the scent of the wild herbs and flowers. The spectacular scene of the light beams piercing through the green foliage was a real feast to the eyes.

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My brothers and I, we are usually high-spirited but we can also become very quiet too. They could not resist the scene either. While they were happily capturing some pictures of the place which turned out to be jaw-dropping, I was silently walking down the lane. The wild flowers bought me somewhere in their world and made me think. Trapped in the clutches of wild shrubs and plants, they could have yearned for squishy soil to grow but they choose rather to blossom in their own little ways. The wilderness keeps stifling them but they keep forgiving the trees, the shrubs and the herbs for robbing them of their spaces and composure. As I was contemplating on making sense of the little things around me, my brothers too accompanied me in the walk; speaking less and living more.

We refilled our energy reserves and continued our adventure. Few minutes later, Dubreuil came into view; a green village tucked away from the hustle and bustle. I feel deeply connected to this undisturbed part of the world because some chapters of my childhood were etched here. I still remember the tales from Dubreuil. I used to spend sleepless nights listening to the scary and spooky tales narrated vehemently by my aunt.

The innocent and playful walks in my uncle’s farms are still vivid in my memory. I could not explore Dubreuil without visiting them.

After some time spent with them, we set off again and keenly drove through the tea fields surrounded by silent hills and neatly trimmed tea plants. The scene was to die for. The narrow pathway leading to the field was covered with mud but this did not prevent me from venturing inside.

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I stopped the car and took a walk in the lush green fields despite the muddy paths. It sounds exciting but one has to be careful as the risk of slipping is high in such places.

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While touring around, I found some wild raspberries hiding away beneath large guava leaves. I could easily distinguish them by their leaves and consumed a handful of them. I must admit that they are not tasteful but nevertheless, they managed to quench my light hunger at that time.

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The journey continued; from picking raspberries to basking in the country’s glories. I have too many stories but too few words to narrate them.

 

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I was wrong about Kashmir

The temperature betrayed the latitude of the Dal Lake in Srinagar at the wee hours of the evening. I thought the weather would be pleasantly sunny and the water would be lukewarm but the contrary was true; the climate was humid and cold. The lake was so quiet, as if it contained unrevealed secrets confided to it by travelers over the course of time. The little boats (Shikaras) were carrying not only passengers and their luggage, but their stories and their dreams too.

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I dipped my left hand in the icy and crystal-clear water and quietly listened to the chirping of birds housed by the lake.

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Nothing else mattered at that moment except the splashing sound of the water as the boat strode through the lake, the air thickening with the fragrance of colorful flowers being sold by cheerful boatmen, the undisturbed houseboats forming the entourage of the lake and the thousand wandering thoughts of my mind.

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The multicolored  and undisturbed houseboats bear testimony to the disastrous flood that occurred in Kashmir few years back. Each crack has a distinctive story to narrate.

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There’s a lot of media hype surrounding vacations in Kashmir; associating the country with terror, racism and prejudices.I always thought heaven was somewhere in Kashmir. I was wrong. Having been to this part of the world, I understood that Kashmir is not heaven; heaven is Kashmir. Even the playful ducks can’t resist it.KEV_9237.JPG

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Good-bye Jaipur

Parting from a cherished place cannot happen without dying a little inside; but beside the burden of the unseen heartache that we conceal in our hearts in such circumstances, we carry also the prospect of nourishing our souls with newness – the colors and contrasts of a soulful city. I walked out with not only my luggage filled with memories but with my heart filled with stories too. The weather outside was so warm and pleasant.

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The overwhelming love that grew in my heart for Jaipur rendered my departure harder; and I learned again that letting go is vital for safeguarding our inner peace. I closed my luggage in Jaipur but not my heart to Jaipur; and embarked on another road-trip, leading to the magnificent Agra.

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I encountered so many people and places ― each having a distinct story to narrate.

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I listened to uncountable stories from people along the road and they all had something to say.

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The Snake Charmer of New Delhi

Dreams; I have many and one of those cherished dreams is to journey across the world, connect with people and their stories, and feel their cultures. I never thought I would travel so intensively at this tender age, but it is happening and I am utterly convinced that there is no greater magic than this.

It took me hours to travel from Agra to New Delhi, by road but road trip is the school of life and few hours can impart to travel enthusiasts years of wisdom. On arriving in New Delhi, I was left stunned by how colorful this city is. The colors of the buildings, of the temples and of the markets are so vibrantly contrasting that momentarily glancing at them would do injustice to their prestige. I walked through the streets of this city and looked carefully at everything around me; wearing a smile on my face. The noise of the place had no power to divert my attention because the power of city captivated my heart at the very moment I stepped in.

On walking around and capturing the wonders of the place, I met a snake charmer and indulged in a conversation with him – appreciating his journey of life. Without any hesitation, I requested for the snake to be placed around my neck for a picture to be taken and so far, this remains my best memory from New Delhi.

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We create our own stories and without undertaking risks while journeying, we create only stories; not great stories.

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Being one with the Taj Mahal

9th November 2015 was the date when I, for the first time ever, set my eyes on the magnificent Taj Mahal. I still find it hard to believe that such a monument does exist. The size of the huge white domes, the intricacies of the stunning architecture and the silence of the place; all rendered me flabbergasted. I composed a soulful melody from my wooden flute and became one with the undisturbed Taj Mahal.

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I will be elaborating further on my journey to the Taj Mahal, in future posts.

