Friday, December 26, 2014

Mainpat,Chhattisgarh,India.(Post 2)

Mainpat evokes memories of sleepy villages set against a backdrop of green rolling gentle hills and colourful fluttering flags of the Tibetans.The virgin forests,the numerous waterfalls and a unique place where the land shakes under ones feet make mainpat a perfect retreat for the people of Chhattisgarh.I personally found the solitude of the place its biggest draw. It is my favourite place in Chhattisgarh.

I visited mainpat last year and heres my post about it.Last week myself along with my work colleagues made another trip there.This time I suggested we stay the night there.We made the required arrangements beforehand and off we started at around 5pm from our place near Tamnar which is 45km from Raigarh,Chhattisgarh.Our group consisted of my seniors Amol,Yashwant,Naveen,Varun,Vinay,pankaj,satya and myself.

We reached Kamleshwarpur, which is where both the staying options of mainpat are available,at around 10 30pm.We chose the private resort Mercury instead of State Tourism's one as it was way cheaper.An arrangement was made with the manager of Mercury for a campfire.By the time we arrived the campfire was ready and our dome tent was yet to be set up.It was very chilly and the warmth of the fire quickly made us settle down around the fire.we started off with the obvious horror stories but an hour into it we couldn't quite get the spooky atmosphere going as every now and then someone cracked a witty reply to a scary situation and the whole tense build up was broken.Vinay sir told a couple of awesome stories but we had nothing much to go on so we changed tracks and launched into a full scale jokes mode.Now amol sir started off a joke that nearly had people falling off their chairs with laughter. He followed it up with another and now my cheeks were paining.One followed another and we had a wonderful night.We stayed near the fire till 1 am and then went inside our dome tent.There were cots and sleeping backs ready for us.The bags were of quechua make and quite good.We tucked in ready to sleep but with the excitement we couldn't quite sleep right away.More round of jokes followed and there was jumping around in sleeping bags.We finally slept around 3am.

The next morning I woke up with a start as Yashwant sir was yelling at the top of his voice waking everyone.It was 6 30am and we all went for a walk in the cool morning breeze to a nearby check dam.We strolled around, took in the views and took some pics.The breeze especially was refreshing.Next in the schedule was an ATV ride.Only satya and Myself were interested in that and we took it.The handle was a bit off to the left and we had some problem negotiating the vehicle.After the ride we headed off for River crossing near a nearby stream.The resort people were very laid back in their attitude and they took their own sweet time in setting up the equipment.They set up a rope across a small stream with a tree on each side.We decided to start with the one who weighed the least and that was me.I got ready with the belts,carabiners and the gloves.The crew put me in position with me hanging with my hands holding the roller.Then they left me and away I went rolling till I reached the mid point.From there I used my hands to roll to the other side of the stream.Having done a 1km zip line and bungee jumping in rishikesh I was mildly excited with this experience.After my turn it was satya's turn and one after the other everyone did it.

Next we moved to Jaljala.This was a bizarre place where the land under our feet moved as we jumped up and down.When I first heard about the place I did not give it much thought.But having reached there and experiencing it first hand was very thrilling.We jumped around here for quite some time and next moved on to a nearby waterfall.These falls are a bit far from jaljala but the route to reach it starts off from the same place.We hiked through the forest and descended down to the falls.The falls were beautiful.Vinay sir,amol sir and yashwant sir couldnt control the excitement and they jumped into the chilly waters.Shivering in the ice cold water they shouted and screamed as they tried to muster some resistance in their bodies.After they could hold on no longer they left the water and after some group pics we moved on to our next place,Fish Point.
There was a huge crowd at Fish Point as it was a sunday.We reached,immediately selected a place and undressing till our undergarments jumped into the ice cold water.We frolicked around in the water for some time and only came out when we couldn't handle the chilly water anymore.Next we moved onto Tiger Point.

It is so named because a Tiger was spotted here a long time ago.This is area is located around 5-10km from Kamleswarpur towards sitapur side.We sat around here,had some bhel and took some pics.It was soon dusk and it was time to go.On our return journey we had an awesome dinner at Tamjeed dhaba.It capped off a wonderful journey to a gem of a hillstation that is Mainpat.

