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Posted on: Saturday , May 31, 2008 At 17:36 PM

Festivals For June

Here is a list of festivals scheduled for June 2008, which can help you to make travel plans for the month.

1. Ganga Dussehra. Ganga Dussehra is celebrated in many places across the Ganga, like Rishikes, Haridwar, Prayag and Varanasi. The festival begins on 13th June and goes on for 10 days. Read more about the festival.

2. Champakkulam Boat Race. This is a traditional snake boat race similar to more famous Nehru Boat Race. This will be held in Champakkulam River in Alappuaha. See more details on Kerala Tourism Website. Scheduled on 19th June.

3. Saga Dawa. Saga Dawa is a Buddhist festival to celebrate birth, enlightenment and nirvana of Buddha. It is celebrated in areas where Tibetan Buddhist population is prominent, such as Dharmashala and Gangtok. Held on June 3rd.

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Posted on: Saturday , May 31, 2008 At 14:31 PM

Monsoon Destination: Dandeli

Monsoons are just about to begin. It is time to look for some romance in the pouring rains.

Dandeli, in fact, is a round the year destination. It doesn't get very cold in winter or hot in summers, and you have something to do in every season.

Overview. Dandeli is in the heart of Western Ghats amidst thick jungles and Kali River criss-crossing the region. It rains well in the monsoon and the hills look fresh and green. Winters see mild temperatures but still pleasant, and you can see some great sunsets. Being faraway from the cities, it is not yet part of any main tourist circuit, and has remained a quiet place so far.

Kali River

Orientation. Dandeli is away from big cities, and that serves to keep it isolated. But its vicinity to Goa attracts some tourists coming from there. The places to see in Dandli are far apart from each other, which means you will require a vehicle of your own. Public transport between places is not frequent, and to some places, does not exist. All around Dandeli exist dams and hydro-electric powerstaions built by Karnataka Power Corporation. While the dams would be beautiful places to see, they are not accessible to public and require prior permission which is not easy to get.

Sightseeing and activities.

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. A few kilometers away from Dandeli, this place is home to elusive Black Panther, of which sightings are few and recorded images very scarce. A sighting of this would be your lucky day. The sanctuary has tigers too, but are not easy to find. Other animals include Bisons, elephants, wild dogs, Malabar Giant Squirrels and Chitals. There are no organized safaris in the park; you will need to hire your own jeeps. Shiroli Peak inside the sanctuary is a great place to see sunsets. The peak is the highest point in the region and has great vistas of the hills.

Anshi National Park. The National Park on the road to Karwar has thick jungle and is not explored much. There aren't many roads or any kind of safaris that you might experience in the National Parks in the plains. Forest department at Dandeli provides a few tented accommodation in the park, near Anshi village. It is worth staying there - the place has an authentic jungle experience and feels far away from rest of the world.

Anshi National Park

Whitewater refting. KaliO2 conducts whitewater rafting trips near Dandli, in a place called Ganesh Gudi. You can book through Jungle Lodges. The rafting happens in clearn waters of Kali that runs through thick forest. Rapids are upto grade 3 and largely safe. KaliO2 also runs other adventure activities for private groups, such as Kayaking and trekking.

Coracle Ride

Cintheri Rocks. A small waterfall and a river running in a rocky valley, Cintheri Rocks is a picturesque place an hour's drive from Dandeli.

Cintheri Rocks

Sykes Point. Sykes point is a deep valley where the Kali flows, with cliffs that offer panoramic views of the river and the hills. A great place to see sunsets, but since there is a hydroelectric power station in the valley, this place is off-limites to public and requires prior permission.

A keen observer can see many exotic species in and around Dandeli. A few waterbodies around the town serve as great places for birdwatching. You can spot here almost all the bird species of the western ghats. Some of the species include Scarlett Minivets, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Trogon, Jungle Babblers, Leafbirds, etc. The star attraction of Dandeli are Hornbills.

Jungle Babblers

Ulavi Channabasappa Temple. A famous temple for those inclined. It is more known for the fair that is an annual event, and draws large crowds from all over North Karnataka.


