Monday, 25 December 2017

Lost In The Forest With No Network: Exploring Yana Caves

"Travel brings power and love back into your life"     

If you are reading this then that means I have obviously survived and found my way back to civilization. The title may sound like an exaggeration but trust me when I say this, it is not. This will go down in history as the day I got lost in the forest and walked 17 kilometers! However to know exactly how I got to this point and how I found my way back I need to start from the beginning. Two years ago, I saw photos which some of my faculty had posted of visiting this place. And of course, since then it was on my bucket list to check it out for myself. The trouble was that it was relatively far and I would need enough time to fully explore it. I also need to learn how to properly drive a car and learn how to ride a scooty. This December, I had all the time in the world as I was clearly not going back to Dar-es-salaam neither was I going to Gujarat or anywhere else.

The trip was initially planned with a bigger group in mind but as all group plans go in the end it was only the two of us. My friend Tridib and I decided to take the trip anyway and so we started at Udupi Railway Station early in the morning waiting for the 7.30 am train to Kumta. Naturally, the train was late. In our case, it was one and half hours later and arrived at 9 am. That was the first set back we faced which would later go on to delay our entire day's plan. We reached Kumta at around noon and from the bus stop took a local bus to Yana Caves. This journey was uphill and passed through mountain roads, very slowly and therefore took us longer than I had anticipated.

Yana caves is not a commercialized tourist spot. You will find very few visitors and no guides whatsoever. I was aware of this before starting the journey but obviously, in no possible future outcomes did I expect myself to end up getting lost because of this. From the place where the bus dropped there was a three-kilometer climb uphill which was okay. We were super excited to see the caves. While making our way up we even came across a bunch of butterfly nests in the forest by a waterfall. It was truly magical to be alive and surrounded by nature away from hustle of the monotonous everyday life. On reaching the caves we were tired and it was about 2.30 pm. We explored the inside of the caves which was alive with bats and other creatures of the dark. 

The trouble began on the return journey. It should have been a simple three kilometer walk downhill to catch the 4 pm bus (there was one every hour, the last one at 5 pm) but the road to exit the caves was different from the entry route and it had no signs or arrows to lead the way to the bus stop. We had even asked a guard for the direction initially and followed what we were told but somehow unfortunately we were in the middle of no where. We did not know what to do. We kept walking around and there was no sign of people around us who we could ask on the way. It was close to 5 pm and it was getting dark. I prayed silently, dehydrated and starving. I had eaten a samosa and tea on the train and my stomach needed food to keep going. Drenched in our own sweat as we walked further on the road to nowhere, we heard some screams and one minute later a bus full of school kids passed on the road. We stopped it and it luckily gave us a ride. Usually buses did not come that way but they were trying to avoid the main road as they did not have proper permission for that bus. God, we were saved.

The bus dropped us off in Gokarna and we headed to Namaste Cafe at Om Beach to grab some dinner. I had some spinach-mushroom lasagna which was quite filling and delicious. I was exhausted but thankful at the same time. I had got my high dose of adrenaline and adventure to last me for quite some time. We had to catch a train back from Kumta to Udupi but it looked like the train was going to get delayed again and so we took a 9 pm bus back and I was back home by 1 am. The next day was another story. I thought my feet would hurt and turn to stone but instead what hurt was my back and shoulders probably due to carrying around my camera for the whole day and the bumpy bus journey where my giraffe-of-a-neck was too long to get any back support from the seats.

All's well that ends well. With that spirit, no matter how bad this year might have been, just like this trip let's remember all the good moments and move forward with an optimistic look for the coming year which may be filled with more adventures!

Five Tips For Planning A Trip To Yana Caves:

1. The mode of transport.
Do not rely on the train-bus combination because you are bound to get late if either of these get delayed. If you must use them try to catch a night train so you find yourself at Kumta by early morning and start your journey to the caves then ensuring you do not have to spend the night in the forest. The best would be to book a car/van/bus or go by bikes or private transport.

2. Go with a big group.
I am all about solo travel but if you are new at exploring or do not know the common language of the area it is best to travel in a group. Not only will you save money as the cost of a lot of items can be split but it will also be fun and more memorable.

