Category Archives: Pictures

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 1

Finally, surpassed all the procrastination, laziness and mental blocks to write about our trek to Sar Pass (Did you note the word play?).

It was an exciting trip and plenty of stories to be told. But, From where do I start? Just like my last trek, this one is also with Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI). Being one of the most famous and sought after trek organized by YHAI, we had to plan well in advance, almost before 5 months. Like any other trip, few opted out, a few added in and finally left with Myself, Jayashree (Buddy), Nigilan and Lavanya. Yeah, the same friends from my last trek and many other trips before. It was quite unfortunate that Giri opted at the last moment, it was great fun with him the last trek.

Day 1 – 18th May 2017

As planned Buddy and Myself started from Chennai whereas Nigilan and Lavanya started from Bangalore. Here is something funny that happened at the airport. We were there well ahead of our flight schedule. With a poor consciousness of time, we lazed chit chatting and charging our mobile phones. It was a great shock when we were denied to check-in our luggage as we crossed the 50 minutes to departure check-in window. Phew, Thankfully, our kind apologetic words worked and the ground staff agreed to check-in with a strong warning to be on time. That’s a great lesson learned. We boarded our Indigo6E 26D, despite checking-in together we both were given different seats however the only consolation for that ultimate boredom was a seat by the window. Most time was spent listening to music and reading Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (Yet to be completed). After a long haul at Hyderabad, we reached Chandigarh around 2 pm.

Nigilan & Lavanya were already waiting for us at the airport and we were joined by Giri’s friends Prasad, Sunil & Sunil’s sister Sharon. More the merrier, the gang count raised to 7. With our bus to Bhuntar scheduled at night, we decided to hire cabs and roam around the city in the mean time. As we were terribly hungry, we decided to finish off our lunch first before doing anything else. The cab driver recommended Pal Dhaba at Sector 28, one of the popular Dhabas in the town. Yes, the food at this place lived up to its reputation without burning hole in the pocket. I loved their Butter Chicken & Mint Chutney and finished the meal with delicious Kulfi sold outside the hotel. Our next stop was the beautiful Sukhna Lake. Despite being a hot summer day, it was quite breezy there. With my friends complimenting my superior photography skills the time moved pleasantly as we walked around the lake. I am in still love with the yellow blossoms there.

Our next stop was the most famous Rock Garden of Chandigarh. It was secretly built by Nek Chand, a government official out of waste and throw away items. Though it was illegally built in a protected forest area, public opinions were asked and the park was officially inaugurated in 1976 as public space. Isn’t it true when they say “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”? it was really amazing to see how day to day waste items has been transformed into beautiful sculptures. It’s awesome of Nek Chand to make us see and the feel the same beauty he saw in those disposable things. The place was magnificent, even got waterfalls and I really wish we had enough time to roam around.

Our next hop was Zakir Hussain Rose Garden or just Rose Garden as dearly called by the locals. Spanning across 30 acres, it’s the largest garden in Asia. It’s a home for 50,000+ rose bushes, as a result of being there at off season, all we could see is rose bloomed in very few bushes and that was quite disappointing. One big mistake we did was to extend the cab. The cab driver didn’t communicate us properly on the extra tariffs, as the result, we end up paying a lot more than we supposed to when we reached Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT). The Sad part is, even my buddy’s conversation with the cab company’s customer care in Hindi didn’t help us. After a light dinner at a restaurant in ISBT, we boarded our bus to Bhuntar and that’s how the first day of our trip came to an end.

Day 2 – 19th May 2017

With bumps and sharp turns, all of sudden I felt like being on a roller coaster. It took some time for me to get into my consciousness and realize that the bus was in the middle of mountains intensely tracing its curves. As everyone is asleep, the whole bus was quiet and I silently enjoyed the dawn slowly breaking over the mountains. Little perks of being an early riser. As soon our bus dropped us at Bunthar, I could feel the cold breeze caress me and my body struggling to adapt to the same. My friends easily vetoed my idea of reaching the base camp by bus, so we hired a cab. On the way, we halted a little for our morning tea. The taste of the tea was completely contrary to the driver’s claim of the best tea in this area. View of the Parvathi river and the Hindi songs on the way make the drive much memorable one.

