The Canvas

It was shoved into my hands

As I stood there unplanned

The boundaries were laid

The colors and tools were displayed

For years I adorned with a certain quandary

Not an inch outside the boundary

Not a color from within

I stood lost in the usual din

Nature breathed a new life

The colors were now magnanimous

The canvas stood without a moment’s strife

Wanting to be anonymous

Then the thunder roared

The rain poured

The colors gave away

To make a clear Today

The Canvas stood still

With no colorful spill

The boundaries had vanished

With no societal brandish

The Canvas was eternally Now

A Masterpiece!

Pexels-Canvas-Masterpiece-Shwethakrish-shoepenlens-poetry
The Masterpiece! PC: Pexels
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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!

 

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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.

 

Inner Engineering! What’s that all about?

My mind couldn’t fathom the immense profundity at the end of the Initiation day. All it said again and again- ‘I should have tapped on Inner Engineering much before I did Engineering!’ Phew! Probably I had to tread the hard way before I could cherish the Inner Way!

Well let me give you a glimpse of how my life has changed post Inner Engineering. Before that I want to be very clear, I am not writing this post to propagate a line of Yoga / any Foundation / Guru! I am simply sharing my experience as a person who has tapped into the beauty of Life and much more. I am sharing this so that it can reach any person (atleast one) who wants to know more about life, cherish it in the best possible way and who is willing to take on this journey of exploring oneself ‘The Inner Way!’

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It is almost two years since I completed the Inner Engineering program offered by Isha Foundation. It is a 7-Day Program(3 hours every day with one day being the Initiation day which runs for 12 hours) where one is taken through learning a Kriya- Shambhavi Mahamudra.

What the Program Offers:

  • Enlightening interactive sessions
  • Guided Meditations
  • Asanas, simple yoga postures
  • Shambhavi MahaMudra, a powerful, 21-minute energy technique that brings your entire system into alignment so that your body, mind, emotions and energies function in harmony

Post the Inner Engineering program which I completed in Jan 2017, I took to regularly doing the Kriya everyday which runs for 21 mins. There have been significant changes in my Physical, Mental and Emotional well-being!

To describe a few,

  1. I feel an amazing sense of enthusiasm in carrying about my work day in and day out.
  2. It has been a overwhelming experience of Exploring myself inwardly and trust me I wait for each day so that I can learn more about myself and be a better being!
  3. I can multi-task several activities in varied fields at ease, be it writing, photography, social media management of my clients and learning anything new in a day. And I am not that tired or exhausted. Believe me- I am surprised! Because I used to get bogged down with maybe 1/2 tasks a day!
  4. My take on Life or perception of Life has changed and more so confirmed that there is something more than the mundane which we fail to grasp; there is something more than studies, work, marriage, children, family, materialistic aspirations, keeping up with the societal norms!
  5. As I hike in the Himalayas every year, I now see a tremendous change in my stamina and energy levels. With falling sick on a mountain and being exhausted all the time to now being a person who is truly happy and overwhelmed that my stamina holds me up throughout the trek in high altitudes. Fingers crossed, I haven’t fallen sick in the last three Himalayan treks since I have been regularly keeping up with my practices (Yoga).
  6. Though I haven’t tapped into the secrets of life and have an answer for each of my problems, I surely have some sense of clarity in things that I am doing and certain clarity in the confusion! (That’s something quite right! 😉 )
  7. I have had opportunities where I stepped in as a Volunteer at the Foundation and otherwise where it has certainly helped me grow as a better human-being. I am very grateful for that.
  8. I have always pondered on religion, culture and wondered where I belong because I didn’t have a clear cut answer to ‘Do I believe in God?’ I was all muddled up but now I do have some clarity that ‘I don’t know!’ So, I choose to be a Seeker – neither a ‘believer of God’ nor a ‘non-believer of God,’ treading on a way of exploring myself than God!
  9. The best part of my Journey so far in these two years have been my networking with people from various walks of life! It is an amazing way to learn things and you never know when you are meeting a person who is going to be a part of your life or a person who is going to be your mentor! It is always a joy to interact with people who are on this journey but also otherwise. Needless to say, I have had some amazing conversations and connect with people on my travel.

