It is nearly the middle of January 2022. Though we all are in the midst of new challenges, here is hoping that things around us will get better with passing days and we can return to times of normalcy. I also started the new year with the hope of being able to travel this year to some places at least. In the last two years I personally chose not to travel out of the country and this has been a huge emotional challenge for me which anyone who loves to travel will be able to comprehend.
However, I also enjoyed spending the non travel days to recollect old travel memories and took vicarious pleasure in some of my friends’ social media travel posts. Keeping in touch with my travel buddies was another way to keep connected to the travel world, again in a virtual sense. Few of my friends have travelled out of the country and though some of their experiences was not that good, at least they got away to visit some new places. I am hoping I will be able to venture out to some previously unvisited places this year. Will have to wait and see how things unfold.
Meanwhile, I am still trying to keep up with my travel story writing. So in my first travel story for 2022, which is also my 50th post, I thought of writing a few more of my memorable travel experiences in continuation of my travel story from last month. And as before the places listed here are not in order of my liking, as I remember enjoying each of these places equally for their unique appeal.
Dipping in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a geothermal spa set in an area where lava and geothermal water meet. It is one of the most visited places in Iceland. Blue Lagoon is located in a lava field in the Grindavik area of Iceland. The lagoon is man-made which is fed by the water output from the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days.
The lagoon’s warm geothermal water and natural active ingredients of mineral salts, silica and blue green algae help to relax and unwind while the lagoon’s distinctive white silica mud rubbed over the body gently cleanses and exfoliates the skin. The mineral salts in the water also help to relax the entire body. The temperature outside the lagoon can be pretty cold but once you are in the water it is extremely comfortable and very relaxing.
I enjoyed a lovely soak in the lagoon while chatting with fellow travellers from different corners of the world. The lagoon water is absolutely pleasant with its average temperature of 37-39 deg celsius. And it is not a problem if you don’t know how to swim as there are lots of rails and the lava cave walls to hold and walk into the water unless you are in the centre of the lagoon. In its deepest area the lagoon is only 1.4 metres, so you can actually stand in the water.
You can read more my Blue Lagoon travel story here
Walking inside the wine cellar in Chisinau, Moldova
It is not surprising that there are lesser known, smaller countries as spectacular and beautiful as the often visited European countries. One such country in the eastern part of Europe is the Republic of Moldova, bordered by Romania and Ukraine. The capital city of Moldova is Chisinau and I had the opportunity to visit this lovely city and had the pleasure of meeting many friendly people, taste the local food and visit the famous Cricova winery and cellars.
Moldova is not a typical touristy destination like other European countries. It is quite small but a very beautiful country and has direct flights from the UK or connecting flights via Vienna or Bucharest to its capital, Chisinau. Cricova winery and underground cellar is around 15 kms north of the capital city Chisinau.
Cricova is second largest underground wine cellar in the world. The Cricova cellars are the result of construction limestone mines. Many buildings from Cricova, Chisinau and other cities in Moldova were built from the limestone that were extracted from here. The underground cellar maintains a constant temperature of around 12-14 deg C which is ideal to store the wines.
There is around 120 kms of roadways within the cellars, so even cars can be driven through the roads underground. There is also an option to travel by battery operated carts. The roads and surrounding niches are stacked up by huge barrels filled with wine on both or either sides. It is like travelling inside a different world of its own.
You can read more my Cricova travel story here
Watching Elephants coming to the waterhole at night in Aberdare National Park, Kenya
During my first safari holiday to Kenya, I stayed for a night at the Aberdare National Park. I reached Aberdare from Samburu National Park which is around 5 hours drive. The classic part of the stay here was at The Ark, the design of which is based on Noah’s Ark. Only a small piece of hand bag can be carried to The Ark as the cabins are very compact and big luggages will not fit in the rooms.
The wonderful part of this lodge is that the cabins in the Ark are set over three decks. The viewing decks on each level with balconies are an exclusive way to see the wildlife closely without leaving The Ark. Just outside the Ark is a waterhole, where wildlife but mainly buffalos and elephants come to drink water and they can be viewed from inside the lodge. If you are lucky enough, there might be even big cat sightings at the night time.
I remember sitting inside the dark observation deck at night and watching the herd of elephants come to the floodlit waterhole, the baby elephants clinging on to the bigger ones. They were roaming around the waterhole at their own relaxed pace, rolling over or nudging each other. It was such a delightful sight to see the animals in their natural habitat.
You can read more my Kenya Safari travel story here
Feeling humbled standing beneath the Memorial at Nathula Pass, India
I spent my childhood growing up in the Himalayan foothills of India and feel delighted anytime I travel back to these mountain ranges. One of my favourite memories of travelling through the Himalayan ranges was to the Nathula Pass many years ago. Nathula Pass, at 14200 ft above sea level, is on the Indo-China border in the state of Sikkim and was part of the old Silk Route.
Nathula Pass connects Sikkim to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. This route was was closed in 1962 but was reopened in 2006 and has, ever since, served as an official Border Personnel Meeting point. Nathula is best visited from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. The distance from Gangtok to Nathula is around 56 kms and the road to Nathula passes through the well known and scenic Tsomgo Lake.
After crossing Tsomgo lake, the drive uphill is beautiful with areas covered in rich flora, snowcapped mountains and numerous lakes. The road to Nathula is one of the highest motorable roads in the world and is quite narrow and treacherous. At the end of motorable road to Nathula, there are stairs leading to the Indo-China border. The barbed wire has been replaced with a 10 m stone-walled passageway.
I felt humbled and filled with a sense of awe and respect standing below the the Nathula memorial. Hidden beneath the wreath is the famous Kohima epitaph.
WHEN YOU GO HOME, TELL THEM OF US AND SAY,
FOR YOUR TOMORROW, WE GAVE OUR TODAY
You can read more my Nathula Pass travel story here
Exploring the spires and ridges of Valle De La Luna at La Paz, Bolivia
During my travel through some of the South American countries, I visited La Paz in Bolivia. During my stay at La Paz, one afternoon, I visited a place of natural wonder which is situated around 10 kms from La Paz. It is called Valle de la Luna or Valley of the Moon.
This valley is said to have been named by astronaut Neil Armstrong. The mountains within the area have been eroded by winds and weather conditions over a long period of time. These mountains are mostly composed of clay and sandstone and what remains are tall spires which looks like something from a lunar landscape and hence the name, Valley of the Moon.
Because of the different mineral content in the mountains, these spire formations are of many colours throughout the huge landscape. There are walking trails within the area but some are quite narrow and also the soil beneath can be loose. So it is best to exercise caution while walking through this valley. You can also spot many varieties of cacti within the valley.
You can read more my La Paz travel story here
- Pre booking entry to the Blue Lagoon and/or treatment is a MUST, else you’ll be disappointed.
- It is best to keep around 3-4 hours time to spend in the lagoon.
- April to May is the best time to visit Nathula as June to September is monsoon season and area is prone to landslides.
- At Nathula’s altitude, the air is quite thin due to reduced oxygen, so some people might experience breathing problems.
- Air Moldova flies directly to Chisinau from London Stansted airport. Flying time is around 2 hour 50 minutes
- If you visit the wine cellars, it can feel quite chilly inside, so better to carry a light jacket and scarf.
- Kenya Visa can be applied online or available on arrival.
- Mosquito Repellent is a must. In my experience there are more mosquitoes in Nairobi than in the national parks.
- Due to La Paz’s altitude a lot of people might experience altitude sickness. So it is best to take it slow and acclimatise first.
- If you are travelling by air, La Paz landing views are one of the best in the world. Do try to get a window seat.
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