After an hour journey, finally, we reached YHAI base camp at Kasol. It was nothing like our previous base camp at Darjeeling during Sandakphu trek. Once done with our registrations, we were allotted our tents. Yes, you heard it right, we would be staying in tents in base camp as well as all other higher camps to come. After having our breakfast and collecting our blankets, we spent the forenoon resting in our tents. One can’t expect much on a rest day. At any given point of time, this camp houses 4 batches, 1 x reporting batch, 2 x training batch and 1 x departing batch. That’s quite a lot of people. No wonder when they say it’s one of the most famous treks of YHAI. One of the best things Nigilan did during this trip was finding an awesome place for lunch. The Evergreen restaurant served some of the authentic Israelian cuisines in Kasol. I really loved their Chicken Schnitzel and Hummus. We were not allowed to be out of the camp post 6 PM and that’s very little time to finish our late lunch and shop some essentials. After roaming around the street of Kasol, we returned to the camp just on time. Then the dinner was served and a yet another awesome day came to an end with campfire event organized by our previous batch in the camp.

Day 3 – 20th May 2017

Though the day started much earlier for me, for most of them at the camp the wakeup call was the long whistle from the camp leader. We all assembled for a quick count check and jogged to the exercise spot half a kilometer away. An hour was well spent doing stretching and strengthening exercises. The best part is, Sunil and myself would run back to the camp while others would walk exhausted, runners you see. A girl in the camp seemed familiar but couldn’t even recollect her name and was quite hesitant to talk to her. Later, she introduced herself and happened to be my fellow Yatri during Jagiti Yatra. It’s no mere coincidence that I keep meeting Yatri’s during my treks. It was a pleasure meeting you Amrita. The breakfast was followed by tent cleaning activity and the acclimatization walk. We had to carry a minimum of 10 kgs and walk a total of 8 km, almost near Manikaran and back. We took a small break on the banks of Parvathi river, had some juice and rejoiced the beauty of the mountains and the flowing water before returning back to the camp.  Post lunch we had our induction session, where the program director gave a brief talk on the trekking route, Do’s & Dont’s. The rain spoiled our sneaking out plan and we spent the rest of the day inside our tents. Like any other awesome day at the base camp, it came to an end with dinner followed by campfire event by our batch. Our guys did put a spectacular show on the stage. Did I tell you that Sharon is an awesome singer? We even some how convinced her to sing that day.

Day 4 – 21st May 2017

The morning routine is pretty much same at the base camp. Just like the last day we had the wakeup call, count check, exercise session, breakfast and tent cleaning. We were then taken to a pine forest for the rock climbing training. The trainers gave us clear instructions and even thought us how to tie a double bowline knot. We had to climb an almost flat vertical surface with a few cracks to hold on. Most of us tried and only a few of us succeeded. Even though we mocked Nigilan a lot, he is the only one in our gang to complete the climb successfully and did it like a piece of cake. While others were trying hard to climb, I relaxed eating cherries and playing cricket with the local kids. They were gracious enough to allow me to bowl an over. Ours was a 50 member batch and the time wasn’t enough for all of us to try, consequently, few of the brave souls like me returned back to the camp without even giving it a try. Post lunch we were supposed to go on Rappelling, but nature had other plans. It rained heavily and Rappelling got canceled. By evening, we packed our bags. Initially, my backpack weighed around 9 kgs. Lighter the better during the trek, eventually, I reduced it to around 6 kgs and deposited the rest with the base camp. When the rain subsided we had some time to go out and munch some cakes at the German Bakery and some hot Momos at the small shop opposite to it. It seemed to be a perfect climate to munch those deliciously hot Momos. By this time you must have known how a day ends at base camp. Unlike rest of the days, one feeling dominated that night, the sheer excitement of climbing mountains the next day.

To Be Continued…

Scribble Your Heart Away With Matrikas

In the age of computers, mobile and social media, I am one of the few who’s still in love with paper stationeries. People get really surprised when I tell them that I still take a small notebook with me while I travel and send Postcards. Sounds kinda oldie, yeah that’s me.

Thank you Matrikas for sending me an awesome Journal as part of their Bloggers outreach campaign. Matrikas who are into books and stationery for more that 50 years have come up with their new series named “Creative Woman’s  Journal“. Out of their 4 designs Dream, Glide, Write and Fly, I chose Glide as it suited my taste better.

The first thing that impressed me was the artistic cover design, screen printed in golden color on a fine fabric. It’s not a usual journal with just empty pages, it has got the following awesome features.

