Sydney & The Blue Mountain Kangaroos : The NSW sojourn

The 4 hour long Virgin Australia flight from Darwin to Sydney reminded us how HUGE the Australian continent was. We laughed at the irony that at twice the India’s size, Australia has only 24 million denizens compared to India’s 1250 million !! Meha, Mika and I had pledged to focus more on wildlife, nature and culture (the real things of life) in this world trip than big cities, which are all the same more or less. The Sydney planning dilemma was elegantly solved by dividing equal time between urban and rural Sydney. What better choice for first stop, than Blue Mountains National park – only 2 hours from Sydney. As the sun was going down, Mika managed this fantastic aerial shot of the iconic Sydney landmarks from the plane.


Europcar rental sorted out, we headed straight to our lovely AirBnB cottage at Mt. Victoria in Blue Mountains, making a quick stop at Coles at Katoomba, for our groceries.

Easily the finest AirBnB we have stayed so far, the tastefully done bed 2 bedroom cottage in a peaceful setting immediately reminded us of the lovely English towns. This is how it looked like in the morning. Very relaxing.


Tired from our marathon trip of Northern Territory, we chose to enjoy a relaxed morning sipping English breakfast tea. The sole itinerary for the day was to visit Jenolan Caves. Part of the Oberon mountains in New South Wales, these lime stone caves are truly spectacular. You have to pre-book from a bunch of them and we did not regret our choice of Lucas caves. A very engaging commentary by our gregarious guide made it all the more interesting.

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IMG_7717 IMG_7737 IMG_7768 IMG_7769 IMG_7775 IMG_7784 IMG_7788 We had fallen in love with our pretty cottage so we came back and watched “The Mummy” which somehow felt so much more nicer in the relaxed setting. What rubbish – was my first reaction when I had seen it first a few years ago. It reminded us of how big role the state of mind plays in evaluating the SAME circumstance !

The next morning, we headed to Echo Point in Katoomba which has the best view of the Blue mountains. Delighted at finding free parking and a near-empty view point, we stayed for 30 minutes and enjoyed the peaceful setting before it would be run over by day trippers from Sydney.


One of the key views from Echo point is of “The 3 sisters”. Legend is that a sorcerer turned three sisters into stone to protect them from roving eyes of three lustful young men, but died before turning them back into humans. Given the majestic setting, I’m sure the 3 sisters have enjoyed the solitude for centuries and probably would not want to come back as humans to this very touristy town !


Our next stop was Sublime Point, which true to its name, provided even more serene views than its more famous sister, Echo Point.


A quick visit to Blue Mountains lake was next with Mika truly fascinated by the frolicking of this cute one.


Wentworth Falls look out point had some outstanding views of the Blue Mountains:

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Our last stop for the day was Govett’s Leap Lookout at Blackheath, thankfully only a couple of miles from our cottage.


While researching Australia, the top question on our minds was “Where to see Kangaroos in the wild?”. A TripAdvisor (thanks to this site and its members for answering millions of such questions for the whole year) article from 2012 had pointed to a place called Euroka Clearing – between Blue Mountains and Sydney. As we check out of our cottage and headed to Sydney via Euroka clearing, our thoughts were filled with positive anticipation. With not a soul in site at Euroka, we thought that was a great thing as we could have the Kangaroos all for ourselves. The initial bird sightings were wonderful.

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We searched all over for 2 hours for Kangaroos and almost gave up (also since a trekker mentioned they would congregate here mostly in the afternoons and it was still 11 am), when THIS happened:

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There are days in life when you TOTALLY luck out, and today was our day. We had these Kangaroos for ourselves out in the wild for a full 2 hours before one van arrived. We devoured the magical experience with glee, triumphantly patting ourselves in the back . The pictures below speak for themselves.

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By 1 pm, we were Kangaroo-ed out and headed to Sydney to the next AirBnB which disappointingly was not as great as the earlier one. This is the thing with AirBnB – with no standardization, some days will certainly not be yours. Any way, Aus-SA cricket was on and with home made Khichdi as companion, what else do you need ! We returned the car and crashed.

