Thursday, August 22, 2013

Conquering Dhauladhars

Tucked in quilts at the height of 2975mts with a cup of hot black tea and a spoon of rum to beat the cold while the whole valley is covered in mist, it was hard to believe that it would be 40 degrees plus back home in Delhi. 

A few adventurous souls decided to trek to Triund in monsoons when ways will be dangerously slippery and views hidden due to fog. We were told that the trek is 9kms and will take around 4hrs. Climbing up the rocky path, watching snails and moss on the way for around half an hour we reached Dharamkot. Got an interesting piece of information – the locals here drink these snails with milk for speedy recovery of fractured bones. Glad we were to have finished one eighth of the trek, when someone told us that trek actually STARTS here and that vehicles can come till here. Gathering our courage we started the “real” trek. It had been raining since yesterday and fortunately it was a clear day to start with.

Trekking up the Dhauladhars

The valley looked like a beautiful lady wearing green saree fresh out from bath... hair still wet, drops still resting on her sweet face with red bindi on her forehead. Glad we were to have done this in monsoons. On our right was the diminishing village making us feel we have climbed quite high... but soon we would find ourselves at the foot of another hill that is still to be conquered.

After almost 2 hrs of continuous trek on slippery rocks, passing through lush green Rhododendron and oak trees we all had different pace... some of us much ahead still managing a smile without effort... some struggling with their baggage and thinking why they bought that night dress, could have easily done without it but managing to smile with an effort and some tired to the core talking to every person trekking down and checking how much more they have to climb, their smiles vanished completely. I would not reveal which category I belonged to.

A quick break
Weather was good till now. To our relief we found a tea stall. The moment we stopped there for a quick lunch, it started raining heavily... as if weather God was watching over us. After half an hour of torrential shower it stopped raining. By the time we were reenergized with parathas, juice and chocolate. With even more enthusiasm we started the second leg of our trek. It took us around 6 hrs with breaks from Mcleodganj to reach Triund. 

The moment we reached up there, we forgot our aching toes, hurting back and paining legs.  We were mesmerized by the beauty of nature… standing on a natural green carpet in Dhauladhars with a wonderful view we felt out of this world. We were smiling down at the deep valley while mighty dhauladhars were looking down at us with a smile.

Nature at its best

The sky was clear blue now with white fluffy patches of clouds here and there. It was a perfect day for photography so we started capturing the beauty of the moment on our cameras. By the time we came back to our senses it was almost dark. Preparations started for setting up the camp. Triund is a beautiful camping site in Dhauladhars at an altitude of 2975mts.

Camping at Triund

It was amazing to see the beautiful day turning into gorgeous night. Sun sank deep into the horizon hiding the last gold of the miser sun... Slowly darkness took over the whole valley. We could see nothing but some glittering lights far below… music of silence playing all over.

We felt real proud and precious to be there in oneness with nature!

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Monsoon celebration with "Elites"

Monsoon celebration is in full swing. Recently visited Siliserh Lake with a lively group of senior citizens. It was the inaugural trip of CLG Elite, a new division of chaloletsgo! Its an initiative to bring together people who have just started their second innings and believe in making it even better than the first one.

The Team
With a group of seven cheerful people, we began our celebration. Singing, laughing, teasing... driving through villages, mingling with locals.. and partying was all we did.

Siliserh Lake, Rajasthan

Black clouds embracing the sky... rain drops falling on the lake... lush green surroundings... moist fragrance in the air. It could not have been better than this!

A Date with Nature!

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Magic Moment at Dhankar

We had already visited many monasteries in the region while on our Spiti sojourn and I expected something similar at Dhankar as well. But I was totally taken aback by the beauty of this place. The monastery is dramatically located on a cliff overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers. 

Dhankar Monastery dramatically located on a cliff

On the other side of the mountain lies Dhankar lake. A well defined steep trail of 5kms will take you there. It is something not to be missed. There are some spots on this trek from where you will get spectacular views of Dhankar. It took us around an hour and a half to reach the lake. Sun was about to set when we reached the place. It was a dark and cloudy day.