A short video of our trip.

In Brief -
Mainpat is 178km from Raigarh and 80km from Ambikapur.
Best time to visit is in the monsoon season and winter season.
Staying options include the privately owned Mercury Resorts and a Govt owned Resort.
A car can be booked from Raigarh.It costs around Rs3000 - Rs4500.People here genrally charge Rs11 per km here.Buses ply between Ambikapur and Raigarh but they are largely unreliable and not comfortable

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tram ride in Kolkatta,India

     The trams of Kolkata present one of the best modes of viewing the city.And I find it the most
The Heritage Tram
charming.The tram rattles on like it has all the time in the world.Leisurely and at its own sedate pace the tram offers a relaxing ride around the congested streets.Introduced in 1873 they were initially horse drawn.In 1900 electrification followed.It is managed by Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC).Interestingly CTC was listed a joint stock company in London in 1880 and after Independence West Bengal Govt entered into an agreement with it and eventually took over all rights to manage the trams.It is the only remaining tram network in India.Other cities where tramways were introduced but later stopped were Delhi,Mumbai,Chennai and Kanpur.
     Last month I took a trip in a tram.Satya(my room mate) and myself booked a ride in a Heritage Tram,an initiative by the WB Govt to promote tram tourism.After much searching we found the booking office at Esplanade from where the ride starts.Apart from us there was also a family of 3.
The circuit was follows
Esplanade-Dalhousie square-Belgachia-College street-Espanade.

It covers a number of landmark buildings in its circuit.We were not given any list of those buildings to watch out so we looked out in total ignorance.Also the AC didnt work and we were left sweating in the humid climate.
The rest of the post in pictures.

Inside the Tram

The beautiful tickets
My favourite pic of the trip
For online bookings

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jhansi,Uttar Pradesh

This is a part of my Adventure Trip to Uttarakhand in May 2014
We reached Delhi in the morning by 5am.India's fastest train,the New Delhi Bhopal Shatabdi was set to depart at 6am.We made our way to the platform 1 and waited for the train to arrive.It did at around 5 30am and we quickly boarded it.

We reached Jhansi at 10 45am.Bhanu's train to nagpur was at 1 30pm.There was only one thing on bhanu's mind the whole time and it was buying a pair of ear phones and nothing else interested him.When we finally reached Jhansi the first thing we did was take a share auto to the city and find a good electronics shop to buy them.We asked around and were directed to go to an area called sadar bazar.It seems every other city in north india has a locality named sadar bazar.Anyway we went there and in our very first try at a shop,got a decent prized ear phones.From here we proceeded to Elliot chowk to have a quick lunch at rolla ,a fast food joint serving rolls,shwarmas and burgers.Then the time came for us to part.Bhanu was to go to the railway station to catch his train to nagpur while i would continue my exploration of jhansi by visiting it two museums and a fort.Both bhanu and myself are not emotional guys and I was thinking of getting over this parting business quickly but bhanu surprised me with a 'when will we meet again razzu?'I was a little taken aback by this but replied that we will meet soon.Hopefully like this sudden plan we will come up with something.After the pain of separating after the wonderful trip we had together I proceeded to the museum known as Rani Mahal.I met an extremely helpful guy who directed me the place.He even came over and told the share-auto driver to drop me off at the rani mahal.

After criss crossing the by lanes of Jhansi I reached the Rani Mahal.I fond out that Archaeological Soceity of India houses its Museum here.Sadly I found the condition of the museum to be very bad.inside there were hundreds of sculptures in various rooms.The exhibits are kept in poor conditions and in someplaces theres no light. The only good thing to see in the museum is the building itself.As soon as one enters the building theres a square courtyard in the middle.To the left there is a staircase that goes to the top floor.Here on the first floor one finds the best thing to see in the entire Museum.The area which I deduce to be the central area of the whole museum where the queen must have interacted with her subjects.Behind this room there is another smaller room with excellent artwork on the walls.this room is a must see.After deciding there was nothing much to see i left the building making a mental note to write to the ASI urging them to improve the condition of the museum.
 Next on the list was the other museum.I was carrying my heavy rucksack and the sun was out in full force.I went to a juice stall to quench my thirst and at the same time inject some much needed salts in my body.In the course of my drinking I asked the juice wallah about the location of the other museum.He gave me the directions and i found out that on the way to the museum lies the fort.It was 2 30pm in the afternoon and there was too much heat.The temperature in nearby Gwalior was 47'C .So I decided not to tempt my migraine and proceeded to the museum first.I decided to visit the fort at around 4 30pm or 5 pm when things cooled down a bit.This other museum was maintained by the State Dept amid was much better than the ASI one.It had many interactive panels and many models.The only exhibit which was remarkable was a british soldier's helmet.

