“Jaate the Japan pahunch gaye Chin, samajh gaye naa! “

When I hear these lines from a Kishore Kumar hit song, I invariably think of my crazy, little adventure that took me to Pindari trek

 

Almost two years had passed since I did my last trek. I did come up with a plan in July for Valley of Flowers but that didn’t work out very well. I guess, people from my social circle had been so busy (like me) that they didn’t have time for such activities. Finding people for treks has always been a task and to add to that, my tendency of working for long hours hasn’t helped at all. Absolutely no time to find / convince people for new treks!!

One of my relatives, Mr. Surendra Dighe (Nandu mama – for me) is a part of a youth development oriented NGO called “Jidnyasa”. He is a patriarch in the field of trekking and highly respected among trekkers. At a family get-together I found out that he was organizing a trek to Rupin Pass. I decided to join him. This was his personal trek with his friends, which clearly meant that an oldies gang would be there to give me company. Wow, what an interesting idea!!! “Anyways, I would rather bear that boredom instead of sitting at home or in office” I thought to myself.

Rupin Pass is a tough trek and I was very much out of practice. But I love to face such challenges. I was quite excited about doing photography as well. I was so eager to show off my camera kit which included my new Lowepro camera bag, lens and a tripod.

Our schedule was from 18th to 29th Sept and as usual, I was working late on 17th. At around 10 pm, Nandu mama called up. He broke the news – The trek was cancelled as he had high temperature and none of his friends wanted to do this trek without him. I was like WTF (of course I didn’t say that). For a moment, I went completely blank. Canceling a trek plan was no big deal but canceling MY trek plan which was so hyped among my friends and relatives was really going to be a big embarrassment and disappointment for me. Moreover, my office leaves!  I wasn’t too sure when would I get such a big break later. Another thought of colleagues laughing at me was very upsetting as well and what to do with all the ticket bookings that I had done with so much of efforts. Oh, all these thoughts were hovering over my head. This was so frustrating and disheartening!! .

I picked up the phone and called up Nandu Mama again. I tried convincing him for a lighter trek like Valley of Flowers, which his oldie goldie gang could do. He assured he would try his best to convince his gang and asked me to wait till morning with a hope that he would recover by that time!

Here, my packing was still not done and at midnight, I was browsing the internet, searching for new trek routes. I hated myself big time for all the mess that was happening and especially this habit of last minute preparation.

I came up with two – three itineraries that might fit into this schedule. Next morning I again rang up Nandu Mama in a hope of some good news but unfortunately the lady luck still refused to smile. Nandu mama was still unwell and his friends were not willing to go for any other trek, instead, they were prepared to bear the damages. But I was not! I collected the contact numbers of these people (the gang). Now I was acting too desperately but I had to.. I had very little choice and time left. “Oh God, how can you do this to me!!” My mind was becoming more and more melodramatic!

I had no idea who these people were, all I knew that I had to convince them anyhow. Apparently the oldies were not so old. Three of them were in their 50’s.  The fourth one, Abhijit was of my age. Nandu mama was quite sure that Abhijit would have no problem joining me for this trek. Out of the three, there was a couple – Mr. and Mrs. Ganpule, which meant that I had to convince only one of them to join the trek. And the third one was Mrs. Swati Kulkarni. She was a housewife and somehow I had this gut feeling that she would be a kind hearted lady and very easy to convince. I called her up and in a very soft and pleading manner, I narrated her whole situation, my problem and my dire urge for an Himalayan outing. I explained her the scenario on the job front and how I was living without my parents (they were in Singapore). After a lot of pleading, she finally assured me that she will talk to her husband and friends about this and will try her best to make this trek happen. I kept the phone and I was already on cloud 9.  “YES!!! I have it in me Mann!! my convincing skills are so damn good !! I thought to myself. This really energized me. After ten minutes, I called up Mr. Ganpule. He was a straight forward guy. He clearly said – “I had a conversation with Mrs. Kulkarni and to be very honest I don’t want go to Valley of Flowers because it’s a very very easy trek” .Oh My God! This guy didn’t want to do Rupin Pass because it was too tough and Valley Of Flowers was too easy for him!! I was not the one to lose hopes so easily.. I persuaded further – Please, look uncle, we can come up with a midway. I will get all possible permutation and combination of treks and routes but lets at-least board the train”. Trust me, I was completely aware that it was a kind of ridiculous statement but at that time, I couldn’t come up with anything better. Thankfully, he sensed my desperation and he said he will constructively think of some alternative. But WHEN!!! Time was fast running out. It was already 11 am and my train was at 4 p.m.. When will he decide and when will I pack up. This was my race against time and I had almost given up on these people.

By now, I was quite certain that I was not going to office rather I was determined that I would be going on a holiday. Then I thought, how about going to Singapore? I have a Singapore visa, I work for an online travel agency (btw, I am software developer there). I can easily get tickets. And this would be slightly expensive than my Himalayan trip as I had to pay for the tickets. My dude brother lives there… moreover, during that period, my parents were enjoying their vacation at his place. I would get to play with my adorable cute niece Ananya and also it would be a pleasant surprise for my parents too (I knew they were missing me). Singapore is ofcourse a great place to explore (Although I already had explored most of it but I wouldn’t mind a second time). So I called up office to block my tickets for any cheapest flight at night or next day morning and they did that. Blocking is just holding the seat for a specific time it expires after that, nobody has to pay for blocking ticket .I was not very excited but slightly satisfied with the thought that I was at least going somewhere. I desperately needed some sleep as I was quite stressed since last night, but soon Mr. Ganpule called.