Adult Coloring Pages with nice intricate designs to color when you are super bored

Adult Coloring Pages

Ruled Pages to pen down your thoughts

Rulled Pages

Doodling Sheets, obviously to doodle and expand your creativity

Doodling Sheets

Stickers to stick around the journal and mark something significant

Stickers for fun

Pouch to keep something valuable, like the concert ticket which you want to preserve forever

Pouch

I have seen people praising imported journals such as Moleskine and Piccadilly for its quality. But this well crafted indigenous product is in par with them and I would recommend trying this one.

It’s not just their journal, I am also quite impressed with their other products like Cube Works notebooks and would give it a try soon. Do check their Facebook Page for more such awesome products.

Trip To Remember – Kochi – Muziris Biennale

After weeks and weeks of procrastination, I finally pulled myself up to write about one of the exciting trips of my life. Who said short trips aren’t exciting enough? This one easily defined that assumption.

One fine day, my dear blogging friend Deepanarayana a.k.a Prince Deepu called me to check if I was interested in a 2 day trip to Cochin. As I haven’t visited the place yet, I gave my nod without a second thought. Later, he also informed me that there’s Kochi Muziris Biennale, a contemporary art festival going on in Cochin at the same time. For me, it felt like killing two birds with one stone. In other words “Kanna Rendu Laddu Thinna Aasaiya” feeling :D. Like any other trip, a few opted out and finally ended up with Bragadesh Prasanna a.k.a Brags Anna, Karthik Pasupathi a.k.a KP, Deepanarayana a.k.a Deepu and Yours Truly.

That Friday (10.02.2017), left my office early so that I could pack up my things and catch the train on time. Luckily, like my last trip to Hyderabad, there wasn’t any eleventh-hour adventure. Though our train was scheduled for 22:50 it was around 23:15 when we took off. After bits of chit chats, my sleepy head wasn’t able to hold anymore. So, I wished the rest a very good night and dozed off.

It was around 12 in the noon when we reached the Ernakulam Junction the next day (11.02.2017). We were hungry as we had a very little for the breakfast on the train. So, indulged on traditional Kerala Parotas and Biryanis in a restaurant near the station. From there, we took an Auto to Fort Kochi and it was already 2 while we checked-in into our homestay. Then, we freshened ourselves before heading out to roam around by 2.30. Renting the bike from the homestay helped us.

Our first stop was “Cabral Yard”, where we saw an array of awesome audiovisuals projected on unusual surfaces inside a mud hut. Then we moved to the greatest attraction of the fest, “THE ASPINWALL HOUSE”. It’s one of the famous heritage property in Fort Kochi. Established in 1867, the former business premises of Aspinwall & Company Ltd was well converted into a well-organized art exhibition. After picking up our entrance passes which will be valid for the whole Biennale for Rs 100 each, we took a free guided tour, sincerely considering our expertise in the field of contemporary art. The following are the artworks that completely blew me away.

The first on the list is “Sea Of Pain”. Many times I have heard Poems, but for the first time, I experienced one. It’s the conceptualization of the below poem by Raul Zurita on Syrian refugee. The heaviness and gravity caused while walking in the dark, dense sea water in the room are beyond expression by words, one has to feel it being there.

Don’t you look? In the sea of pain.
Don’t you hear me? In the sea of pain.
Don’t you see me? In the sea of pain.
Don’t you feel me? In the sea of pain.
Won’t you come back? Never again? In the sea of pain.
Never? Never? Never? In the sea of pain.”

The next on the list is “The Pyramid of Exiled Poets”. It’s a Pyramid with a very faintly lit path inside, it’s almost dark in there. Along the path, you hear the voices of poets who were exiled from their country. Again, it’s tough to express these experiences by words, at least for me.

Ghost Keeping“, a depiction of a textile factory run by ghosts, “Room for Lies“, a room filled with lots of photographs and paintings, “Dance of Death”, an art installation made of electric bulbs and “12 Stories”, a live mural painting project using only natural colors depicting a mythological story are the other artworks that got inscribed deep in my thoughts. It was great to see a pop-up post office got set up in the venue, what an opportunity to write postcards to a few friends.