Dhankar Lake

I was taken aback by the magic that happened as soon as we were about to leave. I still have a clear picture of that magic moment in my mind - Dark sky with black clouds... cool breeze coming from north... that time of the day when slowly darkness takes over the day and suddenly when we were about to leave the place magic happened... Golden light trickling from behind the clouds lit up the lake turning it from dark grey to deep blue with golden spread all over the place... as if some fairy has waived her magic wand! 

A dash of gold!

Wish Nature's magic could be captured  as is!
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Road Ends Here!

We were looking for the Kingyupa Temple in the village Chitkul when we met this middle aged well built pahari guy. He was intrigued to see two strangers roaming around in the lanes of this small village of population not more than 500. It was he who approached us.

Chitkul - The last inhabited village of India

Just a 5minutes talk with the man and we were climbing the wooden stairs of his house. "Watch your head" he said while directing us to low lit room of his house all made of wood. There were just three rooms in the house - one that he directed us to, it had a loom in it with lots of wool spread on the floor, second where his wife was sitting with his daughter and mother and the third where we were standing now... kind of corridor connecting the other two rooms.

On talking more to the guy we learnt that he is the person who runs well known "Hindustan ka akhiri dhaba". I knew Chitkul only by this shop before I came here... Had seen a few pics of some bikers group. The road abruptly ends at his dhaba. Thats the end of India. Chitkul is on the foot hills and across these hills is Tibet. Looking at the crowd that is attracted to this small village now, he wants to convert his small dhaba into a hotel and a nice restaurant for travelers. 

With Om Prakash and family
A little more time talking to him and his whole family joined us. On asking his wife described how the loom works. She was making a shawl for an upcoming marriage in the village. Now I was curious to know how they dress in marriages. They took no time in taking the whole costume out and dressing me in it. More than me, they were excited

The Kinnauri women dress in Dohru which comprises of Chhalni, Gachi (waist belt), Pattu (shawl), Topi (cap) and men wear Suthan, Choba, Gachi and Topi.

Me in traditional Kinnauri dress on loom
The warm family bade us goodbye with a promise of having a meal with them on our next visit.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Wish I were a bird too...!

I visited Palampur, my home town a few weeks before. We have a beautiful garden with variety of fruits and flowers... starting from Peaches, plum, litchi, apricot, mangoes, guava, pomegranate, papaya, strawberries... Roses, poppy, lily, Pansy, camellia and many more.... you name it and we have it all in our garden. And the garden is frequented by a great variety of birds and butterflies. This time I could actually see the birds in action as it is their breeding season. Various birds like robin and Barbet were busy making the nests for their young ones in our garden... Bulbuls singing and jumping around at times on litchi tree and at times on green grass... fruit trees either having fruits or bloom... sweet fragrance of flowers all around... chirping birds playing around... I could feel the romance in the air. It was no less than living in a paradise for a week.

Papa busy maintaining the garden
My day would start with a sweet call of a small blue bird. I would take a deep breath and head towards the garden to exercise on soft green grass breathing fresh mountain breeze... a look around and mind, body and soul would refresh. By this time even papa would get free from his day to day gardening tasks. We would together read newspaper, discuss subjects worth a discussion and then have healthy breakfast. 

Observing these birds through the day playing and singing and building their homes with such an effort strengthens my wish to be a bird. Male would diligently collect hay to build the nest and the female would observe lovingly. Then the pair would spend time flying around in the garden... on the trees... branches... playfully. How I wish I were a bird too...!

Watering the plants is fun
Evenings would be full of action. That's when maximum birds would be out. After watering the plants we would together start the bird chase. Papa on one side of the garden, Payal, my sis, on the other and me at the backyard. All busy chasing birds and discovering new additions. The ones for whom our garden was home were Bulbul, Robin and Black browed Barbet. The other guests who visited our garden while I was there were Oriental white eye, Purple Sun bird, a pair of Spotted Doves, Maina, Woodpecker and many more whose names I still don't know.  That black and white little bird who would usually come around sunset and sit on the top of arocaria almost everyday,  the blue bird who would wake me up with its sweet voice, that smallest yellowish brown bird who would never sit at one place as if teasing me and not wanting me to click it... They all became a part of my days there.