He was like “Rima, Mr. Kulkarni (Swati Kulkarni’s husband) has just returned from Pindari Glacier trek in Kumaon Himalayas. He said Pindari trek would fit very well in our itinerary. It’s a moderate trek and KMVL (kumaon mandal vikas nigam limited) organizes treks for a min of 5 pax. So we can try calling them and check for availability. the only thing was that we would need to pay them in advance”.

All of a sudden, I started feeling so well and charged up. But we were running out of time. It was already 12 and our train was at 4 and my packing wasn’t still done. But by God’s grace, this KMVNL agent in Mumbai stayed in Kulkarnis’ colony. Wow, what a small world!! I was loving this mess. Soon, urgent calls were made to the Head office of KMVNL and seats were booked for us. He really did us a favor because this meant that we didn’t have to bother about transferring money instantly, we could pay him later.

Now there was a spring in my feet!! I was very much excited!. Singapore? What Singapore!! Himalaya rocks any day!! Finally by 2 p.m. my sack was ready. As usual it was very heavy (Wonder, why I can’t be a light traveler). I just tried lifting the sack and to my horror it tore!!!. Aahh!! Why can’t God have some mercy on me! I have had such a terrible day and now this blow! I had no other option but to buy a new one. I knew a guy in Dharavi, who makes good trekking gears. My train was from Bandra so he was the best option to go for. I quickly packed everything and left the house with my luggage, went to his shop, purchased a new full size frame sack… Unpacked the old one…packed the new bag… took a rick… Got stuck in the traffic jam (nothing unusual, having faced such a day already, I was mentally prepared for any chaos… Finally, I managed to board the train just 10 minutes before its departure… hussshhhh I was finally going.

All of us were late in-fact. We got to know each other in the train and laughed a lot over things that happened since last night. Well the elderly gang was not at all bad. I had a great time with them throughout the trip. And now, we all have become good friends.

Well, you must be wondering, I talked a lot about this preparation but haven’t even started talking about my Pindari trek. To be honest, that chaos, that uncertainty, that excitement, and those anxious hours that I spent were as enjoyable as the actual trek was! Somewhere deep down, my mind was enjoying every bit of it. My crazy urge and that never ending wish to visit Himalaya again and again proved to be too strong.

I am sharing the pictures that I took in Pindari. They would speak about the place itself.

 

Pindari I

Primate Kingdom

t took me two years to finish this post. But finally i think i have managed to move this post from the drafts folder to the published folder.

Now if you are thinking that i am about to unveil a novel or something then hold on this post is nothing but a set of NAMED PICTURES . NAMES is important because i tend to forget them and now after two years i have finally found some TITLES for these pictures. Well i am talking about the PRIMATE KINGDOM at Singapore Zoo.

Singapore zoo as most of us know is incredible in terms of the wildlife. The open zoo concept gives us an opportunity to experience the wild in a naturalistic environment. The animal exhibits are incredibly designed. I generally dont like to visit zoos as i feel quite sorry for the caged animals. But this place is slightly different.

All the exhibits were fantastic but what amazed me was The Primate Kingdom. Most of the zoos particularly focus on Wild animals like Lion, Tiger, Cheetah, Elephant etc. But Singapore Zoo focuses more on rare species. They have created moated islands for various species of Monkeys.  It fun to see them play in those spacious and great landscaped exhibits. As you walk by you would suddenly see a Orangutan swaying on ropes or a marmoset monkey or lemurs standing besides you or a mini komodo dragon passing by. The feeling is amazing.

Feeling Nostalgic

Hello

New photographs are out and while uploading them i pondered over my days in college.

Well when i had lot of time i didn’t have money to do photography but i had desire to do lots.
I just had a amateur film SLR that time. I remember drawing budgets for film rolls and photograph development. For every photo that i clicked i would think twice if this was necessary. Whenever i clicked a beautiful landscapes i would miss a wide angle lens. Whenever i shot birds or animals i always wished if i had a zoom lens. At low light i missed fast lens. I didn’t have tripod nor a digital camera.

Today when i have all of these equipments, i don’t have time to shoot :). I haven’t been on a trek for more than year now. I wish i could combine both the phases of my life. But as someone said if you get one you lose one .

Anyways now lets come back to the post..
i recently bought a Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens. Its damn cheap but gives great results. The bad part of it is the noisy auto focus motor.
I was overly excited about f/1.8 that i almost shot everything at 1.8. Most of the pics went out of focus (thats a shame i know) mainly becoz i shot them on manual focus. But still i loved the pics for the blur effect it gave.
Hope to shoot some better pics from my new baby :)

Choki Dani from my new lens

the shades of sky

i was completely overjoyed by my new digital camera (a compact one tough).. that i completely forgot about abt my older buddy ( my Film SLR) .. two months back i had gone to Daman and managed to click few shots  which i totally forgot  to develop …

well the fun u have with SLR is something different ,.. even if u skrew 10 picks … the one good after that gives an awesome feeling..