3. Take some food with you.
It is wise to carry some food as it is a long journey and you might get hungry on the way. The best is some bananas as it will keep you full and give you the energy you need.

4.Start early in the day.
Try to start your trip as early in the day as possible or if you are doubtful start it the night before or stay over somewhere near Kumta that way you do not have to worry about travelling time being a problem.

5. Explore the surrounding places.
Now if you have found some extra time on your hands you can easily visit Mirjan Fort which is also in Kumta (next blog coming up). On the same train route you also have Gokarna and it's beaches, Murudeshwara temple and the beach next to it and of course Goa. So don't miss out on these!

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading the way I enjoyed writing it for all of you. If you have any questions or comments please post them below.  Stay curious and keep exploring! 

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Monsoon Walk: Heritage Village In Manipal

"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us"

Rushing through the women and children ward at the hospital, I stopped in my tracks as my eye caught something interesting stuck on the notice board. It read "The Monsoon Walk". My colleagues stared at me as we were getting late for morning ward rounds so I quickly captured the details on my phone and continued with my morning duties. There was a heritage village somewhere in the neighborhood of university town and it sounded exactly my kind of thing. I counted days, waiting to get done with my exams and seminars so I could happily visit this new interesting place and obviously tell you guys about it!

Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village in Manipal recently opened its gates and has started with a Southern tour but has a full plan of expansion for Northern and Eastern tours as well as aiming to be a center for historical research. I announced on my Instagram that I was planning to check out the heritage village and found a friend who I had never met before and who was visiting Manipal for the weekend to accompany me! It was meant to be :) We went for the 10am tour (Link to their website at the bottom for further details). They had hiked the price from 200 rupees to 300 rupees and had also started charging a 250 rupee fee for DSLR cameras so, on a student budget, I decided to make do with the Pro Mode on my phone.

You can see the Manipal Lake in the background!
 The Heritage village project has brought in structures from all the South Indian states as they were all linked to the once great Vijayanagara Empire (The one in my Hampi Blog). In the one and half hour tour, our guide showed us the Nawab Mahal, Kamal Mahal, Harkur Olaginamane, Harihar Mandir, a classic Mangalorean House and many such interesting structures and elaborated on their details giving us a unique insight into the lifestyle of people who lived a generation ago. Many of the structures were around 700-800 years old! And some parts which had been recreated were to be the exact replica in size, shape, and material as per the original structure.

These structures have been transported from hundreds of kilometers away to be a part of the heritage village project. The Kamal Mahal can actually be dismantled within half an hour as it has been all fit together in that way! The Mangalorean house displayed some of the old cameras of the time and hunting gear, as well as a classic kitchen setting. The famous Mangalore tiles were used in the structures and the floor tiles were also a part of the Mangalorean house.

Christian Mangalorean House

Lets Play? 

Old Architectural Beauty

Heritage Village Tour Exclusive Video

Kamal Mahal Ceiling Details

Coloured Glass WIndow Details

There was a good crowd of around ten people in our group and very curious souls, they asked detailed questions too! The walk through the Bazaar Street told us about how charcoal was used in olden day water heaters as there was no electricity. The pots and pans also told a story. The one with a ridge was used for oil so that spilled oil would not reach the floor and instead, collect on the ridge later to be cleaned. All this was really fascinating to me and made perfect sense. Our ancestors were smart in a pre-smartphone generation.It had been a cloudy day but the tour did not disappoint us as it did drizzle halfway through but it was not brutal either as it quickly stopped and we did not get drenched. The last part was the Harihar mandir which did not have the deity as it was restored in another temple but everything else from the temple which got flooded was brought here and restored. To restore wood with layers of paint and waterlogged needs next level skill and the heritage village workmen have all of the necessary methods for restoring and preserving these beautiful old structures of historical significance.

