Tag Archives: Food

Serendipity

Believe me, I don’t even know how to pronounce the title properly. Thought of using some fancy word in the title so that it would boost the readership of this post. But, later realized that it’s no longer a fancy word. #Overuse #TwistInTheTale

Serendipity
ˌsɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪti/
noun
The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Most of the people close to me are well aware that I collect postcards, even a bit obsessed with it. So far, I have collected 541 postcards from 90 countries and made a few awesome friends across the world. If you aren’t aware of the term Postcrossing, I highly recommend you to read my post “The Story Of The Random Postcards“. Don’t worry, if you are too lazy (like me) to open the link and read, the following must help.

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. – Wikipedia

So by this time, you must have understood that most of the cards I receive are absolutely from totally RANDOM people. Random coincidences are some of the best kinda stories to narrate and brace for it, cos here comes one.

Two friends from The Netherlands Sanne and Kristen planned to write postcards together cos it would be so much fun. Yes, there are people like us in this era of Facebook and WhatsApp who think writing postcards is so much fun. Now, let’s come back to the story. So, Sanne & Kristen requested for an address together from the site. Guess what? To their surprise, they both got mine. Whenever an address is requested, a code is also generated along with it so that the recipient can register the postcard upon receiving the same. Guess what? even the Postcrossing code were consecutive numbers. Here comes the best part. They wrote, “We weren’t sure if Ravi is your first or the last name, so we decided to start differently”. As they were confused with my name, Kristen addressed me as “Dear Gokoulane” whereas Sanne addressed me as “Dear Ravi”. They even posted it together at the same place and time, so that I would receive it together. Thankfully it did.

As I love food, they have sent me yummy Dutch Snacks Postcards with awesome stamps.

So, Thank you, Sanne & Kristen.

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Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 6

Finally, will get myself done with this blog post series. Here goes the final one.

Day 11 – 28th May 2017

I woke up with a mixed feeling, on one hand, I was happy about completing the trek successfully, on the other, I was sad that it came to an end. Once done with our morning routines, breakfast, group pic and one final batch roll call, we left the most beautiful camp of the whole trek around 8 AM. The route was a bit steep and felt like never-ending. We had to lose an altitude of 1400 ft in less than 5 km. I stuck with Lavanya for the whole route. Once we even lost our way in the middle ignoring the route markers and was screaming for help. Luckily, one of the fellow trekkers responded and that helped us be back on the route.

A couple of hours later, we reached a small eatery down the Barshani Village (6600 ft), finally some place to rest. In the meantime awaiting Nigilan and Buddy to return, I indulged myself in hot Maggi and refreshing lemon tea served there. It was already 12 PM when they both joined us. Then, we took a short walk to catch the bus that would get us back to Kasol. In the bus, we noticed a couple of guys smiling and laughing at the silly things that we spoke in Tamil. Then came that magical words, “Neenga Thamizha?” (Are you Tamil). That’s how we meet Anirudh and Mukund, 2 civil engineering guys from Bangalore working on a construction project in the valley. It was awesome conversing with them.

Around 4 PM, we reached Kasol, should blame the terrific traffic at Manikaran for the delay. We were too hungry by then and the Tibetan Eatery nearby the Kasol Market came to the rescue. We had amazing Thukpa and Momos there. It was already around 8 days since we took a bath. So, we found a natural hot spring bath area and took a relaxing bath. OMG, the hot water in the cold weather felt like being in heaven. All the others in the group decided to reach Kullu the same eve, but for various reasons, yours truly decided to stay back for a night at the base camp and start the next morning. It was a great experience at the base camp, was awarded the trek completing certificate and was asked to share my experience to the upcoming batches. Everyone at the campfire gathering laughed when I ended my note with, “These mountains got some serious ALTITUDE problems”. As usual, I had my dinner and dozed off early, that’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

One heavenly Thukpa

 Day 12 – 29th May 2017

I was informed that the 1st bus of the day to Kullu will be by 6.45 AM, So was all set by then to leave the camp. The bus came spot on time and I boarded it just opposite to the base camp. The bus was mostly filled with students and locals. The best part all along the ride was the songs played in its music system, just loved it.

