Vienna – Grand and Historical

Not many place in the World can claim to have started a World War, Not many places in the world can claim to have had several of Classical Music’s greats at the same time and Not many places can claim to have given various foods to the world. Vienna is one of the cultural capitals of the world.

Cafe Central
Vienna is famous for it’s coffee and coffee houses. They don’t get anymore famous that this one. We arrived at 8:30 am to a grand building on the corner with waiters dressed like 5 star restaurants. We ordered a Viennese breakfast and a ‘healthy’ breakfast. In addition, I had the Vienese coffe called Melange.

It was a substantial breakfast not only in the contents but also knowing that some of Vienna’s best had had breekie there. All in all, it wasaround 30 Euros for the breakfast but certainly worth it.

State Hall Museum
As we started walking around Vienna, we realised that we had no idea what we wanted to see. Our first stop after the coffee house was the State Hall, part of the national library. It was a large hall which was the personal library of the kings of Vienna. On first look alone, it was impossible to believe how Grand it was. Practically everything was gold painted, the cielings were 3 stores high and the Kings were all marble statues. It is impossible to think how much money was in Vienna for a library to have been so big.

In addition, there were examples of works kept in the national library – maps, manuscripts and writings of some of the greats of every field in their age. They even had near perfect maps of India and Western Australia before Australia as discovered.

Graben and Stephansplatz
Graben is the Pitt St Mall of Vienna. However, it is 10 times the size and hundreds of years older. All the luxury retailers had stores there. We decided to shop a little and take some stuff back home. The Graben also has various cafes with people enjoying the Sun and drinking coffee like many European cities.

There are various churches in this area and the best was Stephans platz. Despite the maintenance going on, it was still incredibly beautiful. It’s hard to think that cities this these were nearly wiped out in the 2 world wars but still look so pretty today. There’s cobblestone in most places, the buildings in the centre have a strict guideline with which to build and no building can look ultra modern or not adhering to the architecture.

We even took a trip up the tower of St Stephans church. The view of the city was immaculate and we saw lots more churches, historical buildings and even the new city. The area in the centre included the Castle of the Hopsburg dynasty and other historical Government buildings.

Confusion

We had decided to not visit museums earlier but there was nothing much else in Vienna. To top it off, there were more than 50 different museums. Whi one should we visit?

Whenever we settles on one, there would be another nearby just as good. I, personally, was overwhelmed. I just wanted to experience the city and the culture but the issue was there were so many museums which we could not possibly cover in 1.5 days.

In the end, we ended up going to some museums anyway. Plan of not visiting museums? fail!

Welt Museum

We got here late in the afternoon. The welt museum is part of the Vienna Castle. Outside the museum, Grand buildings and gren spaces exist in every direction. It is almost hard to imagine this grandeur.

We were here to see the music instruments museum but the ticket was for the entire museum. First stop was the historical armoury. This was the real knights in Crusades stuff. So much metal on show for the Knights.

One of the problems was the museum is almost completely in German with almost no English. We got the gist of the timescale of this time. There were incredible full Knight Armour, horse armour and weapons of various dynasties in the region. We had a good laugh at some of the Knight armous though. Many had ben built for fat Knights, others could hardly see anything from their helmets and some even had metal cups which were for “excitement” in battle.

The musical instruments Shruti wanted to see was a bit of a let down. Instead of an interactive museum, it was a collection of every type of musical instruments, from a period of 300 years. Great but we couldn’t read much which was not in English and most of the instruments were not unique(at least for us!)

Hauss der Musik

We stumbled onto this music museum accidentally while on the way to a brewery. Originally, a part of the Vienna Phillamonic Orchestra, it now housed some amazing information about Classical music in Vienna.

It was very interactive form the start with piano stairs for everyone’s pleasure. I mean it’s such a great idea, everyone had fun. It was like being a toddler with noisy shoes again.

There were experiments and sciece of Sound with lost of interaction to produce sound and understand how the ears work. There were areas of the top 3 of Vienna – Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. It is not our type of music but we still like it. A great museum!

Brews

Vienna like Munich is home to hundreds of beers. People drink beers here at all times. We tried 2 breweries, Weiden Brau and 1516. The former was very Viennese while the latter very American. A key difference is the naming of beers. Pale Ale and Dark beer are an English thing while Germans prefer Helles and Dunkler.

