Adventure in India
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Trekking in the Indian
For the adventurous mountain trekker, few destinations
are more magnetic than the Himalayas. Their towering peaks
and glaciers represent the ultimate experience in mountaineering,
and for many a journey into the Himalayas is really more
like a pilgrimage.
Three major regions of India
penetrate the Himalayas, all of them exceptionally beautiful.
In the far northwest there is the province of Jammu and Kashmir,
and a gorgeous region known as Ladakh; in the northeast are
the provinces of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. More than
destinations for just mountain climbers, these regions are
culturally rich, often dotted with temples and monasteries.
Those traveling to the Himalayas should keep in mind that
they will generally be at very high elevations, and therefore
prone to the dangers of altitude
sickness. The rule of thumb is to always allow time to adjust to the heights,
taking it slow. Warm clothes are also necessary.
Trekking in Ladakh
One of the most remote
and mythical regions of India, Ladakh is a landscape of unearthly
beauty. Carved through its center by the headwaters of the
Indus River, Ladakh sits high in a Himalayan valley between
the Ladakh and Zaskar ranges, close to the Chinese border.
The wall of the Himalayas blocks precipitation, and the resulting
terrain is dry, barren, and poetically austere. Life here
has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years.
Ladakh's biggest attraction
are its ancient gompas, or Buddhist monasteries, which contain
some of Asia's greatest wonders of gold and tapestry work.
It is possible to stay overnight in some, making a trek in
Ladakh curiously like a sort of pilgrimage. The people of
Ladakh, many of whom are Tibetan refugees, are famous for
their friendliness and hospitality.
For the mountaineer, the nearby
Zaskar range offers some fantastic and challenging hiking
opportunities. A variety of long, mid, and short range treks,
which follow rough trails and pass through some spectacular
high-altitude mountain passes, connect the region's gompas
It is important to note that
visitors to Ladakh should take time to adjust to the high
altitude. Altitude sickness here is very common, and the
best way to avoid it is to do very little for the first couple
of days in the region. Summer is the best time to come, as
heavy winter snows make make it very difficult even to get
Trekking in Darjeeling
Darjeeling sits at the crossroads
of the eastern triangle corridor, a hidden stage of foothills
in a geographical amphitheater that looks up into the mountainous
wonderlands of Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. Darjeeling's name
is a variation of Darje Ling, which means "place
of the thunderbolt" in Hindi. According to the Lamaist
religion, this is the site where the god Indra's scepter
(a lightning bolt) fell to earth.
While Darjeeling is a place
of mythical significance to its people, its value was primarily
practical to the British as the strategic gateway to Nepal
and Tibet. Darjeeling also offers a cool escape from the
dust and sun of the plains below, and the British started
to develop the region as a summer retreat shortly after they
arrived there in 1828. Darjeeling soon became a haven for
tea growing as well, and its cool and misty tea plantations
are among the most idyllic attractions in India.
The city of Darjeeling offers
one of the most dynamic mixes of culture on the subcontinent.
Tibetan Lamas can be seen climbing the steep streets in their
yellow robes, alongside Sherpas, Gorkhas, Gurung farmers,
and people from a host of other cultures and regions.
The high-quality trails surrounding
Darjeeling and its tremendous views make it an ideal locale
for hiking. A leisurely four day hike to the top of Mount
Sandakphu (3536 meters) is rewarded with an astounding vista
of the Kanchenjunga Mountains and the highest mountain in
the world, Everest. Alpine meadows and wildflowers can be
seen on this trek, and there are bungalows and field camps
Thar Desert & Camel
Powerful Rapjut princes once
ruled this desert region, which no foreign invader was ever
able to dominate. The natural adversary of the environment
provided the adaptable Rapjut with their best defense, though
they supplemented it by building magnificent fortress palaces
on the wind-blown sands. The desert ruins of the Rapjut can
still be visited, as can the Thar's remote temples, village
oases, and hyponotic, swirling sands.
The Thar is best experienced
by camel safaris, which leave from Khuri village. There are
day treks that leave in the morning and return at night,
or arrangements can be made for longer trips. Because of
the immensity and harshness of the desert, all those who
voyage into it are required by law to have a guide.
Many assert that the Taj Mahal
is the most beautiful structure in the world. Resting like
a rose and ivory dream on the banks of the River Yamuna,
the Taj is a gigantic monument inspired by love. It was built
for the Mughal emperor Jehangir, who vowed to create an incomparable
memorial to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died after they had
been married for 19 years.
Built by Shehajehan, son of
Jehangir; the Taj took 20 years and 20,000 workers to build.
To house all the workers, an entire community rose up around
it, and the descendants of those workers still live in the
shadow of the Taj today. The main structure, with its perfect
spires and domes, is made of white marble and sits on a red
sandstone ramparts circled by reflecting pools and gardens.
Inside the building is an astoundingly ornate burial chamber
where Mahal and Jehangir now rest, surrounded by jewels inlaid
in white marble and craftsmanship of unrivaled detail and
National Parks Corbett National Park
Founded in 1935 by the British,
Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India.
One of two tiger reserves in Uttar Pradesh, this breathtaking
park rests along the Ramganga river and clutches the Himalayan
foothills. Though it is most famous for the tigers it harbors,
it is also an excellent place to see elephant and is home
to an enormous variety of bird species.
Bandhavgarh National Park
One of the India's best parks,
Bandhavgarh is located in Madhya Pradesh in an area which
once inspired the setting for Rudyard Kipling's Jungle
Book. Bandhavgarh is one of the best places to see tiger--at
one time, before the park was enlarged, it had the highest
density of tigers anywhere. The park also holds panthers,
and an abundance of bird species flit through the rainforest.
Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary
The Kaziranga first came into
being in 1908, when the local one-horned rhinoceros was so
depleted by big game hunters that the animals were thought
to be near extinction. Depradation is still a threat, as
the rhinos are still poached for their much fetishized horns.
Thanks to preservation efforts, there are now almost 900
rhino roaming the park, which rests on the banks of the Brahmaputra
river in the eastern triangle state of Assam.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated around a lake in the
Western Ghats of Kerala, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is
one of India's largest. Its 299 square miles (777 sq. km)
of protected rainforest and hill country is home to gaur,
tiger, wild pig, cheetal, sambar deer, and elephant. The
lake, which is 24 square kilometers in area, provides a refreshing
way to view the wildlife; visitors ride in boats, watching
the animals as they lounge and drink on the shoreline. The
best time to take a boat tour is during the early morning,
when most the animals come to drink.
Kanha National Park
One of the most prized parks
in India and Asia, Kanha became one of the early success
stories of Project Tiger when it brought about a significant
boost in the local population. In addition to increasing
its tiger population, the park was also able to bring back
the Central Indian swamp deer.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Situated in a swampy region
of Rajasthan, Keoladeo Ghana is a wetland of avian wonders.
During monsoons, much of its twenty-nine square kilometers
flood, providing a home to India's largest native population
of waterfowl. Beginning in October, flocks of migratory birds
arrive from all over Asia, some of them coming from as far
away as Siberia to escape the frigid northern winter.
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