The sanskrit word Charaiveity - means "Keep Walking" in English.

Random musings on my wanderings and everything under the sun.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

God of Small Things - Alasitas festival - Puno, Peru

As a child I first read about Lake Titicaca in the geography books as the highest navigable lake in the world. It sounded exotic enough to worth a trip which eventually I was able to do.

The town of Puno lies on the banks of Lake Titicaca that is shared by Peru and Bolivia. The lake is most famous for the Floating Villages made of reeds. This report is about a unique festival in this part of the world - the Alasitas festival.

In months of April / May Puno holds this traditional fair. The interesting thing about the fair is that you have miniature models of all material things. Small houses, cars, computers and currency notes. It is believed that if one buys and offers them one would eventually get the real ones. The fair is thronged by the locals.

Pic: 'Currency notes' , miniature cars and house models are on sale 

Creating these miniatures require a fair amount of ingenuity and going by the brisk pace of selling it seems there is a thriving artisan market. Some items of interest are the miniature dining room sets, a full miniature living room, small computer models and of course miniature US Dollars which also come in various colours. 

Like all fairs there is a mix of handicrafts, food stalls and music.

There are also local artisans who sell terracotta sculptures and jewellery made from semi precious stones.

This fair will give you a taste of the different varieties of puffed corn for sale as a snack and the local pastries that are very popular and one must try them.

Pic: Puffed corn on sale

This festival is largely local in nature as we hardly saw any tourists which was great as Puno is essentially a touristy town. 

An interesting stall that we saw was one devoted to Bollywood personalities and music. It clearly reflected the soft power of Indian popular culture. The posters were selling like hot cakes.

Pic: Bollywood posters for sale at the Alasitas festival

Travel Tips:

Connections: Puno is well connected by road and air from Cuzco / Arequipa. There are also flights to Puno from these town as well as Lima. An interesting ride would be to take a tourist bus from Cuzco to Puno which stops by at prominent tourist attractions like old ruins and high passes of the Altiplano on the way.

Staying in Puno is no problem as this place has plentiful of accommodation of all sorts.

Tourist Trap - the floating villages trip is a must though it is a very touristy and it almost seems that the villagers put a show for the tourists.

Check with your hotel about the Alasitas festival. It is held in the outskirts of Puno town and a short ride away from the tourist part of town. Generally safe standard precautions on pickpockets apply.

Overall visiting the Alasitas fair is an interesting peek into the lives of the local community.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Mokokchung - a mouthful of tranquility

Mokokchng is a small town in Nagaland in India. It is a 4 hour drive from Kohima the capital of Nagaland. Mokokchung lies in the hills and nearest town in the plains is Jorhat in Assam. Mokokchung is a beautiful sleepy town and a commercial transit point.

Pic: Entrance to the Mokokchung Village

It was once the scene of significant violence but now peace reigns in this place. However Mokokchung is not quite discovered yet in the tourism map.

Pic: Peace Monument celebrating ceasefire in Nagaland

This towns centre point  called the Imlong Place and the main point for the buses and taxis. Uphill from here is the DC Hill a beautifully perched location commanding spectacular views of the hills of Nagaland. Hotel Whispering Winds - a very good hotel is located in DC Hills.

Straight ahead is the beautiful Mokochung Village which is an uphill climb and has a scenic view point. Hotel Metsuben another good hotel is situated here.

Mokokchung is dear to Nagas as the point from which Christianity spread to the rest of the state many years ago. The Baptist Church holds pride of place and dominates the main town square.

Pic: Baptist Church at Mokokchung

Pic: Young worshippers after attending services at the Church

This houses here are built on wooden stilts have small gardens and a pig sty. Also oranges and pomelos are quite common here.

Pic: A home garden

One can proceed further from this place to Mon or come down via a highly forested route to the plains of Nagaland and then to Jorhat - the tea town in Assam. The ride is very bumpy but a amidst pristine forests.

Pic: The plains of Nagaland bordering Assam and in the background the Naga Hills

 The peace and tranquillity of this place is extraordinary and a stay here just to soak in the silence is wonderful.

Travel Tips:

Accommodation: There are only 2 good hotels here - Whispering Wind and Metsuben. Generally rooms are always available but it is better to call early and confirm.

Transport: Mokokchung is well connected to Kohima. There are buses that ply to Assam - Jorhat / Dibrugarh etc. Avoid night travel at all costs here. All taxis will have a tariff card. See the tariff card before you sign up. Some taxis do not venture into Jorhat town and have a local arrangement instead..ensure that this is included when you negotiate i.e. be specific about your drop point.

Language: The Nagal language is the local language. English and Hindi are well understood apart from Assamese and Bengali.

Buying: Behind Imlong place is a well constructed market which has shops that sell handicrafts. The Naga government too has a stall but never opened during our stay. The officials seemed to show up occasionally.