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m a r c h 2 0 1 6 • ` 1 5 0 • VO L . 4

ISSUE 9

Summer Special

Snapshots from

Southeast Asia Philippines Nature Calls

Malaysia Magic Kingdom

Thailand North to South

South Korea Art of Zen

Singapore Wild Ways

Macau Beyond Casinos

BOTSWANA The Last SAnctuary • Sanchi Centre of the Earth


n a t i o n a l g e o g r a p h i c t r av e l l e r i n d i a

MARCH 2016

CONTENTS Vol 4 Issue 9

SUMMER SPECIAL

A chance encounter with Malaysian royalty leads to the neon-coloured sultanate of Johor, the southernmost tip of Asia’s mainland By John Krich Photographs by Justin Guariglia

100 Koh Khai Nok, Thailand

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IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD

Sunny, laid-back Bohol has lovable creatures, serene beaches, and magical hills: Four ways to navigate this cluster of Filipino islands By Kamakshi Ayyar

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YOUR OWN PRIVATE THAILAND

Gorgeous stupas, lip-smacking street food, and dreamy, white sand beaches. Thailand has never been this alluring, or accessible By Margot Bigg

ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/MOMENT/GETTY IMAGES

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JEWEL OF MALAYSIA


126 Chobe River, Botswana

From meeting shy pandas to frisky squirrel monkeys and endangered tapirs, a visit to Singapore Zoo alters perceptions and triggers joy By Rumela Basu

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IN A MONK’S SHOES

A temple stay in South Korea dips into the country’s Buddhist heritage and questions the desires of normal life By Anjana

JOURNEYS

PAUL SOUDERS/LATITUDE/CORBIS/IMAGELIBRARY

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CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

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BOTSWANA: THE LAST SANCTUARY When it comes to protecting Africa’s endangered species, this southern landlocked country leads the conservation pack By Costas Christ Photographs by Aaron Huey

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MARCH 2016 • `150 • VOL. 4

ISSUE 9

SUMMER SPECIAL

18 Clan Rules

What takes an agnostic to places of the pious?

N AV I G AT E

22 Culture

Cash in the casino chips and explore another side of Macau

Detour

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Off Sikkim’s tourist route, living like a local in Kewzing 36 Sea-weathered yet well preserved, Lunenburg is Canada’s coastal gem

Cinemascape

38 Tracing spies, lovers, and rendezvous in the towering Swiss Alps

Tigers and other stars of the jungle in Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh National Park

64 The Souvenir

Do holiday pictures ever match up to the destination’s memories?

20 Crew Cut

58 National Park

Six things for your pantry from a Kolkata trip SNAPSHOTS from

SOUTHEAST ASIA PHILIPPINES NATURE CALLS

MALAYSIA MAGIC KINGDOM

THAILAND NORTH TO SOUTH

SOUTH KOREA ART OF ZEN

SINGAPORE WILD WAYS

MACAU BEYOND CASINOS

BOTSWANA THE LAST SANCTUARY • SANCHI CENTRE OF THE EARTH

On The Cover In this image, photographer Felix Hug captures the limpid waters at Maya Bay in Thailand’s Phi Phi Islands. The islands are part of a national park, and have excellent snorkelling and water sport opportunities. Decorated long-tail boats or reua hang yao are often used to travel between the various islands of this small archipelago.

66 Heritage

Inside Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

68 The Insider

Breathing easy in the magical, hopeful city of Los Angeles

74 Ecotourism

Conservation success stories that benefit the planet—and us travellers

GET GOING

138 Adventure

On a tramping trail through New Zealand’s backcountry

143 Active Holiday

Four ways to feel the thunder of Niagara Falls

44 Stunning locales where the latest Star Wars film came alive

SHORT BREAKS

46 Sporting Spirit

From Bhopal

Finding Pataudi, Austen, and undiluted tradition of cricket in Winchester

50 Book Extract

A new book celebrates the joy of road-tripping around the world

54 Local Flavour

Following an olive’s journey from farm to table in Italy

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146 Science, love, and Sanchi’s reputation as the centre of the world

REGULARS 14 Editor’s Note 16 Notebook 154 Inspire 160 Strange Planet

Stay

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Restored frescoes at a heritage haveli evoke Shekhawati’s past

153 Solitude and other small joys at a resort in Bhopal

MANFRED GOTTSCHALK/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE (CHURCH), DHRITIMAN MUKHERJEE (TIGER), FELIX HUG/TERRA/CORBIS/IMAGELIBRARY (COVER)

VOICES


Editor’s Note |

N I LOU F E R V EN KATRA M A N

I

don’t know Urdu. I don’t know much about ghazals. I wish I did. Many years ago, I heard an acquaintance recite two lines from a Mirza Ghalib ghazal which immediately struck me as very beautiful. I had made him repeat it, and quickly scribbled down (in English) what I thought it said. Since then, I’ve sought out a more reliable version of that verse and translations of it. The words run: hasad se dil agar afsurda hai, garm-e-tamasha ho, ki chashm-e-tang shayad kasrat-e-nazzara se va ho

Sometimes it takes a journey to gain new perspective, to remind ourselves that plenty of awesomeness still exists

If you’re feeling oppressed by negative thoughts, go see the world, The spectacle you encounter will perhaps open up your narrow vision. While Mirza Ghalib’s poetry may have many nuances, layers, and much subtext, I find plenty of depth in the simplest translations of this ghazal. I’ve been thinking of this verse lately, as friends and colleagues have been assailed by confusing times and a variety of not so pleasant thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it takes a journey to gain new perspective, to remind ourselves that there is plenty of awesomeness still around us. Ghalib’s advice has stood me in good stead so often, I recommend it to others. Years ago when I was at university, I was at a crossroads, terribly conflicted about the choices I had to make. Did I want to pursue another degree? Where did I want to live? What career path did I want to follow? That’s when I took a week-long solo trip to British Columbia in Canada. While I can’t say I enjoyed the

