Rafting in Shivpuri, Uttarakhand
Best time to go: September–March
For years, Shivpuri was just a quiet place with white sandy banks and pebbly beaches sprawling lazily by the Ganges. Two decades ago, some adventurists discovered the thrill of riding the rapids of the icy river here, and the rest is history. Add to the river experience the surrounding forests and web of hiking trails – not to mention sunbathing and bonfire nights – and you have a destination that many return to repeatedly, with a wide selection of beaches and resorts to choose from.
Road: Take NH24 out of Delhi till Mohan Nagar and then turn off on NH58 towards Muzaffarnagar to continue past Roorkee, Haridwar and Rishikesh. Shivpuri is 15km uphill from Rishikesh. The entire journey takes about 6hrs.
Rail: The 12055 Jan Shatabdi and the 12017 Dehradun Shatabdi depart New Delhi at 3.25pm and 11.25 am respectively, taking around 4hrs 30min to reach Haridwar. From Haridwar, you can take a taxi (Rs 1000) to reach Rishikesh (23km). Most rafting camps can arrange pick-ups from Haridwar and Rishikesh.
Bungee jumping in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
Best time to go: October–April
There are natural adventures and there are engineered adventures. Bungee jumping falls in the second category, which leads a lot of people to presume that it can never quite match the thrill offered by natural experiences. Well, they are right – bungee jumping doesn’t match its natural counterparts, it totally eclipses them!
Road: Drive out of Delhi through Ghaziabad and onto NH58. Just before Meerut City, take a left for the Meerut bypass, and then turn right in the direction of Roorkee. At the Roorkee roundabout, keep to the left to reach Haridwar. Rishikesh is about 12km away from here, along the same road. Journey time is about 6 hrs.
Rail: Take the 12017 Dehradun Shatabdi from New Delhi at 6.50am, and alight in Haridwar at 11.25pm (journey time 4hrs 35min). An autorickshaw from Haridwar to Rishikesh is Rs 700.
WEST & CENTRAL INDIA
Kanha Forest Safari, Madhya Pradesh
Best time to go: November–May
Compared to Bandhavgarh, the other showcase tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, an outing in Kanha scores in terms of authenticity. Unlike the obligatory rush-and-grab outings that Bandhavgarh is known for, Kanha allows you to roam the forests at will, going the distance to spot a tiger rather than have the tiger come to you. True, this reduces the probability of tiger sightings as compared to Bandhavgarh, but you will get a feel of the forest here that’s far more original than many other parks in India.
Air & Road: There are daily flights connecting Nagpur to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and other Indian metros. From Nagpur, you can take a bus to Kanha. Buses leave frequently between 8am and 11pm – the journey time is 8hrs via the Pench National Park turn-off. The journey is not particularly smooth, so prepare for a stiff ride. You can hire a taxi from Nagpur to Kanha for about Rs 4000.
Climbing at Tailbaila, Maharashtra
Best time to go: throughout the year
Hidden behind several layers of craggy mountains, the cliffs of Tailbaila stand far off the beaten track, and are hence somewhat unexplored by the greater trekking community. Those who take the pain to visit them, though, are rewarded with a matchless chance to hike up a formidable mountain wall that seems to have come straight out of the pages of a fantasy novel.
Road: Drive out of Mumbai along NH4, turning off at Lonavala towards Amby Valley. At the three-point crossing immediately past Koraigad (just before entering Amby Valley), turn right and follow the potholed road leading through a forest to Tailbaila. The journey takes about 3hrs 30min.
Rail: Take a slow train from Mumbai CST to Lonavala (1hr). From Lonavala, hire a dedicated vehicle, as few modes of local transport ply the last stretch from Koraigad to Tailbaila. Factor in a total journey time of 4hrs 30min.