Webshots link

Beach and the sunset

Picasa link

the festive and the street

firstly i am logging into wordpress after ages.. and i saw a lot of unpublished blogs ..oops .. i wont give any commitment on when will those be completed ..

ok lets start with this one

Sometimes people wonder what is it abt mumbai that people talk so much ..
mumbai has over a dozen big time issues that goes against it ..
but the only thing thats enough for me to call mumbai as ‘THE PLACE ‘ to be is its amazing spirit ….
i haven’t seen any other place so live as what this city is ..

well i am not talking abt my experience in a night club .. its about anant chaturdashi …
sounds very ‘not so exciting’ .. but it is guys .. only if u get down on the roads and be a part of it .. like i was..

watch the pictures

Anant Chaturdashi

http://picasaweb.google.com/mariemalls/AnantChaturdashi

Sandakphu or can say Shangri-La

There are certain places that one can just dream of. But then sometime dreams come true. ϑ

The legacy of my treks started with YHAI(Youth Hostels Association of India) and it still continues with them (These are the best people for a tension free and cost effective solution for adventure) .YHAI West Bengal Branch had announced the National Himalayan Trekking Expedition to Sandakphu (Darjeeling, West Bengal) sometime in October, and the day I read about it, I knew I had to be there, no matter what it takes. I managed to pull Anil Mama (my uncle) and Sudhindra (trek mate) to accompany me. The dates were decided (2nd Dec 2006) and as usual I was thrilled and excited to be there.

Somewhere on the route I read ‘No sweet without sweat’, that is so true.

Sandakphu lies on the Indo-Nepal-Sikkim border in the state of West Bengal.
Now if you take a map, you will find Mumbai at the extreme west of India and Sandakphu (you will have to locate Darjeeling) at extreme east of India. To conclude, a whole lot of journey. It takes two days to reach New Jalpaiguri or NJP (the nearest railway station). The train journeys are never pleasant especially in accompaniments of cockroaches in a 2 – tier Ac coach (all the big bucks I spent on the A/c thing were a mere waste). From NJP our next destination was Kurseong.

Kurseong is a small hill station in the hills of Darjeeling, 57 km from NJP.
This place is clean and peaceful and pretty well developed with plush boarding schools and lot of picnic spots. I could only manage to visit the Eagles Craig, Deer Park and Forest Museum. Our main purpose was to catch the toy train for Darjeeling.

Next to come was the famous ‘Sapno ke Rani’ Train. It is the heritage toy train that runs on the hill roads of Darjeeling. There are three toy trains that run in this area one is from NJP to Darjeeling (vice versa), second from Kurseong to Darjeeling and third is the Darjeeling Joy Ride. I recommend the second one because the first one takes about 9 hrs which if done by car would take 3 hours. Moreover Kurseong to Darjeeling is said to be the best toy train route and it runs on the oldest of steam engine.

The toy train ride is a joy ride offering a slow glimpse of the flora of eastern Himalayas and the Indo – Nepal culture that prevails here. One can actually peep into someone’s house as the train passes by the tiny houses along the road.

It runs at an amazingly slow speed and has two coaches plus a steam engine. Every coach has its own set of brakes and an attendant to use them. Its fun when the driver screams ‘Brake Laga’ and the some what sleepy attendant rushes to turn around the brake wheel and then giving you a look as if ‘Gosh! I saved you’. It took four hours to get to Darjeeling which could have been covered in an hour had I taken a Taxi. Initially I was enjoying the landscapes and the Alpine tree line, but later it was difficult to deal with the slow pace.

So there we were in Darjeeling, the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, beautiful and full of clouds. But I was more excited seeing the shopping arena. This place is a shopper’s paradise. It has a huge market with trendy clothing and cool accessories on sale. Of course ‘Made in China’ but they were smart and cheap. Apart from that there is a Multiplex, Coffee Bars, Cake Shops, and Pubs. I even heard a rock show at Mall Road and they were good.

The people here are sweet, humble, well dressed, polished and good looking. Pretty girls with silky hair and smart guys with gelled hair and trendy attitude, looked like a plush and up market place.

Now the task was to search for the Youth Hostel Camp at Jalapahar. It was a trek in itself. The roads here are very steep and tiny, feels like a roller-coaster ride if you take a Taxi. And mind you they loot you a lot in terms of fares.

The weather changes here as noon turns on. Clouds come down and what can I say about the cold…I was wearing three layers of woolens. And by the time it is five in the evening, it gets dark and is night time. Eight o’ clock looks like mid night.

The first two days went in getting acquainted with the fellow trek mates and wandering around Darjeeling. All the while I was searching for the glimpse of Mt. Kanchendzonga but the weather was cloudy so I was a bit disheartened wondering if I would get to see her. But thankfully on third day she gave a grand entry with a clear sky and blazing sunshine. She looked great shining is the golden dawn and stood like a gigantic wall in front of Darjeeling .

Our trek started on the third day and we first headed to Manebhanjan (27 km from Darjeeling). Manebhanjan is a check post and gateway to the Singalila National Park. After the formalities the taxi dropped us at Dhotrey from where the actual trekking began. Dhotrey is small hamlet which gave a closer look at the mighty Kanchendzonga range ( ‘Kanchendzonga Massive’).

Sandakphu trek is quiet a royal trek with best of accommodations and food available on route. Moreover it’s a kaccha (undone stoned) road route. Sometimes the walk gets monotonous but mind you at times these roads become overly steep and some short distances look infinity to conquer.

That reminds me of the classy land rovers one gets to spot in this area. The road to sandakphu is meant only for 4 wheel drive vehicle. So ideally the roads are for SUV’s. Well there are no SUV’s here but modified age old land rovers are found. Said to be the remains of World War II, they are generally overloaded and looks like they can break any moment. If you plan to take a ride in this then get ready for an amazing vibration massage.

