Sunrise at Kolukkumalai, ShoePenLens, Shwetha Krish

A trip to scenic Kolukkumalai and Meesapulimalai

A trip to scenic Kolukkumalai and Meesapulimalai

With a week left for my friend’ and my birthday, we decided that Munnar is the place to go. We found a decent stay in Suryanelly, 20 km away from the Munnar town, through Airbnb. After an exhausting travel of 14 hours from Bangalore, we reached Munnar only to be welcomed by the lush tea estates and bountiful rains.

A quick breakfast at Saravana Bhavan gave us the energy to get to our home-stay in Suryanelly. We found a warm friendly Share-Auto person who took us to the home-stay  and enlightened us with places to visit in Munnar. The ride was beautiful. The tea estates were a treat to the weary eyes. After a quick picture and two we reached our home-stay. It was more than what we saw in the pictures on Airbnb and we were elated.

We enjoyed rest of the day, lazing around, watching TV, drawing and reading books. The next day we ventured out to explore the Suryanelly town and we had to book a ride to Kolukkumalai tea estate which happens to be the World’s Highest Organic Tea Plantation. We found a very genuine person(a travel guide cum driver) who gave us a short itinerary on the things that can be visited in and around in a day. After much contemplation, we gave a positive nod for him to take us along in his Jeep.

Before heading back to the stay, we explored the nearby tea estates and had a lovely stroll through the scenic roads.

The following morning we left quite early so that we could catch the sunrise at Kolukkumalai mountain range. The ride was pretty eventful as it was a bumpy ride all throughout. We did get a massage naturally.

Well, as we reached the mountain ridge, there the sun was climbing its way up and we were mesmerized by the spectacle. I felt on top of the world to start my birthday filled with wonder. After taking a few shots of the sunrise and the mountain ridges we took to a spicy breakfast as in spicy Maggi noodles and omelette.

Sunrise at Kolukkumalai, ShoePenLens, Shwetha Krish
Sunrise at Kolukkumalai

After a while atop the scenic mountains, we hiked to the Meesapulimalai mountain. With winding paths and ridges we made it to the gorgeous peak. We were on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The panoramic views, the gushing wind and the mind boggling silence had us glued to the place. We then trudged back to the jeep.

Scenic tea estates, ShoePenLens, Shwetha Krish
Scenic tea estates

 

 

We went about a tour of tea-making at this beautiful estate. A guide told us about the entire process and also involved us in few of the steps. It was quite heartening and hilarious as well.

At the World's Highest Organic Tea Garden
At the World’s Highest Organic Tea Garden

 

Post lunch, we headed to our home-stay to freshen up. An evening of Kathakali was waiting for us. We were happy to be the curious audience at this program. I had always felt scared seeing those colorful faces on TV as a kid but today I was here, right in front enjoying their performance.

 

After the lovely performance we headed to our stay for a relaxing night by the stars.

The next morning we went towards Thekkady and visited the Spice garden. We were educated on the various benefits of the spices. The short trail in the garden mesmerized us in a spicy way. Later on, we whizzed past lovely bridges between the tea estates.

It was a nice tour and after some shopping we headed for our bus to Bangalore.

Well all in all, it was a beautiful trip where we rejuvenated our tired souls ūüôā

The beauty of the mountains spell binds any traveler any day.

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Trek to Kheerganga in the midst of Parvati Valley

Trek to Kheerganga in the midst of Parvati Valley

It has been a year already since the gorgeous Parvati valley happened to me. Situated in Himachal Pradesh, it is one of the beautiful valleys along the mighty Himalayas!

Parvati river along the Parvati Valley, Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Parvati river along the Parvati Valley, Kasol, Himachal Pradesh

The trip to Himachal Pradesh last year was an adventurous one in every way- a road trip across the state, stopping by the scenic woods at Dalhousie, soaking in the serenity at Parashar lake, hiking up the Dhauladhar ranges and Parvati valley with thoroughly enjoying the roar of Parvati across Kasol- ‘Amsterdam of India’, Manikaran and quaint Tosh.

The trek to Kheerganga which is at 9700 feet is a beautiful one. The trek starts from Barshaini, a small town near Manikaran in the Kullu district at a height of about 7200 feet.

The trek of 14 km starts near a hydel project at the confluence of Parvati and Tosh rivers. The trail passes through small villages and cafes.

Confluence of Parvati and Tosh rivers at Barshaini, Himachal Pradesh, Shwetha Krish, ShoePenLens
Confluence of Parvati and Tosh rivers at Barshaini, Himachal Pradesh

The vista opens upto the gorgeous Parvati valley lined with pine trees and one can hear the roar of Parvati all along the trail.

