Trail and Hikes from New Jersy, USA

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July 2017 (TR#15)

New Jersey have a number of state parks, trails and hikes. No wonder it is called the Garden State !  Thanks to this website – Alltrails – which gives fantastic information on all trails across the world !!

Green Trail of Cheesequake State Park  (30th June 2017):  This is my first trail in the US !  This is a 4.8 Kms loop trail near Matawan, New Jersey.  The park ranger office at the start of the trail was very helpful. They have three trials  – Red dot, Blue dot and Green dot with increasing levels of difficulty. I was pleasantly surprised by the way they have maintained it. The trails are well marked and chances of you getting lost is very slim. If you get lost, they have emergency number to call. I completed this trail in close to 1 hour.

Sourland Mountain Ride Loop :  This Sourland Mountain Ridge Inner Loop Trail is a 3.8 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Hillsborough Township, New Jersey that features a river and is rated as moderate. More information regarding the Sourland Mountain Preserve can be found out here.  There are 3 trails – Circle, Triangle and Square with the increasing order of difficulty.

I really enjoyed this hike.  It was quite steep with rocky road. You can hear a lot of birds. I saw a deer and a woodpecker on the way. It took about 1.5 hours.  I came across a number of hikers on the way.

Washington Valley Park Trail : Washington Valley Park Trail is a 5.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Martinsville, New Jersey that features a lake and is rated as moderate. This has a very nice lake view and you can see a number of water birds. We did the “Red Dot” trail of about 8 Kms in about 2 hours.

TR 15: Baneshwar

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10th June 2017 :  We had a small get together at Orchard Resort near Baneshwar. It is very good resort right on the highway but still calm inside. The food was good. There is a small hill right behind the resort. All of us had a nice morning walk on the hill and after the breakfast, we saw Baneshwar temple and garden. Baneshwar temple architecture is from the medieval period. The temple was constructed in 1749 by Peshwa Nanasaheb, son of Peshwa Bajirao. Baneshwar is a conserve forest area and wildlife sanctuary where a variety of birds, flowers, plants can be seen. Baneshwar is worth visiting for jungle lovers and trekkers as well as for pilgrims.

TR 14- Bird watching trip to Sattal & Pangot (Uttarakhand – India)

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When my son and his friends asked me to join on a  birding trip to Sattal & Pangot in Uttarakhand, I was very excited and looking forward for this visit !  The whole trip was very well planned by them, I just did all the bookings which were decided by them.

Sattal ( Elevation: 1370 mts) and Pangot ( Elevation : 2000 mtrs)  have become very famous for the birding activity in a last few years. Thanks to Hari Lama, Lokesh and other birding guides in that area. Depending on the season, you can see more than 200 species of Himalayan birds. It is located at about 250 kms/6 Hrs hours distance from New Delhi by train or road.

We had planned for a 6 nights/7 days trip – with 4 days in Sattal and 2 days in Pangot.

We took Pune-Delhi flight and then Delhi Metro to reach our hotel, Ginger Yatri Nivas,  which is next to the New Delhi Railway station. The New Delhi Metro is much better than London or Paris Metro in terms of cleanliness. The location of “Ginger Yatri Nivas” is also very convenient if you are catching a train from New Delhi Train station.

On the next day, we started at 6 AM from the New Delhi Railway station and reached Kathgodam at 11:30 AM. It takes about an hour to reach Sattal from Kathgodam by car. The train journey by  the Shtabdi Exparess was excellent – Very good food, air conditioned and charging points all over the places.

All the arrangements of the trip from Kathgodam were made by our bird guide, Lokesh Kumar. We stayed  at “Birdder’s Den” at Sattal. They have created a place for birds to come for food & water and also place for the bird watcher/photographers to take the pictures of the birds coming there. The hotel is really very good – Very good food, excellent view of the valley, beautiful flowers and a lot of birding.

We spent our afternoon at Birders’s den. There were so many birds coming to the den and all of us were very excited watching and clicking the pictures. In the afternoon, we went to a birder’s spot in Sattal. This spot is near the lake and local bird guides have created this birding spot in the stream near the lake. There was a lot of excitement to see the new birds from Himalaya region at this spot.

There are other birding spots near Sattal – Chaffi River, Kaichi and Shamkhet,  which we visited to see the different kind of birds.

After staying in Sattal for 4 days, we went to Pangot, which is at slightly higher elevation than Sattal and nearer to Nainital. You can see different birds at Pangot than what to get see at  Sattal.  We saw some rare birds such as Cheera and Koklass at Pangot.

We stayed in “Kafal House” at Pangot. It has a very beautiful valley view. The whether was nice and cool.  The food was excellent – simple but freshly made. One day, all the boys wanted to eat “Momos” so went to Nainital and had a great monos at the famous “Sonam” hotel in  the Tibet Market.

Overall in the trip, we saw more than 130 species of the bird ( will share the bird list soon). Many of them are very colorful and beautiful.  The credit for a great birding also goes to Lokesh Kumar, our birding guide and to my son & his friends. Lokeshkumar is simply great in locating and identifying birds. He took a lot of effort to show us some of the rare birds.

