A Travel Secret Up My Sleeve – Urby Passport Holder

So much goes into planning a holiday, especially if it’s a long one. I have a big trip coming up this week, and all of the planning is stressing me out. Yet, I know the tension is temporary. My joy on reaching that faraway land will drown even the memory of the hassle I’m going through right now.

On-Trip Euphoria Is Greater Than Pre-Trip Anxiety

Alone on a German Island - Old Town in Lindau.

Alone on a German Island – Old Town in Lindau.

This is not the first time I’m travelling to another continent (read – Lleida – A Reminiscence), but this will certainly be the longest I’ll be away from home. I know from experience that the jitters are only before I set foot in that foreign country. All that I explore afterwards, will make me smile ear to ear. It is always a good idea to have all your travel essentials in place – the bags, the documents and the cash. If you are travelling to a country with specific rules, ensure you are prepped for the immigration procedures. Your passport is your first document of importance. It helps to keep it easily accessible.

A Passport Holder Also Helps Hold Yourself Together

You need a handy holder for all your essentials at the airport.

You need a handy holder for all your essentials at the airport.

At airports when I’d mostly be in a hurry, I would often struggle to find my passport in my handbag. Some scrambling later, I’d catch hold of it, only to realize I’d have to keep digging for my boarding pass next. Sitting down for a snack at an airport cafe would require some more ransacking of my bag for currency or cards. I was starting to get worried my passport would fall apart with all of that frequent manhandling. I needed a saviour. That’s when Urby came to my rescue!

A Leather Sleeve Brought Me Sound Sleep

Traveling means exploring living rooms full of books and music.

Traveling means exploring living rooms full of books and music.

My Urby passport holder is essentially a jacket for my passport. It also has 4 slots for me to slip in my multicurrency prepaid card (which acts as an ATM cum debit card for all my spends abroad), credit cards and perhaps a business card. There is also a sleeve which I can use to slide in my boarding pass or air tickets. This elegant way of organizing my air-travel essentials is going to give me a smoother travel experience. That means more time to catch forty winks during layovers! 😉

Luxury Is Personal

Urby sent me a personalized passport holder to make my travels more comfortable.

Urby sent me a personalized passport holder to make my travels more comfortable.

True indulgence is not in plainly sporting a premium brand, but having it customized for you. My limited edition passport holder from Urby’s “Wanderlust” collection is handcrafted and feels great to touch. I have my name printed in gold on the baked-cherry coloured high-end grained leather. I also have a drawstring canvas pouch to store my passport holder when I’m not travelling. Genuine leather needs care, especially during monsoon. The pouch will help keep moisture away, so my little piece of luxury stays luxurious for longer.

I Like To Travel Every Season

I watched the trees change colours during fall in Austria.

I watched the trees change colours during fall in Austria.

When I was growing up, most of our family trips would happen in summer (because we had holidays). Monsoon was considered a bad time for vacation as my folks didn’t like rains (and the ensuing sludge on the roads). We were also quite cautious of getting out in the winters lest we should catch a nasty cold. These unnecessary restrictions made it quite hard to travel frequently and enjoy different climatic conditions. I had decided when I was very young that I would travel far and wide, in every season and every situation. I’m filled with delight as I tell you today that I’m doing exactly that these days! 🙂 (Read – For Travel Goals that are Long Term…)

Travel More, Work Even More!

Urby passport holder has a pocket at the back (so you can easily slide in a business card).

Urby passport holder has a pocket at the back (so you can easily slide in a business card).

My friends often wonder how I’m jobless, yet not penniless. Conservative culture has led them to think there are only traditional ways to earn a livelihood- you slog all day if you are not born rich. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And contrary to popular belief, my parents are not funding my travels. Over the past 5 years that I worked hard in the corporate world, I managed to save up a little bit. And now that I am a full-time freelance travel writer, I work even harder. More travel means meeting more people and developing lasting relationships, many of whom later become my clients. This is why I always carry my business cards on me. (Check out my friend, Grenville, who designed my card!) Urby’s passport holder has an extra slot at the back of the jacket (which I use to carry a couple of extra cards for serendipitous meetings at airports). You can also use it to carry loose change or some currency notes.