After a lemon drink at one of the cafes we( my friend and the guide) hit the trail with a zing of energy.

A lemon drink by the Parvati valley, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
A lemon drink by the Parvati valley

As I saw the last of the villages lined with wheat fields, the trail opened up to a small clearing which happened to be the Rudranag waterfall.

Rudranag waterfall, Kheerganga trail, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
Rudranag waterfall, Kheerganga trail

A small bridge ahead paved way to a steep trail. The woods were spooky yet beautiful. After trudging up the rocky spiral trail amidst the woods which had a fairy-tale wonder to it, we had reached the famous Kheerganga.

The roar of Parvati along the Kheerganga trail, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
The roar of Parvati along the Kheerganga trail

Kheerganga, is a spectacular meadow where Shiva- the Adiyogi happened to have meditated for about 3000 years. The meadow is surrounded by lush green and snow clad mountains.

The hot springs of Kheerganga are best known for their healing properties and there are two separate hot springs area for men and women.

Hot springs at Kheerganga, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
Hot springs at Kheerganga

After a trek of about 3-4 hrs one can relax in the spring and rejuvenate oneself. The meadow is a bit commercialized with camps, cafes and stays. It could turn off any trekker looking for a tranquil space in the mountains.

The camps and stays atop Kheerganga, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
The camps and stays atop Kheerganga

After spending the night in a tent, viewing the splendid mountains, we were off to Barshaini to head to Tosh. More on Tosh at Quaint little Tosh

The view of the mountains from Kheerganga, Shwetha Krish, Shoepenlens
The view of the mountains from Kheerganga

The trail is absolutely beautiful lined with pine trees, serene captivating meadows and that makes this trek all the more worthwhile!

Tadiandamol: Home is where the Mountains are…

Tadiandamol: Home is where the Mountains are…

A good conversation on travel kinda ends up in going for one. Well got to be lucky in a way! Thanks to my fellow travelers.

Tadiandamol was just that, a plan made in a jiffy and lo and behold we were at the cosy coffee estates of Coorg in no time.

After an overnight bus ride from Bangalore to Virajpet, we were ushered by the chill air of the mountains. Our next stop was to Kabbinakad via Napoklu. We got a ride, after a wait of two hours, through beautiful estates and climb up the scenic mountains..

The path leading to Honey Valley, Coorg, Shwetha Krish
The path leading to Honey Valley, Coorg

Our home for the next three days was at Honey valley, at about 4250 feet which turned out to be an haven nestled in the lush coffee estates and forests. The Jeep ride from Kabbinakad to the homestay is an adventurous ride as it takes one through bumpy, slushy and steep curvy paths.

Cottage at Honey Valley, Coorg, Shwetha KRish
Cottage at Honey Valley, Coorg

A light breakfast energized us in no time and, we enjoyed the serene place with just about doing nothing. We strolled a bit along the estate. We found flora, frogs, butterflies and of course 3-4 dogs who were constant companions throughout our stay.

As it rained, we took to the confines of a small balcony facing the mountains and then made to the comforts of our bed. The day ended with card games, chatter with the rains playing a splendid tune.

The next day was slated for our much awaited Tadiandamol trek.

Tadiandamol(Big mountain) is the highest mountain in Coorg at about 5740 ft. It is a part of the Western Ghats range and is the fourth highest mountain in Karnataka state.

Owing to the rains and wild elephants, we had to take on an alternate route much before the Forest Guest house. As we hiked through the forests and winding paths, it felt as if we were the only four on the trail. After 2 kms, we hit upon views which were mesmerizing. The trail through the lush green grasslands were picture perfect. Not to forget the picturesque trail through the thick forests for about a mile. The weather was chill and it was drizzling. Thanks to that we weren’t that exhausted.

The trail, Tadiandamol,Coorg,Shwetha Krish
The trail, Tadiandamol,Coorg

The hike up the last mile was sheer beautiful. With rolling hills all around and the puffy clouds making their way on a beat, made the climb all the more worthwhile. We stayed at the peak for about two hours. We were lucky enough to see the vast greenlands, beautiful valleys, thick forests and curvy ridges when the clouds unveiled the canvas!

The trail ahead-Tadiandamol,coorg, ShwethaKrish
The trail ahead-Tadiandamol trek,coorg

The feeling of being one with nature is quite unexplainable till date. The silence of the mountains, a gusty tune of the winds, the whispers of the grasslands is just too divine.

After a hearty meal, we headed back to the base camp. Just as we got into our Jeep the clouds gave way for a heavy downpour. We paid a visit to the Nalknad Palace, which happened to be hidden between the mountains. It is a very old palace built in 1792 AD and was the last refuge of the Kodagu kings.