The next morning was reserved for city sight seeing – mainly the Harbour bridge, Opera House and the Botanical gardens. By the way, did you know Sydney was only formed in 1790 when the English (who else !) invaded and drove out the Aboriginal people from Sydney area (what’s new ?).  This Limo in central Sydney kicked off proceedings for the day.


The outstanding view of the Sydney Opera House from the Harbour bridge, truly takes your breath away. Having taken a metro, we walked the whole bridge North to South, ending up in Circular Quay.


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At circular quay, it was time to take the customary public ferry to Manly Island and back, little realizing how ferocious the waves were – completely drenching us – making an ass of us in front of thousands of tourists ! Mika always has a ball seeing daddy’s misery in these funny circumstances!!

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We walked up the Opera house steps but frankly it looks better from a distance. Our last stop for the day was adjoining botanical gardens.


New Year planning celebrations were on in full swing:


At the mid point in the gardens, you get this great view of both the iconic landmarks together.



Next we walked all the way up to Mrs. Macquarie’s point and did not understand what was all the fuss about as the views had been better from earlier points. Exhausted, we headed back home for a much deserved nap.

Evening has been reserved for the Coogee beach to Bondi Beach walk. We screwed up our bus timings, resulting in a minor family altercation, and missed the walk. Blessing in disguise as the LONG walk was over 6 kms, so we sat and enjoyed the Bondi Beach views.

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Next morning we headed to the Sydney Cricket Ground guided tour. With so many child hood memories including walking up at 5:30 am in India for the test match radio commentary, an upswell of emotions was natural. We started with the adjoining Allianz stadium, used mainly for Australian football, of which most Indians like us have no clue.

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The SCG tour began with this classic analog turnstile. Vintage stuff.


Feverishly clicking pictures in the main stadium as if there was no tomorrow, I finally calmed down.

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The classic pavilion and member’s stand view:

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Mika was disappointed at the “ordinariness” of the dressing rooms, expecting them to be much more posh!

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Mika’s day was made by touching Smith and Warner’s water bottles !

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The museum had some great memories from the past but we were being rushed by the guide – I would have liked to spent at least an hour here.


How can I forget this series! After being 0-2 down, we came back strongly to win the next 2 tests before narrowly losing the series 2-3.


The guy I absolutely worshiped as a kid :

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We had a quick coffee in the SCG member’s area before heading off to Darling Harbour.


Evening was reserved for Bondi Beach:


Very interesting culture of having “swimming pools” next to beaches. It was too cold to swim though.


Another of Mika’s master creations:


And that concluded our Sydney trip. Tomorrow we fly to Ayers Rock for Part 2 of our Northern Territory exploration. Will Uluru and Kata Tjuta rocks live up to the hype? We shall see. Thanks for reading our blog at and see you at Uluru.

NT’s Kakadu, Litchfield & Katherine National Parks: The Australian Outback

After an exhilarating 10 days in Queensland, it was time to explore the Australian “Outback” (Aussie for wilderness) at Northern Territory – the remotest and least known of all Australian states, but the most beautiful and “real” Australia in our opinion. Most tourists confine themselves to the standard “Melbourne-Sydney-Gold Coast” circuit – that’s a real shame in our opinion, as the true riches lie in NT. The famed Uluru & Kata Tjuta rocks also belong to NT but that is for another blog. Darwin as the base to explore the upper part of Northern Territory reminded us of North East India – so far from main action that it seems another world. It is closer to Timor Sea and Papua New Guinea than main parts of Australia ! After being penalized 50 AUD by Jetstar for excess baggage in the previous leg, the Air North flight from Cairns to Darwin via Gove, was a real charm with free food and baggage allowance.

We landed in the tropical heat of Darwin and were immediately upgraded by the Punjabi dude at Hertz counter from sedan to SUV. You can take an Indian out of India but you can’t take India out of him/her! Darwin is primarily a launch pad to explore the national parks of NT – notably Kakadu, Litchfield & Katherine. We hung around for a day exploring the botanical garden, NT museum and the waterfront. Darwin was at the center of action during WW II and also was devastated by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 in which 65 people perished.