           After visiting this museum I went to the fort and hired a guide there.With Rs100 he showed me around the fort.The fort is compact and interesting.It was here that the valiant queen Rani of Jhansi fought with the British and later died.There is a spot there from where it is said that she jumped off  into the battle with the british.After the short tour with the guide I took an auto and went directly to the railway station where I had boarded my train back to Raigarh thus ending the adventure trip.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bungee Jumping and Zip Lining in Rishikesh,India

This is a part of my Adventure Trip to Uttarakhand in May 2014

After the thrilling river rafting in the morning,it was time for one of the most extreme adventure activities,Bungee Jumping.Immediately after our rafting trip was done we headed to Jumpin Heights office and booked our slot for the afternoon activities. We boarded their bus which starts from their office and reached the site in around 40 minutes.There were three activities to be done and there were some combo packs too.We decided to take the combo pack of bungee jumping and zip lining with bungee as priority.

As we made our way to the bungee platform there was a slight uneasiness in my stomach as I looked at the platform to my left and I wondered if I would be able to jump at all.When we reached their Bhanu was told to move ahead and I was asked to wait.This is because of weight difference.The 60 plus people were being told to jump first.I sat there chatting with another girl who had come from Chandigarh.She had quite an amusing story to tell.She came to Rishikesh with her brother and his girlfriend.This girl was the get-your-sister-into-the-trip-as-more-than-one-girl-is-there-and-parents-of-girlfriend-allow-her-to-go card that her brother used well.Now in Rishikesh she was all alone and trying all the adventure activities she could.

A call from the jump master made us break our conversation.He motioned me come and I went to the end of the platform where a jumper jumps off.Here I saw Bhanu all set with the bungee cord and the safety cord tied firmly to him.He was standing at the edge and looking down.I wondered if he could jump.Then the jump master started the countdown.And the suddenly just like that Bhanu took off.Swoosh! and gone down! I was jumping around like a seal on the platform not able to contain my excitement.Here I was.On the bungee platform having seen these kind of jumps on television and movies so often and then wishing that someday that I will also do the same.Now in front of me Bhanu just did it.And it was my turn next! I was mighty excited and pumped up.The crew having finished with Bhanu's jump came to me next and started with the formalities.There were few instructions.The most repeated one was to jump properly,in such a way that I should not strike back the platform when the bungee springs back.I was advised to jump like they do when diving in water.After the cord was tied up I was take to the edge.I was standing near the edge and Martina,one of the crew told me move my feet nearer to the edge.I moved a little.She told me move it more.I did slowly.She continued to do this until I had my feet half way over the edge.When I looked down for the first time,the wind knocked out of me.The drop was scary and I was scared.It shows on the video.For a fleeting second I thought I cannot do this.I simply cant! But then I steeled myself saying to myself that I cannot turn back now.Bungee Jumping was on my bucket list for a long time and I was not going turn back now.The jump master helped me by tilting my head upwards away from the scary drop below.But I couldn't jump blindly and I told him so.I wanted to look down into the drop and jump.This was the hardest part of the whole jump,gathering the courage to look into the scary drop,conquering that fear and taking the leap.
 The jump master asked me if I was ready I replied in the affirmative and he started 






I jumped.Nothingness for a few seconds!
Some kind of mixing in my stomach as I fell freely under the influence of gravity!
When I look back at the first few seconds of the jump all I remember is that I was in some kind of a trance.The bungee springing back broke me from the trance.Then I spread my arms wide and started screaming on top of my lungs! I did it!
I finally did it!
Slowly the the bungee straightened out and I was received at the bottom.As soon as I landed they gave me a 'I got guts' badge which I proudly wore for the rest of the day!
We also did Zip Lining which was exciting but after the bungee jump didn't seem much.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

River Rafting in River Ganga.Rishikesh,India.