We ended our day relaxing, singing and enjoying the rains.

My companion while doing Yoga, Honey Valley Shwetha Krish
My companion while doing Yoga, Honey Valley

Honey Valley estate is very beautiful and obviously away from the humdrum of the city. It was the first homestay in Coorg and started its services way back in 1994. It is surrounded by coffee estates all around along with pepper and cardamom trees. The homestay and the surrounding area is just warmly splendid. One take a peaceful stroll or meditate(which is what we did) or just about enjoy the natural setting.

Honey valley homestay, Coorg, Shwetha Krish
Honey valley homestay, Coorg

After a lovely short stay we left the beautiful Honey Valley estate the next day only to drive back to the city but with renewed energy.

The article is also published on Shwetha Krish Website

Info:

  • Honey Valley is near to Kabbinakad which can be reached by Virajpet via Napoklu. Link: Honey Valley Coorg
  • Bangalore to Virajpet is about 270 kms and has numerous bus services from Bangalore.
  • Tadiandamol is a beginner’s trek, fitness is any day required. Leeches are galore in the monsoon months from June-August. One can wear leech socks or carry enough salt.
  • A guide is needed when one takes the route through the forests especially during the monsoons as wild elephants may meet you on the way.
  • The trail starting from the Forest Guest house is pretty comfortable and can be done without a guide’s assistance.

TRIUND, An abode amidst the clouds!

Dhauladhar range
Dhauladhar range…

“You cannot go! It is dangerous. The weather is bad. You cannot see the path, you will get lost! Read this notice….”

My friend and me stared at the Hotel concierge as he said the most discouraging words. He kept aside the tray which he was carrying and waited for our decision for the D day.

We read the most saddening Govt. Notice for trekkers, climbers to not get atop the mountain in harsh rainy conditions. And to take a local guide along  the trail.

It was raining cats and dogs, McLeodganj seemed to be on a high!

We asked about the Guide whereabouts to which the concierge happily gave the details and made sure that we won’t leave without the guide. ūüôā

As the rain pelted against the window panes, we shared the news with our third fellow trekker.

After analysing the pros and cons, we decided to take on the trail but with a guide after all, trekking in the rains on the Himalayas is a risky affair all the more!

We hit the sack hoping that the next day was sunny enough to make it to the beautiful Dhauladhar ranges.

Morning turned out to be sunny and magnificent! The quaint town of McLeodganj was getting ready for the usual hustle bustle after a heavy downpour. But we did get a guide who accepted our proposal to take us along and we headed for the trail right away.

Triund trek is the most beautiful and scenic trek in Himachal Pradesh. The trek starts from Galu Devi temple, 2 km ahead of McLeodganj. Nestled in the Kangra valley, it offers a hike through Deodar, Rhododendron forests and of course gives a magnanimous view of the mighty Dhauladhar range and the Kangra valley.

Clouds passing by the Dhauladhar range
Clouds passing by the Dhauladhar range

We met our guide who happened to be very courteous and we gained insight about Himachal Pradesh as well through him. We started the hike close to 9:45 AM after registering our names at the Start point, a protocol closely followed by the Forest Department.

After an hour’s walk along the deodar trees, rhododendron trees we reached a stony path from where we could see the Dharamsala Cricket stadium, the stadium at the highest altitude in India at about 4780 feet above sea level.

Further walk through stony paths, we reached the Magic View Cafe which is the oldest cafe. A cup of hot tea soothed our throats and energized us for the rest of the journey. The clouds played around and brought in a slight chill to the air around. Being a Monday not many trekkers, local crowd were present on the trail. But a lot of them were on the way back after spending the  Sunday night at Triund Hill.

Triund Trail
Triund Trail

The stony path was now damp owing to a nearby small waterfall. But when it rains, the path would be very risky to tread upon. The villagers who were on the trail, time and again advised us not to walk at the edge of the path owing to uneven ground and loose stones.

As we hiked up the hill we came across yet another cafe Scenic View. With tad bit of a rest we hiked towards the last leg of the trail- The famous 22 curves before the Triund peak. It was a hike along stony paths, mushroom laden trunks of trees, lovely flowers with the mesmerising dew on the petals. The clouds did cover the trail on and off.

Lovely colorful Mushrooms on a fallen tree...
Lovely colorful Mushrooms on a fallen tree…

After a hiking for four hours, I reached the peak. A lush green meadow ran across the hill. A couple of cafes were present which catered to the needs of the few then trekkers.