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Having made full use of the Ramada infinity pool, our real outback journey began the next morning as we headed off through Stuart highway to Litchfield National Park – famous for its lovely swimming rock pools and termite mounds.


We stopped briefly at the small town of Batchelor to capture some interesting bird life, including our first glimpse of the lovely sulphur-crested cockatoo.

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Soon after the magnetic termite mounds appeared – looking like tombstones. Built by termites they are amazing architectural wonders containing arches, tunnels, chimneys etc, and are aligned north-south to minimize exposure to sun. You also get to see the giant Cathedral Termite mounds.

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It was time to swim in the lovely rock pool of Buley Rock Hole, where the water cascades through a series of rock pools.

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Next up was Florence falls with a steep descent to a deep pool surrounded by lush greenery. We were brave enough only to venture in the shallow part. Some intrepid souls were doing cliff jumping – too adventurous for us.

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Litchfield done, a four hour drive brought us to Katherine which is famous for its gorges. A quick visit to the culture center was a flop as there was nothing to see but Mika posed for the customary photos nevertheless.


Beagle Motor Inn was bit of a disaster with tiny rooms and antique microwave which meant it took more than hour to heat our pasta. Oh well, it cannot beat El Mirador in Cusco – our worst accomodation of the trip.

Next morning we headed off to the famed 2-gorge tour of Katherine gorge, but not before meeting some exciting wild life at the boat landing.

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The Nitmiluk gorge tour (Nitmiluk is the original Aboriginal name of Katherine)  reminded us of the Colorado river and Grand Canyon. A series of 13 deep sandstone gorges have been cut by nature through Katherine river between Arnhem land and Timor sea.

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Jawoyn people are the traditional Aboriginal owners of this land who manage the park in partnership with the Australian government.

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Another four hour drive through Arnhem Highway brings us to Cooinda, our first stop in Kakadu National Park. Not before bit off a scary adventure when I momentarily dozed off behind the wheels almost causing an accident! And boy we loved those cargo trucks which are amusingly called as “Road Trains” !

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Kakadu National Park, 20000 sq kms in area, is famous for Aboriginal culture, Rock art, billabongs (water ways) and some lovely wildlife and birds. We checked into Cooinda lodge and headed straight to the Warradjan Aboriginal culture center, which depicts the aboriginal culture.

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Armed with the initial orientation, we headed off to Nourlangie – which has an imposing escarpment of red stand stone and famed rock art. The rock art which is between 20,000 to 10 years old, depicts “dreaming” stories and its an important cultural link between Aboriginal people and their ancestoral teachings. Some paintings are believed to have been made by mimi spirits (the “creation” ancestors) – a fact difficult to dispute , given the amazing height of some of these paintings which are impossible for humans to climb ! The 2 km walking loop took us first to Anbangbang Shelter which was used for refuge, and then to Anbangbang Gallery – the famed rock art. One of the main paintings features Nabulwinjbulwinj, the mean spirit who ate females !

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On the way in, we had been rewarded with a chance encounter with a Wallaroo.

IMG_7270A spectacular sunset was just the right way to wind down today’s proceedings.

As an aside, the Nourlangie traditional owners rejected millions of dollars in revenues from French nuclear giant Areva for uranium mining, choosing to integrate that land with the national park – an amazingly positive example of environment conservation.

The next morning we were treated to the exquisite bird life of Kakadu in the yellow water cruise. Highlights include magpie goose, green pygmy goose, pelicans, Jabiru stork, herons, egrets, cormorants, eagles, kites, kingfishers, crocodiles and much more. The creeks that cut through the park result in mighty waterfalls in the rainy season. Then they flood the plains to the West Alligator, South Alligator and East alligator rivers – no alligators are found in Kakadu, only crocodiles !! Those are the amusing side effects of colonization – some clueless idiot names stuff wrongly and it stays!

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After the yellow water cruise, we headed off to Jabiru and enroute did the 2 km Bardeddjildji Sandstone walk. You are rewarded with some wonderful eroded sandstone formations.

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Next up was Manngarre Monsoon forest walk where we encountered thousands of bats – never seen anything like this before !


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Close to Jabiru, Ubirr is the second mecca of Aboriginal rock art, apart from Nourlangie. Images include kangaroos, tortoises and x-ray fish – this was the main style 8000 years ago.

