south africa 6: kwazulu-natal adventure—from sani pass to its game reserves

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The thrill of Sani Pass

Aah, that adrenalin rush! That sense of adventure in exploring unchartered, gruelling terrains and then coming back to tell the tale. For many travelling to South Africa, and to me, it simply means the Sani Pass.

Once a rough mule trail, Sani Pass is now a notoriously dangerous mountain road to Lesotho via the Drakensberg Mountains which can only be traversed by a 4X4. Lying between the border controls of South Africa and Lesotho, the 8-kilometre-long gravel road through no-man’s land starts at 1,968 metres above sea level and ends near the summit at 2,873 metres. The journey is marked with steep ascents, hairpin bends appropriately named “suicide bend” and “big wind corner”, loose gravel, and beautiful views. Some walk this road. For the adventurous, the thrill is in the 4X4 drive. Continue reading

south africa 5: kwazulu-natal history—from rorke’s drift to kamberg to shakaland

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At the historic Anglo-Zulu battlefields in northern KwaZulu-Natal. What you see behind me, to the right, are sand storms in action. 

Day 1: Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift: Where heroes were made

An endless expanse of dusty plains and stunted thorn trees sprawls for miles in front of me. We’ve been driving for five hours now. I’m on my way to Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift and am told it is just beyond the last mound that shimmers in the horizon.

It is incredible that these barren expanses in the middle of nowhere, absolutely nowhere, were once the scenes of key battles fought during the Boer-Zulu, Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars.

The few travellers who trickle up north to make this journey tend to be British, military buffs, or those tracing their family tree. But you don’t have to be any of them really. Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift are a celebration of the human spirit during war, of courage against all odds. In the former, the valour was that of the Zulus. In Rorke’s Drift, the heroes were the British. Continue reading

south africa 2: the scenic garden route

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Day 1: Tsitsikamma and Plettenberg Bay

To travel through South Africa and not do the Garden Route is blasphemy! Or so would every travel book and site claim and the fact is each one of them is right. Don’t, however, expect pretty little gardens to constitute the route, for that is the last thing you’ll come across. It is nature’s and god’s gardens. Towering mountains, sparkling rivers, tranquil lakes and estuaries, sun-kissed beaches, and indigenous forests line the southern coastline between Port Elizabeth and Cape TownContinue reading

south africa 1: port elizabeth, victorian england in africa

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Yay! I’m travelling through South Africa, FINALLY.

For all those who work and live in the Southern African region, South Africa, or the Republic of South Africa (RSA) as it is officially called, is the inevitable pit stop for our international flights, our business partner for professional dealings, venue for our conferences and workshops, the end of the road for shopping, and the place we go to, to chill. But ask us if we have really travelled to it, and you’ll get a big blank “nope.” Which is an absolute pity. People come from far and wide to discover this beautiful country. Every year, I myself pack my bags and travel to some distant exotic locale thousands of miles away. And yet, right in front of my doorstep is a country so familiar, so beautiful, and one I know so little of.

These four weeks are about exploring my own home—of visiting South Africa’s myriad world-famous attractions, as well as its lesser known, off-the-beaten-paths. Sanibonani. 🙂 Continue reading

5 best kept secrets of bundi, india’s best kept secret

Bundi. The very name is evocative. Translated literally it means sweetened, fried chickpea flour—a snack indigenous to Rajasthan. When applied to a small, sleepy, powder-blue painted town nestled in a deep gorge surrounded on three sides by the Aravalli hills with a spectacular fort and palace looming over it, it becomes synonymous with one of India’s best kept secrets. A secret with myriad secrets within its folds.

Founded by a gentleman of the Meena tribe who went by the name Bunda, it was annexed by Rao Deva Hada in 1342, founder of Bundi [the princely state] and Hadoti [land of the great Hada Rajputs]. Friends with the Mughals and thereafter, the British Raj, it retained its princely status till 1947. Not many venture into Bundi; neither today nor in the past.

Here are five secrets I discovered in Bundi which make it the treasure trove that it is. If you know of more, please do share in the comments section. 😊 Continue reading

photo essay: in search of bundi’s prehistoric rock paintings

Destination, or the journey? In travel, it is often hard put to distinguish between the two.

When I went to Bundi in Rajasthan a fortnight ago, I had no clue that merely 30 kilometres south of the town were 101 sites of prehistoric rock art painted 15,000 years ago. They were discovered by a one Mr. Kukkiji in 1997, who was to take me to the sites himself. What I knew less of was the charms of the paintings’ backdrop—the insides of caves lining tranquil wide rivers, on whose lush shores the Bhil, an Indian Adivasi tribal had made their homes. Continue reading