This is a part of my Adventure Trip to Uttarakhand in May 2014

Having taken a refreshing night's rest in Rishikesh we were,in the sunny morning,much excited about the River rafting trip that lay ahead of us.Since my engineering days I had a intense desire to do rafting.My original plan was to do rafting in Dandeli in Karnataka but that didn't materialise and fate bought me to River Ganga for the adrenaline pumping activity.
            We had already booked our slot with Red Chilly Adventures and off we went to their Assembly point.After brief formalities and being introduced to the other members of our group we were taken,some 30kms from the city,to our starting point on the river.Here we met our instructor and after detailed instructions about safety and what to do and what not to do,were given our life jackets and helmets.I was jumping with excitement and could barely contain my enthusiasm.With much restlessness I listened to everything but I did pay attention as ignoring the instructions would be very risk.With the formalities over we sat inside the raft.I wanted to take the front part but the seats were allotted by the instructor and we had to comply.Soon we were into the calm and placid water of the Ganga and were gliding over it.On guide then gave a shout to start rowing.He just shouted 'start' and we started rowing.Then a shout of 'stop' made us stop.This we practised for a sometime correcting whatever mistakes there were in our holding the paddles,our sitting posture,our rowing motion etc. After a few tries our guide got a bit disappointed and declared that he found a lack of enthusiasm from the group.He then ordered everyone to jump out of the raft.We looked at each other with surprise,some with alarm.But I was already turning over and looked at him for confirmation and with his yes I jumped. The water was very cold and it sucked the wind out of my lungs.
Slowly everyone jumped out and we all were floating around the raft holding it.It was fun.right ahead lay some gentle rapids and our guide told us to go through it still floating.I was a bit nervous now but as we passed them all my nervousness vanished.The rapids were gentle and we enjoyed it.After floating or body surfing as it is called we climbed back into the raft and prepared for higher grade rapids.
          We passed though many rapids each better than the last and more thrilling.The raft collided with the waves,wildly swinging us in our places.We held on somehow. The water splashed on our faces and bodies.We were swayed,rattled,shocked,alarmed and at times downright scared but we held on and completed the whole ride of around 20kms.It was the most thrilling fun I ever had until the afternoon when I went for a even more thrilling activity!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trek to Nag Tibba,Night 2 and after.

                After a snack of delicious hot pakoras we changed into fresh clothes and went for a stroll around ourcamp.The location of the camp was excellent.Huge tress were behind our camps and the front offered beautiful views of the village with the mountains in the background.Soon darkness was enveloping us and we made our way back to the camp.On reaching we found out that a camp fire was set up for us.we took seats around the warm and comforting fire and soon engaged in conversations,the kind of which spring up after a day of action and adventure.Only the five of us were around the fire as Mr Vinay and family retired for the night a bit early.
                Tall trees,mountains and camp fire,with these settings the conversation was begging to be taken in the right direction,the direction of scary stories and I provided the impetus by suggesting we start talking about it.Everyone readily accepted with much enthusiasm. Raja started things off by a really scary story about an incident that happened to him and one of his friend.A eerie silence followed the completion of the story and set the right mood for the rest of the night.Then I started talking about urban legends.Being a huge horror fan I had a number of stories with me.And I kept narrating one after the other.The reaction I got with the end of each story was priceless.The nooos!,the shits!,the f*** really pushed me on.I never had so much fun since the horror sessions I used to have back in my school days.I racked my brain for every horror novel or short story I had read (and I have read many) that I could remember,Ambrose Bierce,Algernon Blackwood,Conan Doyle,Edgar Allan Poe,HP Lovecraft, and others.
          Soon my stock was running out and to keep things interesting I thought up an idea.I suggested we start imagining things or run scenarios of our own.But nobody wanted to do it.Shreya especially was getting scared and requested everyone to stop.Heeding her request we started talking about other things.These were equally interesting.We discussed stuff about time travel,existence of aliens,possibilities of MH370,science fiction novels and movies and many other interesting topics.
At around 12,the fire was dying out and as we couldn't find any more dry sticks to continue it,we decided to end the discussion and tucked in for the night.
          The next day we woke up leisurely and and went for a visit to the lovely village.The village had many quaint dwellings and a beautiful temple which reminded bhanu of the watchtowers of the computer game -Age of Empires.After this visit ended it was time for our departure.We packed our stuff and departed in our tempo traveller.We reached our guest house at around 4pm and after a good conversation to keep in touch we parted ways.Bhanu and myself were headed towards Rishikesh next.