Conclusion

Vienna was a hit and miss for us, mainly through our own fault. We didn’t do a walking tour so lacked the local knowledge while not visiting the information centre early enough mean we couldn’t decide what to see. Having said that, it is an incredible city whose grandeur no doubt rivals Paris!

The Alps Drive

The famous alps of Germany and Austria. This is a diary of our drive through the alps seeing Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles.

Getting the car
We had initially booked a Toyota but decided to go for a Mercedes C class. Upon getting to the car, we realised that not only was the driver side the opposite(like US), the controls for the Merc were completely different. Being a bit dark in the car park, we couldn’t see the seat adjust, parking break and the navigation was in German which took a while to change. It took us a good 30 minutes before we were on the road.

Heading South
We headed South from Munich through Holzkirchen where we were staying. The first 20 minutes were a little scary driving through tram tracks and driving on te other side. Once on the Autobahn, we were flying at 130km/h average. That wasnt to last long before there was a accident on the road and we had to take the inside road to the monastery which was our destination.

We found the monstery completely randomly from Google and decided to go for photos. It was also close to the cute historic town of Bad Tolz and we enjoyed the drive there. Once there, we discovered the incredible views from the monastery and a packed beer garden. It was as Bavarian as they come with people making a day trip to the Bad Tolz region by cycle or car and stopping at the monastery for a meal and beer. Finding a seat in this place was itself an adventure, there were more people than tables and it was a picteresque day, not a cloud in sight.

We eventually got a seat when some nice people alerted us that they are leaving. It was good they told us as we were getting sun burnt waiting for a seat and had no German skills to ask nicely. We ended up being seated next an old German couple who’s kids were travelers and working overseas. We had great conversations with them, though being German, they were pretty clear-cut. India is dirty and they have a funny religion, said the old lady. Well, Dankeschen for the conversation and translation and Gut Got!

Bad Tolz was the next town and we tried to go there. When I say tried, I mean we got there, drove around and couldn’t find a single parking space. It was a Sunday and everyone was out to get the sun, bier and the river in Bad Tolz. Oh well, Auf Wiedersehen Bad Tolz!

Drive to Seefeld
The next two hours were spent driving towards the edge of Bavaria into Austria with a few stops. We stopped at a lake in the alps with people wind surfing everywhere. It was nice to se real Germans doing real German things. To be honest, it wasn’t all that different from Kurnell on a hot Sunday afternoon except the language and landscape. This was not the Europe we expected!

Our next stop was the town of Garmische-Patsikern as the Sun was nearly setting. We ended up going for a walk to nowhere. What I mean is, it was a walk to a Gorge but seeing the evening cold and the darkness approaching, we decided to head back. Still, it was through beautiful woods and farms with Alps now next to us. The Bavarian/Austrian architecture of hardwood was close up to see and it really looked like we were in Europe.

As the Sun set, we reached our hotel just outside of the town of Seefeld in Austria. To be honest, we never realised when we cross the border until the flags on Pubs changed. It is quite refreshing seeing Europe not have serious borders. Our Hotel was on top of a large hill with the valley below and Mountains on all sides. Our room had an awesome view of this vista and we took as many pictures of the sun set as possible.

Onwards Neuschwanstein Castle
As we left our Hotel the next morning, we knew we had to rush to the Castle. We had to be back in Munich by 3pm to return the car and catch the train. As we headed down from Seefeld into the valley, we passed by the town of Telfs. It was even mre beautiful than Seefeld with Mountains shadowing it on sides. We had no time to stay and rushed towards the Fernpass onto Germany.

Our only stop on the way was a small castle sitting on top of a hill in the pass. Why would anyone live in this place? It must b covered in snow for many months. Was it to control the pass? We couldn’t ask those questions and there was no museum or time for us.

We saw another castle on top of a mountain next to the highway but it looked abandoned. We couldn’t believe why anyone would build so many castles in the high mountains where historically, it would take days if not weeks to reach. As we reached Fussen, We coudn’t believe the beauty of the place. The town of Fussen itself was so beautiful with historic buildings and a castle on the hill. We kept driving to Neuschwanstein and Hoheschwangau castles.

