Sunday 26 April 2020

5 Immemorable Experiences You Cant Miss in Alaska

It was Summer of 2016 and husband and I were in the USA for our work commitments. One day, out of nowhere, he declared that we were going to Alaska!

My first thoughts: It`s
going be cold with snow clad mountains everywhere. Little did I know, I was going to embark on a once in a lifetime journey of exhilaration, adventure, adrenaline rush all in the lap of some of the most stunning landscapes. Also, let me not forget to mention that it was in Alaska that I got the worst tan of my life, so if you are packing for Alaska please do not forget your sunscreen, scarfs and caps. There were a number of wow moments on this trip like spotting whales from a cruise, seeing icebergs/glaciers for the first time, a narrow escape when a moose ran in front of our car while we were driving at 100 miles an hour, soaking in the breathtaking landscapes on our Alaska rail road trip, etc. But there were some experiences which according to me were much more than memorable. So I decided to put them together in a blog.
Fireweed Ice-cream: On our first day in Alaska we were at Anchorage, the capital city. It is a lot like my kind of city - modern, touristy and beautiful. The rest of our trip was too adventurous, rustic and wild, much different than what I am used to. Anchorage is a perfect place to get a glimpse of the Alaskan culture. There were food trucks selling reindeer hotdogs, cute Anchorage trolley tour buses on the roads and it was also the first place where we experienced a moose on the loose scene. But what really was my favorite part here was the Fireweed Icecream. Fireweed is a plant local to Alaska and it is used quite a lot in Alaskan recipes. You can buy Fireweed jams, jelly and syrups in souvenir shops here. But the best treat is the Fireweed Ice-cream at Bearly Enough Ice cream. When we visited the Visitors Center in Anchorage to inquire about something, the sweet lady at the desk told us that we have to try the Fireweed Ice-cream. Her exact words were ``Try It. Its life changing.`` Since I was trying it for the first time, I wanted to have a backup, so instead of ordering two scoops of Fireweed ice-cream, I ordered one scoop of Fireweed ice-cream and 1 scoop of chocolate, only to regret my decision later. One bite into the Fireweed ice-cream and I totally understood what the lady at the Visitors center meant. It was that good! A flavor I have never tasted before, but something that will be etched in my taste buds forever. I didn't want to overindulge on my first day and hence I decided I would not order another one, since I had 8 more days to enjoy it. But alas, since our remaining trip was too adventurous, hectic and jam packed I couldn't find this ice-cream anywhere else. My advise, if you are at Anchorage, just eat Fireweed ice cream for lunch/dinner. I would, if I ever visit again.

Gold Panning : Did you know on March 30, 1867, the United States reached an agreement to purchase Alaska from Russia for a price of $7.2 million? And shortly after this deal, USA mined gold worth 100s of millions of dollars on the Alaskan land.
We booked a tour at Gold Dredge 8 which starts with a ride on a replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad near some of the original rail routes. It is a short narrated journey to the dredge were your regular conductor and commentator is Earl Hughes, who provides festive music along your journey. As part of the tour, Alaskan miners show you how to pan for gold, and you are given your own poke filled with pay dirt.
Guides are ready to help you uncover the gold in your pan. The seating is comfortable and there's warm water to wash and uncover the gold from the dust. The experience gets  exciting as at the end of it, you strike gold quite literally, which you can take home. At the end, you weigh and value your gold. Husband and I panned gold worth $50 together. :) We put our gold dust in a pendant so I can flaunt it whenever I want.



Glacier Landing Flights:

If you have booked yourself a glacier landing flight in Alaska, you have chosen an experience of a lifetime. Flying through stunning snow-capped peaks, intense blue meltwater pools and cascading icefalls felt like a dream. We chose to fly with Talkeetna Air Taxi and what a great experience it was! Knowledgeable pilot and friendly staff, who care not only about your safety but also about making your experience worthwhile. This tour gave us a birds eye view of the Alaskan range and gave us an opportunity to run, prance and play on the snow capped Alaskan mountain range. Who knew that the first time I would experience snow would be in Alaska!

Dog Sled Ride
: Haven't you seen videos of people gliding through snow as a pack of furry dogs pull the sled? It had been on my list of to-do things since I was a kid. But, because we visited Alaska in summers, we couldn't do an authentic dog sled ride due to the lack of snow,  but we did manage a dog cart ride at the Chena Resort and what a fun experience it was. The dogs were more excited than us and we had too much fun on the small trail we took.

Hot Springs
Located just sixty miles from Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers true Alaskan comfort and adventure. But what brings most tourists to this resort is their natural hot springs. This amazing place was discovered in August 1905 and became famous for curing crippled prospectors of their aches and pains. Fairbanks residents would take the near day trip each way to enjoy the healing waters and soak. Soaking in the natural hot springs here was an experience to remember. You feel really light and rejuvenated after the dip. I totally recommend it if you are visiting t
his side of the state.

Santa Claus House, North Pole:
Alaska is not really in the North Pole, so finding Santa here is a distant dream. But t
here is a city called North Pole in Alaska were there is a general store and post office turned holiday shop - just 20 minutes away from Fairbanks called Santa's house.
It’s Christmas
here all year round .The store includes live reindeer, a coffee shop, holiday gift items, the world’s largest Santa statue and, in summer months and over the holidays, Santa himself. This was such a fun experience and I kind of felt like I lived my childhood dream of meeting and talking to Santa at the North Pole!

