Reaching Manali and drive back to Delhi

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We reached Rohtang at or around 4 PM and passing through the beautiful pass and its valleys amidst dense fog reached Manali at or around 5 PM. Since, Manali was visited many times by all of us and also due to the exertion of the long drive, we preferred heading towards our home without stopping. Steadily, we reached Sunder Nagar via Mandi in Himachal Pradesh covering another 140 km to reach as closer as possible for the return journey, on the following day. On the way we had some apples straight from the trees by courtesy of one of the owners of the orchard. We stayed in a road side Motel situated a few kilometers away from the town of Sunder Nagar, constructed alongside the river Beas at a bargain price of Rs. 1000/- for an excellent room equivalent to a super deluxe room of a 3 start hotel, with excellent facilities and river view balcony.

Lethargically, we started for the journey back to home and reached Delhi by evening with enormous sweet memories forgetting all hardships of the way. A total journey of 2200 kms in 9 days is the most memorable travel I have ever made in my life so far. My car has never betrayed even in the most adverse situations. Next day when we showed the photographs to our friends and relatives, the astonishing remarks filled the heart with joy and smile on the face. I still remember the journey while browsing the photographs and recall each event clearly one by one. My laptop has a screen saver of the picture of Taglang La and my office computer is loaded with the desktop picture of the landscape at Drass. Not many believe, it to be conquered by driving a small car all the way without a professional driver, the photos however, leaves them in awe. Many of my friends are now planning for the trip and insisting me to join them but honestly, I don’t have the dare to repeat this road journey again. Moreover, a lot more destinations are still on my list and want to cover them all one by one and share with all esteemed readers in future. Your valuable comment is most sought on the write up.

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Drive to Manali from Leh

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The road upto Upshi was good and at par the Highway, a route from here diverts towards left for Pangong Lake. Hereafter, the character of the terrain starts changing and the road is gradually treacherous and rigorous with sudden steep ups and sharp curves. The little above 100 km journey was a mixture of adventure, peril, test of driving skill and curiosity. We were now at the world’s 2nd highest motorable road at Taglang La at an altitude of 17582 feet. The air here was so rare that we were feeling the scarcity of oxygen despite acclimatizing since last few days. The mountain peaks were on parallel to us and the sight of snow covered mountainous stretches around us was spellbinding. A board on which written, “Enjoy Tea/Coffee at 2nd Highest Motorable Pass” by courtesy of the BRO was very satisfying and proud moment. Multi coloured prayer flags flurrying in air tied around a tiny roundabout on the small flat top plateau at the stopover seemed blessing all of us for reaching there. A triumphant feeling brought tears in my eyes out of immense ecstasy, reaching upto there was never easy and I longed for years with intensity for this moment. Though I wanted to stay longer at this impossible site but it is not at all advisable, due to prone to AMS. With immense joy and satisfaction, we started descending gradually on the journey to confront the onward adverse challenges.

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Drive to Leh from Sonmarg

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Suddenly we came under the shades of very gigantic mountains on both sides of the road with a river with very dull and grey colored water full of silt, flowing along side. It was shadowy because the cliffs of the sand stone mountains hanging on the roof allowing little light to penetrate and the road turning in sharp curves. The sight was so delightful and panoramic that I don’t have words to describe it neither my photographs can do the job. You need to be there to experience the nature’s charisma. A triumphant feeling of almost reaching the dream destination highlighted our joy to a greater extent. Engulfed in excitement and ecstasy we continued keep rolling. It was an unforgettable moment to see the sun setting behind the gigantic sand stone structural mountains with figures appearing on them like shades of brush strokes creating abstract impressions on the nature’s canvass, opulently defining the gracefulness of creativity through visual delight. Lost in the illusionary of vision and spellbound with the bounty of natural wealth, we in fact reached our “dream come true” destination. A toll of Rs. 100/- is levied for entering the city and thus we were through. Yes, it was almost dark and I lit the head lights of my car, with a usual bowing head and prayer on lighting the car’s head lights, practiced by every Indian driver, I guess. Simultaneously, I thanked God for the safe journey so far. We were in Leh, a city that surprised me with its beautiful modern amenities as good as in any big city in the country.

