What is it about books and travel? Authors do book tours to promote their new releases, tourists follow the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes in London and Lisbeth Salander in Stockholm. Publishers bring out tomes that connect your favourite writers with their favoured theatres of action (James Joyce and Dublin, Harper Lee and Alabama). Then there are literary festivals, such as the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival, which started Thursday and is on till Monday, at the heritage property Diggi Palace, with a visiting honour list that includes Hanif Kureishi, Wole Soyinka, Mahasweta Devi and Vikram Chandra.
If you’ve had your fill of the Pink City’s charms, however, we suggest you save your travel dates for Galle, which hosts its fourth international literary festival from 28 January to 1 February. In 2009, author Pico Iyer described the festival thus: “Lush tropical gardens, a mysterious walled city unique in Asia, long lunches with literary superstars and huge crowds of readers from across the globe…” This year, the festival’s line-up includes top-notch crime writer Ian Rankin, historian Antony Beevor, Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif and our very own graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee, besides a host of budding Sri Lankan talents.
Tran-quill: The old gate at Galle is one of the city’s tourist sites. Galle Literary Festival
If you can tear your eyes away from the literary action, the festival also offers architectural tours of Galle Fort, cycle tours inland, rainforest walks and whale-watching opportunities. The world heritage site has a range of accommodation, from the Amangalla (www.amanresorts.com; upwards of $300 or around Rs14,000 a night) to guesthouses (Beach Haven www.beachhaven-galle.com; upwards of $7 a night). Sri Lankan Holidays has some great four-night packages for anyone looking to attend the festival from India: ex-south India, deals start from Rs13,799; ex-Mumbai, they start from Rs17,299, while ex-Delhi, they begin from Rs18,299. All packages include return economy airfare, twin-sharing accommodation and return airport transfers. For details, visit www.galleliteraryfestival.com
The eco-ing green
If there’s one mode of transportation that’s been rediscovered in a big way over the past few years, it’s got to be the bicycle. The latest to jump on to the saddle are Tandem Trails, a bunch of eight cyclo-travellers who work corporate hours in IT during the week and take off for the great Indian outdoors over the weekend. After half a decade of cycling everywhere, from Khardung La to Karnataka, they recently had the brainwave of packaging their experience for less intrepid, but no-less-adventurous, travellers. “We realized there were people who were hesitant to cycle outside the city because of logistical issues,” says Prashanth M.B., who balances a day job at Wipro in Bangalore with his passion for bicycling. “So we map out trails far away from the highways, choosing roads with little traffic, no pollution and mixed gradients to make for a satisfying biking experience. We have also designed a bike-carrier that does away with the necessity of assembling bikes repeatedly. Besides, there’s a back-up vehicle, support staff and three of the core team of eight travelling with every group (never more than 20).”
Biking trails: Go exploring on a cycle. Tandem Trails
Tandem Trails also lends Trek 3700 mountain bikes, helmet and gloves to those who may want to try out their pedal-power before making any investments. Right now, their eco-focused weekend outings are in the vicinity of Bangalore, from Nagarahole and Titimati to Wayanad and Bheemeshwari. For those looking for longer sojourns, they have a Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu “Green Triangle” trip, a Shimla-Manali- Kaza-Spiti Valley excursion and a six-pass Manali-Leh road map. Costs usually hover around Rs300 a day for the short trips. For details, visit www.tandemtrails.co.in or call 09481603270.