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On the streets of Jaipur

The streets of Jaipur are not too much occupied, if compared to those of Mumbai though they are not either on two complete extremes. The 7th of November 2015 started with the appreciation of the soothing instrumental music being composed by a gentleman in the hotel’s restaurant. I walked to him, just after having my breakfast, and congratulated him for the soulful performance. There’s no greater feeling than instilling confidence in the heart of an artist.

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Shortly after the breakfast, I went out to explore Jaipur – the Pink City. The roads are well paved and marked, in the heart of the city. The city is quieter compared to Mumbai.

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The city lives up to its name, for it offers a pinkish topography that is a feast to the eyes.

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Here’s a glimpse of the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal), which is a prominent tourist attraction in Jaipur. It was built for women of the royal household so as they could observe street festivals without being seen by the outsiders.

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I noticed also that people refrain from meddling in other people’s affairs. Everyone is busy doing something – from being a road-side astrologer to ruling over a business umpire.

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The Birla Temple of Jaipur

I visited the Birla Temple (also known as the Laxmi Narayan Temple) in Jaipur on the 6th of November 2015. This majestic temple was constructed during the year 1988 by the Birla Group of Industries and it is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his consort, Lakshmi. I was surprised by the crowd that traveled from all around the country to visit the Birla Temple. This made it quite difficult for me to get pictures of the temple without people in the frame but this was not to the detriment of my photo-collection; the human element adds more meaning to pictures too.

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The evening light on the white marble of the temple rendered it captivating and this scenery was harmoniously blending with the serenity of the place.

I could not leave that place without posing for a picture.

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I don’t think it’s only faith that inspires people to visit the Birla Temple; the soothing environment and the little conversations that foster camaraderie inspire people too.

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Hello Jaipur

Jaipur, founded by Jai Singh II in 1727, is a flamboyant city boasting itself of its enthralling history. I smiled to myself on gazing through the plane’s window as I landed in Jaipur, on the 6th of November 2015 at 12:35 p.m.

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The Jaipur International Airport is not that crowded and hence, I could easily and quickly complete all the necessary procedures before stepping out of the airport. I had a different picture of the airport but my presumption deceived me. I was quite impressed by the infrastructure of the place at a first glimpse of it.

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It was hard to digest the fact that I was eventually in Jaipur – the Pink City, and I would whisper words to persuade myself that I was undeniably there. It took me more than an hour to reach the hotel but I have no complaints about it, for the distance offered me the opportunity to admire the city at twilight.

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Each and every road conceal and reveal so many things – from the sacrifice of a father to the history of a city.

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I stopped at the Birla Temple (originally known as the Lakshmi Narayan Temple). It is located below the Moti Dungri Fort. It remains intricate to put into words the serenity that filled my heart while walking in the direction of this marvelous temple built in pure white marble. I spent nearly an hour at this place; photographing the temple and meeting the locals around the place.

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I then proceeded to the hotel where I had a nice dinner and a well-deserved rest.

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I slept quite early on that night so as to be fresher for a full day city tour on the next day.

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Off the beaten path: From Lonavla to Mumbai

Discovery in itself has no end. The day was drawing to a close but not the discovery. I spent some time writing in my travel journal about so many things – from moments that made me to recollections that marked me. A hot cup of tea stood loyally by my side. I then took a walk in the compound of the hotel where I was staying. The temperature outside was in the double digits – roughly 26 degrees. For a Mauritian traveler, this is not surprising. After hours of travelling and discovery, I slept like a baby; knowing that the next day would be filled of adventures and as such, this would require a high level of energy.

I chose to have breakfast at the hotel as I knew I would have hours of road trips and I would be eating on the streets. I was hence keen to taste the contrast in the hotel’s foods and the street foods.

For breakfast, I had the most popular dish of Lonavla – the Misal Pav. The Misal is a spicy curry made of beans and the Pav is the bread roll.  The dish is usually topped with onions, coriander and other ingredients. Along with the Misal Pav, I ordered an uttapam (a thick pancake made of several ingredients and toppings) and a glass of fresh juice. The food was delicious and the service was impeccable. I even made a small video of an interview that I conducted with the staffs; where they briefly explained the recipe of the Misal Pav and how to consume the dish.

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Soon after the breakfast, I embarked on another fulfilling road trip to Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport – to catch the plane for Jaipur. But, I could not leave without taking a picture with some of the cheerful staffs of the hotel.

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The destination is nothing without the journey but the journey without the destination can still be everything. I came across a huge herd of sheep on the road of Lonavla. This can be a nuisance to drivers who are used to high speed but it remains a feast to the eyes of travelers. I stopped and captured the moment through my lens.

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The way back to Mumbai is as enriching as treading the way to Lonavla. The roads do not cease to teach. I stopped at Khandala for a small cup of tea and had the opportunity to interact with the locals.

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At the early hours of the morning, the countryside seems to be under the magic spell of the pristine light coming all the way from the sky.

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I stopped by a roadside restaurant (commonly known as Dhaba) to buy the popular sweets of Lonavla – Chikki. The Dhaba is so beautifully tucked away from civilization.

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I purchased the Chikki from this good lady who did not hesitate to pose for a quick picture.

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To my surprise, I even found a little temple next to the Dhaba. The temple is guarded by a priest. I crawled inside the small cave to reach the other extreme.

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As usual, I spent time interacting with the people because that is the best way to absorb the culture of the place.

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The road trip continued. The curvy roads and dark tunnels soon began to fade. Mumbai then appeared in the frame.

I boarded the plane after some hours and flew for Jaipur; carrying memories from Lonavla in my heart.