Options for accommodation in Dandeli are not many. State Lodge in town, opposite to bus stand is the only budget option. Jungle Lodges is the most popular choice of accommodation, as they can facilitate with all activities and sightseeings. Other places to stay includes Bison Resort in Ganesh Gudi and Jungle Camp Resort. Forest Department provies tented accommodations in Kulagi Village and Anshi, which have to be booked through their office in Dandeli.

Getting There. Nearest well connected towns are Hubli(approx 75km) and Karwar(approx 120km). You can reach Karwar on Konkal Railway from Mumbai, Goa or Mangalore. There are many trains to Hubli from all over the country. Air Deccan flies to Hubli from Bangalore. Frequent buses connect Hubli and Dandeli, but Karwar to Dandeli are only a few buses in a day. Karnatate State Transport runs daily overnight buses from Bangalore. If you are arriving from Bangalore, nearest train station is Alnavar, an hour's drive from Dandeli.

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Posted on: Thursday , May 29, 2008 At 22:40 PM

Rural Tourism Initiative: More Sites Added

Rural Tourism is an initiative from the Tourism Department to promote tourism in India's hinterland and help travellers experience out-of-the-way destinations. With continued growth of tourism in India, and with more and more domestic and international travellers looking for authentic experience and new places to travel to, rural tourism can help cater to those tourists looking for places off the normal tourist destinations. The initiative also serves to improve local economies from tourist inflow.

The department of tourism had kicked off the initiative last year with places identified all over the country, and had many earlier unknown destinations that are no more than small villages. These places were made ready for tourists with accommodations, and compilation of places to see and experience. The initiative is a part of Incredible India campaign. Rural Tourim Initiative is now given further push by adding 14 more destinations to the existing list.

For more information on the initiative, see Rural Tourism website by Ministry of Tourism.

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Posted on: Wednesday , May 28, 2008 At 09:42 AM

Monsoon - Almost Here

The monsoons will hit Kerala in next 2-3 days, inline with earlier prediction from Met Department. In the meanwhile, many parts of the country are already witnessing pre-monsoon rains. It has been raining every evening in Bangalore, and rains in Delhi have brought down the temperatures considerably.

If you have any serious travel plans in the next few months, it is always useful to check latest weather information. IMD provides details of progress of the monsoons, updated everyday on their website. Or you can see the latest satellite imagery and look for clouds in and around your region.

In the meantime, if you are looking for places worth travelling to in the monsoons, a few options to think of.

1. Ladakh. This high mountain desert is not affected by the monsoon clouds. And June-September is the ideal time to be there.
2. Tamil Nadu. The eastern parts of this southern state are not affected by monsoon, as the clouds are blocked by the western ghats.
3. The Sahyadris, from Maharashtra to Karnataka to Kerala. It rains and rains in these green hills. The misty weather has a romance in it, not to be missed.

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Posted on: Friday , May 23, 2008 At 10:22 AM

Pico Iyer's Ladakh

When Pico Iyer writes, it is time to sit and read. His capability of observation, ability to write and make the readers feel his own experience are difficult to emulate; he is not one of the most well known travel writers of today for nothing. In his recent article on NYTimes T Magazine, he writes about Ladakh of current day, it's landscapes, tourism and its transformation in the new world. Don't miss. Here is an excerpt on Lamayuru, sufficient to motivate you to read the rest.

Although I had thought myself hard to impress after traveling for decades across the Himalayas, I heard a gasp escape my jaded lips, and realized I was glimpsing a location even more unlikely than that of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, and a temple even older than that wonder of the world. Often, jouncing along these pebbled roads, passing a rundown ‘‘War Hero Filling Station’’ or a sign saying, ‘‘Better to Be Mr. Late Than Late Mr.,’’ my friendly, weathered driver communicating with nothing but smiles and some sweet Ladakhi folk songs wheezing out of a scratchy cassette, I felt that here was as grand a pleasure as the traveler’s life affords.