Carry Your Belongings The Way You Would Carry Yourself

Some parts of the world are so bright, you need sunglasses at night! ;-)

Some parts of the world are so bright, you need sunglasses at night! 😉

Immigration desks across the world have convinced me that sharp dressing goes a long way in having a trouble-free clearance. When you carry yourself impeccably, wouldn’t you want your passport to be carried in a similar fashion?

Do you ever struggle to find your passport in your bag?

Are you a fan of leather?

Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Follow me on InstagramFacebook, Youtube and Twitter to know more about my new way of living. Do share this article and let your friends know about organizing their travel documents!

Disclosure: The passport holder was gifted to me by Urby. However, the review reflects my honest opinion.

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Forsyth Trail – A Hike through Satpura’s Core Tiger Zone (Part 1)

Rhythmic gurgle – a sound that my mind associates with struggle. I heard the rhythmic gurgling of the waters that seemed to wrestle with a multitude of obstacles on their way. I could see no sign of water, but the sound was conspicuous. “We’ll find her”, my guide assured me, almost reading my mind. He handed me the steel flask which clanged against the carabiner fastened to his rucksack. I gulped copious amounts of water, hoping it wouldn’t be my last drink. We were in the middle of the core zone of Satpura’s Tiger Reserve, and I could hear my heart beat over the loud gushing of the Denwa River.

The enchanting wilderness of Satpura

The enchanting wilderness of Satpura

Don’t startle a tiger, they say, and he won’t startle you. I wonder how a human keeps himself from startling a tiger, especially in a forest where humans have no business loitering! The more silence I was trying to create, the noisier I seemed to be. Dry sal leaves cheekily crushed themselves under my trekking shoes. I couldn’t blame the dead for failing to realize the value of life! The men in our small group broke into a boisterous laughter over a silly joke somebody had cracked. Did they really think they were invincible in a jungle full of tigers? The constant rustle of leaves from the towering sal trees convinced me that it was useless to be on my guard. If I indeed was meant to die at the hands (paws, rather) of a tiger, there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Resignation writ on my forehead, I trod on…

Dwarfed by the tall sal trees

Dwarfed by the tall sal trees

Walking through the woods

Rocky was here”, Chinmay – our naturalist, announced suddenly, referring to a tiger. He was pointing at an Arjun tree with a deep gash on its bark. I saw the perfect “R” in bold orange against the off white trunk which the wild cat had marked. I couldn’t help imagining how it would feel to be scratched by Rocky quite the same way. Would I then be as famous as Harry Potter because of my scar?

We were retracing the path taken by Captain James Forsyth, an explorer who served in the Indian Army in the late 19th century – while we were still under British rule. The more I walked, the more I realized that this was less about tigers and more about the other secrets of a forest. We came across ornate shells that clung to the rugged bark of a gum tree. The shell was actually the egg of the gum-tree-shield bug. How beautifully the mother protects her unborn!

Insects know the art of taking life just as well as that of giving life. I could confirm this when I saw a colony of termites methodically murdering a tree. Life and death scenes apart, Satpura showed us riveting patterns on the barks of distinct trees. I clearly remember what I now call the alligator-tree – Indian ebony with its bark designed to look like alligator hide.

Picnic in the forest

After a few hours of walking in the wild, our elaborate lunch was served under the shade of Arjun trees. The kitchen staff had prepared a fresh, hot spread of roasted cauliflower with potatoes and beans dressed in masala, phulkas, steamed rice, a thick gravy of lentil, and fruits for dessert. We cooled our heels by the stream, sipping on some coffee before beginning the next part of our walking safari.