I liked the view of Kochi port from there. It was amazing to see huge ships moving in and out of the port. Wish we could stay there for more, but we had to leave the place as every Biennale venue get closed by 6 pm. Then we headed straight to the beach, I have no idea why I love beaches a lot, I just love them. One of my long time dreams came true, it’s to watch those massive Chinese nets in action. The breeze, the sand, the waves and the tiny shells. OMG, the beach bought an unexplainable joy and I was singing aloud “Andha Arabic Kadaloram” song as the tiny tides wet my legs. Again, we went back to the homestay, got freshened up and started scouting for a better place to have dinner. Unfortunately, our search got ended up in an overpriced Italian Restaurant. Our purse got emptied, but our stomach wasn’t even half full. So, we headed up to a local fast food joint nearby the beach to fill up the rest. After roaming all the day, we were all dead tired when we returned back to the room. So, I dozed of quick and that’s how an awesome day came to an end.

The next day (12.02.2017), as planned we all woke up early and headed straight to the beach. Yes, it’s the beach again. We were so early that the beach was deserted and oddly any people there. But, the environment was serene to enjoy. Slowly the dawn broke and the sun came out, so the people. One thing that caught our eyes was “Fish Cemetery”, an art installation that was created to bring awareness on marine pollution created by disposal of plastic into the ocean. Here comes the best part of the day, the breakfast. Isn’t it a sin, being in Kerala and not having Aapam or Appam. Lucky a Thattukada (Road Side Shop) near the beach saved us from committing that sin. We had Appam with a super spicy egg curry and finished it with a KattanChaya (Black Tea). OMG, that morning is so vivid in my memory. With soo much salt and sand on our body, we returned back to homestay to freshen up and get ready for the rest of the day.

Compared to other places, it was quite a long ride to Mattancherry Palace. It’s a Portuguese palace popularly known as the Dutch Palace. Now this palace acts as a museum where the artifacts of the royal family are been preserved. It was unfortunate that they didn’t allow photography inside the palace. Experts would have advised visiting popular venues like “Pepper House” or “David Hall”, but we decided otherwise to visit Student Biennale instead. Our next stop was a small Student Biennale near the palace itself. Then, we made a detour towards the Jewish Synagogue. On the way, we stopped by a collateral project which showcased some beautiful Pichvai or Pichwai form of paintings. The place also features a long Snake Boat decorated with bowls filled with color powder.  Just before the Synagogue, there was Mandalay hall which showcased some of the Pepper House projects, we didn’t want to miss it either. Finally the Jewish Synagogue. It’s my first time to a Synagogue and it’s well decorated with Chandeliers, Hanukkah Menorah (Jewish Candle Holder) and artistic blue tiles. It was definitely a unique experience out there. It was lunch time and the alarm went off in our stomach. Luckily we found the snooze button not far away. We had a typical Kerala Meals for our lunch. As we had few more hours to spare, we decided to explore a few more venues.

On the way, we came across one awesome Student Biennale at “Mohamed Ali Warehouse”. It featured many interesting artworks which include a comic type art installations, tools of goldsmith and animals portrayed as soldiers. Just a few meters from there, there was an “Artists In Residence (A.I.R) Kochi” exhibition which featured awesome works, especially by women artists. Then, we stepped into “Routes”, yet another collateral exhibition which showcased colorful and vivid art installations by Indian artists. Further down the road, we found yet another awesome Student Biennale which featured works of students from Government College of Fine Arts of Chennai and Kumbakonam. Their works were all inspired by the life of normal working people. The sweat drops collected in bottles, tools of the blacksmith and the portraits of weavers made of silk are few of the highlights.

By that time, my brain has reached its saturation point. Whenever I see an art piece it threw an “Art Overflow” exception.  Usually, it’s a symptom of creativity overdose, probably caused due to continuous exposure to awesome artworks. I pleaded to go back, but we decided to visit one last venue before packing up. The last one was “TKM Warehouse” and this place featured a traditional Uru Boat along with a few other artworks.

Finally, we were back to our homestay packed our bags, said our farewell to the owner and headed straight to the Jetty to catch a ferry back to Ernakulam. There here was a huge queue standing for the tickets and we weren’t sure of the ferry timings too. Hard luck, so we took a cab to Ernakulam and boarded our train in the very last minute. Next day (13.02.2017) morning around 7.30 we were back to Chennai and an awesome trip came to an end. Wish we had more time to explore the whole Biennale. But not to complain, we made max use of the time we got, enjoying every moment of it. What makes a trip exciting is not just the place alone, but also the company. With no doubt, it’s definitely a trip to remember.

