The Annapurna Circuit- Abode of Solitude

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT – The Journey

Before I get on to my experience let’s get into, What is the Annapurna Circuit?

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

“The Circuit is a trek of about 160-230 km within the mountain ranges of central Nepal.  This trek crosses two different river valleys and encircles the Annapurna Massif. The path reaches its highest point at Thorung La pass (5416m/17769 ft), touching the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Practically all trekkers hike the route anticlockwise, as this way the daily altitude gain is slower, and crossing the high Thorong La pass is easier and safer.

The mountain scenery, seen at close quarters includes the Annapurna Massif (Annapurna I-IV), Dhaulagiri, Macchapuchhre, Manaslu, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, Pisang Peak and Paungda Danda. Numerous other peaks of 6000-8000m in elevation rise from the Annapurna range”

 “You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.”  – John Muir

So true, the experience was truly within but of course laid with vivid spectacular sceneries on the go!

My heart raced as I ran up the long flight of stairs at a neighbourhood temple. It was a week since I had started to run along the stairs to get a cardio workout in place along with practising Hatha Yoga for the past 4 months. Another three weeks were left for my friend and I to meet the mighty Himalayas! This time we were gearing up for the beautiful Annapurna Circuit Trail.

I had butterflies in my tummy for over a week as my mind raced through the thought ‘Will I be able to reach up to 18000 feet?’ Well, I would soon figure out.

Bangalore-Delhi-Gorakhpur-Sunauli-IndoNepalBorder-Pokhara – All in 36 hours!

Bangalore to Pokhara was quite an adventurous ride. Bangalore to Delhi by flight and then we had to book a night bus to Gorakhpur as the train we had booked was in fact non-existent since a month even though we had received our confirmation for the seats! Well, the Indian Railways sure gives one an experience to remember always!

Before Boarding at Bangalore Airport, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Before Boarding at Bangalore Airport

The bus journey was eventful; firstly it arrived late, secondly the two of us were cramped on the upper berth of the bus; thirdly the bus driver kept on honking throughout the night as if he had to play a song. I woke up uneasily to some noise and then the driver called out, ‘Gorakhpur!’

Somewhere near Agra on the way to Gorakhpur, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Somewhere near Agra on the way to Gorakhpur

My friend and I hurriedly got out of the bus and collected our luggage. We luckily, found a share-auto which took us to the bus-stand. There we sat in the bus to Sunauli.

We quickly managed to freshen ourselves in a nearby lodge and later sat in the bus. The bus ride was pleasant as the bus veered by the farm lands and headed towards the mountains. After about five hours we reached the India-Nepal border.

Cycle-Rickshaw across the Indo-Nepal border, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenlens
Cycle-Rickshaw across the Indo-Nepal border

We got down from the bus and crossed the border in a cycle-rickshaw. This was quite a lovely slow ride.

 

We ate a quick Nepali staple lunch and jumped on a bus to Pokhara. The bus was rickety and we were caught in a jam up the mountain roads for about an hour.

Jam on the mountain roads enroute Pokhara, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Jam on the mountain roads enroute Pokhara

After about nine hours in the bus we reached Pokhara.

As we reached our stay at the ‘Mountain View’ – a warm couple invited us and showed us to our rooms. We went out to eat at the opposite small shack. The owner cum cook got us hot rotis and palak paneer. It was something to die for. We smacked our lips and licked our fingers until the entire curry was nowhere to be seen.

Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal and it is the gateway to Annapurna Circuit and one can see the Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Annapurna ranges from the city.

We woke up to a beautiful day and went out in search of the ACAP office. Once we finished our registration and got our trekker card, we headed up for the Phewa lake.

Phewa Lake, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Phewa Lake

As we soothed our tired legs and soul, the sky invited us to be a spectator while it painted colorful parachutes along the clouds.

Colorful Parachutes adorn the sky, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Colorful Parachutes adorn the sky

We later did some shopping and booked the bus to Bhulbhule for the morrow.

Day 1: Pokhara-Besisahar-Bhulbhule-Ngadi (3000 feet)

A six hour drive from Pokhara to Bhulbhule was amazing and beautiful. Bhulbule is a small town along the Marshyangdi river.

The drive took us from narrow roads to dusty mountain roads to long roads through the tropical forests. Well one could catch a glimpse of the snow clad mountains throughout the way.

At Bhulbhule, the start of our trek, Annapurna Circuit trail, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
At Bhulbhule, the start of our trek

We started our trek along the road from Bhulbhule and reached Ngadi, a quaint quiet place in the midst of the valley by the Marshyangdi River. We got talking to these children at whose home-stay we stayed for the night. A brilliant 8-year old kept us engaged and entertained us throughout the evening. He took us to the river as well and played with us. They were quite an endearing family and we had a simple sumptuous food for the night.

 

Day 2: Ngadi-Bahudanda-Ghermu-Jagat-Chamche (4500 feet)

We got up quite early at around 5 am and headed to the trail. It was a gorgeous start to the day with trekking up the beautiful lush mountains followed by Chai and breakfast at Bahudanda. The view of the mountains and the river was mesmerizing.🗻

Breakfast at Bahudanda Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish,ShoePenLens
Breakfast at Bahudanda Annapurna Circuit Trail

The trail to Ghermu was downhill and we had a nice hike. But the trek to the next village Jagat was quite an ordeal with the sun beating down us. The trail was really difficult. My legs were giving away and my mind was too occupied and stressed out with the sun beating down. We kind of pushed ourselves to Jagat and were in for a sumptuous Dal bhat. None of us spoke for the next 20 mins as we enjoyed our meal in silence and rested our aching body on the wooden chairs. As our minds contemplated on taking a ride, we beat it and trudged our aching selves ahead to the next place Chamche where we decided to stay for the night as we were thoroughly exhausted. Chamche happened to be right opposite a beautiful falls and it started to rain as we freshened ourselves and sat down to drink some tea. After a quick dinner we crashed.

Waterfalls at Chamche, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Waterfalls at Chamche, Annapurna Circuit Trail

This day was truly terrifying and it was on our minds whether we would make it along the rest of the trail. Well we had to see for ourselves in the days to come!

Day 3: Chamche-Tal-Dharapani-Danaque (7200 feet)

An early start to Day 3 had us walking across a lot of bridges and mountain paths carved along the walls of the mountain.

On the way from Chamche to Tal, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
On the way from Chamche to Tal, Annapurna Circuit Trail
The Triangle Mountain, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
The Triangle Mountain, Annapurna Circuit Trail

Post which we reached Manang district and entered Tal, a lovely hamlet by the river. This place is very scenic; the lush green valleys, the shimmering Marshyangdi river and of course the stalwarts-Mountains held a very gripping hold of the scenery.

Tal, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Tal, Annapurna Circuit Trail

The path led us up and down the mountain ranges and we were greeted by a lot of lovely falls. We had our lunch at Dharapani, a small village and headed to Danaque for the night.  At 7000 odd feet, the weather was cold and it rained from late evening to late into the night.  Highlight of this day was this beauty of a place, Tal and the vivid sceneries on the trail. We also happened to see a Tomato Tree!

Tomato tree at one of the homestays in Tal, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Tomato tree at one of the homestays in Tal, Annapurna Circuit Trail

 

Day 4: Danaque-Timang-Manaslu-Kyoto-Chame (8891 feet)

We woke up to a chilly morning and geared up for the trek. As travellers, we took to the road early.
After a nervy crossing along the stream across the road, we were faced by a steep ascent into the cold woods.

Across the stream on the road from Chame, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Across the stream on the road from Chame, Annapurna Circuit Trail

After an arduous climb in the narrow slushy mountain paths, we came to a small village called Timang from where the Manaslu peaks came into view. I was in for a treat and I donned the cap of a shutterbug. A breakfast by the view set us on the trail with some zestful energy.

