Women-only journeys have taken off in a big way, and it is one of the most requested niche and specialty travel categories. As the pandemic-induced lockdown eases, women are looking for options for journeys they can take with their BFFs. The choice of destination for an all-girls vacation depends on a simple combination. It must be a place where you feel safe and one that gives you the space to unwind and do whatever you want. We spoke with five women travellers, who were more than happy to share their travel experiences with us. What makes their travel tales interesting is the fact that all of them had a particular reason to travel apart from the usual sightseeing. From tracing their grandma’s routes in Goa to trekking in Kashmir’s valleys, their experiences will help you choose the right destinations for your upcoming trips. And satisfy your wanderlust. Here’s the second part of the series.
Trekking in Jammu and Kashmir
While most travellers prefer visiting Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to explore the Himalayas, chartered accountant Nishu Barolia chose the trek to Tarsar Marsar in Kashmir. Barolia took a ten-day trip to Kashmir, of which the first six involved a trek to Tarsar Marsar and the last four were about exploring Srinagar and its surrounding regions.
After trekking amidst breathtaking landscapes for four days and camping at the spectacular Aru Valley, Lidderwat and Shekwas, Barolia finally made it to the Tarsar Marsar Lake and camped beside it on a clear sky night. “I was counting the shooting stars. The lakes changed colours as the sun rays moved. Seeing these turquoise blue lakes surrounded by the mountains is an otherworldly experience,” she says. The trek was safe and women-friendly, she recounts. “The warm and hospitable Kashmiris will go an extra mile to help and support you.”
Barolia stayed with a local family in Srinagar after the trek and explored the city extensively for two days covering the morning floating vegetable market, Nagin Lake, saffron fields in the outskirts of Srinagar, Dasgeer Sahib and Jama Masjid mosques and the art gallery at Chai Jaai. Her best food memories from the trip include learning to make kahva from her host Abid, relishing the apricot cake Abid convinced her to buy from a bakery and having halwa poori at a small eatery outside the Hazrat Bal shrine.
On her host’s recommendation, Barolia also visited Doodhpatri, a beautiful hill station, 45km from Srinagar and it was here that she experienced Kashmiri hospitality at its best. She recalls how a nomad family provided her shelter when it rained heavily. “They opened their tiny mud house to accommodate me, and lit up the fireplace, made kahva and cornbreads for me.” The last stretch of her trip involved hiking in the valleys of Sonmarg and trying her luck at horse riding, at which, she laughingly admits, she failed at miserably.
Barolia is in love with Kashmir and is already planning another adventure in the beautiful state. “I miss drinking kahva, the sikara rides and the mystic valleys.”
The Tarsar Marsar trek can only be done in the months of July to September and is of medium difficulty level.
Experiencing Desert Life in Rajasthan
Dr. Mitra Satheesh comes from Kerala, a land that experiences a heavy monsoon, and hence uninterrupted water supply. Since her youth, she had always been fascinated about deserts and curious to know how people manage to live in places that face a scarcity of water. That is the reason the doctor planned a trip to Rajasthan. “I always believe that to see the real culture of a place, we have to visit the villages.”
The best part about her ten-day trip to the desert state was visiting Siyalon ki basti, a village near Jaisalmer. Staying with villagers and experiencing life in a desert was a learning experience for Satheesh. “Water is so scarce there that people have to depend on stored rainwater for the entire year. Each person uses a small mug of water in the morning. They don’t have toilets and they walk away from the village for defecating. They collect the water they have bathed in and give it to their cattle as drinking water. At night, they sleep outside in the open. They rarely lock their houses, but groundwater storage tanks are locked up.”
Satheesh also visited Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Pushkar and Jaipur. But it was Jaisalmer that was the most memorable part of her trip. She explored the Sam Sand Dunes here, went for a camel safari and did some dune bashing. She even visited a nomad (banjara) camp in the desert. But it’s the village experience that still holds a special place in her heart.
Taking Pottery Lessons in Himachal
For most people, Himachal Pradesh’s Palampur serves as a gateway to Bir Billing, the paragliding capital of India. But then there are some who travel here for the quaint little artist village of Andretta, famous for its clay pottery the world over. Aakanksha Joshi is one of them. The Research Analyst visited Palampur for a three-day trip and what made it memorable was her visit to Andretta. “Creating something beautiful with a small lump of wet mud from your own hands is magical,” she says.
Known to have served as a home to renowned Irish theatre artist Norah Richards, Adretta looks right out of a postcard. It is also famous for being the home of Gurucharan Singh, the founder of Delhi Blue Pottery, who is credited for laying the foundation for studio pottery in India through the pottery unit he set up in Andretta. His son Manisimran Singh, along with artist Shubham Sankhyan, continue his legacy by offering courses for aspiring potters from around the world.
Joshi loves shopping and she says Palampur left her spoilt for choice, from woollen to wooden products, and iron utensils to fresh tea leaves from tea gardens.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site toy train journey that Joshi undertook from Palampur to Bir is another standout memory. “With stunning views of Himalayan ranges and deodar trees, it could easily be one of the best train journeys of my life.”
Paragliding in Bir was also a highlight. “The gorgeous Dhauladhar range to your right, lush green farms below and the vast blue sky above your head, for those few minutes you really are flying.”