chocolateisfromheaven

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Hello Toronto!

In Travel on July 1, 2012 at 11:56 am

I just got back from a short trip to Toronto, Canada. Canada is a beautiful place, with lots to discover and I would love to visit again and tour more of the country. My stay was rather short and I was sick for most of my trip which meant I spent most of some days lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, contemplating whether I had more energy in this hour than I had in the last hour…. Thank God for antibiotics!

Here are my top 3 moments in Toronto:

1. A hike in Bruce Peninsula National Park

The first couple of days that I was in Toronto, the skies were pouring rain. When we got a sunny day, we decided to head off to the Bruce Peninsula National park and enjoy a hike. Now if you are in Canada, it is mandatory to stop at a Tim Horton‘s ūüôā Enjoyed their delicious French Toast Bagel and off we went. Weather was perfect, scenery was beautiful, the water turquoise blue and the pebbles pearly white. We felt like we were at some Pirates of the Caribbean location and started acting that way! An easy hike through the forest brought us to the cliffs facing the lake and to where they had a grotto. Now to get to the grotto we had to either climb down the cliff or climb down through a hole in the rocks. To me the hole seemed quite narrow and I was concerned whether the tunnel leading us down to the grotto would be claustrophobic, but was told that this was the easier way. Hence, I dropped down into the hole saying a little prayer. To my surprise it was wide open at the other end and was an easy climb down the rocks and into the grotto. Excited, we wanted to have a dip in the beautiful water in that cave, put our feet in and 10 seconds later were jumping out! It felt like a brain freeze for the feet! We ended up sitting on a rock, under the sun, and just taking the view in. In our crazy hectic lives these days, those moments of just stopping and doing nothing amid beautiful natural surroundings, really feels good.

Bruce Peninsular National Park

Bruce Peninsular National Park. Acting like pirates marooned on an island…

The grotto

The grotto. Our favorite part of the park. The dark cave with the turquoise water.

A friend

A friend

 

2. I saw the Tumbler!

I was roaming around aimlessly in downtown Toronto, passing by a crowd gathered in a square when I noticed that they were gathered there because the Batmobile was parked in the middle! ‘That’s the batmobile!’, I shouted and rushed forward scrambling for a photo op! By chance they were about to move it out so some lucky guy gets in and turns the big car on. As it rumbled the crowd and I grew more excited and they drove it up and into a trailer to transport it to their next promotional stop. Looking back, I acted like some star struck teenager but hey who hasn’t wished they had super powers and super cars like these superheros!

The Tumbler!

The Tumbler!

 

3. Having funnel cake by the road side on a rainy day

This is the funnel cake. Enough said!

Funnel Cake

Funnel Cake. Delish!

 

 

 

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Food in Nepal!

In Travel on May 8, 2012 at 11:55 am

I will simply post the pics…

When I would ask what is the local dish here, I would always get this reply: Dalbhat! So I had dalbhat, many times...

When I would ask what is the local dish here, I would always get this reply: Dal bhat! So I had dal bhat, many times…

Momos!

Momos! These dumplings came with various stuffing; veggies, egg, chicken… Was nice with chilli sauce.

Cornbread... wasn't a fan of that. Was too dry. Needed an accompaniment...

Cornbread… wasn’t a fan of that. Was too dry. Needed an accompaniment…

Egg curry. This was good! Specially after a long day of walking uphill!

Egg curry. This was good! Specially after a long day of walking uphill!

More dal bhat. The soup always varied a bit. Sometimes green lentils, sometimes with beans. So did the veggies, spinach, potato... This was also good after a long day.

More dal bhat. The soup always varied a bit. Sometimes green lentils, sometimes with beans. So did the veggies, spinach, potato… This was also good after a long day.

Gurung Bread. Loved this! Was freshly made and is supposed to be fried but was not really heavy. Or maybe I was just really hungry....

Gurung Bread. Loved this! Was freshly made and is supposed to be fried but was not really heavy. Or maybe I was just really hungry….

And somemore dal bhat... Soup, veggies, rice, poppadom, pickles...

And some more dal bhat… Soup, veggies, rice, poppadom, pickles…

Had this at a lovely restaurant in Thamel called Thamel House. When you walk in the peaceful atmosphere after the chaotic streets of Kathmandu, takes you by surprise.The dish on the right is Chatamari. And the bowl on the left contains roasted and marinated soybeans called Bhatmas Sandheko. The white stuff is called Chiura and is roasted rice beaten flat. The chatamari was absolutely delicious! I didn't like the other dish much.

Had this at a lovely restaurant in Thamel called Thamel House. When you walk in, the peaceful atmosphere after the chaotic streets of Kathmandu, takes you by surprise.The dish on the bottom right is Chatamari. And the bowl on the left contains roasted and marinated soybeans called Bhatmas Sandheko. The white stuff is called Chiura and is roasted rice beaten flat.
The chatamari was absolutely delicious! Would love to be able to cook that myself or find a place here that makes it. I didn’t like the other dish much.