Filling up some fuel for the walk that still remains

Filling up some fuel for the walk that still remains

After lunch, our terrain transformed from brown, flat earth to white, uneven pebbles. I could not feel the afternoon heat under the canopy of lime and savage green leaves. To my naïve eyes, this part of Madhya Pradesh appeared to be a rainforest.

A path full of pebbles, a roof of green

A path full of pebbles, a roof of green

Carnivores and herbivores

We did not stop running into interesting forest finds though! My botanist grandad would be proud of me to know how many plants we spotted. I particularly remember drosera – the carnivorous beauty that knows how to attract unsuspecting insects with its bright red colours, and then trap them on its sticky surface. Drosera, also known as sundew, can cure respiratory diseases. I should have gobbled fistfuls of that flower to get rid of my asthma!

In all my excitement, I almost forgot to be afraid of the crouching tiger. This is precisely when we spotted tiger pug-marks on our route. Soon after, we saw some animal scat. “That belongs to a herd of nilgai”, Chinmay informed us. “Pooping is a group activity for them.” It is amusing how poop can be so important in tracking animals. You can tell how far the beast is, what he has eaten, if he is diseased, just by studying his excrement.

Campsite in the core tiger zone

As the evening wore on, we drew closer to our campsite. The Pugdundee Safaris team was already waiting for us when crossed our final river to the elegantly set up tents. It would be an understatement to say the backdrop was stunning. We had a solid chunk of the Sahyadris looking over us, and columns of mahua trees to cordon off the rest of the forest. We were going to sleep in the core zone of the Satpura National Park! I was thrilled and hoped we’d encounter at least a leopard at night.

Our safari tents at the foot of the hills

Our safari tents at the foot of the hills

Luxury camping with creature comforts

This was my first glamping experience, and even though I love camping without frills, I thoroughly relished the luxury that was laid out before us. I was smack in the middle of nature, yet shielded from the unsavoury bits (I only mean insects). There was hot water in the wash basin in front my tent, private WC and even shower! The lever-operated shower bags were easily the most jaw-dropping piece of creature-comfort I’ve seen at a campsite. Weary from the long trek, my pleasure at being able to shower under the stars was immeasurable. In a  cloth-covered bathroom with nothing but the night sky for roof, I discovered what opulence truly was. I wouldn’t trade this for all the bathtubs at 5-star properties!

Campfire to warm the heart

We had joked all through the day, but it was at night when the serious conversations began. I cannot say whether it was the 22-year old Glenlivet or the chilly weather or the star-spangled sky or the enchantment of the wilderness, or simply, everything together, but we started talking about our lives, our sorrows, and the meaning of ‘love’. It is when your your trekking group is a close-knit one that you can talk into the night until there is no more wood to keep the fire going. (Okay, you can never run out of wood in a forest, especially when  you are glamour-camping. But it will kill the magic if I tell you Manav, Pugdundee’s co-founder, wouldn’t let us stay up any longer, because we had an early morning start for next day’s hike.)

Camaraderie by the campfire

Camaraderie by the campfire

I had planned on telling you the entire story in one blog post itself. However, my trip was so epic, that I had to keep the best bits saved for the sequel! 😉 My best moments from this walking safari was listening to the sounds of nature. I’m glad I did not have my earphones on (a bad habit I’ve picked up from the marathons I’ve been running).

 

The joy of doing nothing

The joy of doing nothing (Picture credit: Prabhat Verma)

For more pictures, follow my daily micro blogs on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/oindrilade/.

You can also find inspiration from my Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/OindrilaGoesFootloose/.

I am on Twitter too! 🙂 https://twitter.com/OindrilaDe.

Have you ever tried glamping? Let me know of your experiences in the comments below!

Disclosure: I was hosted by Pugdundee Safaris. However, all views are entirely my own.

Karjat on a BMW – A Road Trip to Remember!

Last weekend, I got a generous dose of luxury and a taste of the rustic countryside, all in the same trip! I had always wanted to drive through the valleys of the Sahyadris and spend a night in the mango orchards of a village. So, I put a break to my wishful thinking and stepped on the accelerator.  My frantic last minute search for hotels and cabs was wearing me thin. Did I expect to find an empty room for a sunny weekend when it was Friday already? Just when I was about to give up on my quest, I found a nice resort and decided to rent a car.