Manaslu Ranges and Peak, Timang, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Manaslu Ranges and Peak, Timang, Annapurna Circuit Trail

The trail led us on through dusty roads, narrow paths along small villages and after quite a descent we came to a place called Kyoto. One can view the gorgeous Annapurna II from here.
I could just get a partial view of the peak on my camera and I was hoping to come across her soon.

Annapurna II, Kyoto, Annapurna Cirucit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Annapurna II, Kyoto, Annapurna Cirucit Trail

And we reached Chame for the night. It started raining there on but we had a nice warm sleep.

Day 5: Chame-Barathang-Dukha Pokhari-Lower Pisang (10662 feet)

The clouds cleared up to a bright sunny day. We had a lovely hike up the mountain paths. Our next pit-stop was Barathang, a small place with lots of apple orchards and a beautiful tea house. Excitement took us over and we enjoyed our delicious breakfast by the mountains, orchards and it was a clear day.

 

Later we trudged on and reached Dukha pokhari where we relished a couple of cookies given by a monk the previous day at the monastery at Kyoto.

The next stop lower Pisang awaited us. A long hike in the dusty mountain roads and beautiful vistas led us to Lower Pisang.

 

After we relaxed and had lunch, we hiked up to Upper Pisang, a dwelling a little above which offered views of the lovely Annapurna II and a monastery welcomed us. We retired for the night at Lower Pisang.

 

Annapurna Range from Lower Pisang, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Annapurna Range from Lower Pisang, Annapurna Circuit Trail

Day 6: Lower Pisang-Humde-Manang (11614 feet)

A gorgeous day as we saw the gorgeous Annapurnas IV, II and III and also the shining Gangapurna glacier and Tilicho peak. Prior to getting to the peaks we started our day from Lower Pisang. Morning was pretty cold and cloudy. We braved the winds as we hiked up the dusty trails and after a short ascent we walked through pine tree forests and the vistas opened up to brown rocky mountains.

 

Humde was our next pit-stop and it has its own small airport, fancy one eh.

We hit upon the road, Annapurna and Tilicho peaks were right along the way…😍

 

About a couple of hours later we reached Brakha where we relished cinnamon roll at the oldest bakery.

We took to the road along the glorious mountains and reached Manang, 11000 odd feet. It was pretty cold and windy but sunny. 😐

Manang is a pit-stop for many trekkers to acclimatize for a day or two before heading to Thorung La Pass or Tilicho Peak. One can also visit a couple of gompas which are close by and also the Gangapurna Glacier.

We attended the High Altitude training on AMS organized by ACAP. There were a lot of trekkers from around the world.

Day 7: Manang

Today being our rest day we woke up late. We decided to visit Prakhen gompa at about 12500 odd feet and get acclimatized.

The hike was along narrow mountain paths and was a bit slippery owing to loose gravel.

But it was a good hike and we reached a beautiful view point from where we got a panoramic view of Annapurna IV, II and III.

 


The view also gave us the complete mountain-scape of Gangapurna glacier and Tilicho peak.

Gangapurna Lake, Manang, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Gangapurna Lake, Manang, Annapurna Circuit Trail-2

Given a chance, I could just spend the day looking at these gorgeous mountains albeit the weather. Further on we hiked and reached the Gompa.

Praken Gompa, Manang, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Praken Gompa, Manang, Annapurna Circuit Trail

An old lady monk aka Lama was in the small cave, she blessed us and gifted us a lucky charm for the road ahead, well precisely the Thorung – La; the Pass ahead. It was quite heart touching and she also offered us hot tea which was a breather. After capturing the vistas we headed down to Manang.

Manang Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Manang Annapurna Circuit Trail

Day 8: Manang-Bhraga-Yak Kharka (13287 feet)

Our next pit-stop was to Yak Kharka, a village high up in the mountains. We started from Manang up the dusty trails and then it led us to beautiful rocky mountains with a colorful red flora. 😍

 

After about 3-4 hours, we did reach Yak Kharka. The temperature was pretty cold below 10 deg Celsius for sure… We binged on garlic soup and the ever famous Dal bhat

A pretty short day but we gained in on the altitude.

 

Day 9: Yak Kharka-Ledar-Thorung Pedi (15000 feet)

Well Thorung Pedi, our base camp for the Thorung La pass was our target for the day.

We were pretty excited that we would shortly be attempting the pass the very next day.
The hike was good but tiring as the altitude was gaining in on closer to 14400 feet.

 

Well there were some steep climbs on the way. There was a landslide area too and we carefully tread upon and made sure that we move not a pebble.

 

The stay at the base camp was fabulous; great music, spectacular ambience, food, desserts. We took into a lot of eating and celebrated as we had made it to the base camp. After some rest we looked into the road ahead and it was going to be a pretty steep climb the next day .Well we went to bed early as the next day would be a long and an epic one for sure.

 Day 10 The D-day! Thorung Pedi-High Camp-Thorung La(17769 feet) – Muktinath(12467 feet)

Well, the D-day. We woke up at 2:30 am for a quick start to a long hiking day. We started up the next stop High Camp.
It was a hard steep climb and the temperature was below zero deg😒 All I could see was the beautiful star-studded sky way above me and the trail lit by my head torch. The mountains looked like shadows towering on either side of us.

We braved ahead and made it to the High camp and took a break, grabbed a few dry fruits and we were on the trail again.

We slowly climbed the next steep trail and as I looked about, the snow clad mountains showed themselves in the twilight and they looked like steady stalwarts with a white cap 😍

 

Our next leg of the hike was very very arduous, we found it very difficult to keep ourselves at a momentum because of the altitude, we were roughly gaining 4000 odd feet in a span of 3 hours.

But something in us made us go on and on.

 

Though our energy sapped, we held on and took one step at a time. Finally, I could see the prayer flags in the distance and my heart jumped with joy. My spirits rose and tread on for the last mile to the Pass.

And there I was standing amongst a group of people rejoicing the feat along with my friend. 😊

Thorung La, Annapurna Circuit Trail, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Thorung La, Annapurna Circuit Trail

I could feel a sense of pride in me for making it through and I love myself for that, for I was a bit skeptical all the way through but here I was at the Pass, standing strong and blissfully happy 🙌

We roughly trekked about 115 kms in 10 days! That’s quite a feat we achieved!

Well we made it down to Ranipauwa village, close to Muktinath later that morning and had a pretty comfortable sleep in the famous Bob Marley hotel.

 

Muktinath is a sacred place for the Hindus as well as the Buddhists. The place was utterly beautiful adorned with yellow flowering trees and the gushing of the Gandaki river in the form of 108 springs which has a significance in the Hindu philosophy.

 

The next morning, from Muktinath we headed to Jomson by Jeep which we luckily caught and also met some amazing fellow travelers. The ride was beautiful with the brown mountains gazing at you and the Kali Gandaki river flowing across in shimmering blue. Dhaulagiri and other mountain ranges can be seen from Muktinath.

Later that night, we reached Pokhara and had our usual Rotis and Palak Paneer as the rain gave us company.

We did have a small celebration and we marked it as a successful trek across the Beautiful Annapurnas.

