Hills

Kids’ day out to Mahabaleshwar

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We started from Pune on Christmas morning at 7AM and it took me about an hour’s time to touch the Mumbai Bangalore highway. Mahabaleshwar is all of 110km from Pune. I am fairly new to car driving so I was at my cautious best all through the drive. It was a smooth ride on the Bangalore highway, but the trip from Shirwal, where you take a right turn from beneath the flyover up to M’was was quite chaotic, since it was a narrow village road.

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A Yatra to Takstang Monastery

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Here winds are blowing strongly, carrying everybody’s prayer with it and bringing blessing for all- truly a heavenly experience. We enter into the monastery. There are small temples inside, each of them with images of Buddhist deities. The smell of incense fills the air, a divine atmosphere altogether. We are now near the Tiger’s Nest, a small board indicating that, the cave where the Guru Padmasambhava meditated. We peep into the cave one by one and feel great to witness such a sacred monastery.

On our way back down we stop in the cafeteria for our meal. But they charge Rs.460/- per head for buffet lunch, of course a vegetarian meal, so we remain happy with a bottle of cold drink at Rs.60/-. It takes less than an hour to get down. We thank God for blessing us with the opportunity to witness such a sacred place, to view such an architectural wonder and to accomplish the YATRA once in this life.

We are driving to Chelela Pass, the highest motorable roads in Bhutan which locates between the Haa and Paro valley. We are passing continuously through oak trees, at times glimpsing wild fowls with long tail feathers and free roaming yaks, then through snow capped roads climb slowly to the Chelela pass. A milestone placed along the road indicates the highest point on Dantak Road at an altitude of 3988 meter above the sea level. We see a perfect white Himalayan Mountains view from here.

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Week long Kumaon Trip – March 2014

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Fortunately clear skies gave us a chance to say proper goodbye to mighty tops. Chukhamba, Trishul, Nandadevi and Panch-chuli were among many shikhars visible today morning. It is said, only from Kausani, distinct trishul shape can be seen on the equilateral triangle shaped Trishul peak. In fact these are three peaks on one massif. Though we might be seeing mountain tops still from our next points of visit but not all of them in one go.

We started descending for Ranikhet. The valley was green with wheat and mustard farms. Most of the farms were carved in hill terraces. Different shades of green were splashed on round curved fields. Apple trees were leafless but were bearing white flowers. Some of the other trees were total yellow and some red. But many others had shed their leaves in the winter and were waiting for warmer weather. Spring has almost arrived but frequent unexpected snowfall has delayed blooming season. Anyways, fall does have its own beauty. I could not resist myself from comparing seasons with life-cycle.

On the way, we visited a kalika temple. Next was a Golf Course which was covered with yellow grass. It was noon time so couldn’t stand in open for long and moved ahead. One more temple, a shawl factory and a barren empty fruit orchard could not interest us much.
Ranikhet is basically an army cantonment area. Lots of training facility buildings and practice grounds occupy most of the town. Security connected jawans and their families form majority of population. Cleanliness and environmental care was visible in the town. Civilian areas had not matched that standard.

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Bringing Back Some Hues from the Beautiful Valley Of Kashmir

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This time around we decided to travel to Kashmir, the most “in news” state of our country, for all the very wrong reasons though! The Gurupurb holiday clubbed with a weekend gave us the three days to plan our trip. We left for Kashmir, fraught with all the apprehensions in the world, and yet excited. On arrival at the airport we were warmly greeted by Dr. M.H Wani, an academician, working towards nation building in his own humble ways; however we didn’t know how our myopic views about this breathtaking place were to be altered by the end of this trip!

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Ladakh Calling… (Part 6) Leh – Sarchu (260 Kms)

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From “Zing Zing Bar” it was more a downhill journey & our bulls were easily cruising through. By the time we reached “Darcha” it was 12:00 Hrs. We had a cup of tea with hot maggi & pushed of quickly. It started becoming cold with moderate rain. “Keylong” was just 8 kms away when it started raining heavily. We took a halt under a tree shade & after few minutes of (SuGa) break we resumed our journey. It was 14:00 Hrs when we reached “Keylong” & managed to get a decent room on the road side & parked our bikes just in front of our room.

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Bike Ride to Chitkul in HP from Delhi

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The day! We had plans to move to Chitkul – About 250 KMs from Shimla and 3450 meters above the sea level. This is the last town in India and is near Sangla. The population of Sangla is about 650-700 and the nearest river is Baspa. Coming back to our travel, we started in the morning at around 8 AM after having a decent breakfast and drove on the Sutlej river-side for not less than 150 KMs before hitting the tough terrain. We reached Chitkul at about 6 PM in the evening and no points for guessing, the town was already asleep. We decided to knock some doors and ask for an accommodation or hotel but just before we took a step ahead the wanabe models in us instructed us to click a few pictures and we had to obey. An old pahadi man came to us and asked if we had a place to stay. Trust me, in the given circumstances, he was nothing less than a god’s gift to us, especially when he offered us to stay in the PWD guest house in Chitkul.

The guest house however had its own share of problems to offer to us. There was extremely low voltage (hence really dim lights), the water pipelines were frozen – did I mention the temperature was -3 degree celcius? If this wasn’t all, there was no key to lock the rooms and we were expected to get our on own water for bath (and other important things) from the river Baspa (flowing right across). Last but not the least, we were the only people staying in the property – quite a situation to watch this horror movie, Amityville huh?