PS-We had an excellent time with GIO Adventures and the way they handled the emergency on the night of the first day when the hailstorm stuck was very good.I wont think twice which agency to choose the next time I plan to trek again.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Trek to Nag Tibba,Day 2

The morning air was cold and refreshing.We had a breakfast of bread and jam.Then we all did some stretching exercises as the pain in our legs from the previous days effort had not subsided yet.In between I heard Mr chand mentioning that we wont be going to the nag tibba summit as the weather was unpredictable and Mr Vinay and family were not willing to take any chances.I was disappointed. I badly wanted to go.Bhanu suggested that we divide the group into two groups and whoever wishes can go for the summit and the rest can stay back.Mr chand approved and soon Ishani,Raja and Shreya joined in.Mr Vinay and family stayed back and later it was decided that they would start their return journey back to the base village immediately.

The five of us with Mr chand started off for the summit at around 10am.We hiked through some beautiful surroundings.In between tall trees,on a steep gradient,we went on for two hours and finally reached the peak.My first Himalayan peak.I was very excited and happy and so was everyone.The views from the top were exquisite.There was green grass everywhere and far into the horizon a number of other peaks could be seen.Because of the bad weather we were not able to see some famous snow peaks which are usually visible from here.We sat around the Jhandi there which marks the peak and took in the atmosphere.
At the peak

The Jhandi

Only on Mr Chand's repeated urging that we started for the return.He kept telling us that we still had lots of distance to cover and the sooner we start the better it will be.In the initial plan we were supposed to move to our second campsite but due to the weather Mr chand advised we go directly to the last point of our trek,a village.We started off and within 2 hours reached our first basecamp. From here we collected our backpacks and after a brief rest started off for the village.An hour into our descent it began to rain.At first it was slow and gentle but slowly it picked up speed and lashed onto us.I thought we will be stopping but Mr chand strongly advised that it would be foolish to stop.It was important for us to reach the safety of a camp in a village.It was risky for us to get stranded in the forest with the rain and the darkness.All of us took out our rain gear and went on with the trek.It was the second best experience of the whole trek. Atleast for me.I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the mountains in the rain.To experience rain in the mountains is a very different feeling altogether.

But it did pose quite a few problems there.The trail became muddy and there was heavy chance of slipping and falling down.This further impeded our progress.Another problem was water.We had no drinking water with us.I tried to gather some water in my water bottle.I walked for 15 minutes with my water bottle with its cap open.But water didn't accumulate in that.So I abandoned the idea.I kept thinking about Bear Grylls. What he would do.I haven't watched his shows much but even then from whatever little I saw I tried hard to recollect.Nothing came to mind.After sometime Raja and myself drank water which had accumulated on a stone surface.We took breaks and sat there on the muddy trail itself whenever we got tired.We were so tired that we no longer cared about our clothes or where we sat or what we drank.We had only one thing in mind.Reach the village.We walked on on what appeared to be an endless trail.At around 5pm in the evening we finally reached the scenic village.By the time we reached everyone was drenched to the skin.Except me.My jacket served me well.Also I was the only one apart from the guide who didnt fall even once.In our camp Hot pakoras were waiting for us.It tasted heavenly.We all sat in the master tent and narrated our adventure to Mr Vinay and family.That ended our second day.For the description of the awesome campfire we had wait for the next post.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Trek to Nag Tibba,Night 1