Robin pair busy preparing their nest in our garage, between a pole and tin roof. What papa's worried about was the young ones of birds will not be able to stand the heat when sun will warm up the tin. So the solution he thought is that he will put a damp piece of cloth over tin so as to avoid direct sun.


Black browed Barbet these days was busy digging up her nest in a trunk of an old tree. The process of digging it is very similar to how a woodpecker construct his nest. A hole with unbelievable perfectness. 

Black browed Barbet

Himalayan Bulbul I found them the most romantic of all. They would keep playing and singing around almost the whole day around their home and surroundings. 
Himalayan Bulbul
Chasing and clicking these sweet little birds is what I did the whole week and thoroughly enjoyed.

Now I am waiting for the Barbet to lay eggs. I really wanna see how cute li'l ones look and the sight of them being fed by mother bird is worth a visit to Palampur again. 
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shivpuri - A perfect weekend getaway from Delhi

A place away from city not very far; relaxing as well as challenging; in the lap of nature with modern amenities; equally attractive for both young and old, kids and parents...!

Around 250kms from Delhi on the bank of River Ganga lies this place called Shivpuri. Stay in luxury tents, sit leisurely on the banks of river Ganga enjoying the cool breeze, open your stiff tired limbs and play volley ball or badminton, swim around, take a forest walk, involve yourself in adventure sports like kayaking, rafting, rock climbing etc in the day and relax with a can of beer, guitar and amazing nature around bonfire at night.

Families relaxing on a weekend at Shivpuri

I recently visited Shivpuri, it's my third visit. I wonder how the place has changed itself as per the demand.

My first visit was with my office colleagues and it was a corporate trip. Shivpuri then was a secluded place, the main attraction then to visit the place was Rafting. And you would mostly find adventure sport lovers visiting the place and staying in tents that provided the basic facilities.

River Rafting 
My second visit was with family and friends after around 5 years. I realized the scenario there has changed much. Number of tents in the area have considerably increased and so have the facilities in the tents. The first time I visited this place, the loos were a small pit in the sand in contrast to what I see today. Now they have English style comod with proper flushing system. People come to take a break from their hectic life in city and relax on the bank of Ganga while staying comfortably. Rafting is an option for those looking for some adventure too.

My third visit left me totally surprised... I was amazed to see how this secluded peaceful place has changed into a picnic spot. Families from all around north India have flooded the place. And why not, the place has everything that a good weekend getaway should have.

I would not call a trip to Shivpuri an adventure travel as most of travel agencies sell it... I would rather say its luxury travel that provides you the opportunity/ option to engage in some adventure sport as well. Tented accommodations have all facilities... Comfortable bed to sleep on, wonderful river view in front, jungle and nature so near, loos with all facilities including hot water for bathing and perfect wholesome meals. If you looking for a place to relax and you also like adventure sports, you'll love the place. There's a lot to do - Kayaking, River rafting, Rock climbing, Jungle walks, Trekking.

Kayaking on Ganga waters

Feel like taking a break and visiting Shivpuri? Contact me @9999731115.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013


 In Anticipation
Accidentally heard name of the place somewhere on net and apart from this the only information that we had was that this place is somewhere near Sariska reserve forest. So, after a rocky and enriching drive through the desert forest of Sariska on a lovely winter morning, as we set for the unknown and mysterious Bhangarh , we literally had no idea where we were heading to. Although, we had number of explorations in the past where we were not equipped with enough knowledge of the place, accommodations etc. but I bet this one was complete blank. Surprisingly none of the locals we asked around Sariska could give us any proper information about the place or distance……a desperate attempt to bind together the various broken information finally helped us heading for a supposedly right direction.
So real yet so strange