Around 9 AM, I reached Kullu and rejoined with my friends at the famous Sapna Bakery for the breakfast. There we ordered SIddu, one of the most famous and typical dishes of that region. It kinda looks like an enlarged MoMo but tastes entirely different. The one which we had was awesome and I loved it. Then we headed to the hotel when my friends were staying so that I could keep my hefty backpack and continue roaming for the rest of the day. There I met the retired defense personnel, whose son owns that place.  He was too courteous and patiently gave us the direction to reach the Naggar Castle, our next destination.

From Kullu, we reached Naggar by bus and from there we reached The Castle by taking an Auto Rickshaw. Naggar used to be the ex-capital of the Kullu region and the King ruled from the castle.The view from the castle was spectacular and it exhibited some of the old artifacts and objects used during the King’s period. We had our lunch at the in-house restaurant itself. The food was pricey but the taste wasn’t that great as it looks.

What came to rescue is the Home Made Bakery, just outside the castle. They served yummy Apple Pie, Brownies and Tarts along with refreshing homemade fruit juices.

In the meanwhile, this awesome Lost & Found incident happened and have already written a separate blog post on it. Then we returned back to Kullu in a crowded local bus, got freshened up at the hotel and left to the bus terminus to catch our bus to Chandigarh. I immediately dozed off as we boarded our bus around 9 PM, that’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

 Day 13 – 30th May 2017

It was quite early in the morning when our bus reached the Chandigarh bus terminus. We spotted a Maggiwala (the one who sells Maggi) a few meters outside the terminus and decided to get done with our breakfast there. He sold sandwiches and tea along with Maggi and I ordered an egg Maggi for my breakfast.

As our flight is around afternoon, we had a lot of time to spare. With not much energy to explore the city, So, we went to the Rose Garden, took some rest, listening music and again went to the famous Pal Dhaba for lunch. OMG, the food was awesome there. Their Butter Chicken is definitely something to die for.

Later, we took a cab to the airport and boarded the flight back to Chennai. Outside the Chennai airport, the harsh Sun kissed my skin to remind me that I am back home. Just as a kinda ritual, I brought home some Biriyani concluding the trip. That’s how an awesome trip came to an end.

 

With a lot of fun, food and awesome experiences, this is indeed a trip to remember.

The End.

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 5

Dear Reader,
If you are growing impatient about this ever going series and wondering when would this end? Just be patient as always, probably one more post after this one. All you have to understand is, yours truly is neither creative to come up with new content frequently nor blessed with frequent awesome trips like this one. So, got to manage with this for the love of blogging.

Day 10 – 27th May 2017

I woke up wishing someone would wish me that morning. Wondering why? It was my birthday. The day started with a great disappointment as my only expectation wasn’t met. I was absolutely fine with the fact that others in the camp had no clue about my birthday. But, what let me down was my friends forgetting the same. Can’t blame them either, it was actually a bit hard to keep track of the day and date during the trek.

The only thing that I gave me comfort was a bunch of candies that I carried all the way from Chennai. Sudeshna, my pen pal sent me some chocolates and candies for my birthday all the way from Guwahati, Assam. She also made sure that it reaches me before I leave for the trip and in her letter, she instructed me that I must have them only on my birthday. Being a sucker for chocolates, it was too hard for me to resist having them all along the trek and save it from myself for the D-Day. With a strong will, I made it happen. Thank you Sudeshna for all the love. Following is a small video I recorded to thank her.

For the first time on my birthday, I felt lonely without anyone around wishing me. I restrained myself telling my friends that it’s my birthday. On the contrary, the narcissist in me acted otherwise and let them know by my own mouth. They served noodles for breakfast along with some hot tea. As usual, we cleaned our tents, packed our bags and assembled for the count before leaving the camp. To my surprise, all of sudden, everyone sang the birthday song and wished me. Wow, isn’t that awesome?. Once complete strangers are now my friends and wishing me for my birthday, this is what I call the beauty of traveling. These sort of instances make me realize that traveling is definitely not about the destination, but about the journey and the people whom we come across. Think it’s enough talking about my birthday, let’s move to the trek part.