The Story Of The Random Postcards

The day was great with me messing up with the work and awarded with a sarcastic comment from my boss. I returned home drained and all I wished was the great day to end momentarily. But, back at home awaited a surprise. As I entered the home, my mom handed a square-shaped envelope over to me. The envelope was from the CzechRepublic and bore the name of someone I never heard of. The envelope contained an awesome Minion Christmas card and a tiny 2017 calendar. I stood bewitched wondering how the sender knows that Minions are my favorite and that card made my day. That’s not the only instance where a postcard from totally random people put a big smile on my face. Thanks to Postcrossing.

The following is what beloved Wikipedia got to tell about Postcrossing. To know more about Postcrossing, read their FAQ page.

“Postcrossing is an online project that allows its members to send and receive postcards from all over the world. The project’s tagline is “send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!” Its members, also known as postcrossers, send postcards to other members and receive postcards back from other random postcrossers. Where the postcards come from is always a surprise.”

I randomly stumbled upon Postcrossing while I was searching for places to buy postcards in Chennai to send to a friend in Australia. I found the concept interesting and gave it a try.  My very first postcard was to Russia on 19th Sep 2016 and the first one I received was from CzechRepublic on 14th October 2016. Since then I have sent 25 cards in which 7 of them are still in transit. I have also received 18 cards from various countries across the world.

Postcrossing not only enables random people to exchange postcards, it also contribute to the conservation of fading art of snail mails in this world of e-mail and social media. The fact that some random unrelated person spending a few mins of his life in writing and posting a postcard is what that delight me when I receive one. Each and every card you receive is a surprise. It might come from a 17-year-old boy or 67-year-old granny, it might be from well know countries such as Germany or from countries that you have never heard of such as Latvia and Belarus. Apart from the cards, the stamps on them are also equally interesting. All you have to do is send one, keep calm and wait for another one to hit your postbox as it takes an average of 15 days for a postcard to get delivered.

 

postcrossigstats

My Postcrossing Stats

 

If you are someone who wish to connect to rest of the world and have all the patience to do it via one of the slowest modes of communication then Postcrossing is one of the best hobbies for you. My subsequent post might be on from where I source the postcards, Postcrossing community in India and postage details. Till then, Happy Postcrossing.

Embarrassed – Braced – Embraced

Embarrassed

“Hey, can you help scrap some coconut for me, that’s the best way you can put your teeth to use”. I have heard many say this to me cos of my protruding teeth, some even had a nickname for me as Thenga Turuvi (Coconut Scraper). If you ask me if I am embarrassed about it, actually a big no. Scraping coconut is one of the few things I am really good at and even my mom would agree to the same. Some even ask me if I chew tobacco or do smoke cos of the hard stains on the tooth in my lower jaw. I did brush properly, but they being misaligned and crooked made it much more difficult. Again, I am not embarrassed about this either and I don’t feel embarrassed about anything that’s not an outcome of my conscience decision.  If you are wondering why the hell it’s in the title, it’s for no other reason than it rhymes with the next two words 😀 .

“I don’t feel embarrassed about anything that’s not an outcome of my conscience decision.”


Braced

I never intended to wear braces to correct my looks. One of my friends who’s a doctor saw me sleep with my mouth wide open and strongly advised me to have a check on it, as it might cause respiratory problems in the future. Then I consulted another doctor who advised me to see a dentist, as my teeth were obstructing my mouth from closing properly. I did consult a couple of dentists, they all recommended dental braces and it also required 4 of my teeth to be extracted. For a while, I was very skeptical about the teeth extraction and had a huge dilemma in proceeding further.  At the same time, my ex-colleague Mr. Balaji Rajashekar also encouraged me to wear dental braces, he even went ahead and recommended his dentist. I am mentioning his name cos his encouraging words played a major role in breaking the dilemma. But, somewhere I missed the confidence in going ahead. One big problem was most of these nearby dental clinic had a general dentist and not an Orthodontist, the one who specialized in the correction of malpositioned teeth and the jaws. After a bit of searching, I found Dr. Sanjay Jacob an Orthodontist who runs Dr. Jacobs Dentacare which is quite near to my home. When I consulted him, he said the same that the other doctors did. But he somehow gave me the confidence to get started.

