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Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 4

A quick recap from the last blog posts (post 1post 2post 3) in this trek series. We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat. From Ghangaria, we hiked the most beautiful Valley of Flowers and the divine Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib.

Day 5: 1st August 2019

As usual, we woke up early and was all set and packed by 7.30 am to commence our descent back to Govindghat. I decided no to repeat my mistake, so along with others, I dropped my backpack to the Mule Guy, hoping he would safely transport it to our bus stationed at Govindghat. I decided to trek down on foot, whereas Buddy, Nigi, Govi, and Thiyaga had another plan, to fly by Helicopter.

Luckily, I got the company of the super-fast Himakar and Kavya for this leg of the journey. We oddly stopped anywhere in between, except for some lemonade on the way. It was a fun and easy downhill trek. In fact, we even waved at the chopper that our guys flew, I wonder if they had noticed it. It was just around 10.30 when we reached Pulna. Again, I was determined not to repeat my mistakes. So, we took a shared cab back to Govindghat instead of trekking down the motorable road. We were a little tired and super hungry as we reached Govindghat around 11 am. Again it was a Gurudwara to the rescue. We had a heavenly Langar before returning back to our bus. It took around 3 pm for the rest of the folks to return to the bus and head to our next camp. In the meantime, we whiled away the time chitchatting and catching up with some sleep. After an hour and a half drive on the thrilling mountainous roads, we reached our next camp, YHAI Badrinath.

Hands down, it was possibly the poshest camp that we have stayed in all our 3 treks with YHAI. As usual, we were welcomed with some hot tea and Potato Fritters. Badrinath is also home to the most famous Badrinarayan Temple. It’s considered to be one of the Char Dham (“four abodes”), visiting which would help in reach salvation. To our advantage, the temple was just a km from our camp and is open only from April to October. So, after a quick fresh-up, we merrily walked to the temple. This one is definitely one of the unique temples I have ever visited. The front face of the temple looked more like a Buddhist monastery, rather than the typical towered structure. After the temple visit, we roamed around shopping souvenirs for our families. Then, after heading back to the camp, post our dinner, we had some fun time dancing and singing at the common hall. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 6: 2nd August 2019

I woke up with all the excitement, cos we would be visiting a place of both geographical and religious importance. The camp had a long-standing tradition that every group visits the camp plants a sapling. So, we planted a couple of plants before starting for the day. A 20 mins drive and a couple of mins of walk bought us to our next destination, a significant one. Around 8 am, we reached Mana, the last village of India. Located 10,500 ft above the sea level and 26 km of the Indo-Tibetan border makes Mana the last inhabited village of India. Quite interestingly, while exiting on the other end of Mana, you would notice a few shops self proclaim themselves to be the last shop/tea shop in India.

From there, we had to trek another 6 km to reach our next spot. The first half of the trail was kind of flat, and the next half was quite steep and challenging. Nevertheless, it was the most scenic route of the whole trek and a bit adventurous too. As we approached, I was awestruck by the view of the magnificent Vasudhara Falls. The scene of the water cascading 145 mt tall mountain cliff and the sound of the water splashing down the rock bed was absolutely breathtaking. Views like these signify how minuscule and weak we humans in front of nature’s forces. We spent almost an hour at the falls enjoying its sheer beauty, before returning. It was already around 2 pm when we reach back to Mana, and we were super hungry. So, we went to “India’s Last Tea And Cofee Corner” and had some Potato Fritters and some Maggi. Then back at the camp, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and chitchatting. Just like the last night, we even had some fun sessions at the common hall. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 7: 3rd August 2019

Life is uncertain as much as the mountain weather. We were supposed to start back to our base camp as early as 7 am. But, as it heavily rained the last night, our departure got delayed till 10.45 am due to landslides. The clogged roads and very slow-moving traffic further added to the delayed start, and it was already 1.30 pm when we crossed GovindChat. Again yet another massive landslide after VishnuPrayag caused a heavy traffic jam and delayed us further by an additional couple of hours.

It started getting dark by 7 pm as we crossed the Rudraprayag. And, our driver advised us that it’s not safe to drive on the mountain roads all night, That crashed our hope of reaching Rishikesh by the same day. As advised by YHAI, we reached the town of Srinagar Garhwal around 9.30, where we would be spending the night at a Gurudwara. Again, a Gurudwara to rescue. We were super tired traveling on the bus for a whole day. So, we went and hit our bed straight after having our dinner at a nearby cafe. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 8: 4th August 2019

As per our initial itinerary, we should have already been in Mussoorie. But, due to the delays the last day, we haven’t even reached our base camp, Rishikesh yet. Now, expecting the unexpected on the mountain had become a new norm for us. As planned, we departed to Rishikesh as early as 5.30 am. After a quick stop for breakfast around 7, we finally reached our base camp by 9.40 am. Then, we got freshened up, collected our extra luggage, and completed the checkout formalities before finally bidding adieu to the base camp.