A trek of 7km from Dhotrey took us to Tumbling(2980 Mt). Tumbling is in Nepal. Well I never thought my first foreign trip would be this way but anyways we all were excited being in Nepal.

Tumbling is where I want to spend my honeymoon (coz sandakphu is very cold ϑ). What a place! I have never seen a village which is so not a village but still a village. Now I am sounding like a fool… but I am actually out of words. The cute wooden houses , the hospitality, the people, the weather, the sunset , the moon rise, the sunrise, and the moon set, the frozen dues, the colorful flowers , the cute puppies and a charged up camp fire was indeed a mesmerizing experience and accommodation at Shikhar Lodge was 10/10.

Next day while everyone got up early to struggle for the glimpse of sunrise I was lavishly sleeping in the wonderful shack of Shikhar Lodge . When I realized I am missing something amazing I struggled to get out but thought I would miss it anyways. So I went to the bathroom. Luckily the bathroom had a window which gave an amazing view of the sunrise. Lazy gets a reward too.

After the thanksgiving (YHAI ritual can say) to the camp leader and people helping him, we headed for Kalapokhri(3108 Mt) which was about 13 kms. This marked our entry in the Singalila National Park . The entry check post had no one to welcome us. Until Garibas the route was gradual and downhill mostly. Garibas is a Nepal army check post. Next came Kaiyankata where we had lunch. Yhai lunch boxes are never exciting. I saw some of my friends having noodles. Now that is typical of YHAI treks, they are incomplete without Maggie. Well because we were in Nepal it was Yay Yay instead of Maggie but it was delicious . So bye bye to the pack lunch and there I was in the Nepali hut having Yay – Yay and Momo(I was a momo fan by now). After lunch we were back on track for Kalapokhri.

Kalapohkri is known for a holy pond which is fenced by Buddhist prayer flags. After a tiring day it was quite serene and rejuvenating to watch the lake view and the gushing clouds. I have an incredible fascination for lakes at higher altitudes, they are crystal clear and clam offering very good reflection of sky and surroundings.

Kalapokhari gives the view of Sandakphu (back side). Nothing great about it because only a hut could be spotted still it gives an idea(misleading one) of how much the climb will be. Apparently it looks adjacent to Kalapokri but one could not spot the in-between mountain trail to be traversed to reach sandakphu .

We were all set for the next destination aka Sandakphu . We were told that its just 6 Km hence we were pretty relaxed but the last 3 km are …uuffff… tiresome moreover my backpack was giving trouble. My sack must be the heaviest of all. To reduce the weight I was wearing all the woolens that I had, making me look like an overly blown balloon( I look like a balloon anyways). On the way comes BkeBhanjan also known as valley of poisonous plants(Nilo Bikh)

So there we were on one of the finest places on this earth, Sandakphu a place I have been dying to see. Heaven is what you feel being there. I remember seeing a movie ‘God must be crazy,’ in which a bush man in Africa goes in search of end of the world and finally he get it. It gave me the same feeling. I was above the clouds , felt as if god was few km above me.

The floating clouds look like waves in the sea splashing on the nearby mountains. And when this cloud ocean ends the almighty Himalayas welcome you. The view here is spectacular. The Best of Himalayas are here. Kanchendzonga , Pandim ,Lotse, Makalu, the Three Sisters and Mt Everest what say!!!. If you roll ur eyes in 360 degree it feels like you are in white Garden with clouds and the snow peaks waving ‘hello’ to you. Nothing can capture that moment.

Sandakphu and Phalut are two places which gives the closest view of Kanchendzonga. Infact Mt Everest was spotted first from Sandakphu. Kanchendzonga looked like a queen sitting on her throne saying ‘I am watching you’. Sometimes the Kanchendzonga massive looked like a sleeping Kumbhakaran with Huge Tummy. And Mt Everest is quiet far but just the idea that I saw Everest is so very exciting and thrilling. Well I cant conquer these giants but at least I got to see them.

I could sit there for ages eying the majestic panorama but the wind here is crazy. Sandakphu — the phu here stands for breeze. It is difficult to stand through the strong air currents. It feels as if the breeze will tear you apart adding to this is the extremely cold climate.

I was lucky to be present at Sandakphu on the almost Full Moon eve. The sight is surreal resembling fairy tale world. The moon, stars, gently flowing cloud loaf and the Kanchendzonga in moonlight, indeed a blissful sight. Felt sad as I could not walk on the clouds.

And of course Sunrise, an amazing experience to witness. The sun comes out through the semi transparent clouds and turns into dark orange molten glob as if it has just come out from the furnace. The sight when the sun is half underneath the clouds and half in the sky is phenomenon. And at the same time the Kanchendzonga is at its best form changing colors from orange color card. The thrown of her highness turns golden with snow shine resembling diamonds makes the queen look beautiful and magical. I was struggling to photograph both the events simultaneously.

Next to come in the trek was Gurdum the route to which passes through the dead valley.
Dead Valley because in 1988 a forest fire broke in that area and the entire tree line was burnt. Now there stand barren poles of alpines along the slope. The route from sandakphu to Gurdum is very steep, so one has to be very careful while getting down.

Gurdum is a tiny hamlet with variety of plantations seen. For the first time I saw French Beans fields. Apart from that there were different types of chilies, potatoes, cauliflowers etc. and ofcourse tea garden.