As we were waiting it began to drizzle.The drops landed on my face and i could feel the cold,rejuvenating drops as they flowed down on my face.I was there high in the mountains,in the middle of nowhere,with the huge forests all around and then the trance like rain.Everything seemed so magical.I was enchanted by it all.I was woken up from this trance like state by bhanu urging me to get into the tent as the intensity of the rain slowly began to increase.We clambered into our tents.It was getting dark slowly and we had to take out our torches.
            We were longing for the maggi now as pangs of hunger grew bigger.While talking my head was touching the roof of the tent.Suddenly something big hit me on the head through the roof.I winced in pain and immediately withdrew my head.Even as I was checking for any cut a sudden sound of pattering rose up.It looked as if stones were being thrown at the roof of our tent.immediately Bhanu unzipped the first layer of the tent and lifted the outer flap.We could see nothing and then I shone my torch over the area.To our amazement we saw a layer of white sparkling ice all over the area.It was a hailstorm.We were mighty excited now.It was ice and huge balls of it were falling all around.I immediately took out my camera and started filming the whole thing. Bhanu gave a running commentary.Like I said in my previous post,I love imagining.different scenarios started in my head.I imagined myself to be in a remote Antarctic research station and was caught up in a huge storm.
                With these thoughts in my mind we were wondering what our next plan would be for the night when we heard a low whisper in the sound of hail.I looked at Bhanu to confirm if he too had heard it.He returned my look, nodding.We strained our ears to hear.Another whisper now, more of a shout.It was louder than the previous one.We lifted up the flap and saw a figure coming towards our tent.It was Mr chand and he seemed a big agitated.He told us to vacate the tent and come out.We understood immediately.The ice was piling up the on the roof of the tent and we weren't sure of the tent would hold up the weight.I took out my jacket,stuffed my camera in a side pocket and off we went.It was still raining thought the hail reduced considerably.Sounds of thunder came from far off.With flashes of thunder the entire landscape was lit up and the hills looked majestic in those momentary flashes.
            The three of us clung to each other as we walked over white ice and slippery stones.The only means of lighting out our way was the torch we had.We walked on slowly and reached the forest rest house.As we entered in we found the others already there sitting in the front room.The porters did a commendable job of setting up a fire in the fireplace and setting up the cooking equipment.The others were taking in the warm,comfortable heat radiating from the fireside.I could see the looks of worry on their faces.Mr and Mrs Vinay had every reason to worry.They had little kids with him and this was not a good situation to be in with kids.Raja,Ishani and Shreya sat glumly on the floor trying to get some circulation back into their numb feet. Bhanu and myself were the only ones who were enjoying this unexpected development.But we kept out excitement in check.I didn't want to upset the others.As we waited there I began to think about our plans for the night.I asked Mr Chand about our sleeping arrangement.He said that we have to spend the night there in that dilapidated rest house itself.I was disappointed for a minute.I always wanted to spend a night in a tent and sadly it wasn't going to happen that night.On the bright side I was getting to stay in a forest rest house.I didn't do that before either.So Bhanu and myself began to do a small Recce of the building.We opened the from room door and made our way in.All we had now as Bhanu's power bank with us which showed us the way.One of the porters took my torch to bring back other stuff from the main camp.As we started exploring I began to think of one of my favourite horror movies 'Blair witch project' The famous last scene of the movie involves a similar house in the woods as the one we were in.Our Rest House had a simple layout. There was a small hall which separated the front room from another room at the back.After our little exploration was done the porters cleaned up the place and the kids were immediately sent to sleep in the back room.It was decided that the ladies and the kids would sleep in the back room.Meanwhile we went back to our tent to bring back our rucksacks.All along the way I filmed the whole thing.I covered my camera with a polythene bag and somehow managed to take the video.We got back with our rucksacks and began to prepare for the night.We changed clothes and with Mr Chand's help set up out sleeping bags. Bhanu and Myself took the worst place to sleep.It was right on the path leading from front room to the back room and on top of it there was a toilet room on my left.I could do nothing but close the door and hope for the best.Meanwhile in the middle of all these activities going on we were given excellent hot soup and rice with dal prepared by our jovial cook Mr Yashpal.Both were delicious and this lifted everyone's mood a little bit.Mr Chand told us that in his ten years as a guide he experienced this kind of situation only twice before.After dinner we had nothing to do but sleep.With the rain still drizzling out side, one by one everyone tucked in for the night.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Trek to Nag Tibba,Day 1

(This was the second day of my Adventure trip to Uttarakhand.This trek journey started off from Dehradun.)