By noon we got a cab and headed to our next destination Mussoorie, a hill station located a couple of hours drive from Rishikesh. On arriving, we decided to chuck all our initial plans to visit the famous touristy places. And, unanimously chose to relax and unwind after one hell of an adventurous trek. As soon as we reached our homestay, it started to rain heavily. Damn, yet another curveball to our plans. In the meanwhile waiting for the rain to subside, I took a relaxing hot shower and ate my lunch. Luckily, the rain stopped around 4 pm, and our chances to roam around became as bright as the sun that began showing up. Our first stop was the Lovely Omelet Centre, one of the most famous eateries in Mussoorie. I was super impressed even with their plain omelet and was able to see my friends happy devouring their chili cheese and butter versions.

Next, we took a cab to Landour to taste the food at Char Dukan, one of the oldest eateries and well known to be frequently visited by celebrities. There, we had their famous Bun Omelet, Choco Banana Waffles, and soothing Ginger Lemon Tea.

Then we roamed on the Mall road for a while, just for the food to get digested. Finally, we concluded the outing with a sumptuous dinner at Kal Sang, a Chinese & Tibetan restaurant.

Back at the homestay, we spent the night boozing and playing board games. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 9: 5th August 2019

The day started well with a yummy Poha made by the homestay people. Being the last day of this trip, and I felt both homesickness and the anxiety of going back to the routine. It was a kind of hard to describe mixed feelings for me. Around 11.30 am, we took a cab to Dehradun Airport, from where we would be boarding our flights to Chennai via Mumbai.

On the way, we decided to try the Biriyani at the most famous Doon Darbar restaurant. Against my expectation, the not so spicy Biriyani failed to impress me but loved their Special Chicken Changezi.

After a splendid meal, we reached the airport around 2.30 pm and checked in on time for our flight scheduled at 4 pm. Our bad, the flight got delayed due to the bad weather and took off to Mumbai only by 4.55 pm. Again, the bad weather played the villain and made our flight circle the Mumbai skies for a while. Only after landing around 7.30, we realized that our 8 pm connecting flight to Chennai would depart from another terminal. Damn, we took an Auto and rushed to the Terminal 2 and literally ran in the airport to board our flight on time. For a while, it felt like “The Amazing Race” tv reality show. Finally, we landed around 10.30 pm and, there is nothing like the feel of homecoming. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t quite welcoming. It seems, unlike us, our baggage didn’t make it on time to the flight, and we had to wait for another hour to receive them. At that point, all I needed was to get done with this trip and the endless curveballs that it throws at me. Ultimately, we got back our languages just past midnight and headed back to each other’s house after bidding adieu. And, that’s how an awesome trip came to an end.

Right from the bus accident on day 2 to the baggage delay on the very last day, this trip was full of twists and turns, just like those mighty mountains. That’s definitely why this is a Trip To Remember.

The End.

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 3

A quick recap from the last blog posts  (post 1, post 2) in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat.

Day 4: 30th July 2019

It was around 7.30 am, we started our trek from camp Ghangaria. A few meters down, the route branched into two. One led to the most anticipated Valley of Flowers (VOF) and another to the Hemkund Sahib. As per the itinerary, we headed towards the former as the latter was scheduled for the next day. With a tiny waterfall, a rapidly flowing river, and flowers all along the way, the route was serene and scenic. Just like the icing on the cake, the misty climate added to the bliss. It was roughly 4km trek with an altitude gain of 1500 ft to the opening of the valley. The rest 3 km into the valley was kind of flat. As the mules aren’t allowed inside the valley, a few porters carried the elderly persons and the kids on their back. The route wasn’t as tough as the last one, which made the trek less demanding and enjoyable.