Hohenchwangau was built by King Maximilian II after he liked the area around the castle and Neuschwanstein was started by King Ludwig II as a dream project. After parking, we went to the Bavarian Kings museum. It highlighted the history of the Wittelsbach kings and a good one at that. The monarchy sadly ended in 1918 but Bavaria’s two main attractions, Oktoberfest and Neuschwanstein castle were both the gifts of the Wittebachs.

Sadly, the best view for the castle, the brook bridge, was closed on the day. We walked upto the castle and took a few photos of the castle itself and the surrounds. Oddly enough, some of the best views of the castle were on the way back. The castle looks much better with from below and from a distance.

As for the king who started this dream, He was made the King at 18 years old which seemed to have hurt him somewhat. He was forever suffering from mental issues and was not capable of the geopolitics in Germany around 1870s when Germany became a nation. His dream wasn’t complete when he died, he was removed as the King in 1875 after spending too much time away from the public eye and probably the powers that be in Berlin didn’t want him to be the King of Bavaria. Sadly, the Mad King gave the world, one of the most loved Castle and a major tourist attraction for Bavaria.

For the record, we never bought the ticket to go inside, partly because we wouldn’t have the time and partly because the castle’s beauty is in the outside(the King never lived there). Our only costs in the area were the parking, museum and snacks. We also took some shots of Hohenschwangau Castle built by Maximilian II but again, we never had enough time for seeing it. The whole area requires 1 full day to be able to see everyhig including Fussen, Hohenschwangau and Nueschwanstein.

Return to Munich
The drive to Munich was reasonable, though, there is Autobahn close to Fussen. Using the B highway was a bit annoying as we went through villages every 5-10 km apart with the speed going from 50-70-100 every 20 minutes. Shruti slept on the way back and I drove all the way to the drop off before realizing that we had not filled the Diesel. The Avis inspector was good enough to let me drive to the petrol station and fill up.

P.S. – Be very, very careful when hiring a car in Germany(or maybe Europe). As we return the car, the inspector(who was still nice) told us of a scratch in the front. We had never noticed this and had never hit anything, the scratch was like a parking scratch at the front. Though we didn’t have to pay anything, the inspector told us that car companies make money off scratches. Be very careful, take a video of the entire car and take the $0 excess.

The End

Our time in Yellowstone came to an end and that meant our epic trip was coming to an end as well. We had to get back to San Fran, return the camper and then fly home. This was it, one year flew past in no time. Like they say, time flies when you are having fun!

We decided to ease the return trip, stop as much as we could and enjoy the last few days. On the way back we drove through parts of Montana, Idaho, Nevada and California.

The start of the end

Montana was a blur on the road and landscape hardly changed. Idaho, on the other hand, was flat, green and full of water. The places on the west of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons were perfect for fishing.

Montana, USA

We stopped at Twin Falls, Idaho, to indulge in the famous potatoes. Apparently McDonald’s used potatoes from Idaho for it’s french fries. They are grown all over and were really good! We decided to wrap up driving for the day and ended up in a RV park not too far from Twin Falls. We got there around 3pm+, showered, had our chairs out when a neighbour came over for a chat. Turns out he was a US veteran who had been driving from South Carolina to California. A journey of thousands of miles and the guy ended up injuring himself in the process. But we enjoyed the sun go down and chatted away from couple of hours.

Twin Falls, Idaho, USA

Nevada. Again.

The drive from Idaho to California meant crossing Nevada! We were going through the desert, crazy wind and heat all over again. We stayed 2 nights in Elko in a RV Park run by the Hilton group. After freshing up, we were ready for some action but it seemed like there were only casinos around. So we spent the day chilling in the air conditioned visitors centre, playing Scrabble and sipping on ice water. This helped fight the heat as the tempratures were easily in high 30s.

Elko, Nevada, USA

After a rest day, we were fighting the winds again to arrive in the town of Reno. This is in the north end of Nevada state but looked like mini Vegas. We of course parked ourselves in the RV park but enjoyed all the resort facilities. The amazing thing was the “beach” and a pool with an island bar. It appeared to be a popular spot for stopping between Nevada and California. We tried our hand at gambling (again!), watched a movie, hit some golf balls in the driving range, enjoyed the pool in crouching heat and cooked for ourselves.