Inside The Mangalorean House

Contrast Stories

It was a wonderful 'time travel' as the guide mentions in the video. Be sure to check it out to see much more of this beautiful place and all the structures they have restored. Manipal has been an excellent place as there are a dozen of places around it to explore and as someone who loves to explore, I definitely see this becoming a major attraction and successful story. I do think however that there should be some concession for students (seriously, a student cannot afford 550 rupees for entry plus camera). Other than that, everything else was fantastic and I cannot wait for the North and East tours to start as well as to see the art galleries from the famous painter Ravi Verma whose paintings I have previously seen in the Laxmi Villas Palace in Baroda. 


1. When to go? 

If you are a student then it would be convenient to go on Sunday Morning 10am or 4pm tour. Yes, they are open on Sundays!

2. What to take?

Take your camera/phone. Be sure to charge it. You can also carry a power bank just in case. Also, clear up your storage in advance! Carry a water bottle and an umbrella (#Manipal). DO NOT wear shoes (please). You will have to remove and put them on a dozen times at least, at every entrance!

3. What to expect?

If you are a history, architecture, photography or travel lover this is the place to spend on. If you do not fall into that category but still want to check it out, go ahead. After all one must always try new things ;)

On that positive note, feeling very happy for such a wonderful project in my university town I will end this blog post wishing the heritage village a lot of success in its future plans. Check out their website. I will be posting more photos on my social media in the coming days so keep an eye out for that. 

As always, your suggestion, feedback, and comments are very welcome. Be sure to leave them down below or message me on my social media handles. I hope you enjoyed this blog post, photos, and video as much as I did. Please share it with your friends so you can make your own plans to check out this beautiful place. Thank you for reading. 

Another article on the Heritage Village: Between desire and empire

You might also like Wanderlust: Agumbe, Kundadri Hills, and Hanuman Gundi

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Ethiopian Airlines & Addis Ababa Hotel

Addis Ababa Airport

I traveled from Mumbai to Dar-es-salaam with Ethiopian Airlines and got a free hotel in transit at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! To know more about my journey, my review of the Cyan City hotel and how you can fly through Ethiopian Airlines to avail the same please keep on reading. Plus you get an unbiased exclusive video of the inside of the hotel.

I booked my tickets through Make My Trip but you can also do it from the official website of Ethiopian Airlines. Booking through make my trip can give you the chance to avail coupons with the respective bank and get cash back. If you plan to stay for a longer duration in Ethiopia you will need e-visa for Ethiopia which you can easily apply for in advance. 

Ethiopian Airlines & Addis Ababa Hotel Travel Video

My flight from Mumbai to Ethiopia was around five hours. It was comfortable and we got served lunch and drinks. After landing in Addis Ababa and clearing customs, the shuttle bus took me to my hotel. It was a beautiful hotel in the heart of the city with comfortable bedding, clean bathroom, room service, wifi and a free buffet dinner! I got some much-needed rest under cozy blankets before going down for dinner.  I even made a friend and guess where that person had done their graduation from? Manipal! What were the chances? She was on her way to Brazil for work. After dinner, I got picked up by the shuttle for my flight to Daressalaam.

I had a seven-hour transit in Ethiopia and I was worried but the Ethiopian Airlines offered me a hotel before I boarded my flight from Mumbai. Isn't that amazing? For passengers with long transit you can inquire and request for hotel and they can give it to you. You can also book the hotel on your own through Trip Advisor or directly from the website of  Cyan City Hotel.
If you plan to fly this airline regularly you can even join their loyalty program and earn Sheba Miles.

Get your absolute must travel essentials here:

Planning For A Long Transit/Layover

1.Check the airport for transit online and the amenities it offers currency rate, guidelines for visa/ baggage etc.

2. Important items to carry: toiletries (allowed liquid amount only!), a fresh pair of undergarments, electronics & Chargers, travel-friendly light reads, neck cushion if necessary and of course all important documents!

3. It is essential to pack a light carry on baggage while at the same time ensuring you have all the important items you need. There can be a lot of walking and waiting around plus a dozen custom checks.

4.Carry a snack if allowed. Sometimes airport food can be very over priced.

Bonus: Extremely helpful Handle Long Layovers at an Airport (WikiHow)

I hope you found this blog post useful. If you have a friend or family member about to fly via Addis Ababa be sure to share it with them to make their journey smooth. To stay up to date on my posts subscribe to my blog.