Once we entered the valley, it felt like heaven. Especially if you are someone who enjoys the tiny wonders of nature. The place felt mesmerizing with thousand of flowers around me. After having my packed lunch around 11 am, I tagged along with the YHAI guide who patiently pointed me to many unique species of flowers around. One of the best experience was running behind the colorful buzzing honey bees and try clicking it while drinking the nectar from the flowers. Must say I got lucky and managed to capture one awesome pic. Undoubtedly, this natural botanical garden was one big feast to my eyes. Below is the little I managed to capture through my mobile camera. Brace for some pic spamming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After clicking a ton of pictures, we reached the second waterfall by 12 pm and started returning back from there. On the way back to the camp, I felt much delighted. Literally, the person inside me was jumping out of joy. Roughly around 3 pm, we arrived back at the camp. We relaxed a bit after having our usual hot soup and snacks. Then, around 7.30 pm, we had our dinner and played UNO after that. That’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

Day 4: 31st July 2019

The day started with a cup of hot tea early in the morning, followed by some hearty breakfast. Initially, we planned to begin our trek by 7 am. But, rain doesn’t seem to agree with our plans. So, we started our ascent around 7.45 am as soon as the downpour subsided. It was almost the same route as yesterday for the first 1 km. Then, at an intersection, we switched to the one that led us to Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib, the summit of this trekking expedition. Situated roughly 15,000 ft above sea level, Hemkund Sahib is a sacred place visited by thousands of Sikhs every year. This leg of the trek was quite challenging as we had to trek 6 km one way with an altitude gain of ~5000 ft. Buddy, Nigilan, and Govi accompanied me for this whole stretch. Considering the altitude sickness factors, we decided to go slow and steady. After a couple of km, we stumbled upon a small tea shop and decided to take a short tea break. To our surprise, we noticed some soaked rice being laid out on a wooden plank for the birds to feed and a few Himalayan Sparrows feasting over them. Such a cute scene it was. With melting glaciers and ice-cold waterfalls, the route was a breathtaking one. Literally breathtaking, as you would feel your lungs screaming for more oxygen as you climb. Again, I got lucky. I somehow managed to click a beautiful pic of a Honeybee sucking nectar from a Himalayan Blue Poppy flower, the state flower of Uttarakhand. The last 1.5 km was strenuous and steep, but with great company, nothing is unconquerable. Finally, after 5 hours of excruciating trek, we reached the summit around 12.30 pm.

The Summit Pic - A mix of physical pain and mental joy

The Summit Pic – A mix of physical pain and mental joy

Finally, we were at the world’s highest Gurudwara, and this place had amazing positive vibes. What made me wonder was, how on this world did they build this Gurudwara, high over the mountains. After depositing our footwears to the kind volunteer there, we all entered the star-shaped Gurudwara and spent some time in their prayer session. In spite of not understanding even a single word, we sat throughout the sermon. To my surprise, they even provided us with some woolen blankets to keep us warm and comfortable. While exiting the prayer hall, we were served Kara Prasad, a sweet devotional offering. Just adjacent to the Gurudwara, located a beautiful lake filled with icy cold water straight from the glaciers. We even noticed a few devotees taking a dip into it, how strong!!. Just next to the lake, there exists a small temple that’s dedicated to Lakshmana, the brother of Rama. What astonished me was their Langar service, in spite of being located in such a high altitude. The hot tea and Kichadi served for the Langar was undoubtedly some of the soul touching food that I ever had.

After done with Hemkund Sahib, we began our descent around 1.45 pm. With continuous drizzling and mist causing low visibility, the downhill was as painful as the uphill trek. We took it slow with a couple of stops on the way for some hot tea and Maggi. Finally, we returned to the camp around 6 pm, totally exhausted.

To our relief, there was a shop nearby with electric massage chairs that eased out our pain a bit. Nothing like a hot water bath after a tiring day, followed by a good sleep. And, that’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 2

Surprised?

Pertaining to a hypercritical life event, I am quite unsure about the availability of my time by the end of this month to write this blog post. So, trying to churn out something before I get super busy. Isn’t something better than nothing?

A quick recap from the last blog post in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp.

Day 2: 28th July 2019

We woke up around 4 am as instructed. Being a habitual early riser, it wasn’t hard at all for me. In no time, we quickly packed our bags and lunch for the day. Then we had a quick huddle for instructions followed by flagging off the bus by 5 am. The route was quite scenic with the clouds passing over the mountains, the valleys and the rivers flowing through them. Believe me, there is nothing like the view of breaking of dawn over the mountains. And, that’s the kind of scene I adore a lot.

It was all fine until our driver stopped the bus out of nowhere. Initially, we thought he stopped for nature’s call. But was super shocked at what we saw a few feet away. It was a bus simar to ours met with an accident and about to plunge down the valley. The only thing that was holding the bus from falling down was a thick fiber optic cable and a stone beneath it. Luckily it was just the driver riding the bus empty who somehow managed to escape safely. Then I realized it’s not just the climate on the mountains that’s unpredictable, the roads too. It took almost an hour for the local authorities and workers to slightly widen the road allowing passage of vehicle in a direction at a time. In the meanwhile, we had bread-jam, biscuits, and juice that we packed in bulk from the base camp.

