Journeys that are as good as the destinations
Hit the road this Valentine's Day with your significant other.
Lakshmi Sharath lists out road trips that will bring you closer.
This Valentine Day, do not head to any romantic destination.
Instead add a dash of romance to your journeys.
For they say the journey is the destination.
And giving you and your beloved company are the snow clad mountains, the charming rustic villages, the sun kissed sands of time in a desert, rivers and waterfalls, dense forests and soothing beaches.
The road is wide open and you can cuddle up and choose any of these
1. Pick a coast of your choice
The sea breeze trickles your nostrils and leads you on a journey by the coast.
Passion is best expressed by the sea, its waves caressing the shore, lingering in a slow embrace as it leaves behind foam on the sands while it ebbs.
India has two vast coastlines -- one traversing from Gujarat to Kerala and the other from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu.
Pick any direction or state or if you have just a few days, then choose a stretch that you would like to explore.
My favourite would be the Coromandel Coast.
Driving from Chennai to Tranquebar:
- Drink in the charm of the fishing hamlets, lose yourself in an isolated stretch of backwaters, watch the fishermen at sea, take a ferry along with them and see the sun setting at the horizon.
- Most of these small fishing hamlets were once ports with a great colonial history but are now lying forgotten.
- Walk around Sadras for instance near Mahabalipuram and you will hear stories of a fierce battle fought between the European forces in this erstwhile Dutch colony.
- Tranquebar was a Danish settlement for the Danes landed on the very shores of the sea. Walk along the little streets here called the King Street and the Queen Street and listen to tales of yore.
- Its local name, Tharangampadi, means the music of the waves and sitting on the rocks and listening to the melody is sheer idyllic bliss and pure unadulterated romance.
- Distance from Chennai to Tranquebar is 280 kms.
- It can take you anything from five days to a week, depending on how long you want to stay in these towns.
- I suggest that you start from Chennai, head to Sadras and break your journey at Pondicherry.
- Then continue on to Cuddalore, Porto Novo, Tranquebar and you can visit Karaikal from Tranquebar.
- If you have more time you can continue even further towards Nagapattinam and Kanyakumari.
Image: Fort Dansborg in Tharangampadi (Tranquebar) in Tamil Nadu
Photographs: Esben Agersnap
2. A road trip across forests
If you are the wild and the passionate kind, then this journey is for you.
Imagine driving through verdant tracts of virgin forests, where the dense foliage converge around you, where detours take you to gushing waterfalls, where streams call you in whispers and a chance wild life encounter awaits you.
Drive through the forests spanning Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala then head to Bandipur and cross over to Mudhumulai.
- Let the winding roads take charge of your life.
- Take the hairpin bends and enter Ooty and then head to Coimbatore.
- More hairpin beds and some breathtaking scenery and you are in Valparai.
- Encounter a Nilgiri tahr or meet the lion tailed macaque and watch a great Indian hornbill fly over your head before heading into Athirapally forests and soaking yourself in the waterfalls.
- If you like, you can continue to Kochi or return from here.
- The trip covers the three states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- You can either begin your journey from Bengaluru or Kochi.
- I drove from Bangalore towards Mysore and then halted in Bandipur which is about 220 kms. You can continue on to Mudhumalai and Ooty the following day which is about 50 kms.
- Stop over for a night if you like or head to Coimbatore (130km) and then to Valparai, which is about 90kms. Recommend a stop at Valparai as its one of the bio diversity hotspots.
- Then you can head towards Kerala and Athirapally Falls and towards Kochi.
- This journey can easily take you about five days to a week.
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Image: Drive through the forests spanning Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala
Photographs: Lakshmi Sharath
3. A desert safari
The golden sands, the dreamy oasis, the music in the distance, the rustic charm, the silence -- what can be more beautiful than a sun set or a sun rise in the desert?
I was recently in Jaisalmer and I fell in love with the desert.
But this one is for adventure enthusiasts who would love to explore the desert and head out like a nomad with a caravan.
- Visit remote hamlets, sight wildlife and birds, listen to musicians perform live, gaze at the vast expanse of sand dunes and camp under the stars.
- And it is not just a one night stand but a lifelong affair with the desert.
- Desert safaris and treks are organised by several travel companies and they need a minimum of a week of your time.
- You will need to fly to Jaisalmer to begin the journey.
- They involve long hours of camel rides from one village to another and camping in tents.
- For those who are more adventurous, you can even go on a desert trek.
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Image: A village near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.
Photographs: Mridula Dwivedi
4. A valley of clouds at Tawang
If you like to get lost, head out to remote destinations, visit small towns by the river side, get engulfed by a valley of clouds, then this romantic route is for you.
I went on this route in early January and it was rather cold but the frozen lakes and the snowflakes made up for it.
But what was absolutely spectacular was the valley of clouds which surrounded us, near Sela Pass.
There was not a soul in sight.
- You can start your journey from Guwahati, drive up to Tezpur which is at a distance of 185 km for a halt and then continue on to Bomdila or Dirang -- I suggest the latter, which is at 190 km as it's a very pretty town on the riverside.
- Stay here for a night just to breath in the mountain air and then head towards Tawang which is about 200 km.
- It can be freezing out there as there are not too many hotels here with heaters.
- Prepare yourself for sunsets by 5pm.
- For me however, the highlights of the trip were the frozen lakes beyond Tawang.
ALSO READ Photos: Tawang revisited
Image: A lake at Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh
Photographs: Kunal Dalui/Wikimedia Creative Commons
5. Nubra Valley
This is purely for adventure enthusiasts who can brave sub-zero temperatures, stay in Spartan conditions and are always flexible with change in plans.
But if the weather holds, the journey down from Leh to Khardungla to Nubra Valley surrounded by a blanket of snow is one that you will cherish for a lifetime.
- The colour of love is white here and you will find everything from Buddhas to monasteries to homestays to roads painted in bold strokes of white.
- The road is always open except during heavy snow storms.
- The route will be Leh to Khadungla and then to Diskit.
- You can also visit Hundar and Panamik based on weather conditions from Diskit.
- I went to Ladakh during autumn and although there was quite a lot of snow, (I did get caught in a snow storm) there was bright sunshine as well.
- You can spend a couple of days in Leh before heading out and then stop at Nubra for at least three nights. This journey would take you about a week to ten days.
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Image: Nubra Valley, Ladakh