Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kochi Trip (Part I) - "The Flying Experience"

"After midnight the moon set and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying." ~ Amelia Earhart




It was a clear day with a few patches of clouds up there. After completing the formalities and collecting my boarding pass, I checked in. I would be reaching Kochi around 3.30pm. I was excited to fly except for I was a little worried for, in my last flight to Kolkata I got severe pain in my ears that took more than 24hrs to recover.

"Leaving-The-Ground" Moment

Filled with apprehensions on what the experience would be, I boarded the flight. While climbing the stairs of the flight the sudden blow of wind on my face felt so good. Smiling air hostesses welcomed me to the flight. I wonder how they manage this smile throughout the day. Anyway unlike many others who just chose to ignore their smile, I smiled back. I got the window seat near the wing of the plane. I made myself comfortable, checked the safety instructions, just in case, and checked on the fellow passengers. Fortunately or unfortunately there was no one sitting next to me and I had all the privacy. I lost a chance of that great friendship that happens while flying in our Hindi movies. Anyways, I was happy to get my privacy.

The flight proceeded on the runway and slowly gained momentum and took off. It reminded me of my paragliding "leaving-the-ground" moment. How suddenly you lose contact from earth and your heart misses a beat. In no time we were up above in the sky watching establishments, cars and trees getting tiny and tinier. getting a bird's eye view of my city. We all look so small from up above... and the buildings, cars and roads look like toys.

"The Dream World" up there

 I could hear the engine roar as the plane gained height defying gravity. The little patches of clouds grew bigger and denser. Suddenly I realised we were entring the clouds. The earth and its establishments were no more visible. Slowly we crossed this layer of clouds. We were above clouds and I was transported to a different world. Those patches of clouds that I saw up in the sky in the morning were below me. The whole scenario had changed. Patches of clouds were hanging all over. Bear, rabbit, elephant, birds... there was a whole jungle up there. Sun was smiling at the play and rays were trickling in through my small personal window warming my body and soul. At that moment all I was missing was the feel of that wind on my face. I just wished the whole airplane would disappear dropping me on one of those clouds.

I was suddendly bought back to "our world" by one of the airhostess who was distributing a menu of things I could eat and the list of products I could buy while flying and the offers I will get if I buy them now. How I wish I could be in my own dreamy world forever. Anyways, I ordered some tea and Honey Oat Cookies.

Back to "My Gola"

We would be landing in half an hour, an announcement was made. I was all set to enter "my gola" and be connected once again. Now we were crossing a dense layer of clouds and suddenly I could feel the water drops on my window. What an amazin thing it was... sunny up above the clouds and rainy down below. And by-the-way, how do people get ear pain while flying, its a divine experience ;)

After a super exciting flying experience I was in Kochi to see my friends, Lishin and Anoop.
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spiti Adventures

High rocky hills kissing the sky, raging water stream cutting through the hills and small villages popping-up every now and then - Journey from Delhi to the Spiti Valley - a desert mountain valley located high Himalayas, is my most beautiful drive so far. Driving on the rough terrains through mighty mountains at days and looking at the innumerable stars at pitch dark nights has made for some of the best experiences of my life and has left me wondering about my tiny existence in this whole gamut of Universe.

An early start ensured we were out of the city before the traffic rush starts. After a delicious lunch at Dharampur, bypassing Shimla we reached Matiyana - a quiet, relaxed small village with a breathtakingly beautiful view of Shivalik ranges. It is known for the Golden Spur apples grown here. Our friend Sunil and his family welcomed us with sumptuous dinner generously served in traditional way.

Driving along the picturesque Hindustan-Tibet road which is cut in rock and goes along the Sutlej River we reached Kalpa. Our tired souls got elated looking at an impressive view of the Kinnaur Kailash ranges that includes Kinnaur Kailash (6349m) and Jorkanden (6473m) peaks. It’s interesting to see how Hinduism and Buddhism have undergone a religious mixing in this little town which was clearly evident in the architecture of Narayan-Nagini temple and Hu-Bu-Lan-Kar Monastery. Walking along the narrow lanes of this village we got a good glimpse of Kinnauri culture. 

In contrast to the romanticism at Kalpa, the stretch from Ribba to Nako was harsh. There were huge Rocky Mountains staring at us, no habitation for miles and the tough terrain seemed to be shouting to remain alert every moment. Passing through Khab which is hardly 13 km from Shipki La border Tibet, we reached Nako, situated in Hangrang Valley. 


A walk around the village Nako - Mani walls meandering through the village, the stone houses and richly carved timber verandas transported us back to the ancient times. Sun seemed to be in happy mood and chose to treat us with a mesmerizing view. Its golden rays touched snow kissed silver peaks turning them golden. It was a pleasure witnessing gradual transition of this beautiful evening into a gorgeous starry night.


 Further on the trail was Tabo, famous for the ancient monastic complex that preserves some of the ancient paintings and stucco images that date back to 11th century. We roamed around the complex trying to absorb the serenity of the place. Prayer flags fluttering in the wind and glowing jovial faces of kids, youth and old alike, we felt as if we have reached some different world altogether where people knew no sorrow. Smile was a part and parcel of everyone’s appearance. On the cliff-face above the complex were a series of caves that at some point were the dwellings of monks. Traces of painting can be seen in these caves as well.  

Located at an altitude of 4000mt. on the left bank of Spiti River, Kaza is the largest township in the area. It being centrally located, we made it our base for visiting Kye and Dhankar monasteries and Comic, Langza and Hikkim villages. Kye monastery is one of the main training centers for Lamas in the region. There were narrow corridors, low rooms, dark passages, difficult staircases and small doors that lead to prayer rooms in the monastery. Standing on the roof top of Kye monastery I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how life is so different here. Far from the complexities of city life, living in this quietude is a distant dream for most of us.  


We had already visited many monasteries in the region and expected something similar at Dhankar. But I was taken aback by the dramatically located monastery on a cliff overlooking the confluence of Spiti and Pin Rivers.

Next day we explored the villages of Langza, Hikkim and Comic. We posted a letter from the world’s highest post office at Hikkim (4440m), found some sea fossils while strolling around Langza, and interacted with some ambitious kids at Komic, world’s highest village (4500m).


Driving through some magnificent landscapes we reached Kunzum pass. The road to the Chandratal Lake was accessible only on foot. It was a demanding 5hour long trek that got steeper towards the end. But the mere sight of Chandratal was a reward enough for all the hard work - Silent valley, still blue water and clear reflection of snow covered peaks. We set our tents on the vast meadows on the bank of the lake. Sitting by the lake looking at the reflection of stars at night made me bow to the beauty of nature.



Our tired city souls were now fully rejuvenated to start our journey back.

-------------------------------------------------------------------THE GUIDE---------------------------------------------------
The Trail: Delhi - Simla - Rampur - Kalpa - Nako - Tabo – Kaza– Chandratal - Manali – Delhi
Total distance: 1840 kms
Duration: 10 days
Best Season: June – September

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