Onward we went to Kathmandu and then to Varanasi- A fabulous experience explained in this blog. Click here – Varanasi

Highlights / Tips for the Annapurna Circuit Trail

  1. Prepare yourself physically 4-6 months in advance
  2. Pack only what is necessary and please carry a book along to read as you would have ample time to do that
  3. Though I haven’t done the Annapurna Base camp trek, I have heard from fellow trekkers from around the world say that the Annapurna Circuit is beautiful and much worthier a trek than the Annapurna Base camp trek
  4. Please get the trekker permit and register yourself with the itinerary at the ACAP office in Pokhara
  5. Don’t bother about accommodation if you are traveling in October season as once you reach the village, ample number of homestays are available, you only need to pay for the food you eat, accommodation is free!
  6. Best part of this trek is that it is a Tea-house trail as the trail is marked with tea houses or home-stays all along the trail.
  7. Vivid changing sceneries guarantee you a solid memorable adventurous trek
  8. The journey within is all that matters on this beautiful a trail.

 

There was a time which was overwhelming

There was a time which was blissful

There was a time when everything was silent

That was the time when time stood still!

 

95570f6468d8f667b461c1a2f630c71c

Advertisements

Spiritual Sojourn Kedaranth-Tungnath-Badrinath

And of course some places are meant to be visited or rather they happen to you at the right time! This trip was just that!

As I caught a glimpse of the Kedarnath temple far ahead, the path didn’t seem tedious any more. Right at that moment, the clouds gave away and showered flakes of snow right when we were about 2 kms away from the temple. The air seemed heavier and cooler. We had trekked up about 6000 odd feet in the last 9 hours. Just as we made ourselves comfortable in the GMVN at Kedarnath, it rained and snowed throughout the night.

Kedarnath Temple-ShoePenLens-ShwethaKrish, Uttarakhand
Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath, the name resounded in my ears when my friend and I had finally zeroed in on this to set out for a trek in October. Once we took care of the flight bookings, we finalized our stay at Uttrakhand in GMVN office here in Bangalore. Thanks to the officer who helped us out with our itinerary and provided us some information on places to visit in Uttarakhand.

Our main to-do places were Kedarnath-Tungnath-Badrinath!

Day 1: BLR-Dehradun-Rishikesh

Well the D-day arrived and we flew to Dehradun from Bangalore. And then drove to Rishikesh in a taxi arranged by the Skyard home-stay folks. Skyard is on the likes of Zostel and we did have a comfortable stay out there, thanks to the courteous folks. You must try it out when you are in Rishikesh.

Rishikesh is a place of pilgrimage at the foothills of Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is rightfully known as the ‘Gateway to Garhwal Himalayas’ and also ‘Yoga Capital of the World!’ Ganga flows through Rishikesh right from Shivalik hills in the Himalayas. Rishikesh is home to the famous Ram Jhula, Laxman Jhula and whole lot of Yoga Ashrams and centers.

Bustling crowd on the Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh, ShoePenLens, ShwethaKrish
Bustling crowd on the Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh

After a quick lunch, almost in the late noon in the German bakery close by to the Laxman Jhula, we headed to Parmarth Niketan, the largest Ashram in Rishikesh for the Ganga Aarti. Hearing to chants by the Ganga and taking part in the Aarti was truly blissful and energizing. I soaked myself to the chants. My tummy too soaked the fresh fruit juices from a nearby cafe as I stared at the Ganga going on her way blissfully unaware of the tumultuous crowd.

Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Ganga Aarti - ShoePenLens-ShwethaKrish
Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Ganga Aarti

Day 2: Rishikesh-Rudraprayag-Sonprayag-Gaurikund

As we wanted to try out the local transport throughout our travel, we left early and caught a private tourist bus to Rudraprayag. One can also take the State transport bus.

On the ride to Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand, Shwetha Krish- ShoePenLens
On the ride to Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand

So of course our drive to Rudraprayag took about 4 hours, we had our packed lunch of Paranthas on the ride and then we caught a bus to Sonprayag from Rudraparayag, it was a rickety dusty ride along the mountains. A drunk uncle on the bus was quite amazed that only two of us girls were travelling and he as a good Samaritan advised on being careful and alert! Well it was quite amusing to listen to him. After a couple of hours we reached Sonprayag. Here we had to take the next means of transportation which was a jeep. After a quick hot chai, we left to Gaurikund which took about 20 mins to reach.

Must say, the GMVN facility and rooms is a boon to the weary travelers. Very well-maintained and the caretakers are very courteous and helpful. After a sumptuous dinner of Roti, Dal, we took to the bed early as we had to trek all the way to Kedarnath the following day.

Day 3: Gaurikund-Kedarnath

The trek to Kedarnath is about 16-17 kms long and of course steep as the trail starts from 6000 feet and goes upto 11740 feet.

At the start of the trek-Kedarnath-ShwethaKrish-ShoePenLens
At the start of the trek-Kedarnath

We started at 6 in the morning. The trail was paved with cobbled stones and it was beautifully maintained but was decorated with horse dung along the way thanks to the mules, ponies and horses. The trail was beautiful and it wasn’t much crowded. We had a quick Maggi break and then trekked the trail which was getting steeper gradually. At about 11am, we were almost half way through and had some Paranthas to energize ourselves. Later, we took to the trail which was a bit narrow now considering the construction along the path.

 

As we hobbled on, the last stretch was truly tedious as before us was a serpentine trail. This certainly took our breath away which had us taking short breaks in between. Finally, we managed to reach the final flat path before the temple. The horsemen were really amazed at our strength and madness for trekking all the way up with heavy backpacks!( Well not that much really! ;))

It was about 3pm when we reached Kedarnath. And yes we were welcomed by the rain and snow which continued well into the night.

Day 4: Kedarnath-GandhiSarovar-Bhairavnath-Kedarnath

Kedarnath is about 225 kms from Rishikesh and is one of the Chota Char Dham (Kedarnath-Badrinath-Yamunotri-Gangotri). It has been a famous and prominent pilgrimage center since the ancient times. Owing to the flash floods in 2013, the entire place, settlements  were washed away except for the temple which was protected by a huge stone standing behind the temple(it is still present behind the temple). The place is still on the restoration mode and there are thousands of volunteers and villagers building and shaping the place 24*7 in the non-winter months. It is a sight to see all these spirited people building the place inch by inch.

In the morning, we were all set to visit the temple and as we got out of the room, the mountains were snow dressed and they looked utterly fabulous!

Kedarnath - Sunrise - ShoePenLens -Shwetha Krish-Oct 2018
Kedarnath – Sunrise

A pandit met us inside and took us through some rituals inside the temple. And we were back outside within half an hour.

The Kedar Dome and Kedar peaks provide a scintillating backdrop to the Kedarnath temple. The chants from the temple and the surrounding mountains would enchant any soul!

After a quick breakfast at GMVN, we headed towards the Chorabari glacier. It is about 13000 feet and as we trudged along the narrow trail cut across the mountain and we reached a small waterfall. There was no proper path from here on and the trail seemed very slippery owing to loose gravel and stones. So we stuck to the waterfall as the end point and enjoyed the views.

Waterfalls enroute Chorabari Tal, Kedarnath-ShwethaKrish-ShoePenLens
Waterfalls enroute Chorabari Tal, Kedarnath

 

We later got back to GMVN and after a siesta, we climbed toward Bhairavnath, who is said to be the protector of the place. It is a 10 mins walk up the path and the view from the small sacred place is scintillating as Kedarnath and the mountains put up a majestic show. There were three other Uncles who were performing and chanting to Bhairavnath. We joined in the chanting and the place is electrifying in a way. They say, you need to first visit Bhairavnath before heading to Kedarnath.

Bhairavnath , Kedarnath-ShwethaKrish-ShoePenLens
Bhairavnath , Kedarnath

We quickly went to the temple for the Evening Aarti. Before the Aarti started we were allowed to go inside and catch a glimpse of Kedarnath. The Shiv Ling was beautifully decorated with purple flowers and other decorative items. The joy of seeing it had me in tears and I went about another couple of times sequentially making a round three times just to see the Shiv Ling!

Then the Aarti took place and we were allowed to visit the temple one last time before the it closed for the day.