solo travel experience as much as many others I’ve met, I learned a lot about myself. Exploring a world I knew nothing of opened up my mind to possibilities I hadn’t considered. My confusion cleared. I was able to think straight and make a decision I’ve never regretted. Over the years, I’ve seen this happen again and again. When I am at a challenging moment in my life, going away from the familiar, taking a break to somewhere new and different, often provides the clarity needed. Looking at the world with fresh eyes makes me look afresh at myself. On a trip to Ladakh a few years ago, I was bogged down by a few narrow, negative thoughts. Sitting on the banks of Pangong Tso Lake, I watched a group of Changpa nomads walking with heavy loads, patched-up shoes on their feet, and a smile for me as they passed by. At that instant I thought of how incredibly hard their life must be in the bitter cold of the high altitude they live in. In my notebook, that night, I wrote that what struck me most was their adaptability. To live in that harsh environment requires a level of physical and spiritual flexibility and adjustment that most of us city folks would find difficult. For me that unlocked a hidden window to myself. It helped me come to the realisation that if I adapted and found the strength to change my way of thinking, I could quickly get past my negative thoughts. Just realising how lucky I was to be in that wondrous land changed my outlook that day. Maybe I didn’t learn adaptability from the Changpa people, but a chance encounter with them in their surreal landscape certainly made me examine my own shortcomings. A few weeks ago I was in Egypt. It was a muchneeded trip after a particularly rough few weeks at work. On the fourth day, I awoke at 6.30 a.m. and stepped out onto the balcony of my hotel room in Luxor, just as the faintest light was appearing in the sky. As dawn broke over the Nile and the sun lit up the Valley of the Kings in a misty orange and brown, the worries crowding my brain fell away. As I watched numerous hot-air balloons gliding through the sky, I concluded that I just hadn’t given myself the chance to take a breath. At that moment, that’s all I really needed to do. So every once in a while, when things aren’t all that hunky-dory, I try to listen to Ghalib’s advice and my extension of what he may have meant. I open myself to embracing a new environment, to finding new perspectives on the road, or just letting old ones disappear. When the going gets tough, travelling can perhaps offer up a way to get going.

OUR MISSION

Luxor, Egypt

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National Geographic Traveller India is about immersive travel and authentic storytelling, inspiring readers to create their own journeys and return with amazing stories. Our distinctive yellow rectangle is a window into a world of unparalleled discovery.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA | MARCH 2016

MARCH 2016 | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER INDIA

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JOERI DE ROCKER/ALAMY/INDIAPICTURE

SUNRISE ALWAYS LISTENS


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cinemascape Visit locations where Star Wars was filmed

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sporting spirit Finding Pataudi, Austen, and undiluted tradition in Winchester

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local flavour Following an olive’s journey from farm to table in Italy

The five colonial-style houses of Taipa Houses-Museum provide an alternative view of Macau by showcasing its Portuguese and Macanese heritage.

Gold Behind the Glitter

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t first glance, Macau is a city of gold. Towering hotels are stacked with casinos and brimming with fortune seekers attempting to out-gleam each other. But there’s another side to Macau, and it’s far from the slot machines and card tables. Once a Portuguese colony, a hideout for pirates, and a Jesuit stronghold, Macau is a hodgepodge of European, Chinese, and local Macanese influences. Macau city is a peninsular region in southern China and was the last European colony in Asia, governed by the Portuguese until the late 1990s.

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The peninsula, neighbouring islands of Coloane and Taipa, and the reclaimed Cotai Strip, are dotted with historical gems and cultural treasures, including niche museums and an opera. AROUND MACAU Taipa Houses-Museum The waterfront

at Taipa Praia was prime property for colonial administrators and civil servants, who built bungalows here instead of living in apartments or townhouses in Macau’s Lilau Square. They built family homes in the Portuguese style, with sweeping patios,

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parlours, kitchens downstairs, and bedrooms upstairs. Five of these pretty mint-and-white painted houses from the early 1920s have been restored and the vitals Getting There There are no direct flights from India, and Macau can be reached via a layover at a hub like Bangkok or Beijing. A convenient option is to fly to Hong Kong, from where it is possible to get to Macau by ferry (65 km to the east). Visa Indians are eligible for a visa on arrival in Macau as well as Hong Kong.

manfred gottschalk/age fotostock/dinodia

Cash in the casino chips and explore another side of Macau By Mitali Parekh


turned into the Taipa Houses-Museum. Each house is its own mini museum, and together they demonstrate how the Macanese of mixed Portuguese descent lived in the past, and continue to live now. The first house is preserved as a residence, its rooms crowded with restored teak furniture, fourposter beds with gauzy mosquito nets, cold boxes for storing dairy, musical instruments, reading and writing tables, and carved room dividers. Catholicism was the dominant religion of the time, and the master bedrooms have elegantly carved and embellished altars, with kneelers to pray on before tucking in for the night. The adjoining houses hold memorabilia from the Coloane and Taipa islands, in the form of maps, and artefacts from important historical

events. The focus of another house is Portuguese cultural history, by way of costumes, instruments, and photographs. Outside the museum, newly betrothed couples pout and primp for photographs. Pre-wedding photography is a major ritual in Macau, and couples are shot in traditional Chinese as well as Christian wedding outfits. On any given day, you will see a team of photographers, make-up artists, and a couple posing: he in a sleek tuxedo with spiked hair and she in a fluffy gown. (+853-288271053; www.icm.gov.mo; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m, no admission after 4.30 p.m.; entry Macanese Pataca or MOP5/`42; TueSun, free for adults over 65 and children under 12; entry free on Sunday). St. Francis Xavier’s Chapel in Coloane

holds a surprising connection between Macau and India. This yellow-and-white chapel once held a bone relic of Saint Francis Xavier, whose body now rests

at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa. As a Jesuit missionary, Xavier spent some time in this region before he died on Shangchuan Island, about 80 kilometres away. He was buried there for some time before his body was excavated and taken to Portuguese India. The chapel here, built in 1928, also has relics of other Catholic martyrs. Unlike the grand, sombre Basilica of Bom Jesus, this chapel is sunny and homely. The alcove behind the pulpit is painted blue with silhouettes of seagulls on top, giving the illusion that the sermons are held underwater. This chapel is meant to honour the humble Jesuit shepherd who loved his community (Ruo do Caetano, Largo Eduardo Marques; open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.). A short walk from the chapel in Coloane, stop at Lord Stow’s bakery for the original Portuguese egg tart. There are other outlets of Lord Stow’s but this one at 1 Rua Do Tassara is where owner Andrew Stow claims to have given the egg tart a Portuguese twist in the

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godong/robertharding/dinodia (man), Mitali Parekh (cathedral), oliver strewe/lonely planet images/getty images (food)

T’ai Chi experts exhibit their skills at the Lou Lim Ieoc Garden (left); Newly betrothed couples (right) posing for pre-wedding photographs are frequently spotted at scenic locations across Macau; Filled with a sweet custard, Portuguese egg tarts (bottom) are an iconic Macau treat. The ones from Lord Stow’s bakery have a worldwide fan following.


Cultu r e

An underwater fantasy installation (left) provides the perfect photo-op for guests at the City of Dreams resort; The lobby of MGM Macau is a walk-through art gallery with all manner of works on display (top right); The Hac-sa beach at Coloane has plenty of water sports as well as gentle waves, perfect for young children (bottom right).

