Answering your Questions - Ask me Anything : Part 1

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Few days ago I posted here that you could Ask me Anything and I'll answer. As promised here are your answers. Thank you all for participating! :)

Renuka asks “I want to know about your most challenging travel experience in terms of photography.”
I have to say photographing in the outdoors during monsoons was the second toughest, first being taking portraits of strangers, which is why I started The 100 Strangers Project. Coming back to the monsoons, with the incessant rain, cloudy overcast weather, patchy light conditions, setting up the tripod in the rain, trying to protect the camera from getting wet, dealing with the water droplets on the lens, adjusting the graduated ND filter with one hand and holding the umbrella in the other, I had the toughest times in Sikkim. But thankfully all the effort paid off and I learned the camera can take much abuse! ;)

After that trip, I took the decision to photograph in the rains no matter what, because monsoons bring out the best in the nature. Looking at Sikkim and Madikeri pictures, I think I am getting the hang of it.


Is there any place that you wished you had NOT visited?
Yes, I wished I hadn’t visited Manali in 2008. I had nothing against the place, except that after a bone breaking epic 20hr journey from Leh to Manali, the hawkers who surrounded our vehicle as soon as we reached Manali, refused to leave until we took a room and fought around us was a stark contrast from the peaceful times in Ladakh and that irritated me a lot. Over the next few visits I quite enjoyed Manali though.

Have you encountered any dangers, during your travel? If so, how did you overcome it?
All the dangers that I have managed to survive are now referred to as adventures. ;)
Jokes apart, the one time that a group of us encountered a lone wild elephant while trekking in Western Ghats freaked me out completely. Even cats and dogs scare me, so you can imagine my plight. There wasn’t much that we could do. The elephant was on the hill below us and we had to get down, we stood there looking at each other and wondering what to do. After a while we realized we have to get down somehow, so we walked straight and got down the hill further ahead, away from the elephant. But all the time my heart was racing like a maniac and it didn’t calm down until we reached the village nearby. Only to have another heart attack when the villagers told us quite recently an elephant had turned rogue and was found wandering alone in the ghats!

Ever been to a jungle safari? Or do you have one such plan in your wish book?
Yes, I have been on few safaris in Corbett National Park but I am not a big fan of safaris. I prefer a more intimate way of exploring the place on foot if possible.


Vipin asks
I know some people travelling full time (after resigning their job). Do you plan to do that sometime in future?
I would love to do that but maybe not immediately.

Which was the most hardcore trek you have ever done?
The first step is the hardest, they say. My first tough trek was the toughest. To trek without a trail, getting lost in the forest known to have gotten people killed, walking in the night in a place full of vipers, crossing waist deep streams after dark, camping in the middle of the forest with nothing but a tarpaulin over my head kept me in a constant state of fear for the two days. But after that experience I learned forests were not as scary as I had imagined. I went on many difficult treks that tested me in many ways but I think that first step in realizing these things can be done and getting past that mental block was the hardest. So I consider my trek to Ombattu Gudda in my early days of trekking as the hardest trek I did.


Sandeep, Anusha and Pavithra ask “Can I join you on your travels?”
Well, I already answered this question in this post here – My Little Secret (on How to get started with Travel)
It is practically not possible for me to take people with me on treks, because I don’t organize treks or trips. I do not have a group either. What I do have is a lot of friends and connections through the adventure clubs listed above. I suggest go on treks with these clubs, you will meet enough like minded people. That’s how I got started.


Anonymous asks
How do you remain safe travelling alone as a woman? I'd love to go all over India and any tips would be greatly appreciated!
Hmm, I do not have a specific answer but in general I’d suggest not to think in terms of what is safe for a woman, just think what is safe and what is not. Keep in touch with someone back home and listen to your gut feeling, most probably your instincts are right. Get out of any situation that worries you and remember that people in general are friendly. I suggest using public transport for both financial and safety reasons. Begin with solo-travel-friendly destinations such as Ladakh or Spiti or Rajasthan and get familiar with the idea of traveling alone. Do your homework before leaving for the destination, coming across as a woman who knows the place already will reduce the risks of being conned. You can also consider joining a group or an organized trip. As you gain more experience and get comfortable traveling alone, you will trust in your capabilities that much more. The internet is full of advice but I believe you can be your best teacher in this case.