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Posted on: Thursday , May 22, 2008 At 10:31 AM

Flying In And Out Of Bangalore

If you will be flying into Bangalore or out of it from tomorrow, make sure you are accounting for some extra time to get into the city or to get to the new airport. 

The new Bangalore International Airport will begin operations from Saturday, and existing HAL Airport will be closed for passenger traffic. It would take anything like two hours to get to the city from airport, and may be more if you are heading to  the southern parts. Connectivity from airport to city center is nothing great, and the government has not been able to commission many pipelined projects like an express way and direct train facility to the new airport.

So make sure add at least an hour to your travel time when you are taking the flight to Bangalore.

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Posted on: Wednesday , May 21, 2008 At 10:54 AM

Darjeeling Updates: Safe Now?

I had earlier updated about unrest in Darjeeling due to demand for separate Gorkhaland state, which had eventually lead the hill affairs minister of West Bengal to issue a statement requesting tourists to stay away.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Asok Bhattacharya, the hill affairs minister, thinks it is now safe and tourists can return to the hill station. 

It is hard to accept his words though. The problem is still not resolved and the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, which is heading the moment, is meeting the chief minister tomorrow. It would be ideal to wait and watch for a few more days.

How-ever, even if things remain calm, weather gods are now playing spoilsport. Monsoon season is nearing in Darjeeling, sending signs of the end of tourist season. The Daily Telegraph report says:

A storm struck Darjeeling and Siliguri almost simultaneously this morning, uprooting trees and cutting off power supply in the hills and damaging houses and blocking roads in the plains.

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Posted on: Sunday , May 18, 2008 At 13:02 PM

Destinations: Cherrapunjee

It is the right time to be in Cherrapunjee. It pours heavily in monsoons, but some rains would have started in April and it will be pleasant this time. It can drizzle once in a while and can be intermittently foggy and sunny.

Overview. Needless to say, Cherrapunjee was known as the place where it rains the most on earth. How-ever, most of us don't know that Cherrapunjee does not bear the crown anymore, which is now lost to Mawsynram, 2 hours away from Cherrapunjee. 'Cherra' is how  it is usually called by people from surrounding regions. But in pre-British days, Cherrapunjee's original name was Sohra. The government of Meghalaya has now re-instated this name, and Cherrapunjee is now officially Sohra.

plateau of Cherrapunjee

Orientation. Cherrapunjee is an hour's drive from Shillong. It is a high plateau with pleasant weather and can be cloudy most of the year. It rains heavily in the monsoon season, but intermittent rains keep falling much before. The plateua has some interesting places to see, such as waterfalls, limestone caves and green vistas all around. To the other end of the plateau is a deep fall and below it is Bangladesh border. Dawki, a checkpost on the border after Cherra is a place of crossing to Bangaladesh by road.

Places to see in Cherra are spread over a large area. There is no public transport to many of these places, and it would be necessary to hire a taxi to go from place to place. Alternatively, you can take day-trips conducted by Meghalaya Tourism that depart daily from Shillong. If you are staying for a long time, you can do many long pleasant walks.

Sightseeing and Activities

Nohkalikai Falls. This is one of the tallest waterfalls in India, second only to Jog Falls. A small narrow channel of water falls into a deep gorge, which can be witnessed from an opposing cliff or you can walk down the gorge. The waterfall is said to be named after a woman who fell from the cliff.

Nohkalikai Falls

Seven Sister Waterfall. This is a series of waterfalls that fall off a cliff overlooking Bangladesh. With no habitation or population anywhere in the view of the fall except a small tourist facility near the cliff, this place feels like no man's land. The fall is named so because on a good season you can see at least sevel different falls side-by-side falling off the cliff.

Seven Sister Falls

Mawsmai cave. This is a cave 250m long, which is part of the tourist itinerary. The cave is wide enough for a person to walk comfortably, and a local association has installed lighting for tourists. Interestingly, cave has two openings and you can walk out from the other end. There are a few more caves in this region, and adventure companies in Shillong can assist you in exploring them.