Nobody from our group knows how these 7 days went. We were not tired and did not want to go back to earth from the paradise!!

TR13 -Trip to Maldives – Paradise on Earth !!

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What other place on the earth to choose for celebrating our Wedding Silver Anniversary than Maldives ?

There are no direct flights from Mumbai or Pune to Maldives so we decided to go via Chennai. ( Pune->Chennai->Colombo->Male).  One good thing about about Maldives is that Indian passport holders  do not require any visa to visit Maldives.

Maldives is made of 1000+ islands, out of which around 300 islands are being used either for living and for resorts. I think around 200 islands are having resorts. Typically, there is one resort on one island.

After arriving in Male in the afternoon, we were greeted by Taj Vivanta staff and then transferred to the Hotel via Motor boat. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the hotel and during the transfer,  you can see beautiful islands and blue lagoons. You get to see the  trailer of what is waiting for you at the resort !!

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After reaching our island/resort, we were greeted by the manager & chief chef. We were directly taken to our beach villa. We had booked a days’ stay in “Beach Villa” and 2 days in “Water Villa”.  The Hotel is on 6 acre island and on the one side of the island facing beaches are the “Beach villas” and the other side of the islands are  having the “Water Villas” right into the blue lagoon around the resort.  The resort also has some spots like Moon deck where you can have a private dinner.  The water around hotel is very clear & blue and the beaches are of white sand. You can just go out to watch beautiful calm blue sea and experience the tranquility.

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You can do a lot of water sports activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking in the lagoons around the hotel.  We took some snorkeling lessons and did a lot of snorkeling around the blue lagoon of the resort. We could see some beautiful corals and fish. This was one of the best activity at the resort. Even if you do not know the swimming, you can do snorkeling with the help of life jackets.  The visit to Maldives will not be complete without snorkeling !

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We also did one fishing excursion. We could catch a Tuna and a few red snipers. One interesting part about fishing is that you can ask the Chef to cook the fish that you catch.

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We went for a half board ( Breakfast and one meal), which was enough for the day after a heavy breakfast at their restaurant – Latitude. The good thing I like about breakfast ( and meal also)  is that they do not have a buffet, everything is made to order & fresh. The spread is fantastic with variety of cousins – Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Continental, etc. Apart from Latitude, they have 2 other restaurants – Grill and Pizzeria.

Everyday at 5 PM  stingrays come to one of the resort beaches, where you can feed them the raw fish. Along with stingrays, a few baby sharks also come to eat the raw fish.

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The water villas are too good and I strongly recommend to book at least a day there. The villa is quite big and modern. The villa opens up to the Ocean on one side.  It has a private deck where you can relax while watching clam beautiful blue ocean and blue sky.  In the night, you can see beautiful stars on the skyline.

While we were leaving the resort for the return ferry, all the senior staff were there to see us off !! In a few days stay, we started to develop the belongingness  towards the resort and as we were leaving, we already started to get a feeling of how much we will miss beautiful Maldives – clam & clean beaches, blue lagoons and  good food !

TR12: Visit to Narsobawadi and Kolhapur (1 April 2017)

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This can be a day trip from Pune but best if you can make it overnight.

Narsobawadi (Wadi) is located in Kolhapur district on the banks of river Krishna. Narsobawadi gets its name from the presence of ‘Shri Narasimha Saraswati‘, the Purna Avatar of Lord Dattatreya. With a lot of archaeological value this became a major pilgrim spot for many Shri Dattatrey devotee.

It takes about 5 hours to reach Wadi from Pune. You will have to take the route Pune->Satara->Karad->Sangali->Wadi.  The temple is very old and as it is located on the banks of Krishna river, you get a great view. In monsoon, the temple submerges into the river  but the administration office of the temple, shifts the paduka of “Shri Narshima Saraswati” to a safe place. After visiting the temple, we had a nice lunch at “Soman Uphar Graha”. It is very small place but the food is quite delicious.

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After Wadi, we went to Kolhapur.  Prior to India’s Independence, Kolhapur was a nineteen gun salute princely state ruled by the Bhosale Chhatrapati (Bhosale royal clan) of the Maratha EmpireThe Mahalaxmi temple belongs architecturally to the Chalukya empire and was first built in the 7th century.  Mounted on a stone platform, the image of the four armed and crowned goddess is made of gemstone and weighs about 40 kilograms. The image of Shri Mahalakshmi carved in black stone is 3 feet in height. The temple is really beautiful and you can see carving which are very very old. ( around 1300 years).

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TR11: Tung ( Near Lonavala) – March 17

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Tung is located around 30 Kms from Lonavala. From Pune-Mumbai expressway, you need to take Lonavala exit and continue towards the Amby Valley.  Just before the Amby Valley, take a left turn to reach Tung Village. Tung village is very small but its location is excellent as Tung fort, Pavana water lake are very close and you can view some other forts like Lohgad & Visapur. Tung fort was built in 1600 CE by Adil Shah but later captured by Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

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We stayed in Club Mahindra resort at Tung. The resort is beautiful with huge area.  It has 2-3 swimming pools with one infinity pool, from which you can directly view Pavana lake below.