That one bus crash

After a couple of hours on the road, the driver stopped by a Dhaba. Damn, I wouldn’t have stuffed myself with bread-jam and biscuits if I would have been aware of such hot and yummy Parathas that I could get on the way. Again around 11 am, we took a brief stop for some tea. It was such a bliss to drink tea by the riverbank covered by mountains. OMG, the view was breathtaking and even made not so good tea feel worthwhile. Later we crossed the town of Karnaprayag and stopped for lunch around 1.30 pm. We munched on stale Chapathi and Bhindi (Ladies finger/Okra) that we packed from our base camp. Luckily, the nearby shop served some Maggi for rescue.

A yet another 4 hours of tiring continuous bus journey took us to our next camp Joshimath aka Jyotirmath by 6.30 pm. Luckily they served some hot Tea and Pakodas for relief as soon as we checked in. As we freshened up, around 8 pm, some hot Rotis and Potato Curry were served for dinner. After some 12 hours of continuous and tiring bus journey, all I needed was some good rest. I dozed off with a little excitement of trekking after a long gap the next day. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 3: 29th July 2019

Being an early riser, I woke up around 5 am as usual. As the dawn broke, I stood in a corner and rejoiced the view of clouds slowly moving over the mountains far away. Though it was a bit cold outside, the serenity of the environment brought peace and warmth to my soul. Narcissistically, I thanked my self for giving me such a blissful experience. Then came the hot Tea to add some warmth to the body too. While I was busy clicking some pics, our camp leader pointed to a nearby mountain and asked what do I see. After taking a closer look, I replied, it looks like a face. Then he corrected me saying, they call it the sleeping lady. Damn, how did I fail to notice, it did look like one.

Waking up to the views like these

Least I knew, Joshimath is famous for its temples. It’s also home to one of the four Maths established by the Indian saint Adi Shankaracharya. As most of us were interested, we decided to visit a few temples before heading towards our next camp. As planned, we started at 7 am after breakfast. First, we visited the most famous Adi Shankaracharya’s Math (monastery) and the nearby Kalpavriksha (divine tree) where he worshiped. Then we visited the marvelous Narsingh temple.

It was around 10 am when we got dropped at Govindghat, from where our trek would commence. For the ease of trek, we were given a couple of options. First, our bags could be ported directly to Ghangaria camp by Mules. Second, the initial 4 km of the route is motorable and could be covered by Jeep. Only after trekking the 1st 4 km, I realized that I failed to factor in an important aspect while considering the options, and that’s my fitness. By the time we reached the Pulna village (end of the motorable road), I was tired and dehydrated. While everyone else in our gang went ahead on their own phase, it was Nigilan who stuck with me accompanied me the whole route. After having our packed lunch at Pulna, to reach the camp alive, we decided to put our bags on the Mule and continue the trek. The next 6km wasn’t that difficult with moderate ups and downs. At the end of 10 km, we had Maggi and Tea in a shop along the fierce stream of water running down the mountains.

I must say, we literally crawled the final 4km. Blame the super steep stretch and exhausted us. It was the mutual pep talks and serenity of the mountains that motivated us all along the way. The sky was almost dark when we reached our camp at Ghangaria (10,000 ft) around 7 pm. Though our friends were worried about us being late, that didn’t stop them from playing a big prank on us. They almost made us believe that our bags were lost as the Mule fell on the way. After freshening up, we had our dinner and played some UNO. I dozed as my body screamed for some rest. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To be continued …

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.

IMG_20170527_195147389

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…

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 3

As you guessed, it’s my monthly target that pushed me to write this blog post. But, I love to write about my travel. I just love to revisit those beautiful memories and feel nostalgic about the same.

Day 6 – 23rd May 2017

As usual, I woke up early that day. As it was still dark outside, I spent time listening to music inside the tent until the sun showed up in the east.  To my surprise, no one except the kitchen staff was awake and they served me some hot tea. Then, I found myself a spot and got lost in the music and the serene nature. Slowly my trek mates started coming out of their tents and the kitchen staff served delicious Poha along with some hot tea. We didn’t just stop with the Poha, a couple of rounds of MoMos went on too, courtesy Mrs. Tarkur (I call her The MoMo Aunty). It wasn’t just the hot MoMos that added warmth, the burning woods inside her shop made the cold morning much pleasant.

