After many months of intermittent lockdowns, travellers are venturing out again, opting for remote getaways, Nature trails and short drives as backyard tourism booms
Waking up to the sounds of a gurgling Cauvery and soaking up spectacular views of monsoon-drenched mountains, it was a blissful morning in Coorg for Archana N Vidur. “After being cooped up for five months, it felt like I was breathing again,” she says.
Archana and her family based in Bengaluru are just back from their first road trip post lockdown. “We had to get some fresh air and flush out the negativity that has entered our lives during COVID-19. Connecting with Nature, frees you up mentally,” she adds. They booked an entire property, the Carpe Diem Homestay at Kushal Nagar, which is a five-hour drive from Bengaluru.
“We selected a place that is cut off from ‘touristy’ destinations. We packed blankets, bed sheets and toiletries. We carried our plates, glasses, cutlery and a dishwasher too! Of course, we kept our masks on at all times. We packed our used clothes in sealed plastic bags and washed them immediately on return.”
Backyard tourism has now emerged as a favourite activity. Now that there are fewer restrictions on travelling across states, people are venturing out on short and safe vacations close to their cities — from weekend drives to isolated home stays to exploring the countryside on bikes. J. Rumi, a writer based in Bengaluru has lined up places like Dandiganahalli dam, Manchenahalli dam, and Turahalli forests, all well within 50 to 100 kms from her house. “ We can drive down and then go on treks, cycle around or spend some quiet time with Nature.”
Author and travel blogger Manjulika Pramod is contemplating a road trip to Machilipatnam beach which is 80 kilometres away from her home in Vijayawada. “I want to go to a place where I can easily avoid human contact. So, it’s best to go to a beach where we can take our own food. Nature, especially the sun, sand and waves will definitely cheer me up,” she says.
The monsoon has also ushered in some much-needed cheer. “It is the best time to explore the green countryside of my state, Jharkhand,” says Manish Kumar who lives in Ranchi and blogs in Hindi about travelling and conservation. “I indulge myself with trips within 50 to 80 kilometres over the weekends to places like the beautiful Patratu Valley on the outskirts of Ranchi, or the isolated Dhurva dam, which is a haven for migratory birds. Another popular place is the Ramgarh countryside (top photograph) for its lush green paddy fields,” says Manish, adding “Backyard tourism is going to boom now.”
Running wild and free
However, travelling during lockdown comes with its fair share of challenges. One has to follow handy tips to travel safe. Says Archana, who along with her husband Vidur runs Travelmynation, a couple travel and lifestyle blog, “COVID-19 is not the time for surprise vacations. We took all safety precautions as we travelled with our parents who are senior citizens and our two Lhasa Apso dogs. We packed our food, including coffee, and stopped at the outskirts cut off from the city to have our meals before reaching Coorg.”
In a post-lockdown scenario, a road trip is also a way to finally reunite with family or friends after months of isolation. “A protocol is in place. Those joining avoid outside travel before the planned trip. They get tested and take off from a common point,” says Delhi-based Rashmi Chadha, founder of Wovoyage, a startup for women-centric travels. “Recently, we organised a road trip for a group of seven to eight women, most of them friends who travelled in two cars to Kanatal in Himachal to spend a few weeks in solitude. Some of our clients in Mumbai are taking off to Lonavala over the weekends. Those in Delhi now make trips to Rajasthan. The trend now is to travel with close-knit groups.”
How to travel safe?
- Stock up on sanitisation essentials
- Wear a mask and make sure to change it every 10 hours while travelling
- If it is an overnight stay, carry your own linen or blanket
- Pack enough food from home, and avoid eating out as much as possible
- Get the vehicle disinfected and take breaks at safe places on the road
She also points out that the lockdown is encouraging people to explore their own backyards. “Domestic tourism is picking up. People are travelling to different places within their State, for example people in Madhya Pradesh are exploring places like Chanderi Fort and Jhansi Fort.”
Most travellers, however, choose to reconnect with Nature after months at home. Says Bajan Bopanna of Evergreen County Resorts, located inside a coffee estate in Coorg, “We see a rise in bookings. They want to trek or go on plantation trails within the property or enjoy a private camp fire.” Col VG Pandey (retired) of Vama Resorts at Nandi Hills near Bengaluru says families from locations within the State have been visiting the military-themed resort and camp. “They engage in activities that we offer, like how to improve mind-body coordination, overcome fear of enclosed spaces, to name a few.”
Some take a road trip for a change of scenery like Richa Gupta, a digital media marketer for travel brands, who lives in Pune. “We wanted to beat the boredom. We checked in at Taj Fort Aguada resort at Sinquerim Beach, Candolim in Goa, which is located on a cliff overlooking an ocean. The check-in was contactless, safe and clean. We spent time at the beach and went on treks. Now, I am ready to be cooped up.”
Nishu Boralia, a chartered accountant based out of Bengaluru, plans to pitch a tent inside the forest in Chikmagalur. “The professional and personal space has become blurry. I am craving for open skies, a bubbling waterfall, and birds chirping around me.”