After Gurdum we headed to Rimbick via Srikhola. Till Srikhola the route is marvelous. The trek route is along the river Siri and passes through a sub tropical forest. A variety flora fauna could be found. A sudden patch of orange or yellow color trees could be spotted just like a pleasant change in the lovely greens. On the left side lies Sikkim.

From Rimbick a 3 hour drive took us back to Darjeeling. After which was Kolkatta and then Mumbai.

If rains could kill (26th July 2005)

chill …nothing really happened to me..nor I have any personal experience to share……
but i still want to write about Torrential Tuesday…

26th July 2005 was one of the most horrifying day in the history of mumbai..its been a week after it…but life still remains there.
one week of entire holiday..one of its kind when no one enjoyed…but are waiting for life to come to normal…
So much seen and So much heard…what to tell and what not to tell…..i have no clue…

Thanks to my good fortune or lets say my punctuality …saved me from getting stuck in some part of mumbai ….don’t think wrong..as usual i got late for my class which starts at 11.30(one i had already bunked which was at 8.30)..but at that time i was at kurla station…swearing to god..I’ll never be late again…please get me train….i waited there till 12.30 but there were no trains coming….after which i came back home thinking, it’s not a good idea to enter the classroom when u r a hour late..more than that infact.

So at home time passed seeing Saas Bahu melodrama…while its was raining heavily outside..and then in the evening when i opened the window to see how the world looks outside my house..shit ..there was water all over….its flood time and the water had raised up to knee level….never before i had seen my colony flooded….

Soon the lights went off and the phone lines were jammed…i had no clue where my friends and relatives were….
as time passed the water level started rising ..now it was up to chest level…..
well i live on the fourth floor so no real worry for me..but my friends on ground floor were in trouble….the water had entered their houses…
I and colony mates went in for help….tried to shift most of the expensive stuff(tv, dec, computer etc), documents and essentials..but how much can we shift in such a short time…after a while we had to stop our work as it was not possible to enter the ground floor.

Night was getting darker..and the streets were without light…anxious parent were waiting for their young ones to return home ..while most of the mumbai stayed in offices and schools..there was tension all over..we had no clue whats happening around. The only transistor(which we were glued to) in the building stopped working as it was out of battery …
but still we weren’t short of rumours…they were coming from all over….and at that time they all sounded so very real….
rumours of dams bursting..people dying , short circuits…never before i was so scared ..not for me but for the rest…

The entrance of my buildings was completely deluged in water..now fear was that if water level rises up to 1st floor then what should be done..but thankfully it dint….this condition remained for three days..faces were grim ..something which no one can imagine had happened….as the water level dropped people started returning home…each of them had a story to tell, a tragedy to reveal…an adventure to gossip…

..and now its time for the aftermath….i have no words to describe the filth that remained after the wash off ….people living on ground floor had nothing left…..documents , photographs, even money was washed off… furniture had become state of art…..most of my ground floor neighbours had recently renovated…so they were still surviving the shock…
there was breathtaking stink all around and the authorities were nowhere in the picture…so we, the young blood of Mrugank(my buildings name) decided to be the sweeper’s of the day …actually two days. So there we were..dressed up like American sweeper with gloves in our hand and mask on the nose and ready to work.

In the evening i went for a walk in the neighbourhood..no exaggeration…….. but there was no place to walk…the streets were filled with heaps of debris..there was dirt and stink all over..this was so not the place where i use to live….much worse was the scene at the grocery store…tremendous wastage …and it was stinking like hell….
on an average every house has an approx loss of a lakh rupee..and this remains the scenario in most of mumbai…so one can imagine what must be the extent of damages…well the newspapers say it all.

but during this period humanity was the only thing evident and i feel so glad for it. Uptill now whoever has mentioned about his or her stories of battle against the rains never forgets to mention the ways people helped one another in surviving the difficult time

its took six days for electricity to be restored..and water supply continues to be an issue..god knows how long this takes to heal. I feel like singing “” Rain Rain Go away ..come again another day…everyone wants to play””

while all this my camera was at work you can check the photos at http://community.webshots.com/user/filangi
(i was not allowed to step out of my building while the water was around

Saurkundi pass

Watch my album

SAURKUNDI PASS 2006

Trek to Arunachal Pradesh

The Road Less Travelled

…….This title is not original but was perfect for this travelogue….
The beginning of this year i.e 2005 I had made up my mind not to go with YHAI for Himalayan treks, so I was full on and excited for searching new routes in Uttaranchal and had spread the word across my trek group. Myself and Ashish thought of doing Tapovan near Gangotri and made plans and worked out the estimates etc. But this plan was strongly opposed by yashada and mrunal who were tired seeing “the same types of rocks, same type of trees and the snow”.
I am a snow lover and wondered how can anybody living in Mumbai say such a thing. Anyways, then came the plan for Arunachal Pradesh and I could never forget the expression of yashada ” WOW Rainforest”. The destination for trek was decided …it was Arunachal Pradesh…..i confess I was not very happy…but still said yes to it as I did not want to stay in Mumbai during summer vacation. But today I am glad I went there “thank you both of u’ll”. Then the search for routes began. As I started reading information about Arunachal my interest developed. We came up with Thembang trek. Now the hurdle was getting people. As of now we were 6 and we were given a package for 12 people. All of us were desperate for getting people and did what not things to convince them. I even changed my nickname to ” PLZ come with me to Arunachal”.
Somehow we managed the number 12 and the date was fixed 13th May. The program was for 11 days Guwahati- Guwahati.