More on my experience of being a part-time Yogi is out here. Joy of being a part-time Yogi! Check it out!

Well, if you want to get into Inner Engineering and want to know more about it, here is the link: Inner Engineering

And there is an upcoming program on the 15th and 16th December. The best part of this program is that – initiation and completion of the program will be with Sadhguru! This is designed in a different way than the 7-Day Program. In this one has to take 7 Online sessions and the Completion Program runs on 15th and 16th December 2018. Special discounts running online now!

More on the program and registration out here: https://isha.sadhguru.org/blr

Please do register, if you think and know ‘The Way Out is In!’ And I am sure you would have realized this by now!

Inner Engineering

The WINDOW!

 

Window-ShoePenLens

 

This is a Window at my Grandmother’s place! And it was a window to the world for me!

The Summer holidays at my Grandmother’s place used to be fun; climbing Mango, Jackfruit trees, eating Kulfis whenever my Uncle would buy, listening to deafening music from my Uncle’s massive Music player, playing games with my sisters and cousins and of course loitering around the house running away from my Grandmother’s dog – Raksha!

Apart from this the window in my Uncle’s room was my favorite place; I used to sit by the window ledge listening to the wind blowing, the trees humming a soft tune and obviously enjoying the pitter-patter of the rain! If not for these, I would stare at the passers-by on the street and the myriad of vehicles.

On one occasion, there was a congregation probably some ceremony which I don’t remember now. Being the introvert, I stuck to the room, sitting by the window and watched the innumerable guests passing by the lovely garden and engaging in amusing conversations. I lost track of time and I remember Mom coaxing me to meet the guests and at-least have Lunch. So the Window happened to be my silent companion!

As I ponder, Windows have surely kept me company and have given magnificent views. I do remember a Window at my house years ago. The three of us Sisters shared a room and the window opened to the street by our house. As soon as I woke up, I would stare at the blue sky, the swaying trees and the weather would certainly set my mood for the day! Many of my creative works then used to happen by the window!

Lately, I am getting back to the mode of creating pieces of Art by the Window at my present home now! Wonder, if Nature beckons to this Soul to create a piece of Art which defines her and the language of the Universe! Well hope to decode it completely one day!

Do you have any Window stories or musings?

1957325-Robin-Williams-Quote-There-s-a-world-out-there-Open-a-window-and

 

 

 

Exploring Peppa to Masha way!

I have always loved watching Cartoons since my childhood days. Though the urge to watch has obviously subsided over the years, I do get a peek into the cartoon characters and shows through my nephews!

MGM LOGO
PC: Pinterest

Lately, there is a routine watch of a few shows with my nephews! Thanks to their summer holidays, I do get the opportunity to roll in the fun of their leisure activities!

I do remember watching DuckTales, Talespin, Aladdin, Mr. Bean videos(thanks to my Uncle for making me an ardent fan), Starwars, Shaktimaan, Captain Vyom and of course Tom and Jerry. It was in my early teens that I started watching Popeye, Scooby Doo, Dexter’s Lab, Powerpuff Girls, supersonic, Simpsons and maybe a few more… The joy of watching these cartoons surely helped me with my reasoning capabilities and of course being creative with my drawings and paintings back then. But they certainly helped me improve my diction and a glimpse of the world in a way!

There were a few which I used to watch a few years back Oswald, Spongebob Squarepants, Noddy- a favorite one of my 4 year old nephew then.

Well the shows that I watch now or have a peek into are Peppa Pig; a cute preschooler who learns and does a lot of activities along with her brother George and her loving family, Paw Patrol; here Ryder, a gadgety boy takes on rescue missions along with six tech talented puppies, Dora the Explorer/ Go Diego Go(the boy version)- where an 8-year old goes about exploring the world  and learning the mundane things in a beautiful way, Masha and the bear; is my 3 year old nephew’s favorite cartoon thanks to the versatility of the circus bear and the innumerable adventures that Masha has with him and they are adorable, Max and Ruby; brother-sister duo take on their everyday adventures with utter cuteness. Other cartoons they often watch are Shiva, Winnie the Pooh and Rusty Rivets.