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Two Lovers: Journey Via Heaven and Hell

Two young blood. we were both from a different place, culture, caste, education, speaking different languages but we were united by one thing called LOVE. We got to know each other through a mutual friend in a party. Later while chatting, we found a common interest which was the love for chess. We loved playing chess with each other every other day since then. Playing chess made us grow closer to each other. I used to purposefully lose games to bring enthusiasm in her so that she played more and more games. I started loving her more with each day.

One fine day I had some urgent work near her college. I finished my work mid afternoon and called her over the phone. Her phone was out of network area. How can I forget, her hostel place is still a virgin of mobile towers. She told me once that her hostel mates used to climb windows to get a network. After trying for one hour, at last, the call got connected. We made a plan to meet at the nearest restaurant. Both of us met in the restaurant to have tea. I was thinking about more ways to meet her. I knew about her liking towards trekking. That was one of the other things that we had in common. Suddenly, I remembered a place nearby I read about and told her about that place- Konajekallu. It was around 8km from her college in Moodbidri.

We decided to go there and reached the place at 4 pm. We could see three huge rocks on the top of a hill. As we were adventurous, we decided to reach the top of the highest rock. It seemed like the route to the cliff was not as easy as we thought. We were wondering about which path to take. Our target was to reach top and back by 7 pm. The path was kind of sloppy curves and it was wet as if it had rained in the afternoon. The route was in midst of a dense rain forest. We could hear chirping sounds of birds, sounds of insects and some unrecognized sounds. We even spotted some unrecognized creatures. But we subdued all our fears to reach our destination. Walking on those slippery hills in the midst of dense forest and with the entire struggle, we reached the bottom of the rock. The bottom of the rock had a cave temple of Lord Shiva. This temple was a miracle of nature. It looked so extraordinary. We prayed and sat there for a while. The scene was serene with full of greenery, fog all around and breeze of cool air. This made us feel like it was heaven up there. We could call it the nature untouched.

The top of the rock was few feet above from the bottom. So we decided to climb it up. While enjoying the moment and each other’s company, we lost track of time. The curvy path leading to the top is a different and difficult one, not as we expected initially. It was slippery and we fell a couple of times. The twilight started emerging, the sun gave us a few warning calls. Yet we decided to fulfill our aim to reach the top. After a couple of time and with all our efforts, we finally reached the top and it was like a eureka moment for us. We were so happy as if we were on the top of the world. She pointed out to a building saying that it was her college. We could see whole of her college from the top. But little we knew was that darkness was emerging sooner and faster. That very moment, we decided to go back. But we lost the way because of darkness. We called out loudly so that villagers or someone might hear our sound and will come for our help. We tried to find out human footprints so that we can follow the path. But everything went in vain. We were searching all the alternate possible routes to go down, but most of the routes made us go further up. Lost in this forest in the dark felt like deadly for sure. Now, seriously this place has become a hell for us. Suddenly some voice shook us up.

We felt like something was approaching us. She said some wild animal was coming towards us. We were definitely afraid of snakes as we were moving through grass bushes. We started moving forward with all our energy and vigor. We struggled till darkness spread its wings and we were left with only two options–one was to continue the mission downwards which was surely a gate pass to death in that dense and dark forest, and second was to move to a safer and open place to pass the night unharmed staying steady at a place. We lost all our energy in the struggle to get downwards and we got fully exhausted. We could hear a whole lot of noises from all around. Everything put together, we decided to stick to the second plan with no other options left. We started moving forward using mobile flash. But in the mid, our only connection to the external world i.e. my mobile got switched off. We went upwards to finally reach a flat rock to sit and rest.