Tawang Road Trip, Assam & Arunachal Pradesh
Best time to go: March–April and October–November
Two full days of hobbling along what could easily be called the worst road in India takes you through layer after layer of magnificent blue mountains until you reach Tawang, the archetypal Shangri-la guarded by ageless hills and inhabited by the Monpa (a tribe of Buddhist-Tibetan origin) people. A mighty gash in the earth ringed by sharp ridges, Tawang Valley begins to work its magic on the minds of travellers the moment they start descending along patchworked sloping ridges to its lower floor after the arduous journey. Swept by vast fields and dotted with Buddhist monasteries and Monpa villages, the route is prettiest in autumn, when waterfalls lining the road are in spate and cosmos shrubs lining the way come alive with a riotous blossom of red and pink.
Road: From Guwahati, you will have to hire a sturdy four-wheel drive vehicle for the odyssey. Sumos and other SUVs (4 passengers max for the sake of comfort) cost about Rs 4000 per day, along with a daily allowance for the driver. You will need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) for visiting Arunachal – if you hire a vehicle in advance, the driver can help with the logistics for securing the document.
Offroading to Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim
Best time to go: April, May, October and November
Lying on a remote plateau guarded by towering summits, Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest freshwater lakes in the Himalayas. To get here, you have to make the quintessential Himalayan traverse that elevates you from the gentle foothills of Gangtok to the dizzying heights of Lachen, before transporting you to the trans-Himalayan valleys of Thanggu and Tsopta. The turquoise waters of Gurudongmar Lake – your eventual destination – are a daring drive all the way to within shouting distance of the Indo-Chinese border. Needless to say, this road trip promises dramatic mountainscapes, thrills off the beaten track and adrenaline-laced adventure in equal measures.
Hire a sturdy SUV (Sumo, Scorpio or Marshall) from Gangtok and make the four-day three-night journey up to Sikkim’s northern heights. Most vehicles operate on a package basis, charging about Rs 8000 per person for the entire trip, which includes transport, accommodation, set meals and permit arrangement. One vehicle usually takes four people, so if you’re travelling in a smaller group, consider finding fellow travellers willing to share a vehicle with you.
Angling Around Mysore, Karnataka
Best time to go: November–March
Don’t be fooled by the apparent lack of action in angling, which mostly seems like a lazy boat ride out on the waters with a fishing rod in hand. Veterans anglers will tell you that there are few other experiences in the outdoors that give you a greater adrenaline rush than a giant fish battling it out with you even while being hooked to the fishing line.
Road: The camps of Bheemeshwari and Galibore are located about 50km east of Mysore, and can be accessed by taking the old highway no. 209 leading from Mysore to Bengaluru via Malavalli (you can also access the camps from Bengaluru, in which case the distance is around 100km). Coming from Mysore, you have to cross Malavalli and then turn right at Halaguru, taking the road leading into the Basavana Betta forest. Bheemeshwari is 20 minutes down this road – for Galibore, you have to go another 30 minutes on a rough road.
Mudumalai Forest Safari, Tamil Nadu
Best time to go: November–March
The showcase species in Mudumalai is the striped royal Bengal tiger. There are around 50 tigers lurking in these jungles – giving Mudumalai the highest tiger density anywhere in the country. However, as in any other nature reserve, you will have to be extremely lucky to actually spot one. Overall, though, the reserve is the best place to spot wildlife in Tamil Nadu. The creatures you are most likely to see are deer, peacocks, wild boar, langurs and giant Malabar squirrels. There’s also a significant chance of sighting wild elephants (the park has several hundred) and gaur or the Indian bison.
Road: From Bengaluru, take an AC Volvo bus to Mysore (journey time 3hrs). From Mysore, there are regular buses departing for Ooty (journey time 3 hrs). Buses between Ooty and Mysore go via Gudalur and stop at Theppakadu (journey time 3hrs). Smaller buses that can manage the Sighur Ghat mountain road run from Ooty and Masinagudi; local buses run every two hours between Masinagudi and Theppakadu. You can also do a taxi trip to Mudumalai from Ooty for about Rs 1600 per day.
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