Well you know I am thoroughly refreshed everyday with the innocence and beauty of these shows and it is great fun to watch along with my 3 and 5 year old nephews. These shows truly have a moral, a learning and I can see my nephews take on a few words and use it while conversing with us. It is splendid and it is really nice to see them relate to things, of course there are a few cons to that as well pertaining to toys and gadgets! 😉

Well thanks to my nephews, I have grown through the cartoons and probably growing again with more morals and learnings! It so happened once that when these kiddos weren’t there I have gone ahead and watched these cartoons at the respective times. Funny me!

There was a phase when I used to watch Anime / Manga series. They used to play on Animax Channel. They were quite interesting. I recently watched one series ‘The Death Note’ – it was quite a thrilling story and I was glued to it for about a month.

Well it is an adventurous journey along with these cartoons over the years. I am sure we as adults would love to watch no-nonsense cartoons once in a while curled up in bed with a hot drink/soup to go with. Or maybe just about cut off from the reality with these cute little characters! The child in us never dies.

who-says-we-have-to-grow-up-walt-disney-disney-4190787

 

So what have you watched recently, I mean cartoons / animes / animated movies?

Let me know if there are any intriguing Anime series for adults or an educational cartoon for the kids!

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PC: Pinterest

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!

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Life a Circle / Spiral?!

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PC: Pinterest

It has been a while since I blogged. Well, a lot many events, travels and work have kept me away.

Well here I am today pouring my heart out!

Lately, I am feeling that I am back to the same point where I started ? That is a question on my mind and I can’t find the answer.

I know I have grown a lot, changed mentally, spiritually, even physically and understanding life in a completely new perspective or must I say experiencing life in a different way.

But somewhere deep down I feel I have come back to the starting point, it feels like I am starting everything anew and now. It does feel great!

From a spiritual perspective, we tend to grow and move ahead spirally transcending into the dimension unknown! Well, this is something entirely intriguing and gives room for more exploration.

Well, maybe I am moving ahead; my understanding of life has changed, the way I lead my life has changed, relationships/friendships (some have nurtured, some I have let go, some I am beginning to understand the shallowness/depth), the dilemma between reality and illusion or in another words thinking illusion as reality still boggles me about living my life. Well all of these sound very complex but trust me the way I look at things are somewhat clearer.

Well, you must be thinking what gibberish is this all! But I can only hope that you reach a point in your life when all of this makes sense.

Well, I don’t think I have answered the question I started the blog with. Because I am still unsure but all I know is I am better equipped to take on another circle of life.

What has your journey been like? Have you ever felt this way before?

 

 

What life was and what life is….

When all that you thought about life, turns out to be a mere illusion

When all that you idolized turns out to be a mere sham

When all that you strictly adhered to, turns out to be mere supposition

When all that you put up on a pedestal, turns out to be a mere perception

When all that materialistic possessions you gathered, turns out to be Ego driven

When all the love you gave and received,  turns out to be a mere commodity

When all the security you gather through job, relationships, turns out to be fear driven

That is when you question your existence, your purpose, your path

That is when you realize that there is more to life

That is when you look inward

That is when you feel one with the universe

That is when you know love is divine

That is when you resonate with the other beings

That is when you JUST BE!

old-soul-quotes

 

Team Indus, a private startup launching a Rover to the Moon this December 2017!

Team Indus, a private startup launching a Rover to the Moon this December 2017!
An Inspiring story to share – Team Indus, a private startup launching a Rover to the Moon this December 2017!
 
Kudos to their indomitable spirit. More about them on my blog post.
 
Hoping for #HarIndiankaMoonshot soon 🙂
 
#TeamIndus #inspiring #ShoePenLens #spacetechnology #aerospacestartup