To kill time sitting on these rocks, kill our fear, keep the hope alive was our new struggle now. The sounds of wild birds and animals, darkness all around, fear of snakes, lost in midst of jungle made us feel like spending the whole night here was a Herculean task. We both decided to live these moments to the fullest like this was the last day of our life. This gave us the confidence to break our new enemy i.e. fear. Slowly our tensions faded away. We started to observe good things of nature – the open sky, twinkling stars above and the cool breeze flowing around. We started talking on various topics to spend time. We even talked about life after death. We played dumb charades, antakshari, word games etc. We both got more close to each other and understood each other more deeply. We both were equally hungry but had nothing to eat or drink. That day I understood that even I can fast. The climate was too cold, we were shivering without blankets. The scenario was reminding us of some movies. Each others support and company made all the odds bearable, but not for long, after a while cloud rose eating all the stars in the sky finally evaporating into the rain. God was testing our patience indeed, but luckily I had an umbrella in my bag. Since water was flowing around the rocks, we had to stand up for hours now beneath the umbrella. She started singing songs to keep the mood alive and it made me more active. I too joined her in that flow. With God’s grace, rain stopped after few hours. We again sat on the rocks conversing with each other. The climate was cooler than before and it was chilling. I don’t remember when I slept but was waked up by her call pointing towards the sun which gave us a ray of hope.

Monsoon & Trekking: Get The Right Gear

We started our journey downwards. We were not getting the right paths which can lead us to a safe destination. We went through one route after the other searching the way but everything was in vain. Suddenly torch lit in my brains and I thought what if we follow the water flowing through the forest. We started following it. The route in which water was flowing was a tough one because it was full of boulders, pits, tree branches and water streams. My hand got cuts and bruises because of the thorny plants. She fell many a time in the pit and hurt herself on the leg. Our bad luck, rain started pouring again all the way. We didn’t care about anything nor were we afraid of the snakes which might have been there in those streams of water. After an hour and half of journey, we finally reached a place where we could see the broad daylight. The houses nearby boosted our confidence level. Our happiness at that moment could not be expressed in words. We were totally wet in rain water and our dress messy with mud and bits of branches and leaves on us. Happily, I kissed her forehead because I knew that we would be okay. A villager stopped by and asked about us. We told the whole story. He told us that the forest had tigers and cobras and it was lucky that we survived the night. He took us to his home, gave us food and clothes. As my pant was muddy and torn, he gave me his pants to wear. He even called us an auto to reach the town. These people with a golden heart which made me believe in humanity. We thanked him and bid a farewell. We went along with his daughter and son in an auto to reach the nearest town. It was a journey never to be forgotten in our lives. It was a journey via heaven and hell.

About the Author: 

Prahalad K.R has done M.Tech in Control Systems from MIT Manipal. He loves travelling,trekking,writing,chess,table tennis,badminton,reading novels,quizzing.His dream is to start a socially innovative company.You can find him on Facebook.
Contact number: 9048957975

Thank you for your guest blog post! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. May you continue supporting Time Travelling Shutterbug.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Extracurricular Activities: Are They Wasting Your Precious Time?

30 certificates and 10 trophies later, 
what have I really achieved?

All of our lives, as children, teenagers, and young adults we have been taught how extracurricular activities are so important, and rightly so, but many times we forget (parents, teachers, and students) on where to draw the line on these extracurricular activities. It is very true that college admissions give a huge importance to extra-curricular and even provide scholarships to extremely talented students in their own fields but this is for entering into the undergrad level. Before, I go into the details of my own experience, achievements, and lessons I want to highlight a few key points.

Key Points While Considering Extra-curricular Activities

1.Time Management

I am just going to go ahead and say it. This is a real struggle. And not everyone is capable of learning at the same pace. I count myself in that category. Some people can pull all nighters or be super fast as grabbing new concepts, I am neither of those. How are all the students expected to participate equally in extracurricular activities if more than half of us are slow learners and need more time to focus on academic material, which after all is the primary reason for going to college. 

Lets me be real honest and tell you that any college needs committees and students to carry out activities, they also need an audience to see these activities and participate in the contests organized so you will be told it is 'important' for you to participate and attend these events but at the end of the day, you have to decide if it is something you really need to do and if it will bring you closer to your ultimate goal, whatever it may be.