We were excited about the next camp not just cos it’s the last camp of the trek. Since the induction, have heard plenty about the serenity and beauty of this place from the camp leaders and the batches who have completed their trek. I would say, this was the easiest leg of the whole trek. All we got to cover is 12 km with an attitude change of just 3000 ft. The only exciting part of the route was doing rappelling that too with a minimum vertical drop. Other than that, It was more like walking in midst of the woods all the way. Not soon after our lunch, an excited bunch of us, including me, lost our way to the camp and got stuck in the pine forest. Thankfully, our guide came to the rescue and directed us to the camp.

One of my most fav pic from the trek

No wonder every one praised the beauty of this place and call it the Switzerland of India. Around 2 PM, we finally reached the most beautiful camp of the trek, the Bhandak Thatch (8000 ft). It’s grassland and a grazing land where the cattle are reared in the summer, everything there seemed lush and green, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. I haven’t been to Swiss yet, but this place made me wonder if Swiss is as beautiful as this one. We were able to spot Cows, Horses and Sheep. With plenty of time in our hand that day, we played UNO, Kabadi and did some funny Dubmashes too. At times, I would just climb up the slopes, spot a silent spot and get myself immersed in the mesmerizing beauty of the mountains.

The guys managed to arrange for the campfire after getting permission from our camp leader. Later that evening, we had our dinner early and gathered around the campfire. The burning pine logs gave a distinct pleasant sweet smell uplifting the mood around. From there on, it was all fun. We sang, danced crazy and everyone wished me again for my birthday. The craziness continued until the rain disrupted the fun. With half a heart, we dispersed into out tents and dozed off.

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One best pic of the trip. Still feels like a magic

Started with full of disappointments, it turned out to be one of the best birthdays in my life. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 4

I know it ain’t right, but I enjoy finishing my tasks in the nick of the moment, just like this blog post. It does give me a kind of rush.

Day 8 – 25th May 2017

It seemed to have rained the last night also. The place was damp and much colder when I woke up. In spite of sleeping bag and blanket, I felt my body struggling to cope up with the cold temperature out there. Though I got up early, I didn’t dare to step outside our tent until the sun showed up. Some hot tea and Chole Bhature made things better for me. It wasn’t only us from YHAI who were camping there, there was also a camp by another organizer nearby. Why I am mentioning this is, while I was returning to my tent after my breakfast, I saw folks from both the camps happily dancing the Garba (a traditional Gujarati dance) outside our tent. It was fun watching them go round and round dancing those simple yet elegant steps in total sync. Then we cleaned out tents, packed our bags and started to the highest camp of this trek.

The dawn breaks

With no doubt, it was the steepest route uphill on this trek. Though the altitude change was only 1300 ft compared to 1900 ft and 1600 ft in the last two days, we had to gain it in the short distance of just 5km. That was definitely a challenge. After a slow and steady climb, we reached our lunch point. Unlike the other lunch points, this one was tucked in between a crack on the mountain. The only common factor was a tiny shop that sold Maggi and Biscuits. Seems Maggi is inevitable in the mountains. Totally, the most frightening lunch point on the whole trek. We were even able to view our Mingtatch camp and the other trekking groups from there. Our guide pointed to a flag, not so far away and told that’s our next camp. With a clear target, we marched towards it. In not more than an hour, we reached the highest camp of this trek, The Nagaru Camp (12,500 ft).