It all started with tooth extraction and it was really a painful process. You don’t feel a thing when the teeth are extracted. But it slightly pains for the next couple of days and you can’t even eat the spicy food you like. The only comfort was the ice cream, which I must have after every extraction. I bet the clinic wouldn’t have seen such a notorious patient like me. When Dr. extracted my tooth, Instead of acting like being in extreme pain, I was busy clicking the extracted tooth. I even went to the extent of keeping one of my extracted teeth as a souvenir. I know that sounds really strange.

A tweet from the past 😀

Then begin the other orthodontic procedures like bonding the dental brackets and connecting them with archwire and all. I must be the most talkative and curious patient too. Whenever the Dr. begin to do something with my teeth, I never failed to ask him questions about it and he never failed to answer me patiently. There’s one thing I really hated about going to the clinic, it’s the oral lamp above the dentist chair. Most of my appointments are in the evening after my work hours and by then, my eyes are dead tired staring at the screen since morning. Now imagine a bright light above my head and what could be more irritating than staring at it for another half an hour or more with my mouth open. Yeah, I can close my eyes, but as I said I was always curious to see what he does.

I even came up with a few dentist jokes

My dentis is the only person who is capable of keeping my mouth open with out uttering a single word.

Dentist : Bi(y)te Please
Me: Bit my teeth 8 times

https://twitter.com/gokoulane/status/441760027938799616?lang=en


 Embraced

Once the braces were put on my tooth, I started embracing 2 things.

First one is my SMILE, yeah, my iconic smile. To be honest, in the beginning, I was a bit hesitant to smile with my braces. But the thing is, even I didn’t like my face without a smile on it, it even felt like not being myself. So, I threw out those fit for nothing hesitation and started to smile just like myself. As I always say, Smile is all that I have got and the following pics would tell how much I embrace my lovely smile (It’s ok if you’re not ok with the “lovely” part).

The second one is PAIN. It reminds me of one of my fav quotes, “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey”. Being a foodie, It pains when you can’t eat your favorite food. It pains for 2-3 days when the braces are adjusted every 3 weeks for around 2 years. It pains when kids get scared of seeing those. It pains when people make fun of it. They say “Pain is temporary, Glory is forever”. So, I smiled and embraced it for my own glory to come.

“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey”

“Pain is temporary, Glory is forever”


My teeth move slowly said my dentist, probably deep down they are also as stubborn as me. It took almost 2 years to finally take them off. I still remember the day when the braces were put on my teeth, it was painful and felt too weird. That day Dr.Rachel Cherian (dentist & wife of my  dentist) comforted me that it’s gonna feel so good when they are removed. I realized her words on 7th July 2016, the day when the braces are finally removed. As she said, It felt so good and worth all the pain.


The following are some of the weight reduction style, before and after pics clicked by my dentist.

 

 

 

If “What a change over mama” is what you feel, you got a company, I too feel the same 😀 .

I dedicate this post to the man behind the smile, my awesome dentist Dr.Sanjay Jacob and my sincere thanks to him.

The story ends here, not my smiles. Be Happy, Keep Smiling.

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 6 – Refreshing Rimbik And The Rest

Recap from the last post: We were at Gurdum celebrating Giri’s Bday at midnight.

30-04-2016 (Day 6) Started as usual with tea, breakfast, and our customary group pic. Just before we start to our next destination, Sowmya thought us all a lovely good night song as tonight will be the last one we all will be spending together. So, we all learned to sing the same tonight.

“The time has come to say good night, to say sleep tight till the morning light.
We’ve had so much fun today, tomorrow is just a dream away.
The time has come to say good night, it’s the end of the lovely light.”