The TRIO at the Triund Peak
The TRIO at the Triund Peak

As we strolled about the meadow, the clouds impulsively gave way to the Himalayas. The slightly snow clad Dhauladhar ranges came into view. It was a marvelous sight. As the clouds played about, we could catch a glimpse of Mcleodganj, Bhagsu way below.

Meadows, Ranges, Clouds at Triund Hill
Meadows, Ranges, Clouds at Triund Hill

After a sumptuous lunch of Roti, Rice and yummy Dal, we headed towards our tent with a view of the Kangra valley and the Dhauladhar ranges towards the side.

For our Siesta!
For our Siesta!

After a long stroll up and down the meadow, we retired for the night under a cloudy sky. We woke up to a not so cloudy day and welcomed the sunrise!

Sunrise atop Triund!
Sunrise atop Triund!

As we bid goodbye to the ranges and the valley, McLeodganj ushered us to explore the quaint town and the Dalai Lama Temple…. More on in the next post….

Well that was the end to the lovely Triund trek. Plan for it and enjoy the enthralling journey and the lovely mountains of course!

Throwback Thursday! Why do I trek?

Perks of trekking!

SHOEPENLENS

‚ÄúSomewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.‚ÄĚ (Greg Child)

So the quote says it all but what is the mystery?

A peek  into my initial days of trekking…

Well, I started trekking just for the heck of it, for pure adrenalin rush and for the amazing view at the summit. It held good, be it the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Kerala & Maharashtra.  Since I was in my early 20s,  I loved racing up the mountain!

On top of Edakkal caves, Wayanad On top of Edakkal caves, Wayanad, Kerala

Karnala Hill fort, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra Karnala Hill fort, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra

Matheran, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra Matheran, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra

Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra

Kuduremukh, Karnataka Kuduremukh, Karnataka

Amongst the clouds, KumaraParvatha, Karnataka Amongst the clouds, KumaraParvatha, Karnataka

View Point 1, Goechala Pass, Sikkim with Mt. Kanchenjunga in the background View Point 1, Goechala Pass, Sikkim with Mt. Kanchenjunga in the background

On the way back from Manokarma Base camp(Stok Kangri Expedition), Ladakh, J&K On the way back from Manokarma Base camp(Stok Kangri Expedition), Ladakh, J&K

But after a gap of 6 years my idea and purpose of trekking changed. Thanks…

View original post 652 more words

Ghats Beckon!

Article published in Deccan Herald Newspaper 25-Nov-2015

It was mid-September when I got the opportunity to cherish the beauty of the Western Ghats. Rolling hills, lush landscape, beautiful pink flowers, dew-filled grasslands; it was a view right out of¬†a picture postcard. I¬†was at Kuduremukh, a mountain range and name of a peak located in Chikkamagaluru district. The name literally means ‚Äėhorse-face‚Äô in Kannada and refers to a picturesque view of the side of the mountain.

Kuduremukh, Karnataka
Kuduremukh, Karnataka

Along with my fellow trekkers, I started from Bengaluru at night to reach Kalasa, a temple town in Chikkamagaluru, the next morning. From there we hired jeeps to take us to a home-stay. The ride to the home-stay was on a slushy uphill road, which was scary but thrilling. It was drizzling and the weather was pleasant. We freshened up and had a light breakfast, which was sumptuous. Later the owner of the home-stay gave us a home-made lotion to apply on our legs to keep the leeches away as we were going to be in the leech zone for a few hours. We started our trek, which was initially wayward into the forest and across small streams. After a couple of hours we reached the grasslands and they looked beautiful. It was drizzling; the landscape was adorned with rain drops, which looked like pearls on the flowers and grass. We saw the clouds pass by and I was mesmerised by the beauty and serenity of the place.

The trail wound its way around the ranges and then we came upon another small forest. It was also a slushy and a wet trail as it was raining. The highlight of the trail was obviously the leeches who were waiting for us. There were zillions of them and every 100 metres we trekked, we stopped for a couple of minutes just to shake them off, be it real or imaginary ones!

The rolling hills
The rolling hills

The final mile was up the peaks but by this time it was raining cats and dogs and the path was very slushy. We climbed it nevertheless and then came upon a short, straight path leading to the peak. I presumed that the view from here was amazing but as it was cloudy and raining, we could not see anything.

There was no shelter at the top so we just sat by the rocks, hydrated ourselves with juice and a bar of chocolate. It was a serene place. We walked down a bit and stopped at a clearing. There was a stream flowing by and we had our packed lunch of mango rice.

It was delicious. After resting for about 15 minutes, we started our downward trek. Trekking down was very difficult as the path was slippery. After falling down a couple of times, I held on to a good pace.