 

Exhausted but worth it; Gorepani to Gandruk

In Travel on May 2, 2012 at 7:12 am

I will jump ahead to our day of trekking from Gorepani to Gandruk. Our day started off before dawn for our climb to Poon Hill to catch the sunrise over the Annapurna range. It was chilly, we were sleepy, and were quite surprised to see the hordes of trekkers, all with the head torches on, marching like zombies in the dark up the narrow path, up and up to Poon Hill (3,210m)! We made it, but just, as the sun rose over the beautiful snow capped mountains.

On the way up to Poon Hill - This was built in memory of a person

On the way up to Poon Hill - This was built in memory of a person

Sunrise at Poon Hill - 3,210m

Sunrise at Poon Hill - 3,210m

Descending Poon Hill... Rhododendrons and white capped mountains

Descending Poon Hill... Rhododendrons and white capped mountains

But these weren’t the best views. Sunrise at Poon Hill is rated as one of the must sees/dos if you are doing the Annapurna circuit. But in my opinion, it’s not the best view that you get of the Annapurna range. The¬†truly¬†breathtaking view comes on the way from Gorepani to Gandruk. I thought it was many times more magnificent than the Poon Hill view and it makes you go ‘wow!’.

After Poon Hill, we set out for Gandruk and after an hour or two of climbing up, we reached a clearing at the top. We had the Rhododendron forest below us, clear ground around us, and an amazing view of the Annapurna mountains in front of us. Photos and videos do not do it justice. We dropped our backpacks on the ground and just sat there taking it all in. Now sunrise sitting here would have been amazing. Having a hot cup of coffee at sunrise here would have been even better!

Getting to see this made me want to trek higher up

Getting to see this made me want to climb higher up

Couldn't capture the entire Annapurna Range on camera... needed the 360 app

Couldn't capture the entire Annapurna Range on camera... needed the 360 app

Part of the Annapurna Range

Part of the Annapurna Range

On our way to Gandruk we had to cross a Robin Hood-esque forest in Tadapani (not sure if it’s in Tadapani, our close to it) but according to our guide, we had to stay close, as this area was notorious for robbers ambushing tourists. But in his ever positive manner he assured us, “It’s not going to happen.” And then he added “but stay together”. As we entered the forest, a silence descended upon us and you could see everyone was looking left and right into the trees, trying to spot if there was anyone hiding in there! After around 45 mins, we walked out of the forest safely, and I think the group, although relieved, was a little disappointed to miss out on an extra bit of adventure.

Oh one more thing about trekking in the forests, there are loads and loads and loads of  ladybugs! Lots of them; everywhere. And the other thing that you see loads of when climbing up is animal poo. Those ponies, donkeys, mules, whatever they use to transport items up the mountains, drop a lot of it on the way. So while I was trying to will my legs up or down the trail and cursing myself for not being fitter, I had to step like a ballet dancer sometimes (quite difficult with boots on) to avoid stepping in natural fertilizer or squishing some red/orange ladybugs.

Ladybugs are everywhere in the forest!

Ladybugs are everywhere in the forest!

Fruit seller

Fruit seller

Going back home
The locals are fit

The locals are fit

The lead ponies had bells on them so you would know they are coming and make way

The lead ponies had bells on them so you would know they are coming and make way

We also got a rainbow

We also got a rainbow

I think in my last post about I will share some of the food pics! I tried to try out local dishes and local food in the mountains was always fresh!

My first day of trekking! Like when Rocky climbs up those stairs!

In Travel on April 28, 2012 at 11:41 am

After a breakfast in the shadows with a lone light bulb providing light, where we struggled to unpeel boiled eggs (do you unpeel an egg??), we moved out into the mountains! After crossing over a couple of suspension bridges feeling very Indiana Jones like, we started our ascent. I am not a fit person and I can tell you that I was out of breath before we even started but excitement kept me going and going and going until I gave up mentally as the end seemed too far away. Now I had been ‘preparing’ myself for the trek by walking and working out (lightly), but while I was plodding up the trail I realized that my preparation had been all wrong! Now if you live in Dubai, and are planning on going on a trek to Nepal, this is what you should do: Walk up the stairs at Burj Khalifa! Go all the way up and then come all the way down! Do that many times. That will prepare you for this trek! And if you are not in Dubai, then choose the tallest building you have in your city and take the stairs to the top. Or alternatively practice on a real mountain….

Burj Khalifa at Night, Dubai

If you are going to Nepal for trekking and live in Dubai, u need to go to the top of this using the stairs!