All set for the drive!

All set for the drive!

My self-drive vehicle wasn’t just any car, it was a BMW 3 series!!! 🙂 I have my entrepreneur buddies to thank for this brilliant idea. Justride.in, their startup, lets you hire luxury cars and enjoy your long drives like a boss! 😉

Village women with baskets full of food beckon road trippers to satiate their hunger

Village women with baskets full of food beckon road trippers to satiate their hunger

The drive from Powai to Karjat is a pleasant one. In the 90 minutes you spend on the road, you see the polluted cityscape transform into a quiet countryside. I had booked us into a resort in the Mohili village, which is a little toward the interiors of Karjat. We stopped for some watermelons on our way to quench our thirst and ask for directions. After few more minutes of negotiating narrow kutcha roads, we finally reached our weekend home just before lunch.

Our bungalow across the bridge

Our bungalow across the bridge

Mohili Meadows was a pretty picture to behold. They say, it becomes even more vibrant in the monsoon. We had almost forgotten about our hunger as we learnt about all the activities we could participate in at this village – flying fox, archery, water-zorbing, and the works. After a quick lunch, we set out to explore this part of the Western Ghats.

View from the valley of the Sahyadris

View from the valley of the Sahyadris

Even though it is summer, the valleys have ample green cover, with small lakes of fresh water adding a dash of blue to the frame. Most visitors like to trek in and around Karjat. There are plenty of plains too for those who love to camp.

Admiring the green walls of Karjat

Admiring the green walls of Karjat

The heat of the afternoon had drenched us of all fluids, so we bought some bottles of beer and drove back to our resort. Four pints of beer later, we changed into our swimsuits and faced the sun head on! We lazed in the cosy swimming pool until the guard said we could stay there no more. I was taking a swimming vacation after many years, and it felt wonderful to play catch, race and find the “missing coin” till our eyes burned with Chlorine. Oh, how I wished I could swim in one of those natural lakes instead…

Deep fried samosas for deep discussions

Deep fried samosas for deep discussions

Our tired and chlorinated bodies craved high calorie junk food in the evening. We gorged on French fries, potato wafers and samosas till a sensible voice said it was time for dinner. We walked about our resort, noting the plants gleaming under the dim lamp posts, and looking up at the sky, spotting a constellation or two in the relatively clear skies. Village skies always make me want to leave Mumbai forever. The lack of light pollution makes it so pleasurable to stargaze.

The wilderness in Karjat comes alive in the night. Look how ethereally it glows!

The wilderness in Karjat comes alive in the night. Look how ethereally it glows!

Next morning, it was time for us to leave. We drove past acres and acres of green lands and basked in the tranquil surroundings of this lesser known cousin of Mumbai. Our trip was a short one, but there is plenty one can do and see in Karjat. For architecture enthusiasts, the Kondana caves and Peth Fort should be on top of the list!

One of the many bridges that keep this city together

One of the many bridges that keep this city together

On our way back home, we met the same ladies selling mangoes from their cane baskets. Life does come a full circle, doesn’t it? 😉 With the mango season on the cards, juicy pieces from Ratnagiri are transported through Karjat before they reach millions of Maharashtrian homes.

These mangoes look tempting, don't they?

These mangoes look tempting, don’t they?

My first road trip this year has set the ball rolling. I have several weekend outings planned for the next few months. Follow my travels on my blog to stay updated with my exploits. Until then, I shall leave you lusting after my BMW… (so what if it was mine only for a weekend!)

Are you drooling over the BMW too?

Are you drooling over the BMW too? 😀

P.S. You too can go on your dream drive, thanks to the car rental service of JustRide. (Top Secret: Your first ride is on the house! 😉 )

P.P.S. Let me know about your road trips. How often do you hit the road? I’m all ears!