1990s. The little tart contains wobbly, caramelised custard held within a flaky pastry shell. Stow’s is slightly eggier than versions found at other stalls and bakeries. Eat it warm, fresh out of the oven (+853-28882534; lordstow.com; MOP10/`84). Explore the Terrain For active travellers,

there is some good hiking and beach bumming in the region. The Coloane trails start near the A-Ma goddess statue on Coloane Hill. Tourist shops, kiosks, and newspaper stands stock maps for visitors, and the trails are well marked. The longest one is about eight kilometres and meanders all over the mountain. Shorter trails branch off it, such as the Northeast Coloane Walking Trail or the Long Chao Kok Coastal Trail, which has stone outcrops with views of the beach below. There are rest stops, barbecue pits (families carry coal and marinated meats with them), and

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picnic areas. Sturdy sandals or sports shoes should suffice. It’s a gentle walk in and out of shaded woods and sunny promontories that are perfect for sitting and sipping iced tea. On the beach, there are picnic tables, food stalls, and convenience stores. All along the waterfront are shops renting kayaks, swimming gear, or offering kite-surfing lessons. If you’ve emptied your pockets at the casinos, there is also beach-side dormitorystyle accommodation to be found here (government buses from Macau city to the A-Ma statue MOP5/`42 and Hac-sa beach for MOP6.40/`54). IN MACAU Speed and Swig The Grand Prix Museum and the Wine Museum are housed in the

same building, the Tourism Activities Centre, and these niche institutions are more fun than the casual visitor might expect.

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Macau’s Guia circuit is considered one of the toughest Grand Prix racing street circuits in the world, and the Grand Prix Museum displays the mean machines that raced and conquered this track. One of its most popular exhibits is the F3 car that Ayrton Senna drove during the circuit’s inaugural race in 1983. Meanwhile, the Wine Museum, organized by Portugal’s wine-growing regions, with mannequins wearing traditional regional costumes, has wine samplings of various commercially produced bottles. But it also stocks a collection of port wine, the oldest of which dates to 1815. (+853-87984108; en.macautourism.gov.mo; Wed-Mon; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Chinese Landscape The Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is created in the style of the

classical gardens of Suzhou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China. It’s a good place to enjoy a calm afternoon

vh/oriental touch/dinodia (art), tibor bognar/alamy/indiapicture (hotel), holger leue/look/dinodia (children)

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among foliage. In gazebos located amidst bamboo groves and sweeping trees, cellists, flautists, violinists, and retired members of the Chinese opera practise their art. Lotuses bloom in a pond and koi fish swim underneath while people practice t’ai chi. Look up, look around, and don’t forget to look down—the cobblestones are shaped like swans in flight (No. 10 Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro; entry free; open 6 a.m.-9 p.m.). INTO THE HOTELS Art in Macau Beyond their jade-studded

floors and gold-flecked ceilings, hotels in the NAPE neighbourhood use their art collections to distinguish themselves, and entice guests to stay. Foremost is the MGM Macau, where surrealist Salvadore Dali’s “Alice in Wonderland” statue stands outside. His “Dalilian Dancer” twirls in the lobby underneath glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s “Fiori di Paradiso Ceiling.” Chihuly’s handblown installation has

1,000 rippled, lotus leaf-like pieces suspended in mid-air. The MGM’s Art Space gallery has Chihuly’s “Drawing

Wall,” and other temporary exhibitions (www.mgmmacau.com; entry free). Dancing Water The City of Dreams

resort on the Cotai strip hosts the 1.5 hour show, House of Dancing Water. Developed by Belgium’s Franco Dragone Company, the show takes place in a stage pool that holds 3.7 million gallons of water, in an auditorium with 270° seating. Weaving many elements of Macau’s maritime culture together, the performers enact the story of a Chinese fisherman who is transported to another time, where he befriends a soldier and rescues a princess. This simple tale is told through a mind-boggling range of performing arts—ballet, mild burlesque trapeze acts, martial arts, water ballet, acrobatics, high diving, and even stunt biking—all in the water. (www.cityofdreamsmacau.com; adults from MOP598/`5,070, children from MOP419/`3,552; two shows daily at 5 and 8 p.m.) march 2016 | national Geographic Traveller INDIA

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san hoyano/oriental touch/dinodia (church), lonely planet images/getty images (temple)

The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier (top) used to house a relic of the saint; A-Ma Cultural Village (bottom) on Coloane Island has a temple, palace, and hiking trails nearby.


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ecotou r i s m

Power to the People

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve introduces visitors to the wonders of South Africa’s Western Cape. The 6,200-acre sanctuary encompasses vast stretches of milkwood forests, hillsides carpeted with blooms, and the waters of Walker Bay, inhabited by great white sharks, southern right whales, seals, penguins, and dolphins.

A

notable thing is taking place around the globe: Communities and conservation entrepreneurs are creating private nature reserves, from coral lagoons in Asia to sanctuaries in the Americas. Travellers to Africa will find private wildlife reserves near national parks. Case in point: South Africa’s Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, which manages 6,178 acres of reclaimed

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habitat, including native fynbos shrubland harbouring sunbirds. Two hours southeast of Cape Town, Grootbos—a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World—was a mosaic of abandoned farms and degraded lands when Michael Lutzeyer laid eyes on it in 1991. “Here was one of Earth’s rarest ecosystems, what botanists call the Cape Floral Kingdom, with no protection,” says the Cape Town

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native. “My wife and I pulled together what cash we could to conserve it ourselves.” Today Grootbos employs villagers and funds such community programs as a horticulture college offering job training for unemployed youth. It joins a worldwide trend of private reserves that are producing conservation success stories, a good thing for our natural world—and us travellers.

Photo Courtesy: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Conservation stories that benefit the planet—and us travellers By Costas Christ


Wild Cards

Kipling Camp, Madhya Pradesh Kipling near Kanha National Park is run by the Wrights, a family of conservationists that have dedicated their lives to protecting the tiger and the forests it inhabits. The nine-acre camp has 15 rooms, and is surrounded by 15 acres of wild forest. All cottages are made with local materials, solar energy is used as much as possible, and sewage is filtered using natural materials. But what keeps guests returning is the warm service, outrageous tiger tales, and bath time with Tara, the camp’s rescued elephant (www.kiplingcamp.com; 07649-277218; for bookings call 011-65196377; doubles from `24,000).

Elephant Valley, Tamil Nadu About 20 kilometres from the bustle of Kodaikanal, Elephant Valley sprawls over 100 acres of the Palani Hills. A nature reserve, organic farm and—most importantly— an elephant migration corridor, Elephant Valley puts the pachyderms and the region’s thriving biodiversity first. Each of the 20 bungalows has rejuvenating views: of the Shola forests, and occasionally, the elephants that continue to use this route (duneecogroup.com/our-hotels/elephant-valley; 78670 04398; for bookings call 41326 56351; doubles from `3,300).

Jilling Estate, Uttarakhand Run by ex-fighter pilot and tea planter Steve Lal and his wife Parvati, Jilling Estate is adored by hikers who frequent the Kumaon. It covers about 50 acres of oak and rhododendron (pictured) forests, and has only four cottages. Peak experiences include morning views of the snow-cloaked Nanda Devi mountain and bonfire evenings in the company of the lovely owners. Getting to Jilling is a bit of a hike: It’s a two-kilometre uphill walk from the closest roadhead, but ponies can be organised if required (jilling.net; 97587 55704, 94123 83348; doubles from `5,000, including all meals).