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You can do small treks from the resort. They have excellent facilities for various sports, Spa, etc.  If you are interested in bird watching, you can see some beautiful birds like Sunbird,  Magpie-robin, Bulbul, Shirke, etc. We did a small trek from resort to Pavana lake. The trek can be done in 2 hours but it is very steep. The best part of the trip was Moonlight dinner with a spectacular view of Pavan lake.

 

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TR10: Visit to Nagarhole National Park – Feb 17

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If you wish to see Leopard, Tiger & elephants, Nagarhole National Park is for you !!

I enrolled for Sudhir Shivram’s photo tour of Nagahole National Park and spent some great time learning about wildlife photography. We stayed at Kabini Resorts by Jungle Lodges. This is a fantastic hotel in terms of every aspect – Food, amenities, ambiance and location. It is slightly expensive but good part is that the cost of safaris are covered.

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Kabini is near Mysore and around 4 hours driving distance from Bangalore.  The road is very good but it was slightly crowded because of long weekend. We started early morning from Bangalore and reached around noon time while stopping for a great breakfast at Kamats.

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We did 4 safaris – 2 in the morning ( in Zone A ) and 2 in afternoon ( in Zone B) and we got a good sightings of Leopard, Tigers, Elephants, Deers, blackbucks, bison and several other birds. The Zone A has a larger area and chances of sightings are higher. The Zone B has more water bodies.

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Sudhir Shivram’s workshop is great. It is highly recommended for those who are interested in wild life photography. I got some good tips and more importantly, met some great people who has similar interest.

 

 

TR9: Visit to Bhigwan-Kumbhargaon Bird Sanctuary

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15th Jan, 2017

Bhigwan is a town near Pune, Maharashtra in Central India. It is located on the Pune-Solapur Highway around 105 km from Pune on the backwaters of Ujani dam. Bhigwan is famous for birdwatching especially flamingo and wild life photography. One can do a day trip to Bhigwan from Pune.

We started at 6 AM from Pune and reached Bhigwan at around 8:30 PM. After a short break for breakfast, started out for Bird watching. The first stop was near a bridge. We could spot a lot of birds such as Heron, River Turn, Spot billed Duck, etc. The second stop was a Diksal, near Bhigwan. ( right side road which goes towards Sugar factory) . You can hire a boat here to take near Falmingos and a lot of other water birds.dsc_4997dsc_4837dsc_4916dsc_4604dsc_5109dsc_4641dsc_4860

 

TR8: Visit to Dive Agar

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Dive agar is located on the Konkan coast approximately 140 kms from Pune. The beach is facing the Arbain Sea. This is one of the closest konkan beaches from Pune. The beach is really very good. It is about 4 Kms long and not very deep.  There are many  Indian version “airbnb” places ( Lodges) available to stay. You can enjoy various konkan delicacies at these places.

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26th Dec 2016: We started at 8 AM from Pune and reached Dive Agar at 1 PM. We took Tamhini route and stopped at “Green gate” for breakfast.

Before reaching Dive Agar, we called Mr. Suhas Bapat ( 02147-224377) to make a booking for lunch. He has a small hotel serving lunch and dinner. As the hotel is so popular & he has only limited food preparations,  you need to book in advance.

After checking in at Kshitij Holiday Homes, we walked down to Suhas Bapat’s place and had very good Maharashtra/konkan style  meal  along with the delicacy called “Modak”.

Kshitij Holiday Homes is a very nice place owned by Mr. Avalaskar who has been running it for the last 30 years. They have 4-5 rooms and  serve nice breakfast ( chargeable) in the morning.  They have a nice “wadi” ( backyard) which has hundreds of coconut and betel trees.  The beach is about 100 meters from  wadi. The rooms were clean.

In the late afternoon,  we saw the ancient temple of Shri RamNarayan.

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We had a very nice long walk on the beach in the evening. In the night, we had dinner at the Kshitij Holiday homes.

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27th Dec :  After a long morning walk on the stretch of the 4 kms long beach, we had a very nice breakfast at Kshitij ( Awlaskar). They had prepared Shira, Amboli and Dadape pohe. After the breakfast, we traveled to Shrivardhan. It is a place of Peshwas. We saw the statue of “Peshwe Balaji Vishwanath”. Later we traveled to Hari Hareshwar which is also called “South Kashi”. Harihreswar has a beautiful temple of lord Shiva. Harihareshawar also has a beach but I think it is not as good as beach at Dive agar.

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Today as well, we had lunch at Suhas Bapat’s place in Dive agar. The food is delicious so once eat at Mr. Bapat’s place, you will not be able to enjoy maharashtrian meal anywhere else in Diveagar. We had dinner at “Parkar Khanaval” which is located exactly opposite of Kshitij. They serve very good fish dishes. We enjoyed “Surmai” fish.

28th Morning : Today’s breakfast at Kshitij was also very good. They prepared Kolache Pohe,  Misal and Upma.

After breakfast at Kshitij, we started our back journey.