To Be Memorized. Ordered by Sowmya Teacher

To Be Memorized. Ordered by Sowmya Teacher

Customary Group Pic. PC: Sowmya

Customary Group Pic. PC: Sowmya

I thought the last leg of the trek gonna feel tiring rather to the contrary, it felt energetic. The route was down the valley, almost flat, narrow and exciting. Since the start, we heard the flow of the water and that sound was very refreshing. Later, on our way, we saw water flow through. As it’s an unmotorable road, we saw a worker carrying a huge tank over his head. Life is not easy here and these kinda scenes make me realize that life is not easy here. After 6 km of trekking, we stopped by SriKhola (1938 m) for lunch. After our lunch, we spent some time playing with water in the nearby stream. We also did play UNO for a while before resuming our trek. It was fun crossing the iconic SriKhola Bridge. As it’s an old wooden bridge in not so good condition,only one or two persons were allowed to cross it simultaneously. After yet another 7km trek, by late noon we reached Rimbick (1917 m), our last camp. Finally, we got mobile network after 6 long days and the calls and emails began to flow. Believe me, days were much better without the network. As we saw a few MOMO shops on the way, myself and Upma planned to have some. But, all our glorious plan went in vain as the shops shut down as early ar 5 pm here. At the end, we had to console ourselves with some chocolates. To celebrate our MC Giri’s birthday, Manali & Co. surprisingly baked a yummy pressure cooker cake topped with melted Dairy Milk chocolate and Gems. The best part is that they pulled it off with limited ingredients available there. Lavanya and Lakshmi also made a yummy Paal Payasam (Kheer) to top up the celebration. After Giri’s cake cutting followed the grand dinner which officially marked the end of this awesome trek. As planned, the day got ended with Sowmya’s good night song. While my sleepy head went to bed early and dozed off, the other guys DJed and danced along with cool and awesome landlord aunt. Seems I missed so much fun.

Unusually on 1-05-2016 (Day 7) everyone woke up early and got done with our tea and toast as we had to leave early to avoid traffic on our way back to Darjeeling. It was a tiring 60 km Van ride from Rimbik to Darjeeling. Luckily we had a pitstop at Dhotrey, yeah exactly the same place where the trek started. I had one of the best chicken MOMOs of my life in a small shop there just for Rs. 30 for a plate of 8. I had 3 plates plus an Omelet, that yummy it was. The rest of the ride was spent discussing Sambar and Chennai with Sachin who hails from Mumbai. Finally, by afternoon, we reached our base camp at Darjeeling. After refreshing and collecting our certificates, we decided to spare the little time we got on shopping. All I could get was a small prayer flag and some good black tea leaves in the limited time we got.  Then, we packed our bags, bid goodbye to the beautiful Darjeeling and took a Van back to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). It is like Win Rar on vans with high compression rate, 11 of us went in the same van which usually carry 7-8 people max. All I witnessed during this ride was my favorite Thirukkural, “Anbirkum Undo Adaikkuntaal Arrvalar Punkaneer Pusal Tharum”. Which means, Is there any fastening that can shut in love? Tears of the affectionate will publish the love that is within.  We reached NJP well in advance, so we relaxingly had our dinner and boarded the Padatik Express back to Kolkatta. As they say, history repeats itself, this time also a family requested me and nigilan to take the upper berth as they got women and children, and as usual, we happily agreed.

I woke up on Day 8 (2-05-2016) and not so soon I realized that we are running late. As out train was delayed for more than an hour, we had to skip our breakfast and rush to the airport to catch our flight back to Chennai. The sad part is that we didn’t even have time to buy Rasagulla which I promised to many. After munching some MOMOs at the airport, we boarded our flight by 11ish and landed back in Chennai by the afternoon. Once I was out of the airport I could feel the harsh Sun rays on my skin and could hear it whisper “Welcome home my boy”. This is what I have been missing for the past 10 days and nothing feels like home. As I was too hungry then and as Sudhakaran a.k.a puppy decided to give me some company, we hit our favorite Biryani place before returning back home.

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To be preserved. ID sealed and signed by all camp in charge. PC: Jai

 

Epilogue

Now don’t ask me where is the Prologue or search for it, it’s not there.
This trip was a super awesome one. It still feels like a dream, cos it’s something I did much out of my comfort zone. The high altitudes, the harsh cold temperature, the language and the food, all those are really out of my league, but somehow I managed. What makes travel more interesting than the places are the people. The whole group along with our guides made this trek a memorable one. I should really thank Buddy Jai, Nigilan, and Puppy who urged me to join this trek in the first place.

I recommend each one of you to travel. For me, traveling is not going on a tour with everything planned. It’s an adventure where you aren’t planned for everything. Traveling gives you lots of exciting experiences, open your taste buds to awesome food, befriend strangers and at the end, you will have quite a lot of interesting stories to narrate, just like this. All you must do is shed your comfort a little bit and there’s a lot of adventure out there to last you a lifetime.

The End.

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 5 – Gleaming Gurdum

Recap from the last post: We were at  Sandakphu witnessing a beautiful sunrise.