There is so much more to Alaska than these 5 experiences.
Denali National Park, Pioneer Park, Ice Museum, Alaskan Rail Road, Kenai Fjords National park, Alyeska Aerial Tram,
Glacier cruises, Dog kennel tours and of course the Aurora viewing which we missed since it a winter phenomenon only. But all I can say is Alaska was one adventurous trip we can totally boast of taking. Hope you loved reading this post, as much as I loved composing it.

Saturday 18 April 2020

Recipe: Zunka

This has been the most requested recipe since the past few months. Every time I post Insta stories about #Zunka, I get flooded with messages for its recipe.
This is my favourite because it has minimum ingredients, tastes heavenly and also because this recipe originates from the peasant families of Maharashtra. So it's humble and filling.
So without much ado, let's get to the recipe.

Ingredients: This serves 4 people
2 onions finely chopped
3 cups besan/chickpea flour
1 cup cilantro finely chopped
3-4 green chillies chopped (I use the less spicier ones)
few curry leaves
15-20 medium sized garlic cloves (the more the better)
2 teaspoon jeera/cumin seeds
1 teaspoon haldi
1/2 teaspoon hing
4 tablespoons oil
salt as per taste

In a mortar and pestle, grind garlic, green chillies, half the cilantro, 1 teaspoon jeera and a pinch of salt. This is the most important step of the recipe. If you skip it and use pre-made chilly/garlic paste, it doesn't give the best results.

So basically, go old school and grind these 4 ingredients till a coarse paste is obtained.
In a separate pot heat around 7 cups of water.
In another bowl, mix besan with water to achieve a dosa batter like consistency.

When all this is ready, lets start cooking.

In a heavy bottom pan add oil, wait for it to heat.
Then add the remaining jeera, curry leaves, haldi and hing.
When the jeera starts to splutter, add the ground paste and saute for 2 minutes. Make sure the flame is on low, as you don't want the spices and the garlic-chilly paste to burn.
Once sauteed, add the onions and saute till they turn translucent. Also add salt at this point.

Now add the boiling water to the onions and stir.

Once this concoction comes to a boil, add the besan batter to the boiling concoction, and while you are doing this, make sure you keep stirring.

You will see that the besan batter starts thickening up.
Keep stirring till the besan is cooked and you achieve the desired consistency.
I like to keep my zunka a bit runny, but ideally it's a lot thicker.

Now sprinkle the remaining cilantro and stir.
Voila, your zunka/pithla is ready.

It is best enjoyed with bhakri and mirchi cha thecha.

My daughter enjoys it with rice.
Hope you like this recipe and try it. 

Saturday 11 April 2020

Top 5 Reasons to Visit the Jatayu Earth Centre in Kerala

While Ravana was abducting Seeta in his Pushpak Viman, there were many creatures who witnessed it. But there was only one to act on it. The son of Aruna, nephew of Garuda and brother of Sampaati;  a demi-god in the form of vulture, the Vulture King Jatayu, who also happened to be a friend of Dashratha. Jatayu gave Ravana a tough fight before Ravana cut off his wings and killed him.

As a child when my mom had recited the story of Jatayus fight with Ravana, I was mesmerized. Why?
Because I felt Jatayu was a true feminist even in times when the term wasn't even coined. And he understood the concept of consent better than the immortals.

Inspite of being old and weak and knowing that he was no match for Ravanas strength he did his best to save Sita.
If this is not hero then I don't know what is.

Early last year, I learnt that a huge statue of Jatayu was built somewhere in Kerala and I was astonished by its size, architecture and beauty.

I had to visit it.
And in September last year, we made an impromptu plan to visit Kerala and I made sure we included Jatayu in the itinerary. This was a special trip for me because I was planning to introduce Jatayu to Ishanvi and it was a huge thing for me.
She was shocked and surprised to see the huge structure and was running around it in glee.
As far as I am concerned I was :
- proud to see such a beautiful structure in my country,
- at peace because Jatayu finally received the recognition he deserved
- and happy I could visit it.

Here are my Top reasons to visit the Jatayu Earth Centre:
  • It is a 200 feet long, 150 feet wide and 75 feet tall sculpture that stands at an altitude of 350m above mean sea level. This is what makes it the largest functional bird sculpture in the world and has got a place in the Guinness Book of World Records too.
  • It is a STATUE dedicated to WOMEN SAFETY AND HONOUR. The sculpture sits at the spot where Jatayu took his last breath, after he put up a brave fit against the  powerful Ravana to save Sita.
  • There are beak marks of Jatayu and footprints of Rama at this spot which have been preserved. Since this sculpture is situated 1,000 feet above the sea level, one can enjoy bird’s eye from the sculpture.
  • This park will not only interest spirituals, but also adventure junkies. It has an adventure zone and has games like paintball, laser tag, archery, rifle shooting,rock climbing, and bouldering, etc.
  • Another major attraction is the facility of the cable car. It is an ultra modern cable facility imported from Switzerland which is fun to experience.
If this is not enough to make you visit the place once the quarantine ends, let me tell you one more thing. It is just 50 kms away from the international airport.


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