The sad part about the entire trip was getting to Guwahati. It takes 3 long days to get there…3 days of train journey just to get to Guwahati…was too much….
And that too it was a break journey Mumbai- Calcutta – Guwahati in second-class train compartment… the journey from Mumbai to Calcutta was awful …
But the one from Calcutta to Guwahati was quite pleasant. Green paddy fields, the white sand, palm trees in Jharkhand and the tiny ponds next to bamboo trees…I loved it …
Calcutta is so not a good place to be and same goes for Guwahati…a highly unplanned city with lots of cockroaches and bad roads.
After a night stay at Hotel Sheroy Lily we left for Nameri National Park. Nameri is near Arunachal border and it takes 6 hrs approx but we took 8 hrs. The drive from Guwahati to Nameri was lovely. Assam is a mix of Kerela, Maharashtra plus it has some of its own flavors. The colorful trees along the roads were a must see sight…wish I knew the names of those trees … I only remember Gulmohar ….but the flowers were in all colors..i loved the pink ones…Oh!! how could I forget the cute huts and the bamboo caps…. they were a wonder to see….

On the way to Nameri come’s the mighty Brahmaputra…ohh its so huge almost like a sea.. You stand at one end and you don’t see the other end. The bridge was 3.5 km long.
It was getting dark and had started lightning…our car entered the nameri jungle…its a thick forest and there was nobody on the road …we were told that this place has an history of dacoits.. by that time lightning had started.. and we could hear the thunders….. silence in the car…and the jungle is full of glow bugs( I don’t know the exact name in Marathi we call it kajwa, the bug glows like indigo)…the scene was reminding me of flicks from ramgopal varma’s movies..hhehehe.. I wasn’t scared but very attentive and serious..

As we reached nameri eco camp it started raining the authorities there gave us these lovely wide bamboo caps which were sufficient enough to protect us from rains. The moment we saw the eco camp every one of us started dancing …it’s an awesome place…. absolutely plastic and dirt free…even the dustbin was of bamboo…what a place…. we lived in shacks… and the veranda had bamboo coaches sitting on which I enjoyed watching a huge tree lit with indigo bugs…
As we went in the month of May the jungle safari was closed…so we went for river rafting the next morning which then we found was like boating in rafts with very few rapids..(One cant compare it with Rishikesh)
In the national park I could only spot a pig.. no other animal…sad..but we went there only for a night stay and not for a safari actually…

After lunch we proceeded for Bomdila in Arunachal. On the way comes Tipi. Tipi is said to be Asia’s second largest Orchid’s Sanctuary but the sad part to all this was that it wasn’t the blooming season. So there were very few orchids, but we got to see Pitcher Plant(the insect eating plant),lily’s etc….( I am bad with names). Tipi was a place where I got to experiment my photography skills with my new SLR camera.

The plains of Assam were now replaced by hilly terrains of Arunachal. The Rain Forest had begun… it is dense and a mixture of coconut, banyan, pine, rhododendrons, ferns and much more. I was astonished to see banyan and coconut trees in Arunachal (never expected them to be there). The roads here are empty. The driver was managing to drive at the speed of 60km/hr through the hilly terrains. Late evening we arrived at Bomdilla. It was raining and the weather was chilly cold.

Bomdilla also known as Bomdilla Dzong (Dzong stands for administrative headquarters) is a Tibetan cultured town. Most of the people in Arunachal are Buddhist, very few Hindu’s . I dint find any church or mosque so have no idea about existence of any Christians or Muslims. I was also wondering how much British penetrated in this area because I dint find any British architecture or history reference given by the locals. Bomdilla town does not have much to see except a Monastery.
Our trek was scheduled to begin after the sight seeing and breakfast but due to blasting taking place in that area we drove up to Thembang through a kaccha road and skipped a day of trekking. As it is, the trek was for 5 days now it came to 4. . Must say that this trek was the luxurious trek I had ever done
Thembang is a Tribal Village nowhere on the map of Arunachal. The village is beautiful and so are the people. I had heard so much about Arunachal being a under developed state but it dint really showed any signs of that. Most of the younger lot was studying till 12th arts (since there are no science college around) and many of them are pursuing bachelor’s degree. Every tribe that we visited had a school. Most of the young men either worked for the army or worked in the farms. I dint find them poor and women were at par to men. I was impressed.

Thembang village has a nice age-old entrance. The people from West Kameng and Tawang District are from Monpa Community(Tribe). There is some history behind the Monpa Community that our guide was explaining but his accent was very diffcult to interpret. I could understand the shorter lines that he said but was unable to get the paragraphs. There is no property business in these villages i.e no ownership. Everything is controlled by the panchayat(they have a different name for it). Another interesting fact is the way the funeral of Monpa people takes place. They cut the head of the dead and then cut the rest of the body in 108 pieces and then immerse the head along with the body parts in a river. When I heard this I was stunned for a moment. We visited a local house in that tribe to see how they live. There was Yaks meat hanged in one of the corner of the living room. They dry the meat and eat it throughout the year. What was surprising that it dint stink. A cute looking old woman offered us a drink called Chang. Chang is rice beer and it smells awful. No need to raise your eyebrows I dint drink it but the locals drink it like water…. I think that’s what gives them energy to live the day.
There is so much to write about thembang but I think I should limit here. Its just a small tribe but it touched me…. don’t know why.