Street lights, one way road, traffic signals with excellent traffic system, sufficiently crowded matching any urban development with multi branded showrooms, big shops, automobile dealers, service stations, parks, roundabouts and what not. I was very shy and sorry about my skepticisms by underestimating it. Leh is the second largest district in terms of area after Kutch in Gujrat, in the country with an area of over 45,000 sq. km at an altitude of 3525 meters however, very scarcely populated inhabiting around 35,000 – 40,000 only. Leh experiences a cold and harsh winter from October to early March with minimum temperatures well below freezing point with occasional snowfalls. The weather in the remaining months is generally fine and warm during the day with cool to cold nights. The temperature ranges from −30 °C in winter to 30 °C in summer. A weather chart compiled from authentic sources will well illuminate the factual.

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Road Trip to Amarnath – Part 3

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The last two kilometer of the journey is by trekking steeply down from a mountain top. The charismatic FIRST view of the magnificent holy cave steals away all wary and wears and tears at once gasping you spellbound and numb for sometime. I could have died of awe viewing the magnitude of the gigantic and colossal natural structure of the holy cave. I remained stand still for few minutes capturing the astonishing view into my mind through all my senses so that I can never miss the view ever in my life. No technology or camera in the world ever invented to present the picture as it looks through your nature’s gifted naked eyes. Now I understood, why people risk lives every year to visit and pay obeisance to it. Slowly I walked closer to the shrine with my eyes stuck to it. The way to the shrine is along side of river Amravati with temporary shops and tents with colorful insulated sheets as in Baltal. The path was through frozen glacier and the tents were erected on blocks of ice, sized in rectangles. An insulated sheet covering the base of the ice and some blankets and cotton mattresses over it is the bed for sleeping inside the tent. Once you touch the bed, it seems to be cold and wet though not exactly wet but feels the same due to extreme cold.

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Road Trip to Amarnath – Anantnag to Yatra-Trek

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At 7 PM we reached the base camp at Baltal, this road is operational only for 5-6 months in a year for carrying necessary items for the military deployed in the region at higher altitudes, the rest of the year the entire area is covered by snow. Baltal is a picturesque meadow on the bank of River Sindh flowing with all its might amidst, leaving a fertile land at the foot of the Zozi-la-pass, at an altitude of 3000 mtrs., winter here is as low as minus 10 degree Celsius. The public vehicles are parked far from the base camp and pilgrims are allowed to enter towards the base camp only after thorough checking with all prohibited items kept out. The private vehicles and the local taxis are however, allowed to park near the main entry of the base camp in the temporary parking lot alongside the river adjacent to the helipad. We therefore, parked our car at the parking lot retaining the rucksack with necessary items in it for the journey next morning. The entire meadow was converted into a temporary base camp with rows of colorful tents and shops selling necessary items like clothes, woolens, jackets, shawls, shoes, brush, paste, soap, shampoo, rain coats, umbrellas and what not as in any village fare. Hundreds of ponies braying and spreading dung polluted the atmosphere with pungent smell and the ground muddy.

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Road Trip to Amarnath from Delhi – Reaching Kashmir (almost)

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Just after coming out of the tunnel we were in Anantnag district, a completely different landscape awaited to greet us in the heavenly adobe that accrue the thrill with lush greenery of the valley, even the air seems filled with exotic fragrance and one impromptu feel younger in heart and jubilant and ecstatically romantic. A view point with a board of TITANIC VIEW POINT is ideally located on the left side of the highway and no visitors I guess can pass without a short break at this point. The Kashmiri handicrafts are available at sale by mobile vendors, no idea of its authenticity however, nothing wrong in bargaining. A few snaps to banta hai boss and so we did. After a short break, a few clicks and filling our lungs with the refreshing oxygen, we were back on wheels with a better pace both because of the extra energy gained at the previous halt and also the road now was broader and straighter.