Wildernest, Goa Encompassing 450 acres of the Chorla Ghats, Wildernest secures a crucial wildlife corridor connecting Goa’s Mhadei and Bhimgad wildlife sanctuaries. All cottages have spectacular views, some of the roaring Dudhsagar waterfalls, others of langur families monkeying around in the trees outside. Accompany the eco-resort’s enthusiastic naturalists on walks around the property for sightings of unusual birds, colourful lizards, and if luck is with you, the gorgeous Malabar pit viper (pictured). Wildernest’s other perks include a swimming pool with serene valley views, and a kitchen that serves top-notch Goan food (08323266911; www.wildernestgoa.com; doubles from `5,900, includes food and activities).

Mojo Retreat, Karnataka Mojo’s simple, no-frills rooms are surrounded by dense jungle that resounds with bird call in the day and the drone of cicadas by night. It is home to the Malabar gliding tree frog (pictured), jewel beetles, flamboyant caterpillars, and owners Sujata and Anurag Goel. Sujata is a botanist, Anurag a microbiologist, and Mojo is their 20-acre forest farm in Coorg, where they grow cardamom, coffee, black pepper, and kokum. Their philosophy: Nurture the natural rainforest ecosystem and the produce will flourish. Their cook makes a mean Coorgi pork curry. (www.rainforestours.com; 94801 04640; doubles from `2,000, including breakfast.) march 2016 | national Geographic Traveller INDIA

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photo courtesy: Kipling Camp (dining room), orin/shutterstock (flowers), dinodia (bridge), Sujata Goel (frog), zeeshan mirza/ephotocorp/alamy/indiapicture (snake)

Five Indian eco-resorts that are nestled inside vast private reserves By Gina tanik


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Wonderful World

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â– Philippin es

Sunny, laid-back Bohol has lovable creatures, serene beaches, and magical hills: Four ways to navigate this cluster of Filipino islands

Locals and tourists alike flock to Bohol’s beaches to enjoy a dip in the warm waters or a lazy cruise on a banca, a traditional Filipino boat. Alona Beach, on Panglao Island is very popular and home to many four- and five-star resorts. march 2016 | national Geographic Traveller INDIA

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By Kamakshi Ayyar


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Early morning boat rides are rewarded with splendid sightings of spinner dolphins. They get their name from the twists, turns, and somersaults they love performing as they leap over the water.

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Summer Special |


■ Philippin es

The

Bohol countryside was like the landscapes I drew as a child. Skies were a soothing powder blue, with olive-green hills rolling in the background, framing swaying fields of lime-green grass. Colourful flowers and thatched rural homes lined the roads, and cattle grazed leisurely further behind. The colours were straight out of a box of crayons—uncomplicated and comforting. After the chaos of Manila, exploring Bohol was like hitting the reset button in my brain. Manila has its pros. Big city lovers will enjoy the Filipino capital’s thriving food scene and nightlife, while history buffs can spend hours walking the narrow cobbled streets of Intramuros, the city’s oldest and most historic district. The malls are big enough to log all 10,000 Fitbit steps we are said to need to maintain peak health. But a true taste of the Philippines comes from getting out of the city. And with over 7,000 islands, spread out just north of Indonesia, there’s plenty of choice. About an hour’s flight south of Manila we landed in Tagbilaran, a small city and gateway to the Bohol islands. It was a nondescript place and all I remember about it is that all the autorickshaws and tricycles had spiritual messages painted behind them. Our guide said this was in accordance with an official city directive to prevent inappropriate content on public streets. From Tagbilaran, we drove about 45 minutes further southwest to our hotel. Most resorts in Bohol province are located on the sandy beaches of Panglao, one of the smaller islands in the cluster, connected to Bohol Island by a bridge. The surrounding islands of Mahanay and Banacon are a nature lover’s dream. Visitors can hang out with Yoda-like tarsiers, dive in the clear waters, gaze at fireflies on a river cruise, and get an adrenaline rush at the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park.

“3 o’clock!” “11 o’clock!” “7 o’clock!” “Under our boat!” My head couldn’t turn fast enough to keep up with the calls. Everywhere I looked, grey spinner dolphins bounded over the waves, shining in the morning sun. They somersaulted through the air, swam by our boat, and disappeared into the incredibly blue depths only to reappear as ghostly shadows when they came up for air. “Cheer them on,” our guide Cecile said, “they love an audience.” The hour or so that we spent following dolphins in the Bohol Sea more than made up for the unearthly wake-up call we had received at 4.15 that morning. Dolphins are most active between 5.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., so by 5.30 we were on a boat, enjoying a beautiful sunrise and scanning the seas for hints of grey. For about two hours, we motored around from one potential sighting spot to the next, without any luck. We napped while we waited, lulled by the warm morning sun, endless blue waters, salty sea breeze, and complete lack of dolphins. Finally, Cecile got the news—that there were dolphins up ahead. Suddenly everyone was awake, cameras at the ready. Once we got closer, our boatman let us clamber out to the bow, and hang our feet along the edge to get a better view. And what a view it was. (Cecile V. Remolador, +639237272143; PHP1,895/`2,680 per person. Rides usually last 3.5 hours. Carry a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, as it can get hot, but you won’t need a swimsuit or change of clothes. The seas are gentle, but those prone to seasickness should pop a prophylactic before boarding the boat.) march 2016 | national Geographic Traveller INDIA

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Rishad Saam Mehta

Following Dolphins


Summer Special |

Sou theast As i a

Up-Close And Personal With Tarsiers It was looking right at me. The pint-sized, furry creature, a cross between Yoda from Star Wars and E.T., stared at me with its massive, milk-chocolate eyes. The tarsier’s twig-like appendages clung to a tree trunk, guardedly moving a millimetre or so up and down, as it eyed the towering humans around it, giving us a bit of a stink eye. We’d arrived at midday, right in the middle of the nocturnal animal’s sleep cycle, which perhaps explains the less than enthusiastic welcome we got. Tarsiers are prosimians, a primitive primate group that includes lemurs and lorises. Found in only a handful of Asian countries, including Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia, tarsiers are the focus of the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary enclosure in Corella, on Bohol Island, which I was visiting. Its unique physical characteristics and spunky (some might say aggressive) personality make the tarsier one of the most interesting creatures I’ve ever seen. No bigger than the palm of an adult human male, with huge eyes and ears that resemble satellite dishes, tarsiers are fascinating animals. Cute as they look, they are not very sociable, and each tarsier requires about a hectare of forest space, which it roams at night. They detest confined spaces so much that if placed in cages, they are known to kill themselves by banging their heads against the rods. Tarsiers are threatened by depleting natural habitats and hunters, both human and animal, and are difficult to spot in the wild. Groups like the Philippine Tarsier Foundation are working to protect this animal, and the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary offers a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of these unique creatures. (www.tarsierfoundation.org; open 8.30 a.m.4.30 p.m.; entry PHP50/`71.)