As said in the last post, 29-04-2016 (Day 5) started with an amazing sunrise. After near zero degrees temperature last night, all my body wanted was some sunshine on it.  With water scarcity here, taking a bath is completely out of the question. Leave bathing, even rinsing after brushing froze my mouth, that cool it was. After our typical breakfast and the customary group picture, we started to trek further to our next camp around 8.20 am.

The Customary Group Pic @ Sandakphu

The Customary Group Pic @ Sandakphu

What’s more painful than climbing up is getting down too quickly. The same not only applies to the life but also to the trek too. Yes, it’s a 10 km long downhill path with a steep elevation drop of 1300 mt. My heavy backpack and no trekking poles made the trek even more difficult for me. Though I took each and every step with precaution, I did slide and slipped a couple of times. Luckily I could get hold of the shrubs and trees all along the path and save myself. But, the best part is that the route is right through the heart of Singalila National Park. Man, this place is captivating with colorful and pleasant smelling Rhododendron flowers all over.

Going down further, the Rhododendron got replaced by the bamboo forest. They say it’s the home of the red panda, but had no luck in spotting one, they are too shy types it seems. At times, I find myself walking alone on the narrow trails. That solitude and the sweet sound caused by the breeze flowing through the bamboo forest are priceless and soul-elevating. I would say it’s one of the best experiences during the trek. While we were resting near the bamboo forest, few of our guys happily started playing Gilli-Danda with the bamboo sticks there. What’s happiness, if not from these tiny pleasures.

As we walk further, the Bamboo got first replaced by fresh smelling pine trees. I even picked up a few pine leaves and pine flowers as a souvenir. These pine flowers are unique and I like them. Most flowers are appreciated for their fragrance and vivid colors, but I admire these pine flowers for their characteristics to stay strong and beautiful in extreme environments. If you want to compare women with flowers, then pine is my type. We took some rest in a small clearing in the pine forest. One thing we found out was, our guide cute Avinash not only climb mountains effortlessly but also climb trees in the same fashion.

Around 1.20 pm we reached our camp, Himalayan Sherpa Lodge at Gurdum (2400 m). This one is located in the valley, so one could see the beautiful view of mountains covering the place from all sides. Not just that, the sunshine and the warmth of the place felt comforting. As I haven’t taken a bath for straight 4 days, all I wanted after reaching there was to take a shower and I felt too relieved when I took one. While I was relaxing after the lunch, few of us played UNO and it was fun see them play. The lodge people were kind to give us their small hall for the evening. So, we had an eventful fun filled evening that day. Sowmya and Geetha danced classical, kathak and Bharatanatyam respectively. Honey danced folk and our MC Giri’s amazing dance moves made us all go crazy. It’s not just dance, we had Pune guys, Mumbai group, Nilofar and Shubham contributed well for the music department too. After all the fun, we headed back to the lodge for the dinner.

Post dinner, I was relaxing outside a small garden kinda place just opposite to the dining area and just gazed above. OMG, I never saw such a beautiful night sky in all my life. It was densely filled with stars, like millions of them. All I did was, lay myself down in the open and gazed at the eternity with my favorite tracks playing in my ears. In me, repeatedly prompted the below lines from one of my favorite Bharathi’s poem “Suttum vizhi sudar thaan kannamma”, where he compares her beauty in dark blue silk saree and diamond ornaments to the night sky and the stars.

“Pattu karuneela — pudavai
Padhitha nalvayiram
Natta nadunisiyil — theriyum
NatshathirangaLadi”

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That’s quite a lot a lot of stars. PC : Akanksha

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Earth rotates, so do I. Star trail well captured. PC : Akanksha

Wow, what a magical moment that was, the one I wanna cherish all my life. Luckily, Mayur and Akanksha patiently clicked the night sky. Then, Myself, Vihari, Upma, Honey, Rishab and Nilofar spent a while listening to Tamil and Hindi songs. We also did click some scary night pics :D, One can call it low light photography :D.

I went early to bed, while the rest of the Tamil gang enjoyed playing cards. I was woken up by my friends just before the strike of midnight. Then, we all wished our beloved MC Giri a very happy birthday. We gifted him our wishes which were written on a small paper napkin and a wonderful impromptu bouquet which buddy Jai managed to make just with the flowers there. After the celebration, I went back to continue my sleep and that’s an awesome day ended.