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Amaranth Yatra: The spectacular views on the drive to Baltal and Zojilla Pass

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The Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) is an important event for Hindus. The annual event, usually held in July, draws in thousands of people every year from all over India.  There are two approaches to yatra venue - the Amarnath cave. One is from the town of Pahalgam in the south, while the other is from north from Srinagar via Baltal. The yatra approach from Baltal  is a few km off the Srinagar - Leh National Highway No: 1D. The route passes through s ome spectacular landscapes of Kashmir Valley . After the picturesque Sonamarg hill resort, we drove straight on the National Highway. Splitting from the yatra route at Baltal, we ascended the Zojilla pass and drove to Drass town and ahead to Kargil town . The sprawling yatra premises is visible very well as one climbs the mountains towards the Zojilla Pass. Click here to see the above map on googlemaps.com Meadows in a valley beyond Sonamarg hill resort. The peaks get taller as one moves away from Sonamarg.

Drive to Sonmarg, the 'Golden Meadow' from Gagangir village

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Of the many famous 'margs' (meadows) of Kashmir valley, Sonamarg (or Sonmarg) is among the best known. 'Sona' refers to gold. Since we were here in July much of the grass was still green and was yet to turn golden. But the place still provided a 'being in heaven' feeling. You can feel the tall mountains getting closer and surrounding you as you near Sonmarg. Click here  to see the above map on googlemaps.com Fresh crystal clear streams gush out through the mountain passages The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Government tourism boards remind me of the neat, clear and boldly printed boards for tourists in Europe and US/ Canada. The air was clean and pure. The place neat and clean. No rubbish or garbage strewn. The feel was truly  heavenly. A view from the hotel opposite the Thajiwas glacier The inviting meadows...straight out of a school book illustration of a fairyland The meadows on the way to the glacier are popular with

Glimpses of Kashmir valley's beauty- Drive from Srinagar to Gagangir Village (near Sonmarg)

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One of the biggest advantages of visiting a tourist destination high up the mountains is the clean air and the minimal presence of dust. The tall mountains with streams flowing down in the valleys between them add to the beauty. Throw in near clean skies in the back drop, paste the slopes green with hundreds of thousands of trees, crown the mountain peaks with pure white snow, dot the entire landscape with pretty little villages and prettier people...you end up having the vale of Kashmir.  The beauty of Kashmir valley elevates photography to another level. I had my share of indulgence when I flew into Srinagar and drove to Sonmarg hill station on the way to Kargil town via Zo Jilla pass. This was in June last year (2009) when I was there to witness WWF-India's Snow Leopard work. Fortunately I took time off on the weekend to process some of the images. Below are the ones of my drive from Srinagar to Sonmarg, which is a part of the Srinagar - Leh national highway. Some

From Jog falls to the 'green seas' of south-east Asia

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A forest stream flowing near Makutta in a remote corner of Karnataka's Western Ghats near the Kerala state border I fell in love with rain-forests the first time I saw them on the drive to Jog Falls in Western Ghats. This was in early 1983, with my immediate family. These continue to awe me. The most recent being in south-east Asia. First impression, always the best I t was spring (early-April) of 1983. I guess I was in Grade 3  or 3rd Standard as we call it in Karnataka. I was visiting North Karnataka in a hired Ambi (Hindustan's Ambassador brand car) with my parents, my extremely naughty elder bro and kid sis. I had an aunt living with her Doc hubby and kids in Hubli, Dharwar District. We drove to Hubli, from hometown Tumkur, on the Bangalore - Mumbai National Highway 4. Those were the days when we crossed more trees than trucks through the drive. I still remember the neatly lined, fruit-bearing avenue trees. There were Jamun trees till near Kalambella village befo

Of unforgettable and the forgotten wonders

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The Hoysala period temple at Mosale village, near Hassan City, west of Hassan - Mysore state highway in Karnataka. India is a land of immense creativity. From the pre-Islamic India temples of Khajuraho (Central India) to the last of Mughal era structures of Safdarjung tomb (Delhi), through ages, even a small period of peace in a kingdom/ region resulted in architectural master pieces. Even the British invested considerable resources in building the  Viceroy's House - the present day Rashtrapati Bhavan (President of India's house). But there are so many architectural and geological wonders in India that  it is simply impossible for the Governments (state and central/ federal) alone to maintain these. While the Governments use their meagre resources to take care of the famous ones, the less fortunate ones remain hidden, at the mercy of time and often, vandals. Click on image above to read details on it .  While in Canada , we went on a trip to study &

My fascination for Central India's forests

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A view of Central Indian forests from train, on the Delhi - Bangalore (Bengaluru) journey As a high school student, in late 80s, I had a keen interest in geography, particularly the different states of India. One state that marvelled me, because of its size and the amount of forests it had, was Madhya Pradesh (MP). During one of those years, I accessed a full spread map of Madhya Pradesh tourism. I don't remember if it was of my father or I got it as a supplement in one of the national dialies. But, I remember going through it keenly and reading its notes on the state's different parks and sanctuaries. In 1993-94, I bought a TTK book-map on India's wildlife, one of the best ever produced, to date. The book map showed the location of various PAs (protected areas) in MP. The map increased my curiosity of the state further, particularly the cluster of PAs at the junction of south-eastern MP (now Chattisgarh), northern Andhra Pradesh and eastern Maharashtra. The