I am not sure if it was just me but the place was reverberating with energy and it was very subtle yet knocking on the soul! Or probably I was on a high, in the mountains.

 

Day 5: Kedarnath- Sersi – Triyuginarayan-Sonprayag-Guptkashi

We wanted to fly back to Gaurikund and we were excited on taking the helicopter services. That very morning we booked a helicopter to Sersi. We planned to visit Triyuginarayan temple and then head to Guptkashi for the night via Sonprayag.

It was surely a day of miracles; firstly we were the only two people along with the pilot in the helicopter. We had a brilliant and spectacular ride for about 10 mins until we reached Sersi.

 

Just as were figuring out how to get to Triyuginarayan, we came across the same driver who had dropped us to Gaurikund and he was the one who had mentioned about Triyuginarayan temple and that we must visit it. Lo and behold, he was right in front of us just as we were about to call him- second miracle. So after breakfast, we visited this old, beautiful temple which happens to be the place where Lord Shiva and Parvati got married. The temple was supposedly constructed by Adi Shankaracharya and is situated at 6500 feet.

 

We then headed to Gaurikund to collect our bags from GMVN and waited for the driver to fill the rest of the seats. We had a quick lunch by the road side dhaba which was exceptionally delicious. Finally as we reached Sonprayag, we were lucky enough to get onto a jeep to Guptkashi as we were told there were no vehicles running that day owing to some issue!

But we finally made it to Guptkashi by about 2pm. We freshened ourselves up and had a hearty lunch at the GMVN. In the evening, we made a visit to the Guptkashi temple. It is another ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Vishwanath) similar to the one in Kashi. It also has a small temple dedicated to Ardhanareshvara (a half-man half-woman form of Shiva and Parvati). The temple is old and very blissful.

In the small pond called the Manikarnika Kund as seen in the picture below,  Shiva Ling  is bathed by two springs; Ganga and Yamuna. The Yamuna spring water emanates from a goumukh (spout in the shape of a cow’s mouth) and the Bhagirathi spring flows through trunk of an elephant strategically placed above the linga.

GuptKashi, Uttarakhand-Shwetha Krish-ShoePenLens
GuptKashi, Uttarakhand

Later we retired for the night, only to get up to a beautiful view of the mountains. One can get a view of the marvelous Neelkanth, Chaukamba and Kedarnath peaks!

Day 6: Guptkashi-Mastura-Sari-DeoriaTal-Chopta

We caught an early bus to go to Sari village. The bus conductor suggested that we can walk to Sari through Mastura village. We eagerly said yes and got out of the bus.

What we thought would be a walk for 10 mins, turned out to be a walk of about 40 mins. But it was a beautiful trail traversing across the mountains, corn fields and the village of Sari. Sari is a small village near Chopta on the way to Deoria Tal at about 6500 odd feet.  The village was undoubtedly beautiful as the sun sprayed its rays on to the lush green fields, it turned out to be utterly marvelous. After a tiresome trek, we reached the starting point of the Deoria Tal trek where we had a quick breakfast.

Sari Village, Uttarakhand - Shwetha Krish- ShoePenLens
Sari Village, Uttarakhand

Later we started our hike up to Deoria Tal (the lake of the Gods) which is at a height of about 7800 odd feet; it is a popular place as the reflection of majestic Himalayan peaks falls on to the lake and the scene is mesmerizing! The trail is adorned with rhododendron flowers in the months of February-March.

It was very hot and we hobbled along the trail waiting to reach Deoria Tal. On the way, we had rhododendron juice at a small shack which was run by a villager. After about 45 mins, we reached the lush meadows facing the splendid array of mountain ranges. And we could catch a glimpse of the reflection of the mountains in the lake. It was very pristine and a trail of lavender flowers adorned the lake.

 

After capturing  a few shots, we started our way back to Sari. Close by to the Village, we came across a small Shiva temple. We thought we would visit and go along the way.

As I struck a conversation with the Pandit who happened to be an ex-army officer, my friend and I had the most delightful conversation with him on the lines of life, spirituality and of course Tungnath for the next one hour!

Thanking him for a cup of tea we bid goodbye to him and as we reached Sari, we hailed a cab which took us to Chopta.

Chopta is again a place laden with beautiful lush green meadows, evergreen forests and is  part of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. Situated at about 8790 feet, it is surrounded by pine, deodar and rhododendron forests and is also a haven for many birds. It is the base for the trek to Tungnath and we were staying at a home-stay right in front of the gateway to Tungnath.

 

Day 7: Chopta-Tungnath-Chopta

We started trekking at 3 AM in the morning to Tungnath. I was stunned to see shooting stars across the star studded sky! And I was too excited as it was my first time watching shooting stars!

Tungnath hosts the second highest Shiva temple in the world at a height of about 12000 odd feet after Muktinath in Nepal. And it is one of the Panch Kedar temples in Uttarakhand.

A dog accompanied us on 1/4th of the trail. All we could see was the trail and the starry sky and nothing else. We reached Tungnath by about 5:15 AM and we started our way up to Chandrashila Peak, which was at a height of about 13000 feet and one can catch a 360 deg view of the mountains and majestic peaks.

 

We were just in time for the sunrise and what a view! I was utterly blown over by the view and the marvel of the mountains!

 

As we got a Darshan at the Tungnath, we headed our way back to Chopta. The view which we were unable to see in the wee ours of the morning, we certainly did now. The sprawling meadows and the lovely valleys painted our trail.

 

We had lunch at Chopta and spent the day playing and just staring up at the sky. We were surely on a high!

Day 8: Chopta- Chamoli-Joshimath-Badrinath

We caught a bus to Chamoli from Chopta and from there hopped on a shared taxi to Joshimath and then again took a shared jeep to Badrinath. The entire day we traveled along the mountain roads. The view was spectacular. But the ride was too tiring!

We reached Badrinath at about 3:30 PM and we quickly hired a taxi to go to Mana Village. It is the last village before China. We visited Ganesh Gufa, Vyas Gufa(where Sage Vyasa recited the Mahabharatha to Ganesha), Bheem Phul, we watched the Vasudhara Falls from a distance and headed back to Badrinath for the darshan.

 

Badrinath is a holy town located at about 11000 feet and is one of the Chota Char Dham. The reigning deity is Lord Vishnu in the form of Nara-Narayana.

Badrinath,uttarakhand
Badrinath,uttarakhand

The temple was way too crowded and we were happy to catch a glimpse of the deity and head back.

Day 9: Badrinath – Rishikesh

This was one hell of a journey by bus for about 12 hours. The journey was through the mountains and valleys and it was truly adventurous! The ride keeps you swaying along the valleys!

 

As we reached Rishikesh, we hit the sack after dinner!

Day 10: Rishikesh

With all the time on our hands, we got up late and had breakfast at German bakery.

We walked to the Beatles Ashram or Chaurasi Kutia and saw the dilapidated Meditation structures which were built for the students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who brought about the Transcendental Meditation technique. It is popularly called as the  Beatles ashram as the famous band came to learn Meditation out here from the Mahesh yogi. The site was abandoned in 1990s and given back to the Forestry department. It was only post 2015 that it was opened for the public as a tourist spot.

Beatles Bungalow, Rishikesh - ShwethaKrish-ShoePenLens
Beatles Bungalow, Rishikesh

 

We later hired a two-wheeler to go to Vashishta Gufa which is about 25 kms from Rishikesh on the Rishikesh-Badrinath road!

Vasishtha Gufa is where one of the Saptarishis, Sage Vashishtha meditated and there is also a small cave facing the Ganga where his wife Arundhati also meditated.