Mawsmai cave

Root bridges. A species of Rubber Tree that grow in the region have a peculiar character of spreading their roots flatly across streams. They grow near streams, and their roots tend congregate together and stretch across the stream, forming a natural bridge few feet wide. The locals have been using these bridges for many years. The region around Shillong have a few more odd attraction in terms of flora, such as insect eating Pitcher Plants.

Ramakrishna Mission. A Ramakrishan mission is established on the plateau of Cherrapunjee, which hosts a museum consisting of ancient artefacts that were used in everyday life of the tribals.

Mawkdok Valley. This is a long and green valley, and a beautiful stop-over on the way from Shillong to Cherrapunjee.

Mawkdok Valley

Eco-Park. An eco park has been established by the Meghalaya government in the plateau, which hosts a few flowers and an orchidarium.


Cherrapunjee town is a small settlement and you may not find many tourist amenities, so most people tend to stay in Shillong. Cherrapunjee Holiday Resorts is the only good option for staying in the plateau.

How to reach.

Cherrapunjee is an hour's drive from Shillong. You can hire a taxi for the trip. You can also choose to take daily sighseeing trips conducted by Meghalaya Tourism. They depart daily but is subject to availability of sufficient tourists for the day, so check ahead.

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Posted on: Saturday , May 17, 2008 At 22:49 PM

Manali - Leh Road Re-Opens

After two weeks since Srinagar - Leh road has re-opened, now the snow has been cleared from Rohtan Pass and Manali - Leh road is now open for traffic.

There were some news reports of the road being open earlier, but the status remained 'Closed' in official website of Ladakh. It is likely that the road was opened only for light vehicles before.

Rohtang Pass

With the opening of this road, access to Leh has eased and the tourist season to Ladakah has kicked off. Some first person reports have also mentioned that Nubra Valley is also open for traffic now. If Leh is in your radar, it is time to pack your bags.

See Ladakh information, travelogues and images on

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Posted on: Saturday , May 17, 2008 At 01:17 AM

Entry Formalities To Arunachal Relaxed

This is a news for foreign nationals visiting Arunchal. I hope there are some non-Indian readers for India Explored, who might find this news useful.

So far foreign nationals had to travel in a group of at least 4 people in Arunachal, and permits were issues only for 10 days. Now the government has amended the rules to allow 2 persons at a time, and the duration is extended to 30 days. A few new areas also have been opened up for tourism.

The news does not seems to have got the attention of national newspapers, only statesman carried the story. Unfortunately there is no permalink to it, but here is an extract.

The Union home ministry has delegated power to the Arunachal Pradesh government to issue such permits to foreign tourists in a group of only two or more for up to 30 days, an official release said here. Earlier foreign tourists were allowed to visit certain areas in the state in a group of no less than four for only 10 days

You can also see more details on Arunachal Diary, a blog maintained by a local.

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Posted on: Thursday , May 15, 2008 At 13:35 PM

Monsoon Update + Flooded Port Blair Airport Reopen

Rains are appearing in the horizon and summer may soon be ending. IMD reports that monsoons will be early by a few days this year, and may hit Kerala by 29th May. It might take another month for the clouds to travel up north though. The North East usually gets the rains early, almost at the same time as it hits Kerala coast.

That means summer travel season might end in the South and North-East by first week of June, and in the north at places like Shimla by the end of June. A first person report from a friend who was in North-East says it is already raining on and off in places.

In the meanwhile, Andamans's has seen some heavy rains in this week. Port Blair's airport was closed for three days due to flooding, and has re-opened now.

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Posted on: Wednesday , May 14, 2008 At 14:59 PM

Jaipur Old City

After a good long peaceful period with no untoward incidences anywhere in the country, the forces working against the integrity of the country have struck again. Jaiput has been rocked, and 60 people have been killed.