Suddenly after driving a few minutes from the Jawahar Tunnel, we were stunned by the sight of agitating wild mob on the highway equipped with Lathis, Swords and knives, shouting aloud and stone pelting on something which was not visible. A few trucks and local cars were on halt and waiting helplessly. I kept my car away from the site of turbulence and positioned it in a way that it can easily be turned around in case of emergency to flee. Honestly, all our smiles vanished and vulnerable thoughts engulfed our mind. I pretended to be calm and showing some dare went off the car to ask about the incident to a couple in a local JK number Alto. They smiled and replied, everything will come under control after the CRPF arrive the venue. We found the J&K Police standing mute with no actions against the agitating mob.

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A trip to Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

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The Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that plays host to thousands of birds especially during the summer season. Over 230 species of birds are known to have made theNational Park their home. It is also a major tourist centre with scores ofornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.[2]

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Tiger Sighting at Sariska Tiger Reserve

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I was ready with my camera, wiped the lens twice, removed the gloves and positioned myself stood high on the rear seat resting my back properly. Looking around with extra vigil eyes for more than 10 minutes discovered no sign of any big cat. Relaxed and confirmed of my hard luck again I reclined my stiff body to the iron bars of the gypsy and lazily looked at a pair of peacocks marching past close to our gypsy.

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Khirsu – A serene and pristine hamlet in Garhwal, Uttarakhand

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Khirsu is also situated at 1700 m but much cooler than Lansdowne because the entire hamlet is surrounded by high hills and dense forest bearing tall pine, deodar & oak. It is perhaps one of the most pristine places in Uttrakhand. Less visited hence no touristy activities. No mall road, no shopping or eating joints and no spirit shop. Yet, very impressive, naturally wild and ideal for a laid back holiday in divine serenity.

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Lansdowne – beyond being the HQ of Garhwal Regiment

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Hastily, I tried to book some GMVN asset but in vain, with no rooms in either of the two properties available. We therefore, decided to reach early & search for alternate options. Being familiar with the roads & alternate routes, we soon reached at Monty’s Dhaba at Miranpur via Mawana as early as 9 am for a stopover & filling our tummy. It is one of the finest & elaborate resort kind of restaurant with plenty of space and a well-built dining area. The road so far is good enough to drive with ease in early hours.

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Wild and Historical Bundelkhand – Raneh Fall & Khajuraho

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The Khajuraho Group of Temples are reportedly constructed during 10th& 11th century by the Chandelas and dedicated to the Hindus & Jains. Most of the temples are constructed by hard sedimentary rocks and erected in an advanced geometrical technology avoiding cementing mortars. A few are constructed by granites too. This was perhaps to enhance the longevity and religious faiths. The architecture is “Nagara-Style” and rock cut sculptures are similar to wooden carvings during the earlier ages. The intricately expressive figures and designs are profusely available in all the structures. It is believed that there was originally 85 temples constructed around 25 km out of which only 25 survived within 6 km now. They are divided in three zones viz. Western Group, Eastern Group & Southern Group. A brief of these exquisite temples are compiled herewith for reader’s delight.

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Wild and Historical Bundelkhand – Ajaigarh Fort, The forbidden Kingdom

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The landscape around the lake is astounding but heartening simultaneously. Hundreds of very well sculpted rocks, some of which still in better shapes were lying scattered at the lake side and around. A huge round sculpted “Amalaka” (the stone disk/rim fitted atop a temple) is an eye catcher, depicting pathetic demise of its glorious past. The invaluable chiselled rocks and the sculpted remains of a temple were once an integral part of an exotic masterpiece, perhaps as good as the marvels in Khajuraho. Can it be restored now! Sadly, no or not to its original shape.
Descending through the broken stepsand balancing cautiously we reached at an open balcony. An alley of beautiful rock carvings and finely chiselled rock figures of different deities and symbolic, made the sweating effort worth.

Our next hunt was the hidden gems in the jungle at Ajaigarh. Our prime reason to visit the fort was to see those exclusive Khajuraho style Jain Temples in the forest. After some rest&normalising the respiration, we again started our stroll & soon reached a fenced arena. Our guide gestured to say, here is the Jain Temples. Where! In the woods we could havea glimpse of the structures only on reaching close enough.

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