It was quite a scary ride along the mountainous roads and with heavy trucks passing by. But we reached safely to bask at the shores of the Ganga. I was intrigued by the color of the rocks and stones out here as they were lavender or lilac. As I sat near the Arundhati Gufa and meditated, the meditation was truly overwhelming and so was it at Vashishta Gufa. I guess they are still pristine and the sanctity is very protected.

 

We got back to the scary adventurous ride and reached Rishikesh. Later we rode to the Triveni Ghat to enjoy the Aarti by the Ganga.

The last night in Rishikesh and the last night of our trip was lovely and we had had a quite an adventurous trip.

Day 11: Rishikesh-Dehradun-BLR

Today happened to be our Rafting Day and we were waiting for it since ages!

The experience was surprising, adventurous and exhausting. But it was quite a rush of Adrenalin as we approached a series of rapids along the Ganga.

Must say, it was the icing on the cake.

Our Rafting Group, Rishikesh-Shwetha Krish-ShoePenLens
Our Rafting Group at the Maggi Point, Rishikesh

After a delicious Burger down our throats we took to packing and getting back to Bangalore.

Some guidelines/tips if you are planning to visit the above places:

  • Month of our Visit: October ( It was not that crowded at Kedarnath and Tungnath as opposed to the month of May-the season for Kedarnath trek)
  • Weather: Pretty Cold in Kedarnath, Badrinath and Tungnath
  • Accommodation: Mostly at GMVN across places in Uttarakhand
  • Means of transport: Flight to Dehradun to and fro Bangalore, Public transport across the state to various places – there is connectivity to all places, please leave early in the morning to make use of the public transport buses, shared taxis, jeeps.
  • Tips: Enquire about the taxis or buses from the hotel / stay / taxi stands a day prior to your departure at each of the places. This would help you plan on the travel for the next day smoothly.

 

At the plateau, Nohkalikai , Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens

MEGHALAYA – ABODE OF CLOUDS

MEGHALAYA – ABODE OF CLOUDS

It was dark and a chill air ran through my spine…. The walls of the caves were damp. It was eerie! I have a phobia of caves and more so this intriguing cave was getting on my nerves with each step. We were 5 of us venturing into the darkness with a head torch, phone flashlight and our indomitable spirit. After a while of carefully meandering through the caves, stalagmites…. we decided to head back as it was totally spooky and we didn’t know where our next step would land us in.

Two days prior we had reached Shillong via Tezpur from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. It was quite a ride and we headed to our hotel to get some rest and figure out on our trip around Meghalaya. Luckily, after a few phone calls and chance meets we had found our man-friday who would take us on a tour of Meghalaya for a week.

So it began….

Day 1: Shillong- Mawlynnong- Shengpendong

It was a bright sunny day when we started on our tour of Meghalaya. We first went to the Elephant falls just on the outskirts of Shillong city. The Falls can be seen from various points as it is multi-tiered and one can traverse to the Falls along a short trail of steps.

Our next point was to the Single root bridge which are over 100ft long and are roots from Rubber Fig trees and can withstand 50 people on the bridge!

Single root bridge, Meghalaya, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens

We then headed to the cleanest village in Asia-Mawlynnong. It is situated on the border of India and Bangladesh. One can see the border atop a stilt tree-top. It is a lovely village and one can walk along the clean alleys and engage with the warm villagers. Many tourists and travelers stay at well furnished home stays of the villagers. After spending some time on tree tops and a simple sumptuous meal, we left for Dawki.

 

Dawki is a town in West Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. It is at the border of India-Bangladesh. A crystal clear river, Umngot flows through the border. The main highlight of this place is the boating along the river which is beautiful to look at as one can see through the water and the bottom of the river!

An hour’s boat ride along the clear waters was quite an experience.

We later headed to Shengpdeng village alongside the river. We managed to hire a tent for the night and spent our time playing random games way into the night!

In the morning, we crossed a bridge and reached the other shore and spent considerable time listening to music and the waves.

DSC05854

One can also enjoy  various water activities like scuba-diving, kayaking etc. at this place.

Day 2: Shengpdeng – Krang Suri- Cherrapunji

We bid goodbye to Shengpdeng and went to a small village, I forget the name. At the end of this village was a forest. As we walked about 500m into the forest, we were standing face to face with an old cave. We carefully walked into the dark caves with the support of a torch light and the flashlights from our phones. The villager who accompanied us mentioned that the cave runs for 20km. Without a constant source of light along the cave, we headed back thinking it would be too risky and stupid to go along the narrow, unlit paths of the cave.

Must say it was an intriguing experience added with my fear of caves and we headed straight to our next point- the gorgeous Krang-Suri Falls. As we drove through winding mountain roads, many a limestone quarries added to the landscape on the way.

The Falls is a treat to one’s mind, body and soul! The sparkling aquamarine waters beckons one to swim, get drenched and enjoy the beauty of the place. A life-jacket is compulsory which one can hire at the Falls and anyone can swim, spend as much time in the cool shimmering waters and bask in the rainbow in all its entirety!

After playing and swimming in the water, we added some fuel to our tummies and off we went to our stay for the night, Cherrapunji!

Day 3: Cherrapunji-Mawsmai Caves-Nohkalikai Falls

Cherrapunji, locally known as Sohra is a town in the southern part of Khasi Hills in Meghalaya. Known for being the wettest planet on Earth after Mawsynram, it is a beautiful place with numerous living root bridges, falls, caves and of course forests.

Our first stop for the day was at Mawsmai Caves. These are beautiful caves, maintained by the Govt. The caves are well-lit and one can explore the caves without a guide. There are a few narrow paths where one has to squeeze themselves to move ahead. But it is quite an adventurous one and less scarier than the caves we had visited on the previous day.

Later on we went to our next pit-stop Nohkalikai Falls. As it wasn’t the season of rains, there wasn’t much water. Thanks to that that we could explore the path of the Falls.

Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest waterfall (1115 feet) in India! It is fed by the rainwater which gets collected in a plateau. We were excited to visit this plateau.

A small trek down through a forest takes one to this mesmerizing plateau. One can see spellbinding rock formations across the plateau. I was in awe of this place. We went to the small falls ahead which was truly vibrant and something which I hadn’t seen at all.

At the plateau, Nohkalikai , Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
At the plateau, Nohkalikai

A walk on the opposite side of the Falls leads one on the path of the Nohkalikai Falls. As there wasn’t enough water, we traversed along the splendid huge boulders like monkeys. The path was utterly adventurous and a bit scary as we had to squeeze ourselves into natural rock tunnels. After quite some time we went to the edge of the Falls. The view is spectacular and this was something of a first I had done- getting to the mouth of the Falls.

We went back up the forest only to find one of our friends waiting for us. She had had a bad fall and had maybe broken her leg. We had a couple of villagers called for who helped carry her along the trail. Post that we drove back to Shillong to get her leg checked at the hospital.

Doctor says, ” I need to put a cast as there is a fracture but you can start walking in 10min and probably visit places from tomorrow onwards!”

This was too much of news but we had suspected a fracture beforehand.

After the necessary procedure we headed back to Cherrapunji where we hit the sack after a long day!

 

Day 4: Double-Decker Living Root Bridge

After a long day and more so a painful one for my friend, we woke up late and relished our breakfast.

Our friend stayed back to rest her leg much to the hospitable folks at the stay and the two of us headed to Double-Decker root bridge!

We drove from Cherrapunji to a village called Tyrna. There we started our hike down 3000 odd cemented steps. We reached a village along the way and then a couple of single root bridges. After crossing Iron bridge made of rusty cables, we reached a Chai point where we refreshed ourselves with a gulp of hot tea and chocolate cookies.

After treading ahead for about 15 mins we reached Double-Decker Root bridge! It was quite a view but we headed further ahead to reach the Rainbow falls.

