Travelogue

Anini, Arunachal Pradesh

A wild wild trip to Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. The Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains, Arunachal Pradesh is the largest of the North-eastern states. The state is inhabited by 26 major tribes and over 100 sub-tribes. The major tribes are Adi, Galo, Aka, Apatani, Nyishi, Tagins, Bori, and Bokar. Over 80 per cent of Arunachal Pradesh is covered with thick evergreen forests and it has five major rivers- Kameng, Subansiri, Lohit , Siang and Tirap. Most of the districts in Arunachal are named after a river.  My Journey started from Dibrugarh. Dibrugarh is situated along the mighty Bhramputra and is at the border of Assam and Arunachal. It was the nearest airport to Roing, my next stop after Dibrugarh. The road from Dibrugarh to Roing passes by Tinsukia and goes via the longest bridge of India. You can find details of each place mentioned in the article in the photographs below. It's a scenic 3 hours drive passing through tea estates and paddy fields.  I reached Roing and stayed at RIWATCH. Here I met Vijay Swami Ji, who has built this place to document all the aspects of tribal life in Arunachal. There is a museum here which showcases artifacts and lifestyle of the tribal. On July 22, 2017, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju inaugurated the Research Institution of World Ancient, Traditional, Culture & Heritage (RIWATCH) Museum at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh and hoped that it would serve as a place of exchange of cultural values of various...
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Travelogue

Rupin Pass

A Hatrick with Rupin Pass The mountains are calling and I must go. I stared at my t-shirt that was saying this out loud to me. It was that time of the year when I gave up the comforts of my city life and home and went trudging up some Himalyan slopes for some peace, quiet, and stunning beauty. It had become addictive and this was the third consecutive year that I was going trekking. The choice of trek was by chance. For me it was only Taarak a.k.a. the one-man army of Roads and Journeys with whom I wanted to trek. Again. The diverse and like-minded set of people I met every year always delighted me. Moreover, the group sizes were apt – small enough to be effective and large enough to be fun. He knew his stuff and he knew it well. That’s all that mattered to me. Moreover, a few people I’d made friends with on earlier treks too were converging for this one. And I’m glad that my 2018 saw Rupin Pass. The trek is along the river Rupin and one treks along its course right up to the Upper Waterfall. The trek starts in Uttarakhand and ends in Himachal Pradesh. The views change everyday. As one ascends, the topography sheds layers – first of civilization and then of trees, then some oxygen, till one is amidst high mountains, alpine vegetation, and snow. The journey is meditative – as one focuses on breath, balance, and soaks...
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Travelogue

Hogenakkal

A traveller writes Appreciating Hogenakkal is like reading a good romantic novel: one tends to enjoy the journey more than the destination.  We were riding on bikes down to this small hill station on the fifth and last day of an arduous journey. We were hurt, tired and we longed for homely comforts. But the sheer beauty of sleeping landscapes in the afternoons, the winding roads sneaking into adivasi villages, going over small hillocks bathing in the orange blast of the evening sun, kept our spirits alive. The last lights of the day were waning when we reached the small town, if I may call it so. A few littered shops, eateries and hotels were all that there was to talk about. Here, all roads lead to the falls so it wasn’t hard to find our way through the half naked ready to bathe crowd.  We had to wade through a gully full of dhabas selling fried river fish. For the two vegetarians in our group it must have been a gauntlet but for the rest it awoke the Bengali in us. The fall is not tall but wide. One of the areas is open to the public for bath; the rest of the fall is fairly deserted. Like a troubled adolescent who finds peace in loud, rock music we lost ourselves in the deafening gush of the milky waters. As the night set in we returned to our hotel this time not missing out on the fried fish on...
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Travelogue

Roopkund Trek

 So every time someone does some Himalayan trek and comes back, all you get to hear is - “Hey it was epic! What a fun trek! A lifetime experience” and what not. No one really tells you the difficulties involved. Before I bask in the glory of successfully making it to a glacier at 15730 feet and forget about the struggle to get there, I have to write it down.   Dallywich We got to Delhi by flight. It was scorching 46 degrees and immediately I stopped cribbing about Bangalore’s weather being horrible off late. We had a train to catch at4 pm and since we were too late to book, we got non AC chair car in Kathgodam Sampark Kranti. The seats are smaller than that of an Udupi-Kundapur express bus. With heat wave caressing us until sun set, we were already exhausted. Kathgodam (7th June) We stayed the night at KMVN Kathgodam. This is a really nice place to stay, and is very close to railway station. In and beyond Kathgodam, medical shops are not very accessible. Load up on all the meds before leaving, especially diamox. For people like us who come from lower altitudes, to fight AMS symptoms, diamox is a must. We started a course from Kathgodam. It is to administered at a dose of 250mg every day, for 7 days. It is important to take it at the same time, every day. Next morning, we met fellow trekkers at Kathgodam station and started our roller coaster journey to Lohajung in a...
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Travelogue