We finally reached the forest; the streams that we passed earlier were now overflowing. We made it through, together. It was getting dark and we had to rush to the home-stay.

The pain in my legs and exhaustion were pulling me down but we made it back. We tended to our leech bites and had dinner and chatted away into the night. I thoroughly enjoyed the trek as it was my first monsoon trek. It brought a feeling of euphoria and was a thrilling experience. What can I say, I was floored by the beauty!

Short of getting Stoked!

Freezing Manokarma

I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag. I could hear the menacing wind whooshing against the tent. The freezing cold was getting on my nerves. I was burning with fever and I wanted to get a fair amount of sleep at least so that I could make my way to the next camp the following morning. I had spread the DOWN jacket on my sleeping bag, hopeful that it would keep me warm but it was way too cold. Sleeping at 14500 feet was getting very very difficult. I wondered how I would survive the next 8 hours until dawn. I opened my eyes hoping to find some warm clothing, I tried getting up but something was obstructing me. As I switched on my torch and looked about, the tent was all over my legs and it was wet. And I called out to my friend and whispered “Kesu! I think the tent has fallen off.”

Hemis National Park

Three days earlier we had embarked upon the Trek to Stok Kangri!

With wavering courage we decided to trek a bit of Markha Valley and then trek to Stok Kangri.

The bravehearts!
The bravehearts!

 

We travelled to Zingchen by road from Leh. The ride ended up in a dusty mountain path. The trek trail started from there and we had now entered the Hemis National Park, eastern part of Ladakh, J&K. The park is the abode of snow leopards and the only park in India to the north of Himalayas.

The trail started with a rocky path and with the sun seething hot rays down on us, the trek became very exhausting even with the trail being flat! We stopped for lunch after two hours and gobbled the contents in our lunch box.

Dusty rocky trail from Zingchen to Rumbak
Dusty rocky trail from Zingchen to Rumbak

 

Later, the trail had a gradual ascent and before long we were at Rumbak. Instead of moving ahead to the village, we took a deviation and headed towards Ganda La base camp.

On the way to Rumbak!
On the way to Rumbak!
Resting at Rumbak
Resting at Rumbak

 

 

 

 

 

GANDA LA 

The trail to Ganda La was a winding path across the mountains, the flora on the mountains were of various and vivid colours, it was a lovely sight to see.

 

On the way to GandaLa base, Markha valley
On the way to GandaLa base, Markha valley

 

The last mile from Yurutse to Ganda La camp felt very very exhausting, the sun had already set and I clung on to my trekking pole and strode ahead and thinking about when I would hit the sack.  After reaching the tent and gulping down  hot lemon tea, I warmed myself in the tent and soothed my aching muscles. We had a quick dinner but sumptuous one with chicken and rice. It was the perfect end to a long day.

The next morning was beautiful. Azure sky, brown mountains all around and the stream flowing very near to the base camp. While some of us deliberated on the trek to the Ganda La Pass owing to a very exhausting trek the previous day, we then finally reached a conclusion that we as a team will move on.

Though I was a little hesitant initially, I finally made up mind to at least get to the top of the mountain, if not the pass. I slogged along the trail, it was a steep climb. I knew my body was giving away. But I wanted to figure out how my body would react and whether I would be able to make it to 16300 feet. Because in the next couple of days I would be trying to get on to 20000 feet, all I wanted to know then was whether I could get myself out there.

It was a hard climb, I was half way up the mountain when the last of the trekkers from the base camp brushed past me. One of the guides, from the other trekking group,on the way asked me,

 

“Juley! where are you from?”

I replied with my fading breath.

He looked around, “Your team members are already way ahead I see, you got to hurry up!”

I said,”I am trying to.”

He again looked at me and said,” You know, you can find marmots and snow leopards out here.”

I looked at the vast expanse of the valley and obviously I could see Marmots here and there but snow leopards now!

“I mean do you find them here, like now now.” I was excited.

He looked at me and said, “Maybe!”

Wow! This was already one hell of a climb and it was getting all the more exciting!

I was determined to reach the mountain. I could see our guide, Lobzang waiting for me at the top. I panted and trailed past the last winding path and there I was, on the top looking at the beauty all around.

I had no energy to make it till the pass and told the guide to carry on and that I would meet him on the way back down.

The view was mesmerising with mountains all over, the valleys looked beautiful and so did the snow clad mountains. I soaked in the silence and the beauty.

Stok Range
Stok Range
Near to Ganda La pass
Near to Ganda La pass

 

 

 

 

 

I trudged back down the mountain. My solo trek to Yurutse had just begun.