As we hiked further, we came upon an empty football field and then trudged our way along a steep trail of steps. After a few twists and turns we came to the gorgeous Rainbow Falls. We were too excited to get to the tip of the boulder below.

Rainbow Falls, we headed to the tip of the boulder! Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens

As we went to the very end of the Boulder, we could see the Falls falling almost upon us and it was an amazing feeling to be at the behest of the Falls!

A nap and light snack completed the amazing moment at the Falls. We headed back on the trail and now to explore the Double-Decker root bridge. It was quite an amazing spectacle of the strong roots of the tree as they stood still embracing us fellow beings we we walked upon them.

Double decker Living root bridge, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Double decker Living root bridge

With a couple of hours left for the sunset, we headed back up a shorter forest trail to reach back.

Day 5: Weisaudong Waterfalls- Nartiang Durga Temple- Monoliths- Garden of Caves -Shillong

Weisaudong waterfalls is beautiful but it is quite a hassle to get to the bottom of the falls as one as to walk through narrow forest trails. We were happy to get to the Falls but we carefully walked on the rocks as it was very slippery and we managed to stay put in a spot and enjoy its beauty rather than monkeying around!

 

IMG_20180315_111455
Weisaudong Waterfalls
DSC06202
Meditating me at the Falls

Later we headed to Nartiang in the West Jaintia hills. It has a Durga temple- Jainteshwari and is one of the Shakti-peeths. The temple is around 500 years old.

IMG_20180316_103155
Nartiang Devi Temple

We paid our respects at this beautiful abode of the Devi and headed to the Nartiang Monoliths, which are a complex of stone monoliths erected by the Jaintia empire in 1500 AD.

We later visited Garden of Caves (touristy spot) and a few Falls along the way. 😉

Day 6: Shillong- Mawphlang Sacred Forest- Shopping at Police Bazaar

The next day we headed to the much awaited Mawphlang Sacred forest. Legend says that nothing should be taken out from the forest, not even a leaf or a stone, nothing!

We were intrigued by the stories and after a mind boggling tour into the forest along with the guide, we were even more mesmerized of the story! It is quite a tour to experience!

After lunch in the city, we went to Police Bazaar for shopping. Apart from hardly shopping a few clothes, we took to buying and relishing the Mulberries!

I think the delicious highlight of the Meghalaya trip were the lip-smacking Mulberries and Raspberries!

Meghalaya is splendid and offers a wide range of places to visit – be it Falls, Forests, Caves, Root Bridges, Stilt-tree tops, Mountains, Rivers and of course with the clouds playing hide and seek.

Well, when are you heading to Meghalaya?

PS: This is the number of our Taxi Bhaiya who drove us all over Meghalaya- Addy – 09774749839, a decent chap, very helpful and a wonderful guide all along.

 

17353816_6-powerful-travel-quotes-that-have_t66f80ee4
PC : Pinterest

Varanasi: The Flashback

Varanasi, the place was on my travel list since 5 years and I was wondering when the D-day would arrive!

Lately, I have come to realize that things happen at the right opportune time!

So it did! November 2017 was the month I set foot in Varanasi with no expectations but a heart filled with enthusiasm to explore this intriguing place. And of course with the people I adore! 😉

The ride from Sunauli (Why sunauli- read the post on Annapurna Circuit out here- Annapurna Circuit Trek) to Varanasi was quite interesting. My friend and me started early morning in the UPSRTC bus to reach Varanasi! From scenic paddy fields, mustard fields and farms galore the road took to small towns, cities and finally reached Varanasi. One can feel the chaos as soon as you hit the city center. We hired a auto-rickshaw to take us to our stay at Zostel.

It was 3pm when we reached and took some time to freshen up. We went on a stroll to explore the streets of Varanasi in the evening!

Our first pit-stop in Varanasi was at the local famous Chaat shop. We tried a variety of Chaats and of course ended with a sweet-meat! We were too tired to get on with our exploration that we took to the terrace at our stay indulging in a chat and then hit the sack after the long day!

Let me give you a glimpse of Varanasi!

So our stay was pretty close to Kashi Vishwanath temple, the main street and about 2-3 kms to the Ghats and of course the Ganges!

The streets were amazingly crowded! More than vehicles on the road, there were people and it was more difficult for the vehicles to meander through the crowd. But the two wheelers, auto-rickshaws, tuk-tuk, cycle-rickshaws and a zillion other variety of vehicles added of course to the rhythmic chaos! The street also had a good number of street vendors selling trinkets, fruits, neem twigs,chaats and what-nots! The main street leads one to the Ghats where certain rituals and ablutions take place. There along the Ghats runs Ganga with all exuberance and serenity! Along the main street the road leads to a lot of narrow alleys which house series of temples; big and small! Apart from that there are popular lassi spots, kullad chai addas, paan shops and of course the hot jalebis / samosas spots!

All in all an interesting place to explore.

Let me talk about the history and importance of Varanasi; It is a spiritual and a religious place for Hindus where one is believed to attain Liberation if one is cremated there after death!

Kashi, Benaras, Varanasi are some of the names it goes by! It is a revered city on the banks of Ganga in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is called Varanasi owing to the confluence of Varuna and Assi rivers! It is known as the ‘City of Lights’-Kashi(to shine)!

We were joined by two other friends the next morning and we got on a temple hopping spree!

Each and every temple had a certain vibration and of course different deities. Right from Kalabhairav temple to Sankat mochan Mahabali Hanuman temple to Devi temple to the main Kashi Vishwanath temple to Annapurna temple, each had its beauty and fervour! (PS: these are the few temple names I remember, we did a visit a few more maybe!)

Kashi Vishwanath temple, the main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a huge temple which houses smaller shrines and temples. The temple has withstood a lot of battles and rampage over 12th-18th Centuries owing to the Mughal attacks. The temple is beefed up with a lot of security personnel! The various smaller temples runs along the narrow alleys which is quite a meandering tour!

We were present for a couple of Aartis (rituals) at the Vishwanath temple and the energy of the chants, the mystical place, the awe-inspiring rishis were mind-blowing! I cannot put it into words but it was truly a remarkable experience!

Food and drinks are at its best out here in Varanasi. The evenings were spent in exploring and tasting the cuisine of Varanasi. Puri Bhaji, hot jalebis, Kachoris are the popular and tasty breakfast dishes. One can snack upon chaats, taste variety of lassis, kullad chai, hot-lemon teas and bhaang which is legal in the streets of Varanasi! Well, not to forget the Benarasi Paan!

One of the highlights of the place is obviously the Ganges.

She flows with all zest unperturbed about the life and death at her banks!

Sparkling her way through the lights of Sun and Moon!

Ready to sway by the flickering souls in the midst!

All set to trigger the divine you!

A boat ride takes one along the Ghats from one end to the other. It is a beautiful ride!

By the Ghats, Varanasi,ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
By the Ghats, Varanasi

The ghats / embankments along the Ganga are a place of rituals! Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghat are popular for cremation rituals.

Dasashwamedh Ghat is very popular for the Ganga Aarti which takes place in the evening twilight! There are 7 Rishis who perform the rituals facing Ganga! We sat on one of the boats and saw this beautiful array of lights, lamps and of course the 7 rishis perform synchronous rituals with the lamps. It was a sight to behold! The fervour of the place, the people in unison, serene Ganga, the rishis were magnetic and splendid! This is something that one shouldn’t miss if visiting Varanasi!

The Ghats are open 24*7 and the best time to visit is in the early mornings for the spectacular Sunrise and the evenings during the Sunsets and of course the Aarti!