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We spent an hour at the Nardab Lookout, which provided lovely views of Jabiru from the escarpment.

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This painting at Ubirr is of Rainbow Serpent – a deity specially revered by the Aboriginal people.


At Jabiru, we checked into the Mercure Crocodile hotel, which is shaped as a crocodile !

IMG_7638The deal with Mika the next morning was that mummy & daddy would sneak out at 6 am to Mamakula wetlands while she slept. Mamakula,20 km east of South Alligator river, has some wonderful bird watching opportunities and we were additionally rewarded with a kangaroo encounter in the classic “jumping” pose.

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It was time to sleep rest of the day and commence our 4 hour journey the next morning to Darwin airport via Arnhem Highway. All of Meha’s wildlife wishes had been fulfilled except the sighting of the Blue-winged Kookaburra. God obliged again with “Tathastu” (So be it) and we had the sighting within 15 minutes !!



And we had our last meeting with the Cockatoos !


We made a brief stop at Window on the wetlands and Fogg Dam – two very educational resources on the birds and wildlife of the region.

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And the last Kangaroo sighting !

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As we turned from Arnhem highway to Stuart Highway for Darwin airport, the first part of our Northern Territory adventure came to an and. We now head to Sydney before flying to Ayers Rock for NT part 2 (Uluru & Kata Tjuta rocks). See you in Sydney + Blue Mountains and keep reading our blog at


Queensland : Where Reef meets the Rainforest

2nd Nov 2016 – We began the third phase of our world trip, a month of travel Down Under to parts of the island nation of Australia. Just over 24 hours (not accounting for hours gained in timezone crossover to the east) of leaving the shores of India at Chennai, we landed in the Coolangatta airport of Gold Coast. The sixth largest city of the sixth largest country, Gold Coast is a major tourist destination that got its name in the 1950s from the inflated prices of its real estate, goods and services. Its long stretches of sandy beaches and surf along with theme and amusement parks are the key attraction for most visitors. Lesser known is the biodiversity that this region has to offer in the patches of ancient sub-tropical rainforest and mangroves that have managed to survive the onslaught of urbanisation and new-age thrills and are now fortunately protected.

Having arrived a little before 7 am and about 4 hours before we could check-in, Manish decided the best use of our time would be a visit to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (which incidently also has the country’s biggest rainforest aviary) situated quite close to our AirBnB acco at Burleigh Waters. So we got our rental car and headed out with fingers crossed to get there in time for the morning Lorikeet feeding, a major attraction for all visitors. Which we did and then realised we were missing our beloved little Canon G7X camera! We had just spent a fortune on getting it repaired in Chennai after a fall it had suffered in the desert sand near Jaisalmer. A frantic hunt through all possible places yielded nothing. Bravely pushing aside the sinking feeling that it may have been left at the Kuala Lumpur airport near a security checkpoint, we decided to stay in the moment and marched forth. The mesmerising sight of hundreds of brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets flying in lifted our spirits. We were ever more grateful for our mobile phone cameras to be able to capture the beautiful moments!

Amazingly colourful Rainbow Lorikeets, a parrot species native to Australia
They are wild but comfortable around humans due to the daily feeding habit formed over years
Perched on my daughter’s arm, she is thrilled!!

Next attractions quite predictably were the koalas and kangaroos, the two iconic Australian marsupials. Looking at the layout map, we saw “tree kangaroos” listed and were eager to find out about them. We had never heard of them before. First up were the koala enclosures. We learnt that koalas sleep most of the day because their diet (leaves of specific types of eucalyptus) is low in energy. Like sloths (those adorable intoxicated looking arboreals we saw in the Amazon rainforest), they spend about 20 hours in a day asleep on trees 🙂

Adorable koalas, native to coastal eastern & southern Australia, are a threatened species
Koalas, native to coastal eastern & southern Australia, are threatened in the wild

Later that morning we got to witness the care-taking of a couple of wild koalas that were under treatment in the sanctuary’s hospital before they could be released back into their natural habitat. Recent conservation efforts have helped improve the situation for koalas that were driven to the brink of extinction due to extensive hunting by European settlers in the early 20th century. Currently classified as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN, the gentle koalas face ongoing threats of habitat destruction and attacks by feral dogs.

