Take the safer route

(Photo: PIXABAY)

(Photo: PIXABAY)

Safe travels are happy travels. Ensure that your trip is a happy one by following a few simple instructions and taking some basic precautions

For most tourists, a safety net during their trip starts and ends with travel insurance. But the recent calamity in Nepal has brought to light the importance of being equipped for a travel nightmare. While one can never predict a lurking catastrophe, one can take sufficient measures to ensure the safest and quickest way out of it. We spoke to a few travel experts and enthusiasts about the checklist that one should strike off for safe sojourns.

Tapas Biala, Founder of My Himalayan Adventure, a Dehradun-based adventure and travel provider says, “If you look at it, no part of the world is safe from disasters or calamities. They all have their own disasters— Uttarkashi belt had the terrible floods in 2013, but it doesn’t mean that it will happen every other day. The earthquake in Nepal happened after 80 years. People don’t go anywhere to experience disasters. They go to experience the unknown—to get out of their comfortable, routine lives. So most importantly, one must be mentally prepared for inconveniences.

For amateurs, it is very important that they take someone experienced along with them. There are institutes such as Nehru Institute Of Mountaineering and Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, which have certified courses. One must follow the guidelines from these institutes. It is also preferable that they come through authorities and reputed trekking companies, since they know a lot better about the local authorities, in case of need.”

Tsering Norboo, trek organiser for Ladakh, Leh and Everest Base Camp asserts the importance of carrying extra ration. Having organised more that 600 treks in the region since 1999, Norboo observes that travellers, in a bid to travel light, often don’t carry enough supplies. “In 2010, when there was a cloudburst in Leh, many tourists were stuck in inaccessible locations for weeks and the biggest problem they faced was inadequate ration. Not just food and water, but also extra pairs or protective garments or oxygen masks. If you are stuck somewhere inaccessible, wait for help and do not attempt traveling on foot unless absolutely necessary (for this again, you need adequate ration to wait) and make sure your equipment is in good order. As for the rest, as long as you choose a good, experienced guide, half the precautions are already taken care of.”

If you are stuck in a disaster away from your country, then the risks are higher of course. Which is why, it is imperative that you keep in mind certain dos and don’ts, points out Dr Abhijeet Jadhav, assistant professor at Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management, TISS. “It’s necessary to have the legal and documental formalities in place while traveling in such areas. It’s always advisable to travel with a group or a legitimate organisation because their prerogatives will be constantly updated. If you are a foreign national, reaching the embassy office immediately is important. Drop a message to your relatives and close ones before the communication barriers seep in. Informing the local police and the district authority is also helpful.”

Adding to that thought is Yogi Shah, Founder of The Villa Escape and The Backpacker Co. “Indian embassy is the best contact. Whenever you are travelling abroad, your mobile phone always sends you the name and number of your embassy. Most mobile operators practise this and do send it out once you land in the international airports. People tend to ignore, delete or overlook this message. Do not do that. Always save the message or note down the address and number of the Indian consulate. The police station, the fire brigade and the hospital are the three main places you should look out for around wherever you are staying, as these three are havens for safety and help and will get you connected with the embassy/family back home.”

Bear in mind

1. Be aware of any travel alerts and warnings for your destination.

2. Keep emergency contact numbers of the destination you are visiting.

3. Pack light, so you can move quickly and have a free hand when you need it.

4. Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in case of emergency or if your documents are lost. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home. It is always a great idea to let at least one person know exactly where you will be staying and how to contact you in an emergency.

5. Do thorough research before locking down on a destination. Find out about the weather, local transport system, and the people, culture and tourist sites.

6. Always have a plan B. Have alternative routes mapped out in case the original route has been closed.

7. Carry a first aid kit.

8. Move to open grounds. Try and find open spaces to wait out the disaster and gauge the seriousness of the situation.

9. The Ministry of Tourism has five regional offices located at Kolkata (East), Mumbai (West), Delhi (North), Chennai (South) and Guwahati (North East), which can be contacted for assistance.

Tips from Yusuf Poonawala, Head- Bharat Deko, Cox and Kings Ltd. and Rajeev Kale, President & Chief Operating Officer — MICE, Domestic & Sports, Tourism, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.

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A hideout by the backwaters

One of the cottages at Surya Samudra (Photo: Julie Sam)

One of the cottages at Surya Samudra (Photo: Julie Sam)

If you like the sound of waves crashing onto the shore through the night, this getaway will be a memorable experience

One can only hear the sound of waves crashing against the shore with the enthusiasm of a child, the birds chirping a song while the sun turns into a flame-orange by evening. This is a usual sight when you are lounging in one of the cottages at Surya Samudra in Kovalam, Kerala. For someone who belongs to Kerala, but never really witnessed it from a traveller’s eyes, the trip gave a quick glance into what I have been missing by living in a metro.

Tucked in the narrow alleys in Trivandrum, Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra presents itself as a warm, comfortable space for those looking to unwind. The retreat is among the latest addition to the Relais & Châteaux family, a chain of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants across 60 countries.

The stay

The retreat houses 31 cottages: each replete with the tharavad style-terracotta roofs, wooden-tiled floors and traditional Kerala doors. The property stretches across the cliff, and faces the Arabian Sea. Rejeesh K, head of operations for Niraamaya Retreats in Kovalam, says that the cottages are constructed in a way that each cottage gets a view of the beach. Each cottage has a glass-walled bathroom, and if you are lucky, even a bathtub. If you are someone who prefers lounging around in the hotel room, the guys at Surya Samudra have got you covered. The folks have thoughtfully made space for a verandah with plantation chairs and a table for the times you may just want tosit and stare at the sea.

The food

When it comes to food, there are plenty of options to choose from, and chef Prakash is only happy to regale your taste buds. Our day started at Café Samsara — the all-day dining restaurant that serves global, Kerala, Pan Indian and custom-made fares — once again with a view of the ocean. The Kerala thali, served with a bowl of rice, prawns ularthiyathu, squid pepper fry, avial, beetroot thoran, vendakai pachadi, sambar, curd, and ada pradhaman (a jaggery and rice-based kheer). An unforgettable meal by chef Prakash remains the grilled mahi mahi with green peppercorn and garlic crust was cooked to perfection. However, it is the black pepper ice cream that takes the crown. The ice cream, infused with black pepper is subtle and leaves an aftertaste you won’t complain about.

The spa

Kerala is synonymous with Ayurvedic massages and no points for guessing that the retreat too has Ayurvedic massages as one of its attractions. There is a range of treatments on offer, Spice Magic for detox and anti-stress, Niraamaya Sync for the workaholic and of course the traditional ones like pada-abhyangam, a massage where the masseur massages specific points of the body with his/her feet. We opted for the abhyanga snana, a 60-minute that facilitates blood circulation and fights anti-ageing. A word of advice, though, how much pressure you can take, solely depends on you. The massage is intense and involves deep, fluid strokes. Try this only if you are ready for one, or you might end up with sore muscles.

It is important to note that this space is ideal for couples or the solo traveller. If your idea of a vacation is enjoying a quiet evening away from your routine — with the ocean for company — this one is for you.
Write to us at feedback.age@gmail.com

Where to go:

Poovar, a small coastal village in the Trivandrum, is known for its serene backwaters. If you are a bird-watcher, this may interest you.

Fact file:
Kovalam is located 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram city. It is an easy 40-minute drive by road to the retreat.

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