Old City, Jaipur

This time the target has been a peaceful tier-2 city and a major tourist destination. It was only a few months back that I had wandered in the same lanes of the city with no fear or anxiety of anykind. And were I to go there tomorrow, I am sure I would go again with same mood and not heeding to forces that try to fill insecurity in our minds.

I appeal all those travelling to Rajasthan not to heed to this act of terrorism and not allow them to penetrate into your minds. A call to a friend in Jaipur today confirmed that everything is peaceful, though there is a short curfew introduced as a precautionary measure.

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Posted on: Sunday , May 11, 2008 At 19:37 PM

Travel Warning: Wildlife Guides In Kanha Are On Strike

Times of India reports that wildlife guides who accompany tourists in jeep safaris are on strike, demanding increase in compensation. 

Tourists can be hit because of the strike. The guides are asking for increase in their fees from current Rs.150 to Rs.300. The guide fee will be borne by tourists, which means, if the demand is approved, Kanha is going to get dearer.

The news report doesn't say how the strike has affected the tourists. But in most national parks, tourists are not allowed into the forest without guides. That probably means access to Kanha would be virtually closed, except for safari on forest department buses, if they have such a facility.

Also see - More about Kanha on oktatabyebye:

1. Travelogue from Ananda Banerjee
2. Travelogue from Achal
3. Destination details by Vishwas
4. Destination details by shishir70
5. Kanha Images

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Posted on: Wednesday , May 07, 2008 At 15:54 PM

Summer Destinations: Thekkady

Going to Thekkady is killing two birds in one stone. First, it is at a good altitude and gives respite from summer heat. Next, it is an excellent place to be in nature, and if you are lucky, you can spot some wildlife.

Overview. Thekkady has some naming confusions, so let's set it right first. The names Thekkady, Kumily and Periyar tend to get mixed up very often and get used interchangeably. Periyar is the name of tiger reserve encompassing a large area of forest and a reservoir. Thekkady is a small place in the forest where tourist facilities for Periyar Tiger Reserve are located. Kumily is the town, which serves as the road head to Thekkady. Periyar National Park comes under 'Project Tiger' and is the most visited National Park in the south.

Orientation. Thekkady is on the bank of the reservoir that is in the center of the park, and is 4km from Kumily. You can drive down, take a walk, or hire a rickshaw from Kumily to get to Thekkady. For any activities in Thekkady such as walks or boating, you need to arrive here first and buy your passes.

Sightseeing and Activities

Boat ride. Boat ride is the most popular activity in the park. You can take public boats that start from Thekkady, which take you on the large reservoir in the forest. The ride lasts for an hour, and is a good way to see the beauty of the park. If you are lucky, you might spot elephants, bison, chital and even the tiger. There are two types of boats - large boats managed by Kerala Tourism and smaller ones from the forest department. While both of them don't really give a you a very personalized experience, forest department boats are comparatively less crowded.

Private Boats. If you are willing to spend some extra money for the experience, you can hire your own boats and go into the lake. An expensive option though.

Jungle Walks. Forest department organizes jungle walks. You will be escorted by local tribals who are now part of community based eco-tourim programme. These tribals are experts in tracking wildlife and might help you see animals that you would have missed without their tracking abilities.

Walk to Thekkady. It is a pleasant walk in the forest from Kumily to Thekkady. Resist the tempation to drive, and take a slow walk instead. You will get glimpses of the lake on the way, and have plenty of chances of seeing wildlife. When I walked this stretch, I got to see Sambar deer, wildboars and chitals and few indigenous birds like White Bellied Treepie.

Spice Tours. This is an activity that probably started to amuse foreigners who come in good numbers to Thekkady. Any auto-rickshaw driver can plan a quick spice tour for you. If you are looking for an elaborate one which sometimes involves a lunch, talk to a travel agent or to your hotel manager. The tours usually involve walk to a spice plantation with an escort cum guide.

Stay in the forest. There are two hotels inside the forest that are run by Kerala's state toursim department. One of them, an expensive option, is the lake palace which happens to be located at the bank of the lake.

For more information on activities in the reserve including boating, treks and nature walks, see the reserve's website.