SOLO TREK

With no one at my beck or call, surrounded by majestic mountains and the expanse of the valley below, I was all alone but I was one with nature.

I stopped to click a picture or two. I suddenly had a anxiety pang, what if a snow leopard comes along, what would I do?

I buried the thought yet  looking out for a leopard to pounce on me but the mesmerising mountains, the winding terrain and the sun high above my head held me onto a blissful thought. I basked in the silence of the place and all I could hear was my heart beating  and the wind blowing at my face. I felt so puny amongst the wonders of nature.

 

Way back to Ganda La base camp
Way back to Ganda La base camp

 

I caught a glimpse of Marmots running around and it was a wonderful sight to see, it looked as though they were racing me down the path. Before I got on to the other side of the stream, I could hear something on the ridge of the mountain- was it a marmot…. snow leopard?, I don’t know even to this day. ūüėČ

I reached the stream enthusiastically, I could now see the Ganda La base camp nearby. I almost sprained my leg, the rock on which I took support fell into the stream but somehow made a quick jump in the nick of time. Music was being played at the canteen but the valley was silent and I could hear only the gushing of water.

I moved past the base camp, I could now see a gaggle of geese running ahead the path and up the valley. I contemplated on the flora on the mountains and the green coloured mountain looked weird but beautiful. Before long, I reached Yurutse to catch up with my team members. After about 30-40 minutes the others came along with the guide.

We marched ahead to our next camp for the night- Rumbak.

Rumbak is a village at 13200 ft with a few households and also has a number of home-stays. After reaching the village we still had to walk a lot to get to our camp. It was on the outskirts of the village. I could sense my legs on the verge of giving away and my willpower was on the last reserve.I trudged along to get to the tent as soon as possible. The tents were put up near to the stream and we refreshed ourselves with hot lemon tea and biscuits.

My body ached and I was way low on energy and I wanted to get back to Leh.

Daunting STOK LA!

But the morning had different plans for me and now filled with hope, I strode on with new zest and energy.

The mountains were utterly fascinating, each step of the trek brought me face to face with the splendour of the mountains. After walking for about an hour, we lost our way and we waited for the guide to light our path. As the guide took us on to the valley and then up a mountain, I could see the big daunting mountain. I could not make out the path way ahead but it seemed like a big wall.

I rested a bit before I could take on the gigantic mountain. I initially thought it would be a straight path obviously uphill but after heaving myself up the winding path I knew this was a serpentine trail and with each turn of the path it would get  all the more difficult. I dragged my body up the path, rested a bit and then got on, the trail was never ending.

Rumbak village as seen from the mountain
Rumbak village as seen from the mountain
Near to Stok La
Near to Stok La

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was with great will power that I scaled up the mountain. My body was now numb to the pain and cold. My breathing was getting worse. I could feel my lungs yelping for more oxygen. It was the toughest climb of my life. But when I reached the top, the Stok La pass, the pain, the difficult climb was all worth it. The pass was at 15900 feet and it was very windy. We had literally climbed about 4000ft. Phew! Had a quick lunch before we headed down the valley to reach our camp. The Ladakh range now was colourful with bright orange and yellow flora. It was beautiful.

Stok La
Stok La
Base Camp after Stok La
Base Camp after Stok La

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we headed down, the valley was utterly cold. After meeting the team at the camp, we all rejoiced our strength and patience to make it to Stok La.

We started off around 9AM the next day. As we trekked across one of the mountains and reached a pass, I saw some white particles floating about. As I turned back, it was SNOWING!

On the way to Manokarma
On the way to Manokarma
The rugged mountains on the way to Manokarma
The rugged mountains on the way to Manokarma

 

 

 

 

 

 

My heart skipped a beat, it was my first snowfall experience and that too on the Greater Himalayas! I could see the mountain tops covered with snow and it was snowing right into my face. I sunk in the moment because this was one memory that would be very close to my heart forever. The wonders of nature take your breath away and all that remains is bliss and love for nature, in your heart. We made to the next pass to catch up with the entire team and rejoiced the snowfall.

My first snowfall at Greater Himalayas!
My first snowfall at Greater Himalayas!
Rejoicing the snowfall
Rejoicing the snowfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

We later trudged down the valley. The last mile took a toll on me. I was literally shivering and down with fever. I could feel my body giving away. All I wanted was warmth and the luxury of a bed and pillow.

MANOKARMA Contd….