Sunrise at Ganges, Varanasi, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Sunrise at Ganges, Varanasi
Sunset at the Ganges, Varanasi, ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Sunset at the Ganges, Varanasi

One place which we considered our amazing serene hang-out was the Nepali temple in the Lalita Ghat. The temple is a replica of Pashupatinath temple, Nepal. It is made of wood, stone and terracota. It was built by the King of Nepal during his exile and was completed by his son. It took three decades to complete this beautiful structure and it is surrounded by tamarind and peepal trees which makes it all the more lovely!

Nepali temple, Lalita Ghat, Varanasi, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Nepali temple, Lalita Ghat, Varanasi

One can also visit Banaras Hindu University (BHU) which is the largest residential University in Asia!

All in all, Varanasi is a place of wonder. One has to visit it to experience the immense beauty and delve into this mystical abode!

Stranded in Tranquil Tawang!

It is quite amusing that we were kinda stranded in a way! I will get to that in a while.

Arunachal Pradesh! The place obviously sounded inviting when my friend had decided to go visit this place. After much thought and conversations in my head, I think I decided to go for it. Lately, I haven’t been feeling the urge to travel- Oh my God! Well, I will surely get back on this on my next post as it is a long story!

So yeah Arunachal!

We were kinda prepped up as travelers – as in we didn’t book any transport / stays! We intended to do it on the go!

But of course we booked the flight to Guwahati to and fro and we got the Inner Line Permit to Arunachal by applying online!

The morning flight from Bangalore to Guwahati was quite refreshing because we fellow travellers- the 3 of us had loads to talk that we ended up discussing insane topics in the flight too.

US before we boarded the flight!
US before we boarded the flight!

I think one fellow passenger was so annoyed that he sweetly retorted- “Could you please continue your conversation in the ground floor?”

We did stop our talk but we couldn’t hold our grins! 😉

We reached Guwahati well in time, thanks to Indigo!  Later we hired a taxi to the nearest bus station Dharapani and got into a tempo traveler taking us to Bhalukpong which was our pit-stop for the night.

The ride was pleasant, we traversed along the city to scenic paddy fields and the roads were lined with rhododendron trees with red-orange flowers!

Once we reached Tezpur we got onto another tempo traveller which took about an hour to reach Bhalukpong.

Bhalukpong is a small town on the border between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. We reached Bhalukpong around 6:30 in the evening and stayed in a good hotel close by the border. We got a chance to see the Bramhaputra river from a distance out here.

We had booked a share-taxi at the Taxi Union for our journey to Tawang the next morning.

In the North-eastern states of India, the transport works mostly through Taxis under the Taxi Union. One can hire a share-taxi to get to places for a predefined rate. This works out cheap for a traveler or a group of travelers.

So the next day morning after a quick breakfast at the roadside dhaba and quite an interesting conversation with the dhaba owner we were in the taxi to Tawang for about 6 hours!

The ride was uber awesome, obviously up the mountains. The roads were cobbled up with stones in a few areas and there was construction up the roads. After about a couple of hours, it started raining and  we crossed a series of mountains and were steadily climbing up! The roads were dusty but as we moved ahead the scenery changed to beautiful lush mountains.

We reached Bomdila at about 2-3pm. Post satiating our hunger we took to the nearby marketplace of Bomdila. We engrossed ourselves in window shopping and took to the chaats and sweets at the nearby bakery!

As we got to our stay, books, music and games kept us engaged!

It was almost 8 pm when we felt like eating but as we got out, the roads were empty and there just a streetlight flickering. With no hope of a restaurant being open, we strolled a bit and found one open restaurant. 🙂 A day in the mountains ends pretty quickly say about 6:30 pm everyone is in their warm homes!

We were looking forward to the meet the gorgeous Sela Pass at about 13000 odd feet. That got us up in the morning and after a frantic search for my ring which I thought I had lost we were in for another day of long ride up the mountains.

Lo and behold we reached there after cruising through the splendid mountain curves.

Trio at Sela, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Trio at Sela

The sight of the Sela lake was pretty spectacular. I wanted to stay right there but all we could get were a few clicks and a momentary capture through our eyes. The biting cold and the gusty winds shoved us into the taxi in no time!

Sela Pass , Arunachal Pradesh, Shoepenlens, Shwetha Krish
Sela Pass , Arunachal Pradesh

After 2-3 hours we reached Tawang! We had booked a stay right in the center of the town and the rooms were fabulous and gave an amazing view of the mountains!

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, Shwetha KRish, ShoePenLens
Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh

We strolled a bit and went to the War Memorial. We were in for a visual treat as there was a movie scheduled for the evening! It was a wonderful movie about Arunachal, its culture, the people, the Army and the wars too.

After a tasty dinner at our stay, we hit the sack only to hear the roof rattling in the middle of the night. It was snowing!

The view in the morning was spectacular, the mountains around were white-washed! Our plan of crossing the Bum La pass was washed away too as the snow pile was much that the Army had barred the way!

We spent the day in visiting the Tawang monastery which is the largest in India and the second largest in the world. The monastery stands atop a mountain and one can see the scenic valley, mountains and the city of Tawang from here! The monastery also has a museum which houses various artifacts, models and pictures!

Rest of the day was spent in reading books, chatting and just about enjoying the weather!

We decided to stay for another day in the hope to visit Bum La pass. But it turned out to be yet another day with no luck as the pass was closed owing to bad weather. We were invited by a fellow guest at our hotel to tag along on a tour of monasteries. With nothing much to do we tagged along!

He turned out to be quite a intriguing person. He was an elderly gentleman who knew much about the Monasteries, the Tibetan culture and a lot about spirituality! He kept us engaged with amazing stories and his life experiences.

We got a chance to visit Urgelling monastery which is the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama.

Third day in Tawang and we were happy to find that we could atleast visit a couple of lakes further up the mountains if not for the Bumla pass.

As we headed on to the beautiful vistas, we were in for a treat as we were surrounded by snow clad mountains and white pathways!

Beautiful vistas,ShwethaKrish, ShoePenLens
Beautiful vistas

Spectacular views of the lakes came into view and they looked mesmerisingly beautiful.

PT Tso, Arunachal Pradesh, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
PT Tso, Arunachal Pradesh

As we made our way to Madhuri Lake, coined that way owing to the movie ‘Koyla’ starring Madhuri Dixit which was shot in this location. The vehicle we were in skidded and got stuck in the snow. The Army men who were traveling behind in the truck helped us out. But further ahead into the snow clad mountains the vehicle was skidding and it was going to be a risky affair at the end of the day so we headed back to Tawang. But the beauty of the lakes and the short trek we managed to do while our taxi was getting repaired, was splendid!

Himalayas – they time and again woo me, intrigue me and leave me stunned! There is always something new to learn and feel within! The Soul craves for more always!

Until next time…. See ye Himalayas!

Our stay in Arunachal especially Tawang was for about 3-4 days before we headed on to Meghalaya! But the short and adventurous trip was brilliant! Well so we were partly stranded owing to Bum La Pass. Hope to get to her soon!

More on Meghalaya in my next travel post!

 

Isha Vidhya School: A ray of hope to the li’l angels!

“Teaching children is an accomplishment; getting children excited about learning is an achievement!”

It was a bright sunny day as we drove from Bangalore to Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. We were a group of 20 odd people visiting the Isha Vidhya School.

After about 2.5 hours, the bus took a turn from the highway and headed towards a dusty narrow road. The landscape was a treat to the eyes; green lush fields of paddy and mustard flowers paved the way. There were a few huts, small houses, a few distance away from each other. By and by we came across small villages and then moved further ahead into wilderness. The rolling hills, big trees were a constant companion along the journey.

After about 3-5 kms, the bus stopped in front of a huge building. And the board read…

IMG_20180407_113256

I was amazed to see such a big lovely building against the expanse of fields and hills. As we entered, the principal, staff and few students gave us a hearty welcome!