Reno, Nevada, USA

California

From Reno, we drove to the west part of Napa Valley as our final destination before San Fransisco. Our campsite was in the bone dry area near Lake Berryessa. The campsite was primitive unlike the previous two location but we had a good time by the lake. As the sun set on Lake Berryessa, we realised our holiday, road trip, crazy and alone romantic times were at an end.

Lake Berryessa, California, USA

Just before we returned the Beast off, we decided to do a laundry stop to pack our bags and chuck unwanted items. Driving through the CBD and Mission District was a painful. Firstly, of course the traffic and secondly, the San Fran marathon was on so roads were closed! Anyway, after going around in circles, we finally said goodbye to our home of 45 days. But first, we had to settle the bill with Escape Campervan. We knew we were way over the mileage limit, but when we mentioned that we experienced the flat tyre, they decided to one third the mileage cost. We were amazed and shocked at the same time. WoW, we get to save some more money. Thanks Escape!

A uber to Oakland later, we were in a Holiday Inn for one night, booked by Suyash. The best thing here was meeting my chidhood friend, Harpreet a.k.a. Winky, whom I had not met in 16 years. It was a great night with him and his wife, talking about our life and times in Faridabad, 16 years ago. Good to see you bro!

Meet up with friend, California, USA

Journey home

We arrived at the airport, way earlier than we needed to. A few hours later, we were ready to leave. The AirNZ flight went through Auckland and was one of the longest flight since Gujarat to New York. We enjoyed it though, as were were going home. We even managed to surprise Mum on a cold Sydney day by arriving a day earlier. She couldn’t believe her eyes for at least an hour or so. Well done to us!

Yellowstone National Park

We finally arrived at Yellowstone! After first learning about it in December 2015, in one of the museums in New York, we were determined to visit the oldest National Park. But we never thought it would happen so soon!

After leaving Grand Tetons at 5:00am in the morning, we crossed the Yellowstone National Park checkpoint at 5:30am. There was no one at the point so we grabbed a map and drove in. We noticed the landscape had changed, it was flatter now. And although there was some light at dawn, we could see steam rising in the distance. We were in hot springs country.  We were in the place where we can see, hear and feel the Earth breathe!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

The Mighty Yellowstone

Yellowstone is officially America’s oldest national park. In fact, it is the oldest national park in the world! It is a massive 2 million square miles area and spreads over two states. Having been to Yosemite already, we knew we wouldn’t be able to see it all. But we decided to spend 5 days and see as much as we could!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Entry and West Thumb

Considering the distance between campgrounds within Yellowstone, we decided to stay at first come first serve Lewis Lake campground, which was close to the south entry. After reviewing the map of the park, we come up with a plan. We decided to split our excursions within the park based on our campground.

West Thumb was the closest geyser basin and further east was the Fishing Bridge. We decided to cover these spots while we camped at Lewis Lake. As we parked at West Thumb parking, we realised there was steam escaping from protected holes within the car park itself. Of course that got us excited! Moving on, as we got to the basin area, it smelled like rotten egg. Of course it was foul smell but what lied ahead of us was just amazing. There were colourful hot springs, small geysers and other volcanic plumbings!

West Thumb Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The temperature of the steam was extreme and could burn us. Luckily it was still cool weather and we quite enjoyed the hot air touching against our skins. This was nature’s beating heart and it was there to see.

West Thumb Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The basin was adjacent to Yellowstone Lake and water from the hot springs was flowing straight into it. We spotted a small heart shaped geyser within the edges of the lake. It look like it had popped out of the ground which actually is not uncommon in Yellowstone! What a start!

West Thumb Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Fishing Bridge

We drove from West Thumb to Fishing Bridge area for a few walks. Shruti was sound asleep and I took a wrong turn for the camping area. Good thing I did as there was a big male Bison standing 20 yards away. He was busy eating grass and didn’t care. We managed to get a nice photobomb photo with him. Having said that, this was not the closest we came to a Bison in Yellowstone! Read on for another epic encounter!

Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park, USA

At the Fishing Bridge, there was a traffic jam of Chinese tourists but the bridge was spectacular over the Yellowstone river. We parked at the visitors center, bought a junior rangers book for me and managed to catch a “animals in Yellowstone” talk. Shruti went to the bathroom while I waited near the car and upon returning she told me this:

Ladies queuing for restroom
Lady 1: oh look! Buffaloes walkin past.
Lady 2: *African American accent* Thats a buffalo!! Where ma man? Stevennnnnnn! Come quick take a photo! Grab your camera! There is another one coming. I ain’t never seen one! Ermaghard!

Failed Hike

We then decided to walk to a trail head instead of driving. We had miles to watch and Shruti wanted to walk. We walked around 8km up and down a road and a little through a forest but never made it to the trail head. Fortunately, never saw any bears but we did see a walking trail of Bisons. Their hoof tracks were everywhere and so were there rubbing pits.

Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park, USA

On return to the campsite, we got stuck in an animal jam! This is basically like normal traffic jam but caused by an animal. This time it was elk stags with beautiful antlers just grazing along. They were definitely loving the attention. The issue was getting out but we eventually managed and saw more elks. This was just day 1 – hard to believe!

Elk, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Old Faithful

The most famous Geyser in the entire world is Old Faithful. It’s has been so consistent that it is named accordingly. We arrived to the basin, and the enormity, and the popularity dawned upon us. The carpark was the size of a Walmart carpark, there were 6-7 strong wooden buildings, and even hurts for glamping.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

We visited the visitors center where we learnt a little about why Yellowstone is the way it is. There were huge volcanic explosions millions of years ago and a supervolcano still exists underneath the surface at Yellowstone. The heat from the magma coupled with rain and snow melt causes geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. As we finished, we realised that the time for the next Old Faithful eruption was almost there. Bring it on!

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The old faithful geyser is the most consistent of the big geysers. It is so popular that there tables for hundreds of people to watch it erupted. Like others, we grab a spot and waited. The eruption time had 10 minutes buffer however we waited past 10 minutes and nothing happened. People around us were assuring the kids that it will happen.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Occasionally, there were spurts of water and we would think “is that it?”. Finally, it erupted! It went on for 10 minutes and as high as 100 feet. We could see, hear and smell it! Exactly what we were told in the documentary we watched.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

There were many other geysers and hot springs in the area. Castle geyser was going off when we saw it while Grotto geyser looks like its about to pop anytime.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

There were some famous springs like the Morning Glory, which sadly is turning green from a cool blue. There were many other springs in the basin and its hard to remember all of them. Each of them were magical in their own way and represented the power of nature.

Morning Glory, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Biscuit Basin

Biscuit Basin, a 15 minute walk, from Upper Geyser Basin was another unbelievable area. There were only 5-6 geysers and springs but the amazing things were the colours. Some were bright orange, aquamarine and steel blue.

Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Another great thing was we spotted a in the area! At first, we thought it was a wolf but a ranger corrected us. It was a coyote. They are the poor cousins of the wolf and have taken over many areas. Afterwards, we walked back, grabbed some American fast food and headed to see Mother Earth.

Cayote, Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Eye of the Earth

Midway Basin is a collection of several springs not far from Upper Basin. The most famous of these is the Grand Prismatic Spring also known as the Eye of the Earth. The spring was the biggest we saw in Yellowstone around 379 feet in diameter. It is popular due to its colors. Blue in the middle, yellow, orange, and green at the edges. Being on the boardwalk around it, we were hit by the warm steam. It was a pity we couldn’t see the entire spring as a whole from the top but it definitely was our favourite volcanic lake.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Walking back to our van, we spotted a couple of massive birds in the sky. Hoping they were bald eagles, we watched them for a while. After taking a few photos through the binocular, we went to the rangers and asked them to name the bird. Turns out we were watching ospreys!