And then came the legendary, curiosity invoking kangaroos. We learnt of the two main types of land kangaroos, red and grey, from the volunteers at the sanctuary. We were delighted to be offered an opportunity to feed some of the grey kangaroos.

Feeding Kanga and Roo! They are like deer that hop around
A whole bunch of grey kangaroos enjoying their morning

And then the fascinating tree kangaroos, a complete novelty for us. We got to see a couple of Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos, an endangered species. A most exotic looking animal, it is quite different from its land dwelling cousins.

Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroo, native of rainforests of New Guinea
Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo, a native of the rainforests of New Guinea

Next door was the “croc” enclosure where we learnt the difference between the much feared Aussie “saltie“, the powerful estuarine crocodile and the shy freshwater crocodile. And then the Australian Parrots and Cockatoo enclosure with its mind boggling variety of birds in so many different colours! It was an enriching morning, not just on account of being able to see and learn about the unique fauna of this island nation, but also conversations with the volunteers on their work and an enthusiastic discussion on cricket that Manish had with a staff member.

It was time to check-in and recheck all our bags for our camera, the former was the silver lining and the latter unfortunately the cloud :(. Groceries, SIM and lunch done, we tried to catch some shut eye and figure out our under-water camera strategy for the Great Barrier Reef, before heading out to the beach for an evening stroll. The views stretching from Surfers Paradise with its skyline in the north to the hills of the Burleigh Heads National Park in the south were pretty, though the summer evening proved a little too cold for our comfort.


Warmly clothed in our fleece jackets, we admired the esplanade with its wide walkways and public exercise machines overlooking the beach and its being put to good use by the locals who were out walking, jogging and running in summery outfits.

After twilight we drove down to buy a new Cannon G7X, armed with the underwater casing that we had bought a couple of months earlier. Much to the surprise of the salesman and our disappointment, the camera didn’t fit into the casing by just a couple of mm!! It was the newer Mark II version while our brand new $200 casing was for the Mark I model that (we had lost) had now been discontinued. So we decided to sleep over it.

The next day was an action oriented one starting with the Skypoint Climb, one of the highlights of Gold Coast. You are zipped to the top of Q1, one of world’s tallest buildings and from there it’s is a 40-meter manual climb up the stairs with safety harness attached to everyone. Exciting yet scary stuff, specially with blustery winds threatening to push you down !

All set for the climb up Gold Coasts’s Skypoint
The view from the top – coastline, skyline, inland waterways, hinterland – you can see it all!

The afternoon was spent at the Movie world park which frankly was an utter waste of time and money, with hardly any teenage attractions. We could not visit Dream World park as it was closed due to a fatal accident the week before.

Yay! See my Batman cap 🙂
The highlight for Mihika! We wouldn’t venture on it 🙂

We left Movie World within an hour and were back to our favorite Skypoint observation deck admiring the lovely views of Surfers Paradise coastline over a coffee/beer.

14915412_1155481677854097_753501052702183640_n 14915729_1155481637854101_7042282076206733044_nWe saved the best for last – a visit to the lush “Hinterlands”, the ancient rainforests whose origin is traced back to Gondwana, the part of the supercontinent. Springbrook national park is 40 minutes from Burleigh Heads and comprises mainly of temperate, subtropical eucalyptus forest. With huge canyons, gorges, cliffs, scenic look outs such as Best of All lookout point, falls such as Purling Brook falls – it is a world apart from the hedonistic scene of Surfer’s paradise.




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We also found time to chill and run at the beautiful Burleigh Heads national park – the vibes here are so much more relaxed than the hyped up Surfers paradise.

That concluded our whirlwind 3 day tour of the Gold Coast.