The entrance hall had a beautiful painting of Sadhguru and the Principal did share a few thoughts and vision on Isha Vidhya school, the unique methodology in the curriculum, the innumerable scholarships and of course the stories of bright young kids.

DSC06272

We were ushered on a school tour guided by a few student volunteers. The excitement and the warmth they put forth while explaining to us about the school, classes and just about everything was truly heartening!

I can’t quite fathom how happy and gleeful these kids were in each of the classrooms we visited.

DSC06269

The school follows their own methodology from Kindergarten to 4th Std. This is quite an endeavor as many post graduate students come and study regarding the unique methodology and practices taught in the school!

The school has a Math Lab (which obviously was something new to me) where the Math concepts are taught practically with designs and materials. They also have a Computer lab where students are taught on the basics of computers and to make photo stories etc. A student showed us a photo-story of his family and school and it was very creative!

We had a glimpse of their Art and Craft class, Library and also Science labs.

The teachers too seemed to be humble, enthusiastic about the children and very grateful for being a part of Isha Vidhya.

The corridors and classrooms were equally decorated with puzzles, stories, English quotes, alphabets, Tamil alphabets and certain unique concepts were put up on the wall which had me racking my brains for I was learning something new right there.

We later had a tour of the school kitchen where sumptuous, nutritious lunch is prepared for the children everyday. They use the resources in a sustainable manner and the vegetables, grains are grown in the farms nearby. We could not see the farms presently owing to water shortage. The lands are dry and it is a stark reality which needs to be addressed.

IMG_20180407_145115

On the whole, it was an overwhelming experience to see these children from poor families in the nearby villages, interact with us and talk about everything from science to computers to art to yoga to things galore!

What really struck me was – these children are the first ones to get educated in their family and they are so talented, humble and so driven to learn more. And they deserve to be given all the opportunities to realize their true potential!

This was quite a beautiful experience to see the children smile, greet you time and again and so eager to show you around on what they are learning.

There were kids everywhere bidding us goodbye as we left the school premises.

shwethakrish, shoepenlens, ishavidhya
Children bidding us goodbye!

Isha Vidhya is a non profit initiative by the Isha Foundation for educating and empowering the rural children in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. There are currently 9 schools in Tamil Nadu run by Isha Vidhya. Through the support of innumerable volunteers, donors, village communities the schools are creating a strong foundation for the children in education and making them employable on par with any student.

It is an amazing endeavor to be able to provide affordable and high quality education for our future citizens who will take on the world!

If you are willing to visit this school, do let me know or DM me.

Lastly, if you want to donate or raise funds for Isha Vidhya, please go through the below links.

  1. To raise funds or donate – https://letzchange.org/nonprofits/isha-education
  2. If you want to support Isha vidhya, you can be a part of TCS 10k run or Majja run. Link- https://registration.procamrunning.in/tcsworld10k/registration.php
shwethakrish, shoepenlens, isha
The team which visited the Isha Vidhya school

Am I lucky enough to travel?! Aren’t you?

‘Oh you are so lucky, you are traveling?’

‘I don’t know how you do it!”

‘You are living the life!’

‘Keep traveling while you are single! I don’t think I can’

‘You are young, travel more!’

‘You are freelancing, right? You have the time! I don’t have the time with work’

Hmmm, these are a few of the responses/ quip I get from strangers, acquaintances and friends!

These are quite amusing yet annoying at times because it is not big a deal!

So here goes, I am going to give away the other side of the story….. not to make it sound boring or scary but for the fact that traveling is possible by anyone and you need not be lucky but passionate!

  1. For starters, being single doesn’t mean I don’t have responsibilities, family, commitments and work. At the end of the day, I have to work around these for being able to travel. My toughest times have been at convincing my folks for my travel! 😉
  2. I am not rich that I can afford traveling now and then. I have to work, earn and save for being able to travel and explore the places galore. Trust me, my bank account balance hasn’t seen a decent amount in the past couple of years! I am not kidding! Security is far far away!
  3. Being a freelancer, doesn’t mean I am free! It means that I take up work according to my pace, situation and variety and the amount of work involved etc. And of course it is not a fad and is more than a 9-5 job; considering multiple commitments, clients, projects and being a one-woman army is quite tasking!
  4. Age doesn’t have to do anything with travel! If you are interested and want to really explore a place, just get out of your comfort zone- you will surely be able to do it! Well I have seen elderly people from across the globe take to traveling from all walks of life. The smile and gratitude on their face, inspires me to keep traveling  forever- like even when I am way tooooo old!
  5. Frankly, I am not lucky. I am grateful for the things I have and work towards making the best of what I can do and go traveling- for it is my passion! If you are passionate about traveling and exploring the unknown- I am sure, you already know- Luck doesn’t have anything to do with it!

So,  I haven’t written the above because I found the statements/responses offensive but for the fact that ‘I am not lucky’ but I do work towards getting what I want.

I am blessed and grateful to make the best of what I have with utmost passion and reverence!

Or in other words, we are all lucky that we are in this beautiful world! What you make of it or how you explore all depends on what you really want!

Well, next time you think about wanting to travel, think of how passionate and focused are you for wanting to do it(nah nothing about luck) and just get on with it!

8119464_f520

Yellow #AtoZchallenge

Y #AtoZChallenge

Yellow Ball of Gold- Sunrise!

Sunrise
Sunrise!

As I went about my morning walk up on the terrace of my home in Bangalore, the Sun was making it’s way up. It’s move up on the stage was so grand that I had to grab my camera and focus on its entrance.

It was a poised way up and it was utterly elegant that I had to focus on getting these above shots. I was lost in time and wonder of this spectacle.

We are always so lost in our own world that we fail to look at the beauty around, the nature is a grand spectacle and every day, every moment is brand new.

What do you think of this? Have you come across any grand spectacle of nature?

Wanderlust #AtoZchallenge

W #AtoZchallenge

Wanderlust- The bug has bit me!

My love for travel is increasing day by day.

It is not just the destination that I go to but the journey of planning (at times), the shopping before the trip, the research about the place which gets me all the more curious and wanting for more.

On the other hand, some travels just happen on a whim with no planning, no preparation- just about getting to the place and figuring out what to do.

The beauty of travel is the place, the people, the culture and the chance meetings that happen on the go.

I have learnt that people are very warm and courteous around the world. We all have the same psyche. Humanity rules! I hope it stays that way. Fingers crossed!

What do you think of traveling and the best part of travel?

Great Smoky Mountains #AtoZChallenge

Great Smoky Mountains

One way is to trek, another is to ride up , well there is a third way – Riding in the largest aerial tramway in the United States – At Gatlinburg over Great Smoky Mountains!

G #atozchallenge blogging

Well the road ride to Tennessee was fabulous because of the valleys, the mountains and incredible views throughout the way.

Gatlinburg, the mountain resort city has numerous places to visit, enjoy and of course ring in with the rustic mountain ambience throughout. More on Gatlinburg in another post.

Great Smoky Mountains, USA
The Great Smoky Mountain ranges

Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Blue ridge mountains on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The popular Appalachian trail passes through the center of the park. The ranges are at an altitude of about 6ooo feet and above.

Well as we headed up the aerial tramway, the joy of seeing the mountains below us was fantastic. It was the thrill of hovering over mountain ranges and seeing the Smoky mountain ranges all around us. The ride was quite adventurous when the tramway headed down and we had the entire crowd inside the tramway yelling on top of  their voices.

Aerial Tramway Great Smoky Mountains, USA
Aerial Tramway, Great Smoky Mountains

Well for me a trekker, a hiking enthusiast this was a different wonderful way of seeing the mountains and enjoying the ride with fellow travellers.