Firefly-flecked trees along the Abatan River.

Fireflies are an enchanting sight at any time. But when you’re on a boat cruise, under a cloudless night sky with stars stretching as far as you can see, they’re utterly magical. We spent an evening on the Abatan River awed by the trees lit up with colonies of fireflies, and at the heavens speckled with thousands of stars. The bugs were only about the size of rice grains, but together they created a massive, glow-in-the-dark organism that took

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Although tarsiers look super cute, they are fiercely territorial and can even kill other tarsiers that venture onto their turf.

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Night With Twinkling Fireflies


shankar s/flickr/creative commons/creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode (fireflies), per-andre hoffmann/look/dinodia (tarsiers)

â– Philippin es

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In a Monk's Shoes A temple stay in Korea dips into the country’s Buddhist heritage and questions the desires of normal life

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By Anjana

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Meditation sessions are an important part of South Korea’s temple stay programmes. Participants also get a Q&A session with the head monk, in which questions about spirituality and the benefits of meditation can be discussed. Facing page: A statue of Buddha holding a lotus.

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photo Courtesy: Jikjisa Temple (statue), facing page: photononsotop rm/indiapicture (Meditation)

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Summer Special | SOU THEAST AS I A

On the road toward Mount Hwangak, Hally the temple employee who has come to pick me up, slows the car beside a gushing river that swerves around large boulders. She pulls up outside the elaborately carved gate of the Jikji temple, a monastery in Gimcheon, South Korea, where I am going to spend the next two days. Jikji or Jikjisa is a temple of the Jogye Order, one of the traditional orders of Korean Buddhism, and the home of over a dozen treasured artefacts, including three spectacular pieces that are considered national treasures. 120

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A standard feature of Korean temples is the iljumun before me—a one-pillar gate that consists of a pagoda with a gently curved base, resting atop twin pillars. When viewed from the side, the two red pillars appear to be one. This illusion symbolises the singular path of enlightenment of Buddhist philosophy, the idea with which one must enter the temple. I’m here for a twoday temple-stay programme that was recommended by a friend’s Korean business associate. Korean temples opened up to visitors upon the request of delegates of the 2002 FIFA World Cup who felt that tourists would enjoy a taste of the life of a Korean monk. I believe it is a unique cultural experience programme that will allow me to sample the country’s Buddhist cultural heritage. The road ahead of us is carpeted with amber maple leaves, and the grounds of the temple complex are painted in shades of hot orange that contrast with the winter chill of the mountain air. The four peaks of Mount Hwangak provide the backdrop to the ornate 300- and 400-year-old buildings of the temple. Twenty of the 40 original structures, dating back to A.D. 418, were rebuilt after the Japanese invasion of 1592 left Jikjisa in flames. The invaders were searching for Samyeong, a militant-turnedmonk who had sought sanctuary and was ordained here. As we walk towards the office, I gawk at the fine detailing of the carvings and the Buddhist paintings that adorn walls. “Some of the relics and artefacts have always been here, but many were brought here from other temples,” Hally tells me. “Jikjisa is like the father temple with a hundred sons.” Hally had lived in London for a few years, and her close-tofluent English makes her an asset to this organisation. Of over a hundred Korean temples that have opened their doors to visitors since 2002, only 20 extend their programmes to foreigners, mainly because of the language barrier. Communication is imperative, because there are clear rules to be followed while I am inside a working monastery. Hally shows

photo Courtesy: Jikjisa Temple

At the morning doryangseok ceremony, monks walk around the temple and chant, accompanied by the sound of a wooden gong called the moktak.


Ko re a

Pagodas are a typical feature of Korean temples and are used to enshrine Buddha’s relics. Monks chant as they walk around these structures in a clockwise direction to reaffirm their faith.

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photo Courtesy: Korea Tourism

â– South


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me how to greet a monk with a half-bow, or banbae, and how to keep my hands crossed in the chasu (pronounced “ghassu”) position while within the complex. Meals must be eaten in silence, and a gong that sounds at 4.30 a.m. serves as a wake-up call. We run through the schedule of services, I receive a seung bok (“chung-pok”), the saffron uniform that I must wear: a pair of baggy pants called paji, and a short, wide-sleeved working jacket called choksam, both stitched out of a coarse heavy fabric, that’s not warm enough for this weather. Earlier that morning before I’d boarded a comfortable train in Seoul, I’d picked up some heatradiating patches. They will come in handy, I’m certain. By late afternoon all the visitors to the temple have settled in, and get a quick tour of the halls before the evening rituals. At the entrance to the daeungjong, or main hall, we take our slippers off before stepping in. We join hands and bow at the waist, eyes on the golden triad on the altar, just as we’ve been taught. The statue of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, is at the centre of the altar, flanked by the Medicine Buddha and the Infinite Buddha. Hally lifts a pillow off a stack, sets it down before her feet. She kneels, then bends forward with her arms stretched out before her until her forehead touches the floor. Her hips rest comfortably on her heels and she retracts her arms so her palms are besides her ears, and turns them up to the ceiling. As she

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sits up, she brings her hands together at her chest in a Korean namaste (hapjang), which symbolises the unification of the Buddha’s mind (right hand) with hers (left hand). Then she’s on her feet again, and presses the hapjang to her forehead and to her chest to complete one prostration. Hally performs this thrice, in reverence to the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha (order of monks). Then, she pulls three large pillows off a stack and hands them to us, one by one, so she can take us through the steps. We practice our bows on the left side of the hall, leaving the rest of the space for the monks. Monks may meditate any time of day and some choose to do so in this hall. They kneel before the tiered altar, the upper three levels of which form the sumidan. The word is derived from Mt. Sumeru, the central mountain of the world according to Buddhist scriptures. The tiers that represent it are adorned with elaborately carved figures of creatures like tigers, turtles, or fish, that would reside on the mountain. The next morning, during the 5 a.m. yebul ceremony, we start our day with 108 prostrations. We then walk through the temple museum, full of amazing Buddhist art and antiques too delicate to be photographed. There are engravings on traditional hanji paper, an intricately carved stone bell with a dragon-shaped clasp, and stunning paintings of guardian spirits whose forms combine human and animal features.