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A Himalayan Pilgrimage – 1

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When we entered the valley of Badrinath it was a sight to cherish and worth all the efforts. The sun was in full view, though clouds were meandering around. The snow-clad peaks were shining in full glory above the valley. There was not a hint of discomfort which most of us felt at KN, though the altitude of BN at 3411m is only slightly less than that of KN at 3584m. We felt as if we are at Hardwar!

When we reached Srinagar, we thought of it as a lowly (in altitude) place, whereas in the past, on our way up, we thought we were up in heavens when we reached here. Srinagar is indeed a beautiful place with a wide riverbed. One wished one had an extra day for this place.

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Pahalgam, the real beauty of Kashmir

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Next morning, had early break fast and went out to look for ponies as we shall explore Pahelgam on horseback. After some bargaining with the local pony owners we decided to visit Baisaran, Dabian, Kashmir valley & Pahelgam valley.We hired 3 ponies, one each for us and started off at a gentle pace. The pony attendants walked beside us guiding the animals. These places are some of the most beautiful locales in Pahelgam but can be explored only on horseback. So aged people and those who are not capable to ride ponies will be deprived from such scenic places. we moved on through the hilly trails and reached Pahelgam valley, a point from where the city can be viewed. Then we moved across streams, hilly terrain, boulders and reached a vast grassland called Baisaran or mini Switzerland.

The lush green grasslands, lined with pine trees and mountains beyond, were a treat for the eyes.After running around for some time we mounted on our ponies again and started moving down the slope of the mountains through the pine forest. By this time we had learnt to control the ponies with the reins. My son particularly was very excited. It was really an amazing experience. Next we arrived at Dabian.

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Roopkund Trek

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The trek starts from Wan. Wan—10kms—Bedni Bugyal—10—-Baguabasa—-7—Roopkund. The motor route follows the Rishikesh Badrinath highway NH58 till Karanprayag, after which you take the road for Gwaldom. From Tharali, the road to be taken is towards Debal- Lohajung. From Debal, ditch your vehicle and take a local cab, since the road requires a vehicle with good clearance from ground. If you are insane like us and did manage to drive till Lohajung with a lot of pre-inspection of the road and post inspection of your vehicle after crossing the muddy truck track hurdles, do drop it now and take a cab for 500 rupees for 12 kms to Wan where clearance only matters if skills are to match. At one point during the last stretch, the cab really got stuck in mud at a turn which had a steep fall on the driver’s side, tyres deep in 2 feet high slush and the Jeep was swerving unpredictably for us, thankfully the driver knew how much mud wrestling was good for his jeep. To add spice to the events there was a herd of wild boars crossing the road 10 yards in front of us. At Wan we met this interesting guy called Herasingh Bugyali , who introduced himself as an all-rounder. His all rounder definition comprised of being a shop-owner but also being able to lift heavy backpacks and doing roopkund and back in a day. That’s pretty much true about everybody there. So we got two such all rounders or porters and started the trek the next morning at 9, one hour behind fellow Noida trekkers from an IC chip design company. We caught them resting and sharing a cigarette within half a km of the trek. They reached Bedni Bugyal at 10 pm that day, while we had caught lunch at Bedni at 2 pm (such benchmarking always impresses me). If you are carrying your own backpacks don’t imagine to do this one in 5 hours as the climb is attrocious-level-7. Attrocious-level-9 is the final Baguabasa to Roopkund stretch. You might think is this a travelogue or what, a deter-ogue, but trekking here is not easy. Oh and I haven’t told you why not to go to Roopkund between June to September( inclusive). Coz it rains and there’s nothing to see except fog and clouds and all that Trishul jazz, thoughts of views of Nandaghunti and Trishul will tease you. See what I mean.

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Rain Fury in Chakrata, Uttarakhand in June 2013 (Part II)

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With loud jaikaras of mighty Lord, journey was resumed. It was going good for 10 odd kilometres, our car was leading the show with Atit car following us. Soon the task of clearing boulders and rocks from road started as they were all on the road due to landslides. We all were going mad by getting out of the car in the rain after every 200 m to get various kinds of blockages cleared. We were actually afraid by not seeing any human existence in the entire stretch of road and having not seen any vehicle crossing us in the past 3 hours. It was not a journey of 22 kms, it was manifolds, and appearing to be never ending due to disastrous hurdles coming our way. To add to our fear and bring our jaws out of the mouth, we saw a mighty river flowing over a bridge that we were supposed to cross. There was no point of going back, and crossing that flooding river over the bridge was a task we have never ever imagined, so after much courage both the cars decided to keep accelerating without any thought of applying brakes. Both the cars managed to cross the river but that courage comes with a price, and the bumper of our car was washed off by the river flowing perpendicularly to the motion of car with mighty pace. Had we even thought of applying brakes, we could have been flowing in river along with cars. We celebrated our victory of crossing the hurdle by clicking a photograph and moved ahead.

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A Serene Kasauli Trip

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Finally we reached our destination Kasauli after a 7 hour wonderful road journey, which made us more energetic. The only motivation about this trip was that we would detox our soul with this trip. Which was actually we were experiencing. Though Kasauli is a small town and is about 12 kms from Dharampur. You have to change the route from Dharampur, which is on Chandigarh Shimla highway. It is small town which is actually a cantonment.

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