Accommodation. Kumily is where most people stay. It is small town but full of hotels at every budget costing as little as few hundreds to more than 10,000. There are a couple of hotels inside the reserve that are run by Kerala Tourism Department.

How to reach. Nearest cities with good train connectivity are Madurai and Ernakulam. Both these cities have airports. Buses connect Kumily with Madurai and Ernakulam.

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Posted on: Tuesday , May 06, 2008 At 14:19 PM

Yhai Himalayan Expeditions

If you have been thinking of Himalayas this year, but too lazy to plan and organize a trek, YHAI is the way to go. Youth Hostels Association of India conducts regular trekking expeditions every summer in Himachal Pradesh and a few other regions in the Himalayas. Going with YHAI means almost everything is organized for you at rates affordable for students. The Sar Pass Trek starting near Kullu is especially well known. This trek has already begun this summer, and batches leave from Kasol village everyday till the end of May.

But the bookings are running out fast, so if you are planning it, you should probably hurry and book. The online booking status shows only a few availabilities for the last week of May. But if there are no vacancies when you see it, don't worry. Here is the complete list of YHAI's activities for this summer that you can explore, and may be join.

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Posted on: Saturday , May 03, 2008 At 20:45 PM

Darjeeling Travel Warning

If you are planning to escape the summer in the cooler climes of Darjeeling, reconsider your plans.

Darjeeling is tense due to agitations from Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, demanding for a separate Gorkhaland State. West Bengal's Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Ashok Bhattacharya has advised tourists to stay away from Darjeeling. Former chief minister Jyoti Basu also has echoed the same opinion. How-ever in the meanwhile, Gorkha Janamukti Morcha has assured that tourists will not be harmed. But still businesses may not run as usual and your trip to Darjeeling may not be as smooth as it should be. The telegraph reports of inconveniences to tourists last week, even though no one was harmed.

An article on Newkerala gives some background to the problem.

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Posted on: Friday , May 02, 2008 At 21:37 PM

Traveller Iq Challenge Game

I stumbled on this facebook application when I was browsing through some travel related stuff today. The game is about spotting a city, well known place, monument or such things on a map. The closer to the actual place you click on a map, more points you score. It starts at an easy level with questions like 'where is London located?' to more difficult levels that ask you to point out some obscure locations in middle-east. I could not complete the challenge, but do post a comment here and say how did you fare.

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Posted on: Thursday , May 01, 2008 At 00:22 AM

Books For The India Explorer - Ii

See the previous post on books in the first part.

Listed here are five more books that might interest the India Explorer.

Elephas Maximus by Stephen Alter. 'Elephas Maximus' is the scientific name of the Asian Elephant. That said, title says everything about what the book is. What Alter churns out is not just a boring documentary on an animal. He mixes scientific facts, history of man and elephant in India, current state of elepahants in the wild and his own journeys from Corbett National Park in the north to Thekkady in South in search of elephants. Combine with Alter's excellent narration skills, and what you have in your hands in a winner.

City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre. A story of suffering, bravery and love in the middle of startling poverty in the slums of Kolkata. Much that we don't know on the living conditions in Kolkata three decades ago is well documented in the form of a story of a few individuals who were in the middle of it.

Roar of the Ganges by Mark Barian. This one is for the spiritually inclined. A book written by computer professional from the west on his search for peace in India, and eventually becoming a sannyasi. The book is the story of his quest. A good read, the book also gives a brief idea of becoming sannyasi and gently brushes up on spirituality without boring the reader.

Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche. A book written by Tibetan Lama that contains the original teachings of Padmasambhava who took Buddhism to Tibet from India more than a millennium ago. A book definitely not for the casual reader, but only for very spiritually inclined.

Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby. Eric Newby and his wife take up the adventure of sailing down the Ganges from Haridwar to Kolkata. From the moment they land in Haridwar, they realize that this is no easy journey. A journey involving lot of pain and some pleasant moments, and plenty of history inserted in between. If you love the mighty Ganges, you will love the book too.

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