The AUD 50 excess baggage charge by Jetstar at 5 am the next morning jolted us out of our slumber and we landed in Cannes cursing the airline under our breath. We played along with the Punjabi taxi driver who sang praises of Kejriwal for the freebies and attacked Modi for being “anti-people”. Hmmm…

We are here in Cannes mainly to fulfill the life time dream of experiencing the Great Barrier Reef corals, apart from visiting the Daintree Rainforest and other natural attractions of Queensland. Both GBR and Daintree are World Heritage sites. A nice 2 bedroom AirBnB owned by a highly affable Aussie was a great start to the week. After a home made lunch and a much needed nap, we picked our rental car and headed straight to Palm Cove – supposedly the best of beaches around. After arriving, we wondered what the fuss was all about. With Goa in our backyard, we really don’t need to run around the world for beaches- was the lesson. Anyway, Mika made a nice sand castle and that concluded our first evening nicely.

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It was an early start the next morning to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation – where the “Rainforest meets the Reef” as the locals say. The whole region is a combination of forest, rivers, reef and also the home of Kuku Yalanji aboriginal people. It’s at the lowland between DainTree and Bloomfield rivers where the rainforest meets the reef. Crossing the Daintree ferry, we pressed on to Cape Tribulation which is famous for its beaches, mountains and “reef meets forest” view. Apart from lovely views along the way, we were also lucky to meet the elusive Cassowaries. The day was nicely signed off at the famous Daintree Icecream company which grows exotic fruits in their orchard and produces natural and yummy icecream.

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The next morning we headed to Atherton Tablelands – full of greenery, giant fig trees, lakes, waterfalls and mountains. The Milla Milla waterfall circuit is the most popular with a bunch of lovely waterfalls

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The day ended with platypus viewing at one of the privately owned farms in the Tablelands. Platypus is a duck-billed semi-aquatic mammal endemic to Eastern Australia. Very cool when they come up the water ! It is an exercise in patience as you are not supposed to make any noise and also they are extremely small in size.

The next morning the big day arrived and we boarded Compass Cruises for their full day tour of the Great Barrier Reef. You need to carefully choose an operator who takes you to pristine outer reefs. The pictures speak for themselves.

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We had tasted blood and were determined to go to the outer reef again, another day.

Before returning the car the next morning, we headed off to Flecker botanical gardens, Kuranda rainforest  & Barron’s gorge.

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After a couple of days rest, the special day arrived – baby Mihika’s 13th birthday. Where have all those years flown?? To celebrate her grand transition to teenage, we had booked another Outer Reef tour with a new boat called Seastar. With corals and snorkeling at 2 locations – Michaelman’s cay & Hasting’s reef, Mika truly had an unforgettable birthday. A specially hired underwater camera was used for capturing the underwater proceesdings. Mika managed to take some “Nemo” shots too ! For dinner was her favorite pesto pasta in a pre-planned Italian joint followed by cake cutting at home. Daddy had to spend all afternoon the previous day, desperately running around in baking sun to arrange for the cake as every thing was closed, it being sunday; with good old Coles finally coming to rescue ! Well worth the effort for the ultra special day !!

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We spent the last day lounging around the esplanade and its 4800 sq m artificial swimming lagoon – a great respite after the hectic trips to the reef.


Our Queensland odyssey thus came to an end and we were now ready to fly to Darwin (Northen Territory) to experience the Australian outback. Thanks for reading our blog and see you soon in NT.

Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer & Bharatpur : A Rajasthan Odyssey

The Vivanta Taj President upgraded suite was just the right recipe to calm our battered bodies after a hectic but fulfilling Kenyan trip. The quest for authentic Maharashtrian snacks was quickly dashed, however, as we learnt that South Mumbai is “too posh” to cater for such native desires. Zomato came to rescue and we headed off to the unassuming Cafe Bharat with chaddi buddy Motu as company. After sharing silly college stories over beer (in the hotel), specially the one where I stole a whole block of Amul butter from the college mess, we were ready to hit the sack and bid good bye to Aravind.


Next day we headed off to dear friends Mangal & Rita (and their lovely daughter Charisma) in Andheri and were presented with a mouth watering lunch which will be difficult to forget.


The Mumbai-Udaipur flight was on time and soon after landing, we headed off to the local dhobi to handle last 10 days’ laundry. The imposing and enigmatically beautiful Ramada was just what we needed for a 3 day break.