The next day we proceeded for Pangma. This time I wasent carrying a sack, we had hired Khacchars( mix breed of horse and donkey). I must say this trip was getting luxurious day by day because road to Pangma was actually a road and not a trek route. But that was where we first got close to the jungle and saw rhododendrons and ate wild strawberries. It took us approx 2 hours to reach Pangma and we complained to the guide “is this a trek” and he went mad.
Pangma campsite was amazing just like a paradise. A nice view of the valley (wasn’t that deep as it sounds) , clouds running in and out and what made the day was a perfect semi circled rainbow. I was overjoyed when I saw it.
In the evening we went for a walk to Semnak Village. It wasn’t a kaccha road this time. Semnak is a congested tiny tribe. A very nasty incident happened in Semnak when we were posing for photographs with the locals and suddenly god knows what happened the lady sitting next to me just ran off and a ugly looking old man popped in the picture and took hold of my shoulder and held it real tight and posed for the picture with all his teeth’s out. For a second I had no idea what to do. My face was worth seeing (guess someone from my group has taken a picture too). I was trying to get off his hands from my shoulder but his hold was getting tighter and tighter. I somehow managed to run away from that place. That man might not have brushed for years. Since then I was keeping distance with the locals. That incident was the hot topic for couple of days and we laughed hysterically whenever we remembered it.

It started raining heavily in the night. Morning we decided to drop Chander(our next destination) because it was at a higher altitude( 3000 mtrs is not much but at that height it rains very heavily and Chander is known for its view of Gorichen Peaks which we could not have seen due to the foggy weather). So we decided to traverse the mountains and reach Namshu which was scheduled to be after Chander.

Now this is what I call trekking. ….
Our guide was mentally preparing us for the roughness to be faced ahead. The jungle was dense and dark with shoot of trees hanging all over the place and we had to climb up hill. This jungle is known for Leech’s (leech is a blood sucking worm, it enters the vein and sucks the blood…. not a good sight). They were plenty in number. You place your foot on the ground and the leeches will climb up your shoes. They were quite annoying. And removing them from your body is even more pain, if they are on the cloths or shoes we had to pull them and they don’t come in your hands that easily.

Touching them was another yucky experience. And if they are on the skin we used salt or tobacco to get rid of them (people planning for Arunachal trek keep this in mind). There was no scope for us to halt or take rest at any moment so till lunchtime no break. Post lunch the route was pretty plain and less of leeches.

Another remarkable thing about the mountain routes in this area are the stone benches made for resting.. You can find them after every 4- 5 kms and they must be approx 100 years old or even more than that. Buddhist chants and some signs are engraved on the stones. At the entrance of every village there is a prayer wheel and a rotating water turbine (again an age-old one). The locals say that it keeps away the evil spirits.

Namshu is again a very nice village. Here we got a chance to live in tribal house and taste their food( not the yaks meat). It’s way to different than what we eat and very hard to describe what it is like but it was eatable( very few bites).

Namshu has a very old monastery build during the early period of Buddhism flourishing in this area. I love going to monastery’s , they are very colorful. I always try to interpret the painting on the walls, they all have some hidden meaning. I never got an opportunity to study them deeply either because there is no one to explain or time constrains.
Last trek destination was Dirang. Going to dirang was the best route up till now. The jungle we crossed was said to be Moon forest a forest that is impenetrable. Well our guide gave this information when we were in Dirang. It’s a lovely route, what a forest!!! Simply amazing. It was fun getting down through the maize fields on the slope of the hills. Oh I must have slipped in the mire countless number of time. My attire was worth seeing. We landed in Namthung village and crossed the Suspension Bridge. After a long walk through the muddy kaccha road we found a vehicle that took us to Dirang.

The trek was over and the after effects were evident. Keen pain , back pain , toe pain . My cloths were full of mud so washing them was another pain.

Now the leisure trip was from Dirang to Tawang . ohh what a drive….. sitting in the dickey of tata mobile (it’s a jeeps name) and a drive of 145 km was certainly not pleasant. On the way we gave lift to an army soldier. Courtesy to him we got to see an army camp; it was a small one though, having 6 IFG (Indian Field Guns). Since we dint have time to take lunch with them they packed Kerela Parathas for us to eat it on the way. Now that’s a new dish I had heard of. I guess most of the army men from that camp were from Madras Regiment and henceforth the name.

Enroute to Tawang comes Sela Pass. Its on 13700 ft. We got plenty of snow here. It’s an amazing place. This place is generally foggy but we were lucky enough to get a clear and nice view of the Paradise Lake and the Sela Top. Snow is my weak point and I am glad we got it.

We arrived at Tawang about 7.00 in the evening. That place looked like 2 in the night. There was no shop open, not even a restaurant. I had heard that Tawang is quite a developed town but was quite surprised seeing it. The place where we stayed clearly mentioned Fooding and Lodging but he refused to serve us. Somehow we managed to get a restaurant. It looked quite a neat hotel but well there was only one waiter and what a hard time he must have had serving 12 of us.

The breed of people in Tawang was way different than that of the tribes we visited. There’s no sense of tourism there. The shopkeepers are least interested in you. You buy a thing or don’t buy it makes them indifferent. The room service people in the hotel where we stayed loved to play carom. Whole day they would just sit and play carom along with the owner of the hotel. The only room service guy who ever attended our room was so bland, you ask him anything and he would take a minute to answer. “Chai milega…….Chai…tohhhhhhh………………….nahi milega”, his name was Chottu ” very amusing guy. Similar were the people of Tawang. Earning money is not very important for them I guess.