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Mealtime in the monastery is called baru-gongyang, because monks traditionally eat their meals out of a baru, or bowl. In keeping with the Buddhist principle of harmony with nature, the menu includes two kinds of kimchi, a vegetable broth, rice, seaweed, radish, and tofu seasoned with a mildly spicy sauce. Minimally seasoned, the vegetables are as close to raw as possible. The preparations contain neither onion nor garlic. The principle is not to relish food, but simply to satiate the hunger that might otherwise distract a person from meditation. This point is driven home by the prayer we’re asked to recite at the start of each meal: An apology to the powers that be for succumbing to the human need for nourishment. Once we wash our dishes we head for the nightly music ritual. Only priests are allowed inside the fenced hall where it takes place, so we line up outside and listen. Hally explains that, “The sound of the drum, made of hide, is a prayer for all animals. The bell, which represents the Vedic creator of the universe, Brahma, is a prayer for humans. The sound of the moktak, a wooden fishshaped instrument is a prayer for marine life, and the closing gongs are for all other creatures.” It’s time to retire for the night and I find my room behind a shoji screen door, a neat 8x7-foot space fitted with floor heating, and a wardrobe that holds a blanket, a quilted mat, and two slim,

hard beanbags, which I assume are meant to function as pillows. It’s luxurious in comparison to most temple-stay schemes, where visitors share rooms with at least three other participants, and use communal showers and bathrooms. Jikjisa is one of the few temples with en suite facilities. With only two other people currently on the programme, I get a room all to myself and all the peace and quiet I could possibly want. Despite the restful night, I struggle to keep from nodding off during the 6.30 a.m. chamseon, or Zen meditation, the next morning. I snap back to attention at the sound of three claps from the wooden clapper that announces the end of the service. After breakfast, Hee Pong, the head monk escorts us to a comparatively new shrine at the peak of the mountain. Along the way, we learn about cause and effect, and about hatu, the ability

Feast days On some days, the temple hosts special celebrations with music, chanting, and free meals for the poor. The Buddha’s birthday: 14 May, 2016 (the date changes every year according to the Chinese lunar calendar) Day of prayer for ancestors: 15 July New Year: 22 December

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photo Courtesy: Jikjisa Temple (visitors), anjana (meals & beads)

As part of their temple stay regime, visitors walk along paths that wind through beautiful, forested mountains, pausing to catch their breath or for nuggets on Buddhist cosmology (left); Temple meals are a part of monastic practice and are meant to have harmony with nature. The fare is simple and no wastage is permitted (top right); The 108 yeomju (prayer beads) threading ritual is an essential part of the programme (bottom right).


Summer Special | SOU THEAST AS I A

Nestled amid pine forests, ancient hardwoods, and a pristine river, Jikjisa is one of the most picturesque of South Korea’s temples and its position affords visitors excellent trekking opportunities.

Anjana is a freelance journalist and author of children’s books. Passionate about world cultures and cuisines, she also enjoys hiking and diving with her daughters.

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The vitals Getting There There are direct flights from New Delhi/Mumbai to Seoul on most days of the week. From Seoul, there are several daily trains to Gimcheon (adults from KRW16,400/`915, children from KRW8,200/`450; duration 3 hr). Frequent buses connect the two cities (adults from KRW14,100/`785, children from KRW7,050/`390; duration 4-4.5 hr). Visa The application form for tourist visas is available online (www.vfsglobal.com/korea/india). The completed form and supporting documents have to be submitted at the consulates in Mumbai or Chennai, or at VFS offices in New Delhi and Kolkata (`2,400 for a single entry tourist visa, plus `860 VFS charges.) More about Temple Stays Temple stay programmes are offered across South Korea, but each location has a different programme. Some include classes such as traditional envelope making or cloth dyeing. Programmes at different temples may run through the week, only on weekends, or on select weekends only. The 2-day/1-night stay at Jikjisa costs KRW50,000/`2,860 per person. To sign up, fill the selected temple’s form on the temple stay website, but do make sure you have a confirmation email before you pack your bags. You may have to call the listed number to follow up. Heavy make-up and outlandish clothes are not allowed at temples, and there’s a complete ban on cigarettes and alcohol (www.jikjisa.or.kr).

photo Courtesy: Jikjisa Temple

to control the mind. He tells us that later in the day we will be stringing 108 beads, which signify the 108 delusions that lead to human suffering; some of these are desire, wrath, contempt, and pride. Though he is older than all of us, neither his tone nor his pace waver during the rigorous half-hour trek up some sharp inclines. The icy November rain beats down on us, making the descent quite treacherous. But I feel invigorated both by the trek and the dado tea ceremony that follows. Later, we sit down to string beads. Some temples require one prostration for each bead strung, but Jikjisa takes a more casual approach. Hally directs us to focus on the things we wish for, each time we pull a bead through the string. I’m deeply conscious of the fact that I find myself with nothing to wish for, nothing that I feel is lacking in my life. Whether that’s a result of the hours of meditation, or just being surrounded by this serenity, I cannot say, but it is an incredible feeling. After two days of eating a Buddhist monk’s diet, sleeping on hard floors, meditating, hiking and prostrating, I am entirely refreshed and lighter. I’d love to stay longer, but I have a train to catch, to get back to my 108 delusions.


Short Breaks |

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home Sweet haveli RestoRed fRescoes and havelis evoke shekhawati’s past | By Kavita Kanan Chandra

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the haveli is full of comfortable corners and spots to spread out in. the spacious courtyard is adorned with 200-year-old frescoes and set with old-fashioned baithaks (low seating) on either side. Beyond it is an inner courtyard, surrounded by what used to be the zenana. During the wedding anniversary celebration i was attending, the poolside was the perfect spot to spend a leisurely evening, washing down moong dal pakoras with kulhad chai. the revelry carried into the wee hours, with a bonfire blazing on the lawns and candles flickering on the parapets. We felt very much at home—if home were a joint family house from another era. the next morning, some of our party cycled through the village while others took the kids on a camel cart ride. my son and i explored the property’s collection of vintage knick-knacks: an antique remington typewriter from the early 20th century caught my eye, while my son loved the grandfather clocks and transistor set. above all, i marvelled at the frescoes. Besides mythology, these paintings provide a sociopolitical chronicle of 19th- and 20th-century events and a record of family history. the beautiful birds and animals, and the images of Krishna and radha were expected. But the paintings of trains, aeroplanes, cars, and even moustachioed British sahibs were a startling expression of the cosmopolitan history of the country.

Getting there the town is 250 km/5.5 hr west of Delhi and 160 km/3 hr north of Jaipur, which is also the closest airport. the nearest railway station is in Jhunjhunu, 32 km/ 45 min northwest of Churi ajitgarh.