What's your favourite place in India so far?
If you would’ve asked me this question 2 years ago, I would have answered Himalayas in the split of a second. But after traveling to all corners of our country I can’t answer this question with one place. I loved all the places that were serene, pristine and beautiful. On second thoughts, I think I would still say Himalayas. :)


How do you prepare your itinerary when you decide a location? I mean when you finalize a place, how do you find unexplored places over there. I know you use Google (Read in your blog), but how exactly do you search for such places?
I do a lot of reading before I go on any trip. More than mainstream travel articles, local blogs contain information about off beat places. Googling helps in this matter. I don’t click on the well known web addresses. Instead I click on the .blogspot or .wordpress search results. I believe there is one google blog search too. I only book my flight tickets and keep the rest of the itinerary flexible. Once you reach a place, locals can help you plan your itinerary. Ask them, talk to them, they are the best guides around. Like in Rajasthan, I wanted to see ruins of havelis. So I told my guide exactly and specifically what I wanted to see and I also told him I don’t mind going away from the touristy destinations. Knowledgeable that he was, he directed me to some spectacular ruins where very few had gone before. Sometimes not finding any information online about some place suggests that it is offbeat. You may take a chance and find out yourself if it is worth visiting or not. For instance there wasn’t much information available about Little Andaman, so by default very few visit that place. I took a chance and landed there a few weeks ago and it was one of the best places I’ve been to.


Senthil asks me about my camera gear.
Currently I shoot with a Canon EOS 500D and a Tokina 11-16mm Wide Angle Lens.


Santhosh Krishnan asks
Is there any place which you are dying to visit in India? If any, what is the reason?
I really want to spend a winter in Spiti. The ease of access and the spectacular beauty of this Himalayan kingdom make Spiti an easy favorite. I have also heard from the locals that Mudh, the last village in Pin Valley National Park is cut off from the rest of the world during winters. The only way out is by walking on the frozen river for 40kms. I want to see how they survive the harsh winters.

Which is your favourite Western Ghats destination and why? (I know whole WG is beautiful, is there any particular fav place?)
As you said, the entire stretch of Western Ghats is enchanting. However, if I have to pick one, I’d say Kodachadri or Narasimha Parvatha, for the sole reason that these places showed me clouds beneath my feet!

Please add more details in your blog as to how to reach, where to stay and other travel tips. It would be helpful for us to plan trips along with some eco - friendly tips and suggestions.
Yes, I want to do this but it has been crazy of late and I am not able to write as much as I would’ve wanted to. I will try to add more help sections, guides and my two cents on eco friendly travel.

Come along with me, on a virtual journey! Find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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  1. OG is your first trek??? no wonder you consider it the toughest..:)

    1. Well it is not my first trek officially, did few treks before but OG was the first "tough" trek I signed up for is what I meant. :)

  2. Thanks Neelima for sharing your experiences. I liked your answer on 'woman traveling alone'. I have also done that and my destination was Udaipur. I agree completely with what you suggested.

  3. Tried OG 3 times - Lucky or not! never made it trough to the Estate the other side.
    Still remains on the list of most memorable ones.

    1. Ha ha, OG can be quite fun as long as you make it out in one piece. :)

  4. Hi,
    I would like to know more about the voulanteer trip with Ecosphere as i would really like to have such an experience, have send them the mail regarding the same but still would like to know aspects such as
    1)how do they select people as voulanteers?
    2) How was your experince with fellow travelers and the organization itself?
    3) As a first time traveller to this part of the country being a photographer would like to know do we get any time by ourselves to dwell in my Photography.
    4) Are there any Introductry and Interctive sessions along the trip.
    5) Last but not the least what sort of expenses should one expect along this trip.


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