View from lunch point

Once reaching the camp, everyone began calling their parents and their loved ones as they had the cellular reception in one particular spot. But, yours truly was quite stubborn not to use my mobile until the trip gets over. We were served Guava juice as the welcome drink and served tea and fried peanuts later. As we reached quite earlier, we whiled away the time singing and chit chatting. While I was in my tent, I heard some splashing sound. Initially thought it was raining. But to my surprise when I opened my tent flaps, I witnessed the first hailstorm of my life. It’s not just that, we were lucky enough to witness a double rainbow too. Wow, what a mesmerizing view it was. Yet another goosebumps-inducing experience of this trip. We slept early by 7 pm post our early dinner by 6 pm cos we must rise as early as 2 am the next day for one of the most exciting parts of the trek. That’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

The double rainbow

Day 9 – 26th May 2017

Waking up at 2 am is absolutely fine, but how about having your least favorite Rava Upma for breakfast at 3 am. My taste buds might have instantaneously rejected it, but my survival instinct thought the other way. The snow melts when the sun starts to shine and that would make the trek extremely difficult. So, we had quite an early start around 3.30 AM that day. Initially, it was too dark and most of us had torchlight or headlamp for the rescue. I was fascinated by the scene when the dawn broke. We were surrounded by snow and for me, the first snow of my life. It was my dream forever to see, touch and feel the snow. My excitement level was high and was overjoyed to realize my dream. That was one memory that will be etched in my memory forever.

After more than a couple of hours of trek, we reached the summit of the trek, the highest point of the Sar Pass (13,799 ft). With all the sides covered with snow, we took a lot of pictures. The joy of reaching the summit is beyond description and you feel just being on the top of the world. I would say, that joy is worth going through all the pain.

The Sar Pass is the route that connects the summit of Tila Lotni and Biskeri Ridge. So, we had a lot more to cover to reach our next camp Biskeri, predominantly on the snow. The snowy ice surface was very slippery and the poles helped extensively. In the middle, we halted at a shop that sold tea and Maggi for some rest. To the contrary, being surrounded by the snow, we were all totally restless and started playing with it. Either be it throwing snowballs at each other or making snow angels, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. It was all fun, fun and fun. That place also had a small lake and the view of the sky reflecting on it was priceless.

After an hour from there, we reached the edge of the Sar Pass. Here comes the best part of the whole trek, an 800 Mts free slide down the snow. I was anxious when I saw my friends sliding down. It even worsened when my buddy rolled down instead of sliding. Then came my turn and I felt the adrenaline rush. Wow, what an experience sliding down the snow and the cold wind caress the skin. We were too tired by then and somehow pushed ourselves to reach the lunch point a kilometer ahead. We could see the snow around slowly being replaced by rocks and grasses.

Out of hunger, I munched the packed lunch and took a brief rest at the lunch point. My legs were sore and the rest was highly relieving. I also met a few porter women. In spite of carrying heavy backpacks of the trekkers, anywhere between 20 – 30 kgs per person, they had their warm smile intact. So much respect to them.

From there, within an hour we reached our next camp, Beskari (11,000 ft). It felt like an accomplishment completing the most grueling and demanding day of the trek. To give a snapshot, it was a total of 14 km and an elevation change of 1,300 ft uphill and 2,800 ft downhill. That’s quite a lot for a single day. We were served hot tea and Pakodas for the evening snacks as soon as we entered the camp. The rest of the time was spent on playing UNO. Then, as usual, sleep followed the dinner. I dozed of badly wanting the next day to begin, one of the significant days for me in the year. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Exoticamp - Vagamon

Trip To Remember – Camping at Vagamon with Exoticamp

With stress surrounding my workplace and minor health issues, the past month wasn’t that great for me. All I was wishing was a getaway and energize myself back to normal. So, with no second thoughts, I signed up with Exoticamp to experience camping at Vagamon and geared up for the weekend getaway. I have never been to that part of the God’s own country and that’s yet another factor that kept my excitement on.

As planned, on 10th November night I boarded the bus. It was already filled with a few campers from Chennai, en route to Kumili. I am someone who firmly believes in the quote “No road is long with good company” and I cant ask for a better company other than my blogging friends Brags anna, Raji and Jenny. It’s been a while, so happy to catch up with them on the bus. Being a sleepy head, I momentarily dozed off and woke up by the cold wind escaping through the windows the next morning. By 7 am on 11th nov we reached Kumily a border town between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As we were indulging Appam and Egg Curry at a hotel quite opposite to the bus stop, campers from other cities like Banglore, Coimbatore and Tanjore also joined us.