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he village of churi ajitgarh, with its broad roads and frescoed houses, is barely ten kilometres from the popular rajasthani town of mandawa. We drove there through an arid landscape of babul and keekar trees to stay at the vivaana culture hotel, a fine example of a 19thcentury heritage haveli. the building preserves the two-courtyard style of wealthy marwari merchants’ houses of rajasthan’s Shekhawati region. it incorporates two of churi ajitgarh’s biggest havelis, built by the nimani family, who made their fortune in the cotton trade. like other marwaris who prospered in big cities under British patronage, the nimanis poured their wealth into their havelis, which became status symbols. a cheerful orange ambassador at the haveli’s entrance announces its name. as we walked past the intricately carved facade and huge gateway, i couldn’t take my eyes off the fresco of a horse and an elephant in a hunting party. Shekhawati is referred to as an “open-air art gallery,” but the frescoes at vivaana are in better shape than most. this is due to the hard work of conservationists atul and Devna Khanna, a Delhibased couple who zeroed in on the nimani houses as a potential restoration project. after careful collaboration with architects, design consultants, and the village sarpanch, vivaana was created with a blend of art, tradition, and modern comforts.

accommodation Vivaana Culture Hotel has 23 tastefully furnished rooms in three categories. no two rooms are alike: some have wall-toceiling frescoes, while others are more minimalist. the hotel’s restaurant serves world cuisine and traditional rajasthani fare. elephant House Spa (in the erstwhile elephant stable) offers ayurvedic and Southeast asian treatments (www. vivaana.com; 98112 76231; doubles from `7,000 including breakfast).


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active holiday Four ways to feel the thunder of Niagara Falls

Adventure

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adventure Tramping through New Zealand’s lake shores and alpine peaks

Wilderness for Heart and Soul A

ll I could hear was the rain. A torrential deluge from the heavens. I looked up from under the hood of my jacket and glimpsed stormy skies and quivering branches as raindrops stung my face. No point in stopping, I thought, as I continued hiking uphill. This was not what I had imagined my first day on the Kepler Track on New Zealand’s South Island would be like. New Zealand’s Great Walks are world renowned for their dramatic natural beauty and diverse of landscapes. Hikers and backpackers come to experience the grandeur of glacier-carved valleys, dizzying mountain ridges, and tranquil blue lakes. The most popular of the nine designated Great Walks is the Milford Track, for which huts have to be booked several months in advance.

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The mountains of New Zealand’s Southern Alps frame jawdropping views of Lake Te Anau, the largest freshwater lake in Australasia.

The 60-kilometre Kepler Track loop was introduced in 1988 to ease pressure on two other walks—Milford and Routeburn—in Fiordland National Park. However, Kepler is so stunning in its own right that it is now ranked among the most picturesque Great Walks in the country. Hiking and backpacking in New Zealand is called “tramping.” I tramped the entire Kepler Track over four days and three nights, ploughing through beech rainforests, balancing on foot-wide paths atop alpine ridges, and scrambling through valleys gouged by ancient glaciers. I was looking forward to being in the wilderness, away from the modern world and its incessant need for connectivity. I craved solitude and introspection. I found this and more, along with surprising bonds of friendship on the trail.

david wall/alamy/indiapicture

a tramping trail through New Zealand’s backcountry | by Trupti Devdas Nayak


Intensity The alpine crossing and frequently windy or rainy weather makes this walk somewhat arduous in parts.

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Kepler Track, Fiordland, New Zealand

Auckland

NEW ZEALAND Christchurch

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One-third of New Zealand’s land is reserved solely to create national parks and nature reserves, and for people to enjoy the outdoors and promote ecotourism.

Moderate

demanding

Zealand’s Great Walks. They are basic but homely accommodations with heating, a common area, kitchen, bunk beds, and toilets. Backpackers have to carry their own sleeping bags and essentials like utensils, matches, and food. Drinking water and cooking gas are available, but there is nothing for purchase. At Luxmore Hut, I met Pat, a passionate and endearing resident ranger who gave us a tour of the premises while sternly reeling off the dos and don’ts. On his suggestion, I hiked 15 minutes to the nearby Luxmore Caves. They are a great place to applaud the handiwork of time while admiring fantastic stalactites and stalagmites. The next morning, a forecast of blue skies meant clear views around the lakes. The weather played an important role on the second day of the Kepler Track because the trail is entirely above the bushline and boasts unobstructed views of sweeping sierras in all directions. I was ready to be blown away and I literally was. Braving wind speeds of 60 kmph, with the snowcapped Murchison Mountains ahead, the south fiord of Lake Te Anau on my right, and grassy slopes on my left, I was on top of the world. The 14.6-kilometre scenic alpine crossing from Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut has two emergency shelters, the Forest Burn Saddle and Hanging Valley. The restrooms with jawdropping views are possibly the most panoramic

bill hatcher/national geographic creative/alamy/indiapicture

The starting point for the Kepler Track is the car park on the southern end of Lake Te Anau in Fiordland National Park. But due to the downpour, I took a 15-minute water taxi ride from the town of Te Anau on the eastern shore of the lake to the western shore, where the boat dropped me off at the Brod Bay trailhead. The one thing I quickly learnt is that the weather in New Zealand is utterly unpredictable. Clouds gather and disappear with alarming capriciousness. After hiking past limestone bluffs, panoramic views opened up as I ascended above the bushline (treeline). Taking in emerald green fields of the Te Anau basin, cerulean lakes, and tussock-covered montane forest slopes, I shed my waterlogged jacket with joy, the dreary rain becoming a mere memory. The 8.2-kilometre trail from Brod Bay winds through a red and silver beech forest, climbing resolutely to Luxmore Hut at an elevation of 3,560 feet with views of the Takitimu Mountains. Intrepid hikers aspiring to finish the Kepler Track in 2-3 days often forego staying at Luxmore and continue on the alpine crossing to Iris Burn Hut. But that is not the best thing to do, especially if your goal is to enjoy New Zealand’s majestic natural beauty at a leisurely pace. The huts established by the Department of Conservation are one of the greatest things about New

Easy

The well-maintained trails have boardwalks to cross marshes, steps in steep sections, and and sometimes, more natural aids, like a fallen tree trunk.

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NEW Z E A L A N D

toilets in the world. New Zealand is a birdwatcher’s paradise. With no natural predators (bats are the only native mammals), there is a thriving bird population. On the Kepler Track, you can see bellbirds, warblers, fantails, robins, and chaffinches. The diminutive rifleman and brown creepers are often seen in the lowland beech forest. While hiking, I encountered many keas, the world’s only alpine parrot. Bright green in colour, keas are known for their intelligence and curiosity. They boldly approach humans and are often found investigating unattended backpacks and tents. At Iris Burn, the brown kiwi’s ear-piercing whistles can be heard at dusk. Back on the alpine crossing, I gazed at the horizon taking in the Jackson peaks and Kepler mountains as they stretched to eternity. Standing on an exposed ridge above the clouds, all other sounds were drowned out except for the howling wind and my own ragged breathing. The wind whipped at my exposed face but I was oblivious to its biting tenacity. All around me was surreal beauty, raw and intense. A two-foot wide trail disappeared into the mountains, criss-crossing alpine pinnacles with sheer drops on either side. Mustard green and yellow tussock grass grew densely on the slopes as patches of snow nestled amongst piles of rocky rubble. I might very well have been in a scene taken directly from the Lord of the Rings movies. After the arduous crossing, I was happy to be hiking downhill towards Iris Burn, even though my knees

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Kepler Track features the highlights of Fiordland, from snowy mountains to sapphire lakes (top); Alpine parrots or keas thrive in this area (bottom).

begged for mercy. After what seemed like hours of walking, Iris Burn Hut finally made an appearance in a large tussock clearing. Seeing the hut in the distance was a welcome sight. It was even more satisfying to walk in and spot familiar faces from the previous night and exchange high-fives with shouts of “You did it!” I met many travellers from all over the world on the Kepler Track, all seeking something beyond the routine of everyday life. We would pass each other on the trail and exchange a thumbs up, a smile, or words

photo courtesy : Tourism New Zealand (lake), braden gunem/age fotostock/dinodia (parrot)

Get Going |


Don’t forget your flashlight when exploring the cathedrallike Luxmore Caves (top left); Every hut has knowledgeable resident rangers who share insights about flora, fauna, and conservation efforts (top right);The trail is dotted with bridges spanning waterfalls and rivers (bottom).

