It is nearly the end of 2021 and I have held myself back from travelling out of the country for the entire year. It was just the hassles and uncertainty of covid related testing, quarantine that put me off from taking the flights. One way I feel quite lucky to have travelled to many countries when things were normal around us and still hope that we will all learn to live with covid and it will become the new normal in the years to come.
I kept up with writing one travel story each month for the past year and this has helped me to recollect the wonderful memories of my past travels. Flipping through the album pages brought back memories of the places I visited, the people I met and the friends I made. In my final travel story of this year, I am will try to keep it short and share a few of my memorable travel experiences (the list is much bigger than this, of course). I will try to recollect and write about the rest sometime in the future so calling this story as Part 1.
The experiences listed here are not in order of my liking or priority as each of these were equally enjoyable and beautiful.
Taking an early morning balloon ride over the Maasai Mara in Kenya
It was an early morning, 3 am to be precise, start from the game camp to travel to the location of the balloon ride take off. Watching the sunrise over the vast Maasai Mara plains and the animals becoming tiny as the balloon lifted up was an unforgettable experience.
This was my first balloon ride experience and thankfully both take off and landing were quite smooth. After the landing we got driven to nearby location where we got breakfast served along with champagne. It was a surreal feeling to enjoy breakfast with fellow travellers in the middle of nowhere.
I visited Kenya during the wildebeest migration time and would definitely recommend this as an experience to be remembered. Being so close to nature and feeling totally part of it is unforgettable.
Travel story about my fist safari to Kenya is here.
Watching the sunrise over the Taj Mahal in India
Taj Mahal is a marvel to those who have seen it. Those who haven’t had the chance yet, must see it at least once in their lifetime. I had heard Taj Mahal is best seen during the changing colours of the morning light, so I opted to visit it before the sunrise. The crowds were less at that time and the queue wasn’t too long either.
The first view of this beautiful monument as you enter the main gate can literally take your breath away. It is best to stay a little farther away from the monument and wait for the sunrise. This can give your the best experience to observe how the colour of the marble changes from a yellowish hue to a golden glow and then finally turn to shining white.
I would never forget that wonderful experience. If I were to visit the Taj Mahal again, I would definitely opt for another early morning visit.
I haven’t written a travel story on my Taj Mahal visit yet and hope to do that sometime soon.
Taking a cruise on the Nile River in Egypt
The blue waters of the Nile River is such a beautiful sight. I took a 4 nights cruise from Luxor and travelled upstream to Aswan. The cruise boats are well equipped with ensuite rooms. There was a sundeck, a small swimming pool, restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a bar where you can enjoy shows in the evening. The boat also had a gift shop and a small library.
During the cruise I visited the temples of Edfu, famous for its roofed inner temples and huge Pylon and enjoyed a spectacular sunset at the temples of Kom Ombo. The sunset over the Nile is truly stunning. I also visited the Valley of the Kings and saw tombs of the Pharaohs including that of the boy King Tutankhamun. From Aswan I visited Abu Simbel, the temple of Ramesses II.
This was my first cruise experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The landscape on both sides of the Nile is varied and you can see both green and also the desert sands. This explosion of colours makes it quite different and beautiful. Lounging on the deck with a drink and enjoying the view can be a very relaxing experience.
Travel story about my Egyptian Excursion is here.
Watching the sunrise over lake Titicaca in Peru
Well, I have to mention another sunrise. Though I am not a morning person I am more than happy and excited to wakeup at any hour and enjoy the places I have travelled to. I took the luxury Belmond Andean Explorer train in Peru travelling from Cusco to Puno. The train journey itself was quite an experience.
When the train reaches Puno beside Lake Titicaca, it halts for the night there. The next day in the early morning I was given a wake up call and all the passengers were given blankets and we walked to the shore of Lake Titicaca where fires were lit to warm up our hands. We were served hot tea and coffee as we waited for the sunrise.
It was a blissful silence as no one spoke but rather enjoyed the spectacular colours and the birds flying over the waters of Lake Titicaca. It was an experience I can remember vividly if I close my eyes and just think about it. It was beauty of nature at its best.
Travel story about my Belmond Journey is here.
Walking the trails within with Iguazu National Park on both Brazil and Argentina sides.
When you visit Iguazu Falls, most guides will tell you this story. When the then US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguazu Falls, she is supposed to have said, “Poor Niagara”. Whether she said this or not, having visited both Niagara and Iguazu I was definitely much more impressed by Iguazu and the Brazilian and Argentinian national parks surrounding the various falls.
You must visit Iguazu both from Brazil and Argentina sides as each side has its unique beauty and the trails on each side can offer different experiences. It is best to walk through all the trails to enjoy all the small and large falls, various wildlife and the tranquility of the national parks.
I visited Brazilian side on Day 1 and then the Argentinian side on Day 2. It was raining and then the day cleared which was a blessing as I experienced a beautiful rainbow over the falls. And it is one place where you will not complain of getting wet as the beauty around you will keep you mesmerised.
Travel story about my Iguazu Falls visit is here.
SOME HELPFUL HINTS
- You need at least 2 days to explore Iguazu Falls and the national parks on both sides of Brazil and Argentina.
- Do check with cruise boat staff when the boat crossed the Esna lock as it is an interesting part of the journey towards Edfu from Luxor.
- Queuing early is highly recommended to visit Taj Mahal during early morning hours.
- Balloon Rides in the Maasai Mara are best booked in advance with your travel agent, as this sells out very fast.
- Lake Titicaca around Puno can be quite cold during early mornings, so best to wrap up in layers.
- Do take photographs for your memories, but please do not forget to switch off sometimes to feel and enjoy the beautiful sights around you.
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