Ospreys, Yellowstone National Park, USA

We even managed to squeeze in a hike to the top of a hill! Though it was only 2 hours hike, it was mostly up the hill. Such a strenuous hike but the view was rewarding!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Norris Campground

Our two days in Lewis Lake campground were coming to an end and we had to move so we could explore other parts of Yellowstone. We picked Norris Campground, another first come first serve spot. We knew Yellowstone is very popular during the summer so the only way to get a spot would be to get in early! We found our how long it would take us to drive and prepared for an early morning next day. We left our campsite at 4:30am and were on the road for 1.5 hours before we got to Norris. Driving in the National Park at night / dawn is scary. We didn’t want to hit any animal of course. I had my lights on high beam while Shruti had a close watch on the side of the roads.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Arriving at the campground, we noticed some people sitting in front at the ranger station. There were already 3 people with their sleeping bags and quilts waiting to get a campsite from 5:15am! It seemed like a line to buy an iPhone honestly. We sat along with them on our chairs with our blanket and waited. The queue got longer and people from different backgrounds, places and of different age waited patiently while chatting away. Cars started driving out of the campground from 6:30am and we were getting excited. It felt like winning food during rationing but that shows how popular camping is in Yellowstone!

At 7:50am the camp host got to the station. We were explained how the allocation worked. Luckily we were 3rd in queue and had our campsite by 8:30am! Planning ahead and waking up early definitely worked in our favour.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Norris Basin

Norris Basin was around the corner from our campground. After parking at our spot, we relaxed a little. Post breakfast, we slowly got ready to walk to Norris Basin. As we entered, we first thought we had stumbled upon a desert in the middle of a forest. The sand was all white but the springs were blue, saffron and green colours. The water was spilling out into the ground and it made for a great start!

Norris Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The basin is so toxic that the colors in the springs are stunning. Some colours, quite rare in other basins, were prominent here. We walked along the boardwalk and stopped to occasionally to watch and observe the springs.

Norris Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The tallest geyser in Yellowstone, steamboat, is also in this basin but it didn’t go off on the day we were there. Well that was alright with us. In all, we spent a few hours walking around Norris Basin and were just overwhelmed at nature’s game play.

Steam Boat, Norris Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Mudpots Basin

30 mins drive from Norris Basin was the mudpots basin. A unique geothermal feature that exists in the Hayden Valley. Here the water from the springs mixes with mud and forms mudpot. Over time and depending on the season, it looks like mud boiling. As it hadn’t rain and snow had already melted, most of the pots were dry. Having said that, we did see the Mud Volcano which was a scary boiling natural vat of mud boiling. If the Grand Prismatic Spring was the beautiful spring, mud volcano was the scary spring.

Mudpot, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The best thing though was a Bull Bison sitting next to a hot spring. It was so close that we could have touched it. But of course we didnt! And just across the basin was Hayden Valley, a meadow home to plenty of animals.

Bison, Mudpot, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Wildlife Spotting in Hayden Valley

We made it a habit to visit the Hayden Valley early in the morning and late in the evening from Norris Campground. Wildlife watchers with hi-tech equipment sat for hours watching wildlife activities.

Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, USA

One morning, we parked near an animal jam and next thing we knew, we were watching a grizzly bear walking around. Luckily we were a 50 meters away from him!

Grizzly Bear, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Another morning, we were photographing a huge bull Bison when he decided to walk towards us. It was getting close and for our safety we ran inside the van!

Our favourite moment in the Hayden Valley, though, was when we were watching wolves with a family from Utah. Yes, you read that right! Wolves! The family had a hi-tech monocular and had attached their phone onto it. This meant, more than one person could watch at the same time! As it was getting dark, we spotted plenty of wolves jumping around and a grizzly bear walking around a hill! It truly was an amazing experience. We had seen quite a few exotic animals of the lower 48 USA!

Wolves, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Gooodbye

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and so did our time in the Yellowstone. We decided to leave from the western entrance. On the way, we picked up a Slovakian hitchhiker who we dropped to the nearest town outside. We drove along the meadows and could see Grand Tetons in the distance. We knew just then that we would never forget this place and our experience.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Grand Tetons

After successfully extending our campervan for another 5 days, we were on the way to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone from Bryce Canyon! Flat tire and no campsite booking on Saturday but everything was working out well. It almost seemed like the world was making it happen for us – Bollywood reference from Om Shanti Om right here!

Wyoming

The drive from outskirts of Ogden to Grand Tetons was one of the prettiest. The landscape reminded me of South Island of NZ, minus the lakes.

Wyoming, USA

We stopped for coffee and spotted a cowboy family! The dads and sons were dressed appropriately and Shruti couldn’t help but snap them from the car.