Moturau Hut would lead me along the Waiau River to the swinging bridge at Rainbow Reach, where a waiting shuttle would transport me back to civilization. Recalling the words of naturalist John Muir, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks,” I realised I had emerged stronger and happier despite the challenges on the walk. Back on the trail one last time, I walked joyfully under towering tree ferns, as misty sunlight filtered through silver beech trees, lighting my way. All I could hear were the birds. march 2016 | national Geographic Traveller INDIA

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Trupti Devdas Nayak (cave & ranger), pictures colour library/travel pictures/alamy/indiapicture (bridge)

of encouragement. At night, sitting around dining tables, a warm glow pervaded our small community of hikers as we swapped anecdotes about fickle weather and feisty keas. By my third day on the Kepler Track, I felt like an old hand at this tramping business. The 16.2-kilometre trail from Iris Burn to Moturau gently meandered through a rainforest of beech, podocarp, and myriad ferns, framing picturesque waterfalls and lakes. Ranger Beatty at Iris Burn Hut summed it up perfectly, “Yesterday, you hiked rugged peaks and summits, braving high winds and pushing yourself beyond your physical limits. Yesterday was for your body. Today, you will hike through gentle woodland full of birdsong. Today is for your soul.” And so it was. Walking through the beautiful forests, I forgot the arduousness of backpacking and enjoyed the shaded trails, admiring ferns lit by dappled sunlight. The earthy smell of moss tickled my nostrils as I stepped lightly on spongy turf. The previous night’s rain had washed every blade of grass, leaving behind a hundred shades of green. Hiking past a large slip near Rocky Point Shelter, I continued to Moturau which would be my third and final hut on the track. Situated on the placid shores of Lake Manapouri, with stunning views of the surrounding Kepler mountains, Moturau is the perfect site to take in impossibly high peaks while marvelling at how far you’ve come. The fourth and last morning on the Kepler Track dawned bright and clear. The six-kilometre trail from


Get Going |

NEW Z E A L A N D

The Guide

Kepler Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular Great Walks, traversing 60 km in 3-4 days. The route forms a loop starting and ending at the Kepler Track Car Park on the southern shore of Lake Te Anau, making it convenient to plan your entry and exit point. The season typically lasts from late October to late April. It is possible to hike the Kepler Track in the opposite direction starting at Rainbow Reach Car Park and staying at Moturau Hut on the first night. The section of the trail from Rainbow Reach to Moturau Hut on the shores of Lake Manapouri is popular with families who want to experience a shorter part of the track. Stay Each hut on the track where a hiker intends to stay at must be booked online in advance (booking.doc.govt.nz; NZ$54/`2,451 per adult per night). Backpackers typically spend one night each at

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Luxmore Hut, Iris Burn Hut, and Moturau Hut. There are two campsites as well, which can be booked for NZ$18/`812. Need to Know Tickets for booked huts are available for pick up two days prior to your starting date from Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre at Lakefront Drive in Te Anau. Check with the rangers at

the Visitor Centre before starting the walk to get current information on weather and track conditions. More information is available at www. doc.govt.nz/keplertrack Route Day 1 Hike 5.6 km/1.5 hr from Kepler Track Car Park to Brod Bay and continue 8.2 km/4 hr to Luxmore Hut. An alternative

At one of the huts, a rack of muddy hiking boots in all shapes and sizes, belonging to travellers from around the world.

national Geographic Traveller INDIA | march 2016

is to take the Kepler water taxi from the dock in Te Anau and cut across the lake to Brod Bay, shaving off 1.5 hr from your first day’s hike (www. facebook.com/keplerwatertaxi; +64-27-249 8365; NZ$25/ `1,135 per person). Day 2 Cover the 14.6 km/6 hr alpine crossing from Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut with stunning views of the fiords of Lake Te Anau and the Murchison mountains. There are two emergency shelters along the trail, one at Forest Burn Saddle and one at Hanging Valley. Day 3 Walk 16.2 km/6 hr from Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut along the shores of Lake Manapouri. Day 4 Hike 6 km/1.5 hr from Moturau Hut to Rainbow Reach Car Park or continue another 9.5 km/3 hr to Kepler Track Car Park. You can arrange for a pickup from Rainbow Reach Car Park via Tracknet (www. tracknet.net; +64-03-2497777; res@tracknet.net; NZ$12/`545 per person).

frans lemmenes/photographer’s choice/getty images (stream), Trupti Devdas Nayak (shoes)

From gushing waterfalls to serene lakes, the Kepler Track boasts an abundance of natural beauty. Pack your swim gear for a refreshing dip along the way.


Strange

Planet S n i p p e tS f ro m ou r faSc i n at i n g wo r l d

VIEW THE LOO water cascades from 10,000 toilet bowls and seats, creating an art installation in foshan, guangdong province, china. ODDS and ENDS philadelphia’s mütter museum contains a repository of the anatomical anomalies that medical science has witnessed. Specimens on display include the bottled conjoined liver of Siamese twins, a 7.5-foot human skeleton, a mummified lady, and all manner of other deformities. STICKY SITUATION thousands of pieces of chewed gum left by passersby line the 70-foot-long Bubblegum alley in San luis obispo, california.

BOGGED DOWN every august, competitors in the world Bog

Snorkelling championship flipper their way to glory in a waterfilled trench cut into a peat bog outside the tiny welsh town of llanwrtyd wells. ROOT FOR ART Since 1897, mexico’s night of the radishes festival has featured specimens up to three kilograms each, carved into wildly imaginative sculptures of animals, religious figures, and royalty. CROCODILE TEARS Scientists in costa rica have documented that bees and butterflies sip the tears of the spectacled caiman to obtain salt. march 2016 | national Geographic Traveller INDIA

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an art installation at foshan in guangdong province, china

National Geographic Traveller India March 2016  

Preview of the March 2016 issue of the Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller.

National Geographic Traveller India March 2016  

Preview of the March 2016 issue of the Indian edition of National Geographic Traveller.

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