A little later, we packed our lunch and was all ready to leave the camp. Our camp leader gave us 2 choices. One, an easy route and nothing much exciting on the way. Next, a relatively tough route with a waterfall along. Can’t expect anything less from our energetic group, we unanimously voted for the tough one. The best part was, our camp leader Mr. Bharath even agreed to accompany us to the waterfall. It was a bit steep route with a couple of small streams on the way. Walking further we stumbled upon a small waterfall and started clicking pics assuming that it was the one that our camp leader mentioned about. Then we realized, it was just the trailer and the main picture yet to come. I was simply awestruck by the view when we reached the waterfall. The sheer force of water and the sun rays escaping through the dense trees made the place look magical. The feel of cold water droplets splashing on my face is indescribable, even just thinking about would give me goosebumps. We spent some time there enjoying the nature and clicking some pics. As our camp leader headed to Grahan getting farewell from us, we continued trekking to our higher camp.

The route was a bit steeper than I imagined, but the energy in the group kept us going. As usual, I enjoyed trekking in my own phase. Out of nowhere came our lunch point, a tiny shop where we ordered some hot Maggi and had it along with Chapatti and Potato Curry, the ones we picked from the camp. We resumed after our lunch followed by some rest. From the lunch point, it didn’t take us much time to reach our next higher camp Padri (9300 ft), actually quite earlier than expected. Cant expect anything less from our young and energetic group.

Padri is like a valley cleared for cattle grazing. One can see mountains with snowy peaks surrounding it. Cattles passed by the camp all the time, can’t blame them, after all, it’s their place we were occupying.  We had a lot of time to relax that day with most of my time spent in the company of music lost in thoughts. Soup, tea and dinner were served in the meantime. Post dinner something really interesting happened. As a tradition, signals were exchanged between our camp and yet another higher camp Nagaru using torchlight. All we could see was a tiny spark of light flickering in a pattern far away from the mountains. Nagaru is the highest camp in this trek and it would take us another couple of days to reach there. In my case, sleep comes out once the food goes in and it was cold to stay out. On the contrary, my tent mates were wide awake with playing both Uno and music. So, I switched to another tent full of similar sleepy souls and dozed off to glory. That’s how yet another awesome day on the trek came to an end.

Day 7 – 24th May 2017

The day started witnessing one of the best sunrises ever. The view of Sun rising over the mountains from the camp was stunning and the lighting was perfect to click some photos and selfies. To our surprise, they served Penne Pasta for breakfast along with some hot tea. We resumed our trek after bidding our farewell to the camp leader.

This one lovely view ❤

The route was initially steep downhill. With a bit of rain last night, it was damp and slippery. We had to carefully watch each of steps, luckily the Bamboo stick (pole) that I carried along came in handy. We came across a stream, think I can call it a small waterfall, from there the route elevated steep uphill, crazy mountains I must say. Out of nowhere on the route, we encountered a small tent shop which sold chocolates, chips and packed juices. Though the prices were up to thrice the MRP, it seemed fair to pay considering the location and the fact that we would be their only customers for the day. Energized by the brief rest along with some snacks, we continued our journey.  The route was a bit flat until our lunch point, I even saw a  tree burnt by lighting and my favorite Rhododendron flowers on the way. The lunch point was the most scenic of all. A perfect place to take a lot of pictures with mountainous background and I didn’t miss it either.

Panorama from lunch point

It was all fine till then, the route was kinda flat until we reached this spot which I call the great wall of Mingtatch cos it looked like a wall between us and the camp. It was a highly steep zigzag path uphill, so steep that they even had supporting ropes to hold and climb. It was not just the tough path that caused trouble, the most unpredictable mountain weather had also decided to join the party uninvited and It rained all of sudden. We took shelter under the tree covering ourselves with the rain cover and Pancho. Added to the steepness, rain made the path slippery too and that wasn’t fair at all. Just a slip and we would be dead in the valley few thousand foots below us. That was one of the scariest parts of the trek for me. Somehow we safely managed to reach Mingtatch (11200 ft), our next higher camp.

Within a few minutes, the clouds disappeared, the sun shined back and there wasn’t a trace that it rained. Mysterious mountains, I must say. The hot Tea and Potato Pakodas they served felt heavenly. The dispersion of sun rays through the clouds at the time of sunset was an awesome view to watch. I whiled away clicking pics and playing our favorite UNO. Then, as usual, sleep followed the dinner and yet another awesome day on the trek came to an end.

To Be Continued…