Tag Archives: Pictures

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.

IMG_20171111_165317086

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.

Advertisements

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…

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.

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”

IMG-20160515-WA0000

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

star trail 2d

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.

Trek to Sandakphu – Part 4 – Sillunu Oru Sandakphu

Recap from the last post: We were at Kala Pokhari

The title “Sillunu Oru Sandakphu” directly translates to “Sandakphu, the one which is cold”. On 28-04-2016 (Day 4) I woke up with the sound of the wind vibrating the metal panels of our room. With nothing much to do, I laid down for a while beneath those thick woolen blankets. I did what I like to do often, dream with my eyes open, for no reasons too many things rushed into my mind. You will know the tea is ready when you hear the whistle. I filled my cup and headed outside hoping for some fresh air. All it resulted in was my tea getting cold in minutes. Here, the Sun rises as early as me. Probably cos it’s summer and one common time zone across India. The morning looked too beautiful than yesterday eve, think the sunshine made the magic. I went around with my camera to capture some light along with Prem and Lavanya. Everything around appeared fresh and green. The sky was clear and the view of sun rays reflecting over the small dark lake was spectacular. As usual, had out breakfast, clicked the customary group pic. packed our bags and by 9.00 am we started to trek further.

The path was much steeper than ever. My fine stamina and some good company helped to cope up with the terrain. Initial 3.5 km wasn’t that demanding. On the way, Sowmya climbed somewhere and got a bunch of Rhododendron, a flower quite abundant in that area. We even tasted a bit of its nectar. Then, there was a huge staircase kinda structure which housed a small shrine on its top. We all sat on those steps and took a group pic. Our guide Avinash (Cute Avinash) took us through all those sharp shortcuts. They were too steep that at times I have to catch hold of those small bushes to climb. With occasional rests, I somehow managed to keep myself moving. Around 12.15 pm, myself and whistle Vihari reached Sandakphu (3636 mt) and we were the ones in out group to reach there first. Our camp leader Mr. Abhijit Roy was already there on the top to welcome us. While waiting for other friends in the group to return, we simply relaxed outside the lodge as the weather was clear and pleasant. Once everyone is in, rooms were allotted and was served a hot & spicy soup. Soups are always comforting, especially in the cold weather, aren’t they?. The Soup induced my appetite which was later neutralized by the lunch. As the water is much scarce here, we were advised to use it very wisely.

A few of us decided to take rest in the lodge while the rest (including me) were too certain about trekking further to the viewpoint along with our camp leader. We trekked another 500 mt uphill to reach there and it marks the highest point in West Bengal. “Yaay, Mission Accomplished” I shouted out of joy and that feeling is worth all the pain trekking all along. It felt like being on the top of the world. The place was awesome and the view was spectacular with the clouds pass by. I really pity the ones who missed it. As we were on the Indo-Nepal border, there was a pillar with “India” written on one side and “Nepal” on the other. So, all I did was, kept on jumping between two countries and try to be in both countries at the same time. Though it might sound crazy, it was total fun. In a fine weather, one could view both Mount Everest and Kangchenjunga from the viewpoint, but unfortunately, the weather was cloudy. We waited for the Sun to show some mercy and show up, but no luck. As they say, the weather was unpredictable on the mountains, suddenly it became freezing and windy. We started to descend back after having some hot tea and soupy Magi from a small hotel there. As much as you, I too wonder about the existence of hotel in such extreme places. The visibility went down below 30%, luckily our guide’s torch and Mr. Abhijit’s headlamp guided us back safely to the lodge. As usual, our MC took charge of the evening. This time, we played truth or dare and for a change, Mr. Biswas sang a song for us as his daughter and wife felt too shy to sing for us. We all decided to finish off our dinner quick and sleep early so that we could see the sunrise early the next morning.

As always, our Whistle Vihari was spot on in his duty. His whistle woke up all our tired souls. It was too cold outside. Only a few of us were there, patiently waiting for the sun to raise. After a few minutes, I saw the Sun slowly rise between two mountains, just like how I used to draw when I was a kid. I witnessed one of the beautiful sunrises in my life, as beautiful as that bright bindi between her eyebrows.  With my hands trembling out of cold, I managed to click a few pictures.

To Be Continued …