And yes the tent was way down on us. We called out to our trek leader. And then the guide with the helpers came along and set up the tent. As we got out of the tent, the brown mountains we had seen in the evening were all covered with snow and it was the weight of the snow on our tent that had sagged it. The mountains looked splendid, each with a snow cap! The rest of the night was a struggle to keep myself warm and waited for the morning, to make up my mind on my next course of action. As I walked out of the tent, I was welcomed with the beautiful sight of snow clad mountains. It was marvellous.

The Stok Kangri Range at Manokarma
The Stok Kangri Range at Manokarma
Our tents!
Our tents!

 

 

 

 

 

We were all dejected that we could not go any further as there was a thunderstorm and as the guide pointed out, the path to Stok Kangri would be dangerous and could turn out to be fatal.

So we took an unanimous decision and  packed up and headed to Stok village. The trek back was a straight path with a few uphill trails. Before long we were at one of the mountain passes where we could see the Stok village nestled in between the mountains. On the trail we saw footprints which seemed to belong to the leopard! Well the leopards seemed to be around.

Stok Village
Stok Village

 

We were happy we were closer to civilization and as we reached the outskirts of Stok village and our camp, we rejoiced the night with sumptuous food and sung our hearts out into the night.

The entire team!
The entire team!

 

Though we could not complete our trek to Stok Kangri, we all braved enough to take the plunge. It was one of my personal toughest trek and I have learnt a lot more about life in these 5 days of the challenging trek.

Well hoping to make it again when the chance comes along and rightfully get stoked at Stok Kangri!

mountain

PC: Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I trek?

‚ÄúSomewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.‚ÄĚ (Greg Child)

So the quote says it all but what is the mystery?

A peek ¬†into my initial days of trekking…

Well, I started trekking just for the heck of it, for pure adrenalin rush and for the amazing view at the summit. It held good, be it the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Kerala & Maharashtra.  Since I was in my early 20s,  I loved racing up the mountain!

On top of Edakkal caves, Wayanad
On top of Edakkal caves, Wayanad, Kerala
Karnala Hill fort, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
Karnala Hill fort, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
Matheran, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
Matheran, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra
Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra
Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra
Kuduremukh, Karnataka
Kuduremukh, Karnataka
Amongst the clouds, KumaraParvatha, Karnataka
Amongst the clouds, KumaraParvatha, Karnataka
View Point 1, Goechala Pass, Sikkim with Mt. Kanchenjunga in the background
View Point 1, Goechala Pass, Sikkim with Mt. Kanchenjunga in the background
On the way back from Manokarma Base camp(Stok Kangri Expedition), Ladakh, J&K
On the way back from Manokarma Base camp(Stok Kangri Expedition), Ladakh, J&K

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But after a gap of 6 years my idea and purpose of trekking changed. Thanks to the Himalayas!

For one thing, my physical stamina wasn’t great ūüėČ so it slowed me enough on the Himalayan trail to enjoy and feel with all my heart the serenity around and paved a way to find my inner peace!

Down to the big question of why I trek?

Here goes……

1. I trek because the journey is spectacular than the destination.

2. I trek for I feel alive when I am on the mountains.

3. I trek as each step I take forward just scares the hell out of me, as it is a thin line between life and death and that my friend, is the ultimate adrenalin rush!

On the way to Kokchurang, Kanchenjunga National Park
On the way to Kokchurang, Kanchenjunga National Park

4. I trek as I can feel my soul and feel one with nature.

5. I trek because the journey is a great learning experience about myself, the nature, the people around.

6. I trek because I learn to be humble, forgiving and patient and it surely helps to live a fulfilling life down in the plains.

Thansing Base Camp, Kanchenjunga National Park (Mt. Kanchenjunga can be seen in the centre)
Thansing Base Camp, Kanchenjunga National Park (Mt. Kanchenjunga can be seen in the centre)

7. I trek because I learn to appreciate life!

8. I trek as I get a chance to explore the world beyond the cities or beyond my comfort zone.

9. I trek because I literally get to learn the value of a breath! The value of Living!

Samiti Lake, Kanchenjunga National Park
Samiti Lake, Kanchenjunga National Park

10. I trek as it brings me the pleasure of being one with the mountains, the rivers, the sky, the earth, the wind….

11. I trek because it makes my dreams come true of achieving the unachievable and makes way for a hell lot of memories.

12. I trek because at the end of it, I am stronger(not physically ūüėČ ) and a much better person(I hope so)

On the way to Ganda La Pass, Markha Valley
On the way to Ganda La Pass, Markha Valley

13. I trek so that I get to see a whole new me during the trek and of course after the trek as well.

14. I trek because I love the Mountains!  https://trystmyworld.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/mountains-keep-calling/

15. I trek because even after treading and toiling in narrow, rugged, rocky, slippery, uphill, downhill paths……… the mountains give you amazing, spectacular and fabulous views!