Part 1-
5am.I woke up excited thinking the big day has finally come.I got ready with thoughts of trek swirling in my mind.I was expecting bhanu around 6am.Time for departure for the trek was at 7am.Meanwhile I met Raja,fellow trekker who had arrived just then.He came from delhi after a hair raising journey by bus.As he couldn't catch a moments sleep in the bus he wanted to take some rest.We chatted for a while and then I went out to guide bhanu to the guest house.Soon bhanu arrived and got ready.We found out that the vehicle which was to take us to Pantwari was late and we had some extra time with us.Raja and bhanu took the news happily as they could get some more sleep.After they had their sleep there was an ice breaker session, though it didn't break much ice.Our guide introduced himself first.His name was Sreechand and he had been in the business for the past 10 years.That was reassuring for all of us who were,which I later found out,first timers.There were a total of 9 people with 1 guide and 1 cook.We all introduced ourselves though I didn't remember anyone's name.After this little session we started off in our vehicle tempo traveller.Our vehicle was late and this time gap affected our trek later in the day. Anyway we had an uneventful journey to pantwari.We took the herbertpur route.The journey was picturesque and I was getting all excited for the trek.We reached Pantwari at around 12pm.

Part 2- Start of the Trek
The trek started off in real earnest.There was a small trail leading away from the village up the hill.Initially there were a number of steps leading up along a temple dedicated to Nag Devta.We passed along this temple and up the steps.After about 5 minutes my breath started heaving.I looked around and sure enough everyone was out of breath.I was surprised with myself now.I was wondered if took the trek too lightly as,in spite of my thorough and careful planning,I paid no attention to the physical demands of the trek.Then I thought maybe it was the initial stress one feels when one is suddenly thrust into doing hard physical work.Sure enough slowly the rhythm got into us and we were feeling better.Meanwhile little conversations began to start with us and the rest of the group.Out of the nine,four were a family,Mr and Mrs Vinay and their kids,gautam and siddharth.The kids were all excited and racing ahead of everyone.They had to be regularly kept in check by their parents.But I liked how discipled the kids were.One command to stop and they did.No fussing no whining.Also both were adorable.Then sometime later I got to know about Ishani and Shreya.Both were studying law in Nalsar in Hyderabad.This Hyderabad part served the fuel for the initial conversation and slowly the group was getting along nicely.

After a walk of about half an hour we gained some height and we could see the village down below to our right.It was a beautiful sight.From here the pics session began.After a brief halt we resumed.
Mr Chand told me to tighten the straps around my shoulders and chest.He told me to keep in mind one basic thing about rucksacks.The whole weight of the pack shouldn't be taken up by the shoulders.It should be divided between the shoulders,the chest and the stomach.After he adjusted the straps of my rucksack,I could feel the difference.I could move better now.As every martial arts movie says 'the weapon and the person holding it should feel as one',I felt one with my bag.It felt as it were a part of me.With these funny thoughts I moved on. Inspite of Mr chand's repeated advice to not drink more water we all did anyway and soon our bottles were running low on water.Luckily we reached a water stream which to the dismay of some of us was nothing like a stream.It was flowing out of a tap and this destroyed the mental romantic notion we had had of a mountain stream.However,We were to find more natural and beautiful streams the next day.

Along with us trekkers and Mr Chand, we also had porters with donkeys with us.They carried our tents and food supplies.With their superior speed they moved ahead of us.Watching them go I couldn't help but think of Dr Livingstone and his various expeditions.Also the novel King Solomon's Mines,where the lead character goes on an expedition into the interiors of Africa.They all had porters and donkeys with them.I imagined myself to be on such an expedition.That pumped in energy into me.I have this habit of imagining.I believe they make the trip,any trip more thrilling and enjoyable.For example when I was going on a safari in the jungles of Achanakmar in Chhattisgarh I imagined myself to be a famous hunter in the likes of Jim Corbett or the time when I went to the very underrated Bijapur in karnataka, I imagined myself to be some 18th century explorer searching for lost cities. Irrespective of what people tell me I enjoy imagining.I do it all the time.Coming back to the trek.The rocky terrain was disappointing us.For different reasons.reasons. Bhanu for example was complaining that this doesn't seem like a proper trek.He wanted a barely recognisable trail with dense forest all around.For shreya,the path was making it more difficult(than for others) for her to walk on.