Then, we got into Jeeps that would take us to the base camp. Luckily, our Jeep had an awesome music system and our DJ, Raji played awesome tracks that kept me excited all the way. We stopped by a stream on the way. As it wasn’t deep, I took the pleasure of dipping my feet into the flowing cold water and it felt refreshing. The rest of the drive went on a heavenly combination of music and the vast green landscape filled with tea plantations. BY the noon, we reached our base camp.

The camp had 2 non-negotiable rules in order to ensure the safety of everyone, strictly no smoking and drinking. Other than that, you are free to do anything and everything that neither affects the fellow campers, not the environment.  It was a small private cottage with a couple of restrooms to get change and refreshed. Now to the exciting part, the base camp also had a small private waterfall. Playing and taking bath in its cold water for more than hour made my stomach growl in hunger. There is nothing like good food served when you are really hungry and their yummy Kerala style meals along with fish curry gave me a sense of satisfaction. I had a nice time talking to the fellow campers and get to know them, my favourite part of any travel. It was an awesome diverse group and it would be bad on my part if I fail to mention about the super cool organizer Sukanya a.k.a Suzuki. The camping place was a kilometre and half from the base camp. Though they offered jeep to take us to the camping area, most of us decided to walk there with our luggage transferred in Jeep.

Exoticamp Vagamon Waterfall

Private Waterfall | PC: Berin

A short walk (not many would agree with me) took us to the beautiful camping area where the tents are placed in an order like a straight line. Tea was offered and something hot in the cool climate felt soothing. I have stayed in multiple camps during my treks and I would call this camping setup a luxury one. It even had a proper restroom. A few metres walk from the camp was a beautiful viewpoint. The view of clouds passing the mountains and mist moving in front of us was breathtaking.

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Perfect camping spot

Shot at the view point, Fav pic

We returned back to the camp as it was getting dark. Seems the rain was as excited as us about the campfire. A few took shelter in their respective tents and the crazy others under a single tarpaulin sheet which was kept to protect the firewood. Believe me, it was a crazy bunch and yours truly was also one of them. Some modified and sang famous Tamil romantic number “Vaseegara” (i doubt Suzuki only) as “Oru porvaikul pala thukkam” (many slept under one blanket) instead of “Oru porvaikul iru thukam” (two slept under one blanket), others burst into laughter hearing this. It did rain heavily, but not even a drop penetrated the tent. Time was spent on listening music, reading Malice by Keigo Higashino and a short nap until Sam knocked our tent to notify that the rain subsided. Sam prepared his secret noodle soup while the campfire was being set up. We all sat around the fire in circles and the fun time started with an icebreaker intro session followed by some awesome singing by Ipsita, Suteja and Sameena. It was hard to contain my excitement when Suteja sang one of my fav numbers “Rayilae Rayilae Oru Nimisham” from the movie Five Star. After a bit of dancing the gathering got dissipated upon the arrival of food. We were served yummy Chapathi, Veg Fried Rice, Veg Curry and Chicken Curry for the dinner. Post dinner, most of us went into their respective tents and dozed off, but a few brave souls (like myself) slept later after discussing horror stories until midnight and that’s how an awesome day came to an end.

Oru Porvaikul Pala Thukkam

As usual, I woke up early in the morning around 4.30 am. It seems it had rained heavily the last night. Brags Anna and Sammena were also awake at that point in time, so we decided to take a walk to the base camp and back. The scene of dawn breaking over the mountains have always been a magical scene. With morning tea served, we took a walk to the viewpoint again. We had so much fun shooting a mannequin challenge video there.

The organizers never failed to give us the local flavour. Loved the Appam and Puttu with Egg Curry and Veg Stew that was served for breakfast. We relaxed a while and walked back to our base camp leaving our luggage be transferred by Jeep. Just like the last day, we had lots of fun in the waterfall again. I even learned a few steps from Suzuki that eventually increased my total dance steps know to 4. With a heavy heart, we bid farewell to the base camp and headed to Vagamon Medows, a famous tourist attraction in that area.