It was Buddha Pournima when we went for sight seeing of Tawang. I wanted to shop around but there were hardly any shops open and the ones which were open had nothing to offer us. Still window shopping was fun.

Tawang has the second largest Monastery in the world. It’s also called as Gompa. The Gompa is pretty huge and beautiful too, the monastery is normal though but the campus has schools and hostels for monks. The Golden Buddha Statue looks splendid. . The food offering (Prasad) to Lord Buddha was of Biscuits and Chocolates!!! That’s cool. Because it was Buddha Pournima we got to see the locals dressed in their Monpa costume.

Some 35 kms from Tawang is Jung waterfalls. Oh what a fall!!!. Its looks like a fraction Nigara( though I have not seen Nigara). I was trilled to see that.

Now we were on our way to home. Generally my trips end very boringly and so was this. A bad hotel at Tezpur and Calcutta, unpleasant encounters with cockroaches, heavy traffic and tiring train journeys though this time Calcutta – Mumbai train travel was in three tier A/c and though it was Holiday Special Train, it surprisingly served good food.

my gang Cottages at NameriCottages at Nameri orchids at Tipi Orchidariumorchids at Tipi Orchidarium

Thembang villageThembang village Monastary at NamshuMonastary at Namshu Party at Sela PassParty at Sela Pass

Second Tallest Buddha statue at TawangSecond Tallest Buddha statue at Tawang Jung Falls

15 august again

15th august again……………… But this time its with fun and joy……

The excitement levels were high as most of us were meeting almost after a year. Last year it was a trilling experience, now how is this going to turn out, all of us were thinking.

We had decided not to go for a range (we had done this last year) instead climbing a single mountain. The venue was Sudhagad. Our journey started on 13th night from Kandivili. This time it was bye bye to the red dabbas as we had hired a LUXURY bus (unlike YHAI Kandivili who oppose luxury trips J). We were 33 and the bus was for 55, so we had lavishly spread over the coaches. But in spite of the comfort the tyre got punctured ruining my sleeping plans (such traumas are not new to me). It was midnight and we were in Panvel. The bus was parked near a worn out restaurant but still it managed to serve coffee and maska pav. After two hrs the bus was given the green signal.

Morning we reached Pali. Sun had disappeared; the clouds were running in and out bringing rains. I was enjoying the weather. Astha Vinayak — Astha (Eight) and Vinayak (Lord Ganesh) naturally-formed sculpted stone statues of lord Ganesh have been housed in old temples at the places where these statues were first found one of which is in Pali (38 kms from Khopoli). After Ganesh darshan and breakfast we headed for Sudhagad. Its approx. 12 km from Pali and the name of the village is Dhondse (plz excuse the naming conventions used). We hired a porter for carrying utensils etc. The trek began at about 10.30 am. There were some new faces in the group some of them had got theirs families along, there were kids ranging from 5 to 17 age group creating a playful atmosphere some of them were from my nature study camp (I call them my kids). On the way we came across couple of river rapids that were fun to cross while splashing water over each other.

Sudhagad is about 2030 ft. above the sea level with lush green forests around. The rains were playing hide and seek and the atmosphere throughout the trek was cool. The trek was simple but we were lazy enough to walk fast. As the time passed eatables started coming out from the sacks J out of which GUL PAPDI brought by Jayant Bhai was delicious. Singing and frolicking we reached at the gateway of Sudhagad at about 4.00 pm (generally it doesn’t take more than 3 hours). Sudhagad fort has a splendid huge doorway with exquisite carvings on it. After climbing a level up we came across a plateau that looked like a wide spread lawn with small lakes resembling a golf course. Annexed is a Bhorai Devi temple, which is a bit renovated, but it still has the 17th century carvings and sculptures which I was unable to interpret.

We lived in panch sachiv wada (a house having centrally located courtyard where officers use to lived). There were mice wandering around but I dint attend them (guess I am use to all these things). The one good thing that happened to me since I have started trekking is that I have started singing (still I continue to be an awful singer L) and that’s one of the reasons why I love to be a part of YHAI Kandivili. Any trek with this group has a sangeet mehfil at the end of the day in which we use utensils as our tabla and anything that creates sound becomes a musical instrument…it is so much fun. The tradition continued this year too and was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us.

It rained the entire night but luckily it stopped in the morning. It was 15th august dawn. We dressed up for the flag hoisting ceremony (its like among your dirty cloths wear something which is least dirty) but ashish looked flashy wearing a Hawaiian shirt with orange pant (he is going to kill me for this). After the ceremony we went for a walk on sudhagad. Apart from the doorway there is nothing monumental left on the fort except some remains of stone walls (must be the living rooms in those days). The stone carving are worth seeing. The scenic panorama seen from the top is spectacular. Many steep peeks of shayadris could be seen; one of them was tak mak (I am not so good with names so cant remember the rest). Standing at the edge of the mountain one could see the fortified fencing around the mountain giving an idea how huge the fort must be. Its sad that the authorities don’t maintain such structure and this is not the only one there are so many of them.

After a delicious lunch especially the basundi thanks to harshada(I must be sounding like a hogger but cant help) we winded up and left back for mumbai. While getting down I must have slipped almost after every 5 mins(I have no idea why). My adidas shoes absolutely looked grip less and the sole became green (bcoz of the moss). The new faces in the group were staring at me and were wondering, ” is she the girl who goes for Himalayan trips” and some of them were laughing coz I slipped on flat surface too.

The trip ended with good memories and a hope to see all of them next year on 15th august 2005.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.