Stopping,chatting and taking in the views We trekked away in the afternoon sun.Slowly sweat began to form on my face.Beads of perspiration trickled down from my face onto my shirt and The weight of the rucksack was pulling me down with every step.It was getting more and more tiring and we were getting quite restless to reach the base camp.We kept asking Mr Sreechand the same question again and again,when will we reach? And irrespective of the distance we covered or the distance left,his answer was always the same 'thodi der me'(soon).In her frustration Ishani jokingly threatened Mr Chand and he just laughed it off.

We walked along flower beds,besides dropping slopes,on rocks,among herds of goats grazing,in dense forest cover before finally arriving out into a clearing with some smooth stones.Mr chand gave out a stop command and declared that it was time for lunch.Relieved and happy,we took out our packed lunches which had been given to us at the start of the trek.The lunch consisted of a boiled egg,a banana,a mashed potato,two parathas and a tetra pack of frooti.Hungry and tired we gorged down on the food.After the much needed lunch break we again set out.We were in a hurry to reach the base camp before dusk.Shreya's problems compounded when she tripped and her leg got cramps.Mr chand showed her some exercises which eased the pain a bit.She nodded her agreement but I oculd clearly see the pain in her face.But we had to move on and slowly we did.Ishani was the photography enthusiast amongst us and she kept taking pictures of the scenery and of us.She took a number of awesome pics.The views on offer were amazing.The hills stretched away into the horizon.The sound our feet made as we stepped on the leaves coupled with the forest and the hills around was mesmerizing.I had always dreamed of going on a proper trek and here I was out in the hills with a fine group of people.I was happy and content.

We passed by many beautiful places.There was a small,quaint abandoned hut right beside a steep drop.I wondered how a person could live there.Sometime later shreya tripped again and wincing in pain she sat down declaring she wouldn't be able to move for some time.Raja helpfully offered to do some accupressure massage and that eased her pain for the time being.With Mr Vinay and family racing ahead and Shreya limping behind we made progress as fast as we possibly could.We passed by beautiful fields, carpets of flowers,abandoned huts,some beautiful birds we couldn't identify,fallen trees and small water streams.Sometime in the afternoon when bhanu and myself got a bit behind the group,bhanu suggested we take a short cut and we did.We bypassed everyone and got to the front of the group.When the kids caught up they started calling us 'buffalo cheater'! I was perplexed as to what exactly a buffalo cheater meant? That still remains in my own Unsolved mysteries list.With these little bits of humour and fun we kept on walking.As evening approached Mr chand suggested we quicken our pace as we wouldn't want to be left on the trail when it got dark.We were very tired by now and nothing could induce us to go faster and we plodded on at our own pace.Soon we reached a gentle hill behind which Mr chand told us,lay our camp.

Finally as soon as we crossed that gentle hill,I could see specks of red and blue in the distance.To my delight it was our base camp.The location couldn't have been better.A small trail ran along the gentle hill towards the tents.In front of the tents away some distance was a drop,with lots of trees.Behind the tents the hill sloped up with forest cover starting after some distance.The tents lay in the middle of a clearing.We had five tents with a master tent which served as a kitchen and also as dining hall.We reached,just threw our bags and sat down on the cool grass to relax.We were given hot tea and that refreshed us.Hot maggi was being prepared for us when suddenly something unexpected happened that just threw our schedule for the night in disarray.More about it in my next post.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adventure Trip to Uttrakhand,India: Inroduction.

        Not long ago I made a small goal for myself.That I would complete atleast one Himalayan trek in the next 5 years.Though it looks easy,the kind of circumstances I was in at that time made it look very difficult.I made the whole plan of the trip and was only looking for an opportunity to go.I choose Nag Tibba Trek for our first trek as I read in countless websites that