The end of summer vacation doesn’t signal an end to wanderlust. A few travel enthusiasts share their experiences

Lure of heritage

Jai Bharathi

An architect, Jai Bharathi is accustomed to travelling periodically on work. In 2012, she used her opportunity to travel and visited a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites within India, and won the challenge posed by gounesco.in. At one point, she covered five heritage sites across five states in five days, using five different means of transport. In 2013, she felt the need to travel further. “I knew I’d be visiting Turkey to participate in the Eurasia marathon in November. So I thought if I plan, I can visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites as well. I reached Turkey much ahead and visited 11 heritage sites in 11 days,” says Bharathi who mostly travels on her own. “In a group, it may not be possible to visit so many sites within a short time,” she says. Most heritage sites in Turkey involved four to 10 hours travel. She’d check in her luggage in the lockers of the bus terminals, visit the site and return to the bus station to board a bus to the next destination. That way, she cut down on hotel expenses wherever possible. “The buses and terminals were so good, enabled with wi-fi,” she says. With people in Turkey not being conversant in English, Bharathi relied on Google maps and Google translator on her phone.

Later this year, she plans to visit heritage sites in China and Hong Kong.

Intrepid traveller

Swapna Gangadharan

“I need a break every few months, irrespective of whether it is vacation season,” says Swapna Gangadharan of Truffles Café. She’s been an avid traveller for 14 years, visiting different continents, mostly by herself. Group travel would necessitate giving in to what a majority in the group would love to do, which predominantly tilts the tables towards photography and shopping. Swapna prefers to look beyond regular tourist spots and perhaps visit a local spice market.

Neither a backpacker, nor a luxury traveller, she takes a mid path. “Last year I chose a homestay at Amalfi, and paid only 40 Euros per night, inclusive of breakfast. Regular hotel charges in Italy can be expensive,” she says.

What Swapna takes back from her travels is an insight into culture and food. She mentions attending an Italian cooking class in Amalfi and making new friends. Again, from a recent trip to Istanbul, she mentions observing similarities between Indian and Turkish cultures. “If I come across an interesting place, I workout the budget, book my flights and then worry about where to stay. Travel has opened my world. When I return, petty day-to-day tussles don’t bother me,” she says.

The wild side

Mahesh Kumar

Entering a tiger reserve and waiting for the right moment to photograph the big cat seems like a picture perfect experience when one watches wildlife documentaries.

In reality, it involves travelling with masks, caps and sunglasses to ward off dust and heat, minimal luggage (read just about two pairs of clothes) and having enough room in the vehicle for tripods and lenses.

The ordeal of carrying heavy lenses is rewarding when one spots a rare bird, lion or a tiger, says Nakanna Mahesh Kumar, who owns Travel Channel and has been a wildlife enthusiast since 1997, when his first visit to Jim Corbett National Park whetted his appetite to explore India’s wild side.

He, along with his friends, has visited Tadoba tiger reserve nearly 10 times and Pench tiger reserve four times.

Mahesh rues not being able to sight tigers during a visit to Ranthambore in 2011 and recalls the joy of spotting tiger cubs in the buffer zone of Tadoba a month ago. “Summer is the best time to spot animals,” he says. Mahesh hopes to explore Kabini, Bandipur and Kaziranga National Parks soon.

A visit to Ranthambore is in the offing this June. Exploring wilderness has its perks, the most notable being observing animal behaviour. “In Masai Mara (Kenya), we saw a lion feeding on a wildebeest,” he mentions.

Wildlife travel needn’t involve big budgets. “We usually drive down in our own vehicles to Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra. A three-night four-day stay, inclusive of meals, works out to around Rs. 10,000,” he sums up.