Four of us on the old and trusted friend my Alto LX started with the maximum speed possible. But very soon the ‘highway’ nature of the road turned into a slow bumpy ride. A sunny winter day, the more we went more we found population decreasing, only some occasional view of village women with their colorful attire carrying stones, sand and digging while some fat men sitting on chair smoking.  With the sun right on the top of our head we were felling hungry already. Still no sign of the Bhangarh at any of the direction board or milestone (hardly there were any) we stopped by a dhaba like structure after around two hours drive. As feared, here also the people have never heard about Bhangarh and we left just after a rather forgettable lunch with mixed anticipation.
As the Sun slowly leaning towards the horizon we found ourselves on a narrow country road, occasional camel cart and small village huts…….like a invisible magical wall we found ourselves driving through a completely different world…….right through the hearts of the day to day life a remote Rajasthan village …far away from the modern life and cities…..women busy in their day to day work….men and aged people chatting on the veranda …..under a monster tree a villagesarpanch with huge white mustaches talking circled by the excited villagers……and you can easily make out you are not in a Bollywood film-set and everything around is much so real and yet so strange and different from what we see in our regular life.One look at the meter and we knew out initial estimation of Bhangarh being around 30/40 km from Sariska went for a toss and we have already crossed over 30 km……..and I was sincerely doubtful how far the remaining petrol can carry us… finding a petrol pump amongst these tiny village paths was as good as finding kangaroo at Saiska forest….. (And moreover, we have not found even a tractor for the last 45 minutes.) A strange passion and anticipation kept us going and how I back my decision today, as we will always cherish that experience and feelings in life. One good thing came out by that time, we were ensured finally by a 10/12 years kid out to ride his goats’ that we were indeed going towards the right direction and all we needed to do was to find Ajabgarh first. Slowly , even the tiny villages and occasional villagers disappeared and all we had picturesque landscapes all around rocky uneven grounds , small grasses and age-old tress. 

Doomed Village on the way
As we drove towards Ajabgarg and beyond it, we spotted some house like structure from a distance, anticipating another small village on the way after a long time we were eager to find some people. And hardly had we known a unique experience awaiting us. Indeed, it was a village but with the entire village was doomed and devoid of any living thing. The houses made of clay and stones were all looking mystic and haunted and where ever there is a door left undestroyed was locked from outside.

Tired and excited a chilling wind passed through our spine as we drove passed a complete village without a single heart beating. Around 3 km from the village Alto 2807 was made a sudden stopped. There lied a ghostly tree, around 100 years old as it seemed, on a side of the road and this was not what made us stopped; but a very small kid was sitting below the tree out of nowhere. Finding someone and more so a kid so small at the given situation was so unexpected that we were thrilled. We were amazed to see the kid did not utter a word in spite of our repeated asking and probing. He stayed unmoved. Confused, after some clicks of him and the place we continued our amazing journey.

 The next stop was due to a over flowing local river, water flowing right across the road took us some time to decide weather our can take it…and as always it did not disappoint us a bit and crossed the location comfortably. 
And thus we reached Spooky Bhangarh
A good 72 km though that unforgettable journey finally enabled us to reach Bhangarh…..we were more than pleased to find a couple of more travelers and a few locals there. A place worth all those stress and hard work had every reason to be called the most hunted place in this south Asian country. Monkeys and Indian langoors had been living with a perfect symphony with the spirit (and spirits?) of Bhangarh for ages. 
An entire township planned somewhere in the pages of History, hidden at the most interiors of Rajasthan were truly magical. As the sun touches the horizon, a mystic light all around, you would definitely love to believe all those story and magic standing at the foothills of Great Bhagrh fort.
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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2012 - An year of craziness

2012... when I reflect on the year that's gone... I see 12 months of total craziness. Travelling from hot to cold desert, from peaks to plateaus, haunted places to eternal pilgrims; Enjoying every weather to the fullest.. be it getting wet in rains or sweating myself to scorching hot sun in the desert... or shivering to the deadly winter I did it all. Every day of the year was different... every experience made me learn something new and every journey helped me find myself little more.

Apart from my travel adventures that includes gliding above Dhauladhar ranges... conquering the highest motorable road... finding mysteries at spooky Bhangarh.... mingling with tribals at Pushkar... getting wild in jungles of Bengal, there are many other milestones that made 2012 a significant year in the journey of my life. I officially started organising travels for likeminded people; got my travel stories published in various national and international publications including national geographic, Discover India, Terrascape, Alive and Women's Era; did my first independent photography assignment; organised photography event and much more...

Hoping 2013 to be even crazier!

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