2. Pick your strengths. Be specific. 

I have struggled with this. There are people who are truly what people call  'all rounders'.Most of us are, however, not all rounders. Pick your favorite thing that not only relaxes you but where you feel you can truly stay committed. Whatever it is, make sure you stick to it and continue it forward. When it comes to extracurricular, like anything else, practice makes perfect and you need to be the best in your game.  college.
Trying to be an all rounder is not happening and I learned this a little late in life. Jumping from debate competitions to essay writing to the joint editor of the college magazine, juggling amateur photography, anchoring college events, organizing a bunch of unrelated college events are a lot of activities that I had on my plate during my first two and half years of college life with no common goal.

3.Learn to say No.

Whether you are forced by your parents or your peers if you think an activity is not right for you do not do it. You will waste your time and energy and neither will you benefit from the activity nor will you excel in your academics. Set aside your weekly time dedicated towards your activity. It can be hard to not think about it throughout the week especially when you need to pre-plan meetings etc but learning to say no is crucial in group events. Don't take me in the wrong way. Team work is important but what is the point in grinding yourself if it is not worth your time.

The Secret To Pick, Excel, and Benefit 
At Extra-Curriculars:

First of all, you need to think and plan, on what you are trying to achieve. Is your goal to pursue an MBA after your undergraduate degree or are you going to go for core Research or something totally different like take up teaching or pursue a career in sports? Once you have decided that all you extracurriculars should automatically align with that. Now, wait for a second, of course, your interest matters. If you enjoy singing or playing a musical instrument while doing research in Biotechnology that is totally your choice, the point I am trying to make here is don't let someone else (parents and teachers included) tell you to do something totally unrelated and uninteresting to you. 

If you are planning to go for administrative or managerial positions, yes, your communication, leadership skills, team work, problem-solving skills will immensely develop through coordinated group activities at college level. Definitely, try for leadership posts! But if a lot of your future and interest works through individual-based work like creative or content writing, photography or something along those lines or you just enjoy swimming for example then there is no need to collaborate and break your head doing it.

Yes, group work teaches you a lot. I cannot even begin to explain that in this blog post. But the truth is group work is time to consume unless the leader is near perfect but the ideal situation is quite the contrary in most cases. Only a few people work and the rest enjoy the benefits of praise. Unnecessary meetings to plan events that could easily be coordinated with simple phone messages are scheduled, but wait the leaders are not crazy! No one replies to phone messages anymore. Wouldn't the world be simpler if we could effectively communicate and finish all the task without face-to-face club meetings that take up an entire evening? So basically, everyone is at fault. That's ok. But, in all of this, if you find that you are the hard working person whose efforts are going in vain then stop wasting your time and find a better outlet and a brilliant alternative for yourself. Trust me there are many!Do not nod your head next time someone tries to throw a group task your way. Politely refuse it altogether. 

It is not your job to fill the seats in the audience and increase the number of participants in a competition for God's sake. 
I realized this later. But better late than never. 

Why don't you invest time in yourself instead? Take up a sport, exercise, cook and eat healthy food, read your favorite book, sleep! Because at the end of the day when you have that endless list of college events, one after the other and numerous extracurriculars lined up on your schedule you will be drained out and before you know it your focus will shift from the task at hand, academics! 

Try Out These Student Planners And See The Difference!

This blog post is written from my point of view with the target audience of college students but if you are a parent or a high school kid, you can apply this too. High school is the time to experiment and try what you like. I was too shy back then hence the over compensation on my part for extracurriculars in college! If you are a parent, help your kid pick what they like. Do not pressurize them with a crazy schedule that steals their childhood away and leaves them unhappy trying to go to football practice when they clearly have a musical heart.

To sum up this rant of a blog post, I will tell you to honestly reconsider the time invested in extracurriculars and be very stingy with it. There should be only two reasons for an extracurricular activity: true joy or long term benefit. The ideal situation would be where you can find something that can do both. Cheers!

This blog post is not meant to offend any college, institution, clubs or leadership positions. It is a student lifestyle hack to teach students to be smart and wise with their time. 

Think I am nuts? Here are some interesting articles I came across discussing the same topic. Check them out ;)

Signing off,
Nishma Khetia.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Photo Shoot Gallery









Want Me To Shoot You?

Bring Out That Beautiful Smile Of Yours? 

Then What Are You Waiting For?

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Six Scenic Road Trips You Must Take In India

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