The land of Mewar Rajputs, Udaipur has been hailed as most romantic city in India. I could not conjure up such feelings though as city center resembled a typical Indian provincial town. However the morning trip to Lake Pichola and the City Palace helped in reversing my feelings. City palace museum has some lovely stuff from era gone by.


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The next morning was yours truly’s birthday and the best way to celebrate was to gulp a few beers. Its funny how no one questions for your sins on your birthday, so why not make the most of it.


I was jolted on my special day with the thought that 50 was close by so we headed off to the best parlor in town to get my hair colored ! And the Pichola lake boating that followed, with the setting sun and the various iconic landmarks in the background, made my day truly memorable. Thanks darlings Meha and Mika!


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It was time to head to the famed evening folk performance at Bagore-Ki-Haveli. Packed to the last seat, it was a memorable performance of Rajasthani dance, music and puppet show. The best we saw on the whole trip.

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After witnessing next morning’s beautiful sunrise, we were on our way to Jodhpur, via Kumbalgarh and Ranakpur.


Kumbalgarh, the first stop, has a fantastic Mewar fort second only to Chittorgarh. It had taken combined armies of Marwar, Amber & Akbar to conquer it, that too for only two days. With a smattering of temples, the fort has a surreal setting.

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It was now mid day and time to visit one of India’s most beautiful Jain temple complexes at Ranakpur. Built of milk-white marble in 15th century, the main temple dedicated to Adinath (first Jain tirthankar), is an architectural wonder.

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Enough sight seeing for the day. We drove on and checked into our lovely heritage B&B at Jodhpur, overlooking the imposing Mehrangarh fort, one of the most magnificent in India. The dinner on the terrace with the lit up fort in the background was amazing.


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Next morning we woke up to a sea of blue-cubed homes around us – they signify Brahmin homes even though later the non-Brahmins too got in the act – perhaps symbolic of the transition India is making from a caste-based system to a more egalitarian one. The blue tint is also supposed to drive away the insects.


Jodhpur was the seat of the Rathore Rajputs, who had been driven away by Mohammed of Ghori from Kannauj. They settled in Pali near Jodhpur, eventually choosing the rocky ridge of Mehrangarh as their base under the leadership of Rao Jodha. The area was eventually known as Marwar (place of death) due to harsh conditions in the region.


Everything revolves around the fort and the magnificent museum – it took a good part of our first morning to soak both in.

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Jodhpur Riff, a high-class annual cultural festival was on, and we grabbed the visual treat with both hands.

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The icing on the cake for the day was zip-lining (courtesy flying fox company) at sunset over the mighty fort – an unforgettable experience indeed !

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We visited the beautiful Jaswant Thada (memorial to Maharaj Jaswant Singh II) at 6 am the next morning where Jasleen Kaur regaled us with the soulful renditions as part of Jodhpur Riff concerts.


Remember the (in)famous Salman Khan Black buck/Chinkara hunting incident from 1998? Next we visited a Bishnoi Village, an hour from Jodhpur and learn how this sect, formed in 15th century, was way ahead of times in their belief of protecting the environment with a staunch belief of not harming wildlife and trees. As is typical in India, might is right – inspite of strong evidence Salman was sadly acquitted of hunting black bucks and chinkaras (Indian Gazelle) during shooting of Hum Saath Saath Hain. We were welcomed by a Bishnoi family with an Opium (!) ceremony, dressed up in their attire, interacted with them as well as saw a number of Black Bucks, Chinkara, Nilgai (largest Asian antelope) & migrating damoiselle cranes from Siberia. Great stuff .

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Next we headed off to the final frontier Jaisalmer with the famed sunset of Sam dunes as our first stop. Even though crowded and highly touristy, the experience of the dunes on a camel, with the setting sun as the backdrop is truly unforgettable, specially if you move away to a peaceful corner away from the hawkers. Spending a night in the desert camp, regaled by a lovely Rajasthani cultural show is the icing on the cake.

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Next morning we checked into Mystic Jaisalmer, a lovely family run hotel with lovely views of the Jaisalmer fort – one of the few in the world wherein more than 3000 people live within it’s ramparts !