Near Stok La pass, Ladakh
Near Stok La pass, Ladakh

16. I trek because I find myself after getting lost!

17. I trek as it helps to see my problems in a different way and the fact that they no longer remain problems after I get back to the plains!

18. I trek as I get to interact with people from a different culture, country, age group, perspectives but who are treading on the same path as me.

Manokarma Base Camp, before Stok Kangri Base camp, Ladakh
Manokarma Base Camp, before Stok Kangri Base camp, Ladakh

19. I trek because I want to feel the magic of nature.

20. I trek as I get to feel the silence of the mountains, and that place is what I call heaven!

Thanks to the treks to Goecha La Pass in Sikkim and the unfinished(owing to bad weather) trek to Stok Kangri in J&K, I have got  the courage to look upon life with my heart and discover the unknown but thanks to my mind for playing an eminent role in helping me through those treks when physically I was broken.

Well this is why I trek and hope to do so in the near future as well. (‘Hoping against hope hopen’)

I am sure trekkers out there would resonate the same feeling as above but for those who have not tried trekking and are keen….. all I would say is, ‘Go for it and experience the mountains….. for you never know, you may find what you have been looking for all your life.’

“Because in the end , you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain” – Jack Kerouac

Stairway to Heaven

Article published in Deccan Herald on 24th April 2015.

To quote Ruskin Bonds: ‚ÄúIt is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.‚ÄĚ
It was always my dream to trek the Himalayas, to be amongst the mighty and majestic mountains and to be lost in their magnificence. I am elated that I got an opportunity to do so and I have fallen in love with the Himalayas.

GOECHA LA or GOECHA PASS is a Himalayan mountain pass in the state of Sikkim. At an elevation of 16,200 ft, Goecha La serves as the gateway to Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.

Thansing Base Camp, Kanchenjunga National Park (Mt. Kanchenjunga can be seen in the centre)
Thansing base camp

We were a group of 11 (experienced and novice) trekkers who started off the 9-day trek to Goecha La. We reached Yuksom, a small village in West Sikkim at an elevation of 6000ft with few houses, monasteries, hotels and restaurants. The nearest airport to Yuksom is at Bagdogra in West Bengal and Yuksom can be reached via Siliguri(WB) by road.

The start of the Goecha La trek is a walk through the village of Yuksom and then the trail passes around the mountain. Later we reached the Kanchendzonga National Park which is the gateway to Goechala and then the trail runs through lush mountains and bridges and is a gradual climb through the oak forests. We reached Sachen and rested for the night. The next day we took on another steep climb to reach Tshoka, the next base camp.

The trail from Tshoka-Dzongri is one of the most beautiful trails as it is a log trail and from April to May, the trail is filled with rhododendrons. On nearing Dzongri, we could see many mountain ranges and they were breath-taking. From the Dzongri Mountain Top, the sunrise was beautiful and all the mountain ranges along with Kanchenjunga can be viewed.

 

Later the trail runs through lush meadows where Mt. Pandim seems up close and looks majestic. We then came to Kokchurang where the Prek Chu river flows along and it is such a beautiful sight that we were enchanted by the place. We finally reached Thansing, the next base camp, where on one side there are snow-clad mountains and on the other a black stony mountain where you can catch a glimpse of Mt.Kanchenjunga. The view in the night is mesmerising-it is filled with zillions of stars and Mt. Pandim is brightly lit by the moon. Further ahead the mountains get closer and the terrain became rocky as we reached the next base camp, Lamuney.

On the last day of the trek to Goechala pass, we had to wake up very early as we had to reach the first view point before sunrise. I woke up to the most marvelous and memorable sight: a star-studded sky, zillions of stars just so close to you and the snow clad mountains were brightly shining in the moonlight. I was just mesmerized by the beauty of it. And the weather was extremely cold. The path goes right next to the Samiti Lake which is a glacial lake which is turquoise in color. We were just in time on one of the mountains(first view point) to catch the beauty of the Kanchenjunga as it had turned golden(literally) by the first rays of the sun. The experience-inexplicable.

Samiti Lake, Kanchenjunga National Park
Samiti Lake at 14700 ft

We were all elated on our achievement and enjoyed the final trek back to Yuksom. I just rejoiced every single moment as it was going to be the last day amongst the mighty Himalayas.

Those were the most amazing days of my life. When I recall the entire journey, it just feels like I have lived a Life! The beauty, the tranquility, the rolling hills, cool streams, bridges, the star-studded sky, lush landscapes, feeling of being one with nature and yourself- what more can one ask !

Shwetha Krish