Wyoming, USA

As we got closer to the Twin National Parks (Grand Tetons & Yellowstone), the hills became mountains and eventually we were seeing the most beautiful mountains I have ever witnessed!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Grand Tetons National Park

We drove towards Jackson Hole which is the epicenter for angling and other sports in Wyoming. The town is at the edge of the National Park. With hundreds of people visiting the area, the town was bustling with energy. What a pity we had to skip the town as we had to rush for a campsite.

Upon entering the park from Moose entrance, we were surprised to see that most of the campsites were full. We hit the accelerator and rushed towards Coulter Bay at the northern area of the park and hoped they had a spot.

The drive was through some of the best mountainous country that we had seen in the USA. In the winter, the place would be in several feet of snow. We went past several lakes before arriving at Coulter Bay. Again what a pity we couldn’t stop anywhere. Well it all paid off. Upon arriving at the campground, we realised that only a handful campsites were available. Alas, we were here and thats all that mattered. Oh and the camp host told us not to leave anything outside unattended as bears lived in the area. What!!!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

The first day, we checked out the lake itself, the visitors centre and the facilities. Unlike many other national parks, this place had paid showers, internet and laundry but no shuttle service. Moreover, this was serious bear country. Both Grizzly and Black bears lived in these parts along with wolves, bisons, moose, ploghorns and elks. This was real America and we were quite pumped. We decided to buy a pair of binoculars. But first we had to go get cleaned up.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Ranger Talks

After being at a few National Parks, we wanted to take full advantage if ranger talks and their knowledge. The first talk we attended was on an American animal sometimes called Buffalo. The ranger was a little nervous as we sat around the ampitheatre. She explained how White Americans nearly wiped out the Bison off the earth. 1000 were saved and now there are 30,000 wild bison. The next talk was about photography in Grand Tetons. We realised during the slideshow, that we had missed the best scenic parts of the park as we rushed towards North for campsite. Bummer!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USAThe final talk the next day was eventful. We scheduled to attend another ranger talk on predator and prey. We reached 5 mins late and the talk was underway. It had only been a second in the talk when a little girl pointed to a bear 50 metres from us. Next, the crowd went wild. Everyone clapping to get the Black bear away from us especially the kids. That had no effect on the bear though, and he kept looking for food. He wasn’t scared which was scary, though he eventually left. Phew!

PS, this was probably the only time Shruti didn’t carry her camera :(

Hikes in Grand Tetons

We did a few hikes in the area. First, we went up a hill in the area early in the morning which would give us a view of the entire region and the mountains. We had been told that there were a couple of grizzly bears in the area. I was shit scared for obvious reasons! We drove down a dirty road to the entry of the trail and started walking up a steep quiet trail. The entire time I was knocking things, making sounds, and trying to make sure we don’t run into a grizzly looking for breakfast.

Once we reached the top, the view was enchanting. At the top, looking east, we could see two elks peacefully grazing in the distance on the paddocks, while looking west, we could see the mountain range in all its might. A true paradise!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

We also did a 4 hour walk around the Coulter Lake. It was mostly a pine forest walk with a few lakes, though we lost our way along with many others. The forest was thick, and we were struggling to talk loudly to avoid bears again. However, once the forest opened, the view was picture perfect. The Grand Teton mountains were only across the lake. Incredible!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Wildlife Spotting

On the last day, we wanted to see more animals, especially wolves. We had heard from rangers that wolves hang around young Elks. We arrived near the Elk calving area at 6:30am sharp and stayed til 8am but we couldn’t see any wolves or bears. But nevertheless, the massive herd of elks provided enough entertainment!

Elks, Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Later on, we focussed on spotting a bison. We had heard from people that a herd usually grazes at a ranch nearby. The herd was too far from the road, though we could see the iconic American animal with our new binoculars. On return, we again tried to find wolves to no avail.

Buffaloes, Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Finally, it maybe a bit offtrack, but one of the best things about this NP was that there was internet. We could sit there and plan out the next few days while also working on our blog. It provided some downtime so we could recharge our batteries. This NP was one of the prettiest in our trip. We would love to return someday!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

But right now all we could think about was – Yellowstone, here we come!