Great Lakes Trek

Day 1: The Flight Journey! The 8 hour long flight with two stops at Mumbai and Amritsar was not as fun as we thought. Calling flight attendant to ask whether the Golden temple was on the left or the right side of the plane and other jokes kept us engaged for the first half of the day as we reached Srinagar by around 2 PM. Rafique bhai from Shabbir travels welcomed us along with the knowledge that other states’ prepaid connections do not work in Kashmir due to security concerns. We had our lunch from Srinagar and en route to our basecamp at Sonamarg, he explained the specialities of Kashmir – Wazwan and Kahwah and of course the apples and the beautiful places – Dal Lake, Pahalgam, and Gulmarg! I slept a little on the way while we drove by the banks of river Sindh and Jhelum. It was 5.30 PM when we reached the basecamp of the trek - Sonamarg. We were told that the usual camping place was occupied by the army and hence laying down tents and camps were delayed. As soon as the kitchen tents were set up, we were served tea and had an informal introduction session. Worth mentioning is that there were people from diverse professions – IT (obviously!), government employees, architect, doctor, pastry chef/entrepreneur, research scholar, journalist, tattoo artist, medical transcriptionist, and students – never have I met this diverse bunch in any other trip. Sky had become clear after the drizzle stopped...
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Travelogue

Back-trekking Roopkund

“Far from the madding crowd” – this was the only mantra which gave me the courage to sign up for the Roopkund trek. A group of strangers (more or less), an untrained body, complete fatigue after yet another academic year – my only inspiration was my innate love for the mountains. ‘What on earth am I doing?’ spoke the little grumpy voice inside as I sipped coffee sitting at the Bangalore International Airport. I took a dumb selfie to send in the Whatsapp group hoping to encourage some friendly conversations while I continuously reminded myself that I belonged to the mountains. No real response. One of them spared a measly thumbs-up. Wow! Such friendly company for the next seven days. Sarcasm poured out of that grumpy voice inside. The freakish Delhi heat dampened my spirits further. I hated trains! I was positive I wanted to go back but the girls that I met at the airport seemed fun and it was some consolation that the fear and discomfort were mutual. The five-girls-army marched towards the overcrowded Old Delhi railway station to battle the apparent discomfort. Grumbling and groaning we got into our overnight train. As I stepped out of the train the next morning, I breathed the Kathgodam air. I could see hills. I knew it couldn't be a mistake. I felt like Bilbo Baggins, it was time I let go of my ‘walking stick’ and raise a ‘sword’ (in a literal sense I did need the walking stick after...
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Travelogue

Vythiri

They say that after you suck dry all of the juice of a ripe mango, you can throw the seed anywhere in this land and it will grow. Maybe that is why every turn of the head is another sighting of spindly coconut palms flowing in the damp air. Or how the green ivy winds its way everywhere along the edges of stones bridges and carpets the forest floor around the base of trees. Why the very vines climbing the trees even produce pods of pepper and how in the midst of all this green there are splotches of vibrant color from the flowers bearing their petals proudly. Even adjacent to the sea of tea gardens, this land is dense in rich vegetation and fauna biodiversity. Vythiri, Kerala – no wonder they call it God’s own country. Such a place is best enjoyed immersing yourself in the full beauty with hikes and short walks, and of course among friends. With a long weekend, I and few comrades had ample time to explore this lovely place. This started with a short visit to the Pookode lake where it’s possible to do paddle boating but if you’re short on time then simply walking the parameter is ideal. The air is cool under the tree shade that borders the surrounding waters and if adventurous, it is worthwhile to climb the trees view the lake and its greenery from higher above. We ended this gentle stride and exposure with a scoop of ice cream (highly...
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Travelogue