Waterfall – One more time 😀

As it was a Sunday, it was quite crowded too. I enjoyed running down the slopes (refer Brags anna video) and we took the iconic squad goals pic :P. The Maggi we had for lunch wasn’t enough and the gap was filled with snacks from a shop opposite to the meadows. With things done and dusted, we headed straight to Kumili to catch our bus back to Chennai. As before, the music was loud on our Jeep. It somehow reminded me of “Senthazham Poovil” song from the movie Mullum Malarum.

Before boarding the bus, we stopped by a local spice store where I bought some Black Pepper and Cardamom as instructed by my mom. The sleeper bus stopped at a highway hotel for dinner. That one awesome trip came to an end when I woke up to the Chennai rains the next morning. It’s definitely a trip to remember.

Plantain Chips In Making – Kumily

Below are the two videos made by Brags anna and Raji, Watch and Enjoy.

The Exoticamp team not only demonstrated professionalism and passion in organizing the camp but also added the fun flavour which made the camping more enjoyable. After having such an awesome experience, I am looking forward checking their other interesting campsites such as Munnar Tea Estate CampingMarakanam Beach Camping, Mango Camping and Vineyard Camping. I also like their vision of empowering locals via their camping projects. I sign off wishing the young and energetic team all the very best.

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 2

I have set myself an uncompromising self-target of a minimum of one blog post a month and it took the last day of the month to break my month long blogging hibernation.

Day 5 – 22nd May 2017

Finally, arrived the D-Day and I woke up bubbling with excitement. If you are wondering why? you must read the last post in this series. The routine at the camp was a bit different that day. Phew, luckily no exercise session. Once done with our breakfast, we cleaned our tents, submitted our blankets, packed our lunch and we were all set for the trek to start. Around 8 AM, the trek was flagged off by the camp leader and the rest of the batches at the camp formed two parallel lines on our either side and ceremoniously clapped and cheered us as we left the base camp (5183 ft). The energy at that point of time was insane.

 

As expected the route was rocky and steep. As a result of our over-enthusiasm, a group of us went ahead of our guide in a wrong path and ended up in a dead end. Luckily, we didn’t deviate much and rejoined the rest without any fuss. It was an apt weather with little sunshine and cool damp air. One thing I enjoyed the most was crossing a couple of wooden bridges built over streams flowing down the mountains. These things make me adore the endless beauty of nature. After taking rest in a couple of rest points along the way, we reached our lunch point R.S Cafe by 11 AM.

Finally, my curiosity got resolved after seeing lots of signboards on the way about this place. It was an open meadow with a couple of tents, one the kitchen and another for the guests to relax. We sat outside in the open area and had our lunch, Roti with some pickles and Ladies Finger (Okra). By 12 pm we were done with our lunch and started trekking towards our first higher camp. The weather on the mountain is quite unpredictable, the sun was shining and a couple of minutes later, the clouds came in and it started raining heavily. Being prepared with rain jacket and poncho saved me and my backpack from getting drenched in rain. Luckily, there was a tiny shop selling tea and Maggi, so we took shelter in it until the rain subsided.

After a wet and slippery trek, we reached Grahan (7700 ft) village by 2.20 PM. The camp was a bit away from the heart of the village and It was a great experience walking through the village. It had a few one-storied houses made stone and wood. We also came across a big temple beautifully carved out of the wood. Phew, I was hit by a sense of achievement reaching the first higher camp when the sign read “Welcome to Camp Grahan”. We were allotted tents and was served the welcome drink. Then, our camp leader Mr. Bharath called us out for the headcount check and gave detailed disciplinary instructions. He is one of the coolest camp leaders I came across on the trek. Though he was from Hyderabad, he spoke Tamil fluently as he studied and worked in Chennai for a while.

 

There was this small shop just at the entrance of the camp owned by Mrs. Tarkur and she made yummy hot momos which we all devoured. She also had a fire going inside her shop and she is so kind to invite me in to get warm. She was the most educated women in the village and she could speak English fluently. After the evening soup was served, I spent some time chitchatting and playing UNO. After our dinner, we entertained ourselves by singing songs, both Tamil and Hindi. That’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

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…