Our trail started at Nayapul and went up Banthanti. In between our mid-morning drinks break, and our final tea lodge stop were 5,000 steps; and by steps I mean rocks you have to step on to move up. I take the stairs at work but I don’t think I have climbed up 5,000 steps in my lifetime! We covered 1,170 m in 7 hours and for a beginner it was tiring! But when you stop and look back and catch the view around you, it is amazing, and when you reach the top to your destination and realize you did it, you want to lift your arms up like Rocky did up those steps in the first movie! We were all first timers, and upon hearing 5,000 steps we all gave up mentally, but we were pushed on, yet like little children kept asking every 5 minutes ‘how many steps have we covered now?’. But we saw at the end of it, that we can actually achieve things we really didn’t think we could! That is one thing this trek taught me; that we are all stronger than we think we are and are capable of doing much more than we assume we can. And it feels good to push yourself and make it! You can do it, specially if you got no choice but to do it.

So lessons learned from day 1 of the trek: You can do it! And take the stairs at Burj Khalifa… Enjoy the pictures:

Birethanti

Welcome to Birethanti

Indiana Jonesing it on suspension bridge with prayer flags

Indiana Jonesing it on suspension bridge with prayer flags

water water everywhere

water water everywhere

and trees

and trees

Yak cheese anyone

Yak cheese anyone?

Steps

Steps

and more steps

and more steps

and finally

My five fingers drying out after a long day

My five fingers drying out after a long day

I think I will have 2 more posts with pictures from Gorepani, Gandruk and Poon Hill. Nepal is beautiful and a trip worth going for!

The Morning After…

In Travel on April 26, 2012 at 5:30 am

If you read my previous post about my trip to Nepal, you will know I ended my day with the world spinning around me. We had reached Nepal’s second largest city of Pokhara and would start our trek into the mountains the following morning, I hadn’t eaten at all, had been constantly throwing up; how I was throwing up without any food in my guts was beyond me but the 10 minutes immediately after puking felt really nice and relaxed… and then the nausea would start again…

In order to start our trek into the mountains we had to drive out to Nayapul, which was another hour and a half from where we were at Pokhara and as luck would have it, there was a 3 day strike called out in Nepal, which meant we would not be able to hire any car, cab, bus etc. The solution: we would drive out to Nayapul at 3:30 am before the strike’s official start time. I was nervous, worried, unsure. My condition was bad and I didn’t want to be the dead weight in the mountains bogging my companions down. But I had good friends around me, and a very cheerful, supremely optimistic Nepali guide, who insisted that I would be perfectly fine with utmost confidence. And then I discovered I could actually have oranges without immediately running for the plastic bags! Those beautiful oranges sold on carts all along the roads of Pokhara. And I felt better….

We bunked in for the night and were up in a few hours to start our trek. Before writing more about the mountains, our trek and my novice insights, I wanted to share some pictures of Pokhara. The touristy areas, as the locals call it, was quite nice and peaceful. Our small hotel was cosy, the people friendly and everyone greets you with ¬†‘Namaste!’ which would initially take me by surprise (I was a bit disoriented!) and I wouldn’t know how to reply but got the hang of it later.

Door lock at our hotel

Door lock at our hotel. I loved this! I want one of these for home but they were not for sale. When I asked about it they thought I was one crazy tourist! lol...

Fewa Lake or Lake Fewa

Fewa Lake or Lake Fewa. I needed some peace and quiet...

Boats on Fewa Lake in Pokhara

Boats on Fewa Lake in Pokhara. You can rent these and just chill in the middle of the lake.

Bye bye Pokahara, hello mountains!

Beautiful Nepal!

In Travel on April 24, 2012 at 6:09 am

Trekking in Nepal had been on my radar for quite a few years but I was glued to the assembly line grind of daily life and it just remained on my list of things that would be cool to do. Well finally I unglued myself and took the leap! And am I glad I did! Nepal is beautiful! Pictures can do no justice to the natural beauty of the mountains and the awe it elicits. At some points, the view just takes your breath away. I would be plodding, heaving and puffing, my eyes¬†focusing on¬†the terrain at my feet, trying to generate enough energy to lift my weary-so-not-fit legs up and I would stop, look back and below and go ‘wow’, and all the tiredness would be worth it.

It was my first trekking experience and I wish I had tried this years ago! Why do we put off good things in life? We covered Uleri, Poon Hill, Gorepani, Gandruk. The journey was a short one, we didn’t cover much distance if we look at a map, but we did cover quite a bit climbing up and down and for a first timer, it was a good intro to trekking. So let me share some pictures and my personal inputs over the coming days in my blog!

Truck on Way to Pokhara, Nepal

After landing in Kathmandu we hopped onto a packed tourist bus and took the 7 hour journey to Pokhara. Now this was the most difficult and tortuous part of my trip. I was completely not prepared for what happened here. For anyone who gets car/motion sickness, be prepared! Make sure you take your pills in advance and carry them with you on the bus. The bus ride was a rattling, swerving, snaking roller coaster ride on a surface that was more potholes with some areas of flat surface punctuated by shrieking horns as incoming traffic would whiz inches past your window, as you hold your breath to avoid gulping in the exhaust fumes. In short it was a motion sickness nightmare and I was not prepared. The pills finally kicked in at the end of the journey but I was still grateful for that little relief at the end. As I collapsed in bed I seriously pondered cancelling my trek as I waited for the world to stop spinning.

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