First stop was, you guessed it – the fort ! Founded in the 12th century by Rajput Raja Jaisal, the fort has seen many battles between Rajputs and the Delhi Mughals. Early part of our morning was spent in the fort and the fort palace – the former rulers’ seven-story residence.

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At the exit, we were rewarded with a chance meeting with dear friend Nitya and her family from Bangalore. We again met for dinner for a lovely conversation, and ohh, we ate too !!


Having been “Jain-templed” at Ranakpur, we only gave a cursory look at the temples near the fort.

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Next up was Patwa-ki-haveli, a lovely haveli from the 19th century, situated in a narrow by lane near the fort. It was built by five jain brothers, who were merchants in brocade and jewellery. Fine stonework.

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After a much desired lunch and nap, it was time to visit Gadi Sagar lake and desert culture museum. It is the result of the single handed effort of the owner Mr N K Sharma who has commendably spent a life time in setting up this lovely museum which has some lovely exhibits on princely states and Rajasthani culture. While introducing the puppet show, he came across as a highly committed and knowledgeable man.



Our last morning in Jaisalmer was spent at the poignant war museum which tells the story of valour and bravery of Indian soldiers in various wars. It is very unique as it is difficult to find war museums in other places in India. Specially this letter from a soldier to his family certainly moved us to tears.


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We bade good bye to Jaisalmer and boarded the rickety and depressingly dirty 14060 Jaisalmer-Delhi express for Bharatpur. Most of my time was spent in photographing the dirty state of train and its toilets and lecturing fellow passengers and the TT about keeping the public property clean. Everyone had amusing looks on their faces. Free and genuine entertainment is hard to come by now a days. I sent the pictures to Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, still awaiting a reply.

Anyway, next morning we got off at Dausa, a small town in Eastern Rajasthan, from where a taxi whisked us to Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary, counted among one of the finest bird reserves in the world. The standard model here is to visit the park on a rickshaw. Meha being the smartest of the lot chose the default option. Mika and I chose a cycle. Bad decision. I spent the next 3 hours trying to balance my bum on a tiny seat on a truly rickety cycle – almost a relic from the past. Oh, and the birds were great as you can see from the pictures.

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It was time for some much deserved Kingfisher beer and rest. A 5 am start the next morning ensured we did not miss the eternal monument of love, only an hour from Bharatpur.

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Taj Mahal well documented, we rushed to Delhi for a quick flight to Chandigarh to give the Indian cricket team a well deserved kick in the right place, resulting in a handsome win against New Zealand in the ODI. And boy, you don’t see a stellar partnership between Kohli and Dhoni every day, do you ! What to do, some guys have all the luck.

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Early next morning bouyed by last night’s win, we attacked Amritsari Kulcha and Chole at a roadside joint before heading off to the famed Rock Garden sculptures. Truly outstanding and single handed effort of one individual – Nek Chand. Respect.

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As we boarded the Delhi flight, we thought that was the end of Phase 3 of our world trip. Fate had a better ending in store. As we landed, I hear a huge commotion in business class with people rushing ahead. “Sunny Gavaskar”- some one shouted ! My heart almost skipped a beat – close friends would know that I was (and am) a die hard fan of him. One incident comes to mind – in 1983 when West Indies toured India, I stood in the puja room and beseeched God for a huge innings from Sunny. The Lord gifted us with 236 not out ! But I digress. Leaving all courtesies and decency aside, I rush to business class disgustingly in the most obnoxious fashion. Sunny has left the plane. Lord comes to rescue again as Mika and I meet him in the airport bus. Shamelessly I launch into selfies & autographs and popped him the million dollar question “Did you nick it?” in that 1983 Chennai match (there was a controversial appeal that was turned town and Sunny went on to score 236 not out). Sunny explained how the ball had hit the pad (hence he was not out) and patted me for remembering the 33 year old incident. As he walked out of the bus, I was floating in air.

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Wait, wait Phase 3 is not over yet. We headed off to Muzaffarpur , Bihar (my home town) to join dad’s  festive 75th birthday celebrations. With full family in attendance, papa must be feeling blessed !! Great note to conclude this leg of world trip. See you in Australia and thanks for reading.

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