Kotagiri

An Overview They say time travel is still a myth, technically maybe. However, sometimes life allows you spaces to almost walk back in time, find places and people who seem untouched by the fast moving pace of urban civilization. You can step into the threshold of ancient tradition, wilderness and civilization as you witness and the lifestyle and habitats of the Kurumba tribe in Vallericombi. Vallericombi is 1500 m above sea level and is less travelled destination of the southern parts of India.  Filled with rich myths, ancient stories and legends, the Kurumba tribe is sure to fascinate any traveler. You will start at 8:30 am from your pick up point by driving down to Mamaram, a village which is 1600m above sea level. On your way you will cross semi rural villages and forests at the foothills of Mettupalaym. Once in Mamaram, you will hike up to Vellericombai, passing tea gardens, evergreen forests, Irula hamlets, all surrounding the Kurumba hamlet. You will spend time bird watching as this region homes a vast variety of avifauna in the Nilgiris.  Moving further you will be able to experience traditional Kurumba culture, art while enjoying your refreshments. After the interaction with the Kurumba folk, you will gear up your strengths for the challenging climb to the sacred Elitahbare, featuring rock paintings. You’ll not only learn about the significance of the Rock paintings but also about the tribal art of honey hunting. You will head back by the afternoon, for a delicious Kurumba...
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Travelogue

Har ki Dun Trek

Day 1 Sankri village 1920 mtrs “Sorry, we do not have hot water,” the caretaker at the Garhwal Mandal rest house in Sankri announced with a deadpan face. My heart sank. After enduring seven sweaty days and 52 kms on the Har-Ki-Dun trail, I was so looking forward to a hot cleansing shower! And as if to mock me, a chilly gust of Himalayan breeze slapped across my tanned and blistered face– just when I was trying to recover from this unexpected setback. I should have known better. Given Sankri’s erratic power supply and uneven phone connectivity, expecting hot showers in this remote Uttarakhand hamlet was as unrealistic as finding a McDonald’s outlet at the Everest base camp. Disappointed, I lugged my heavy backpack to the room our trek leader had assigned. Even in sweltering heat I avoid cold showers, but here I was, gingerly staring down a bucket of icy-cold water. Holding my breath, I muttered a short prayer, and surrendered myself to the bone-chilling assault. Exactly seven days ago, on April 18, we’d rolled into Sankri–our base camp for the Har-Ki-Dun trek–on a rain-soaked afternoon. Loosely translated, Har-Ki-Dun means the valley of the Gods. Located in Uttarkashi district’s Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary, the Har-Ki-Dun valley is perched at 3566 metres above sea level. Local accounts suggest that it was Jack Gibson, a teacher at Doon School, who first discovered this gorgeous U-shaped valley, fell in love with it,  and popularised the trekking route among his students. The valley offers commanding views of the Swargarohini peak, which...
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Travelogue

Kondiyanatham Hike

Up To The Hills   It was a sworn promise that the four of us (Taarak, Satyajit, Nadu and I) would make a camping trip every year in the month of December. This year the TV channels and the news warned ceaselessly about a cyclone that was about to hit Tamil Nadu. This did not deter us from packing our bags and heading off for the hills near Kacharapalayam (A camp site 150km from Puducherry). This was our third trip there. Everytime the place rejuvenated us with its splendid hills, the undulating tea plantations, the endless tapestry of trees leaning on the hillsides. As soon as we get off the bus we bid good bye to civilization for four days. As we move further into the jungle our phone signals slowly disappear. We set aside our worldly worries dive into the nakedness of nature. The blue sky above was smiling at us benevolently and the mere thought of a cyclone was laughable. After a trek of four hours the sound of a waterfall beckoned us. The sound soon turned into a deafening din as we got closer to it. We climbed down and ran towards towards the fall. Nothing like a cold shower after sweltering day of exhaustion. The sun inching towards the horizon hinted at us to move towards our first campsite. The transition between day to night is quick in the hills, the evening is just a helpless onlooker.  The soft, sandy river bank made a lovely platform...
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Travelogue

Great Lakes of Kashmir Trek

The Trek Starting early, around 5, we walked our way, close to 4 km, to the camp at Shitkadi from Sonamarg. The remaining trek members arrived the previous night and camped by the side of a small brook. The trek starts off with an unpleasant incline, soon opening up into landscapes of glorious meadows. From here, as we look away into the valley below, Sonamarg along the Sindh river appears as a small settlement. Beyond it, the mountains of the valley on either side appear fading into the horizon in a haze with greens in the foreground dissolving into diminishing shades of blues further away.  Behind us all the way up, the slopes are densely wooded with forests of chiefly Deodar, Cedrus deodara and Bhojpatra, Betula utilis, (Himalayan birch). Elms and small leafed Chinar dot the mountain sides. It a long walk on the first day. So on we went along the steep mountain slopes through the forests of Deodars then, entirely of Bhojpatra trees turned and twisted in strange shapes, their barks peeling off. Besides foaming torrents emerging from melting glaciers, the glaciers forming into beautiful shapes and patterns. Sometimes the path led us through a bed of shingle and boulders smoothened out by the stream. All the time except along closing valleys, the ground rises into grassy pastures below craggy mountain peaks. The receding snow now deposited only in their recesses and gullies showed off greyness elsewhere. Past the tree-line, we have left the forests behind us here...
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Travelogue

Rupin Trek

Rupin Pass Trek – 30th Bday Celebration Trip Rupin Pass trek covers the path along the Rupin river starting from where it cruises through the villages to where it originates. The highlight of the trek is the changing picturesque landscapes every day. Expect to see grasslands, meadows, mountains, valleys, glaciers, rivers, pine forests, lush greenery, and huge snowbound patches with zero greenery when you reach the pass. Sceneries change throughout the walk but what remains consistent is the gushing sound of the Rupin river. Though I would not consider this trek as an easy one, but the key to make the experience enjoyable is to absorb the nature and calm your mind. Different people have different ways to do it. For me it was breathing in the fresh air and soaking in the sound of the river. Those who have not been to Himalayas before will realize how majestic these mountain ranges are. As I say, leave your ego aside and trek like a river that cuts through the mountains. The more humble you are, the easier your trek goes. This trek was very dear to me since it was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday and I had never done a trek of this magnitude before. In the hindsight, I am so glad I made this trip; it was a life changing experience.   THE LEGEND OF RUPIN Legends have it that there was a wicked snake by the name of Rupin that sliced the Himalayas with...
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Travelogue

Valley of Flowers Trek

Mountainous peaks, flowing rivers, fresh water streams, the heavenly feeling of being with nature, wilderness in all its glory….. the list just goes on and on. This is what an enthusiastic group (most of them strangers to the 2 of us) of 15 trekkers had in mind when they planned a trip to the Valley of Flowers in August 2016. Having heard a lot of stories about the beauty of the Himalayas and colorful valley, we entirely forgot about where we stood on the fitness scale to be able to do a trek. Good or bad, our tickets were booked, shopping was done and excitement was running high. The Valley of Flowers is an Indian National Park located in the Western Himalayas in the State of Uttarakhand. IT is open only from June to October and is covered by snow for the rest of the year. August and September brings out the Valley of Flowers in all its vibrant hues dominated by a sea of tourists from far and wide. \ Day 1: 11 of us met at Bengaluru International Airport to go to Dehradun. Meeting everyone for the first time, we thought breakfast together was the best way to build a rapport… All the South Indian food lovers tucked into delicious Masala dosas and idlis soaked in piping hot sambhar as they know they were not going to get this cuisine for a week.. and then came selfie No.1 to mark the beginning of an EPIC trip.. Ready to...
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Travelogue

Chadar Frozen River

Chadar Trek Being in Leh in January is a challenge in itself. The flight from Delhi landed at 10 AM at the Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport at Leh. As the plane taxied off the runway the pilot announced the temperature; -13 degrees celsius. MINUS 13 DEGREES CELSIUS at 10 AM. An Experience of a Lifetime was just about to begin. This would be my first trekking experience at such low temperatures and worse was expected on the Chadar.  For those of you wondering what I am talking about, Chadar is a winter trail in the Zanskar region of Ladakh. This trek is performed on the frozen Zanskar river. Anyways, I stepped out of the plane and immediately felt the chill hit my face. In spite of it being a beautiful day with a clear blue sky and sharp sunlight, the cold was palpable. It felt like stepping into one of those high altitude lakes in Kashmir. View from the flight My mind was racing already on whether I would be able to do this? I was to lead a group and this was giving me the jitters. During the drive to the hotel, we passed through the beautiful town of Leh. It was quite different from what I had experienced in August during the peak season when the roads are crowded with tourists unlike now. Most of Leh is closed in winters except for a few hotels, restaurants and shops. The next two days were going to help me get...
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