Latest in Travel: Srinagar Gets a Hot-Air Balloon Service, New Covid Variant Detected in the U.K. and More

The new mutant, called XE, appears to be 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, making it more transmissible than any strain of COVID-19.

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Srinagar’s Zabarwan Park is now home to a newly organised hot air balloon ride experience. Photo by: Pranshu_Goyal / Shutterstock

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Srinagar Gets a Hot-Air Balloon Service for Tourists

Tourist-favourite Zabarwan Park in Srinagar has given people yet another reason to visit the recreation space. It is now home to a newly organised hot-air balloon ride experience that affords sweeping views of Dal Lake and the Zabarwan Range.

It is said that a routine balloon service was introduced around five years ago, but the recent launch aims to attract tourists and local visitors. G N Itoo, Director, Kashmir Tourism, said that each balloon can accommodate four passengers at a time besides its captain. There are certain safety measures which are mandatory.

According to reports, the hot air balloon at Zabarwan Park has opened on a trial basis, and depending on its success, the valley will have one such hot air balloon at every major tourist destination.

 

Also Read: Tracing Srinagar’s Chequered Past

 

NZ Alpine Team to Scale Uttarakhand’s Changabang Mountain

For the first time in 45 years, a route on Changabang—a 22,500-foot mountain in the Garhwal Himalaya in Uttarakhand—is set to be completed. Five members of the New Zealand Alpine Team (NZAT), led by expedition leader Daniel Joll, will visit India on April 6 to accomplish the feat via the West Ridge.

Changabang holds a global reputation amongst climbers as steep, rocky and technical. First climbed in 1974 by a team including Balwant Sandhu, it has since been the site of many world-class ascents and the subject of veneration in mountain literature.

The NZAT is the top alpine climbing team in the country, set up to provide a mentoring programme to develop high-performance alpinists.

“Planning for this climb began over three years ago, however was set back by the pandemic. But the mountain is still waiting and the allure of the unrepeated West Ridge has stayed in our minds,” said Joll. “Our team has been preparing in Chamonix for a month before travelling, and we feel ready. We are grateful to climb again in India.”

 

New Variant of COVID-19 Detected in the U. K. is Possibly the Most Transmissible Yet

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised concerns about a new Covid variant found in the U.K. in its latest report. The new mutant, called XE, appears to be 10 per cent more transmissible than the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, making it more transmissible than any strain of COVID-19, the health body said.

XE is a “recombinant” which is a mutation of BA.1 and BA.2 Omicron strains. Recombinant mutations emerge when a patient is infected by multiple variants of Covid. The variants mix up their genetic material during replication and form a new mutation, U.K. experts said in a paper published in British Medical Journal.

“Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of 10 per cent as compared to BA.2, however, this finding requires further confirmation,” the global health body added.

 

Machu Picchu Has Been Called the Wrong Name for Over 100 Years

A recently-published study has claimed that the Incans called the city Huayna Picchu. A report on the story has been written by Donato Amado Gonzales and Brian S Bauer, and published in Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of the Institute of Andean Studies. While Gonzales is a historian in Peru’s Ministry of Culture, Bauer is associated with the Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Huayna translates to “new or young,” while Picchu means “mountain peak” in the Indigenous Quechua language. “Machu means old, so we’ve been calling it old mountain peak,” explains Emily Dean, professor of anthropology at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, in an interview with CNN.

The report was re-published after correcting several errors in the August issue and said that the city was originally built in 1420, but abandoned after the Spaniards conquered the Incans. It was hidden in the Andes mountains until American explorer Hiram Bigham rediscovered it in 1911.

The researchers looked at three sources to arrive at the conclusion that Machu Picchu was indeed the wrong name: Bingham’s field notes, accounts of the visitors to the region and documents from the colonial period.

The report further stated that Bingham decided to call the ancient city Machu Picchu, based on the information provided by the local guide Melchor Arteaga, a farmer.

 

Also Read: Inside Peru’s Picture-Perfect Landscape

 

Sweden Removes Complete COVID Entry Ban for Travellers

Starting April 1, Sweden lifts the entry ban on non-essential travel from third countries, joining a number of European countries that are now completely open to international tourists. The decision to stop extending the entry ban on non-EU/EEA travellers has been announced by the Swedish Ministry of Justice in a press release issued on March 25, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.

“This also means that the requirement to present vaccination and test certificates when entering Sweden will be removed,” the press release notes.

 

Also Read: The Female Legacy of Sweden

 

To read more stories on travel, cities, food, nature, and adventure, head to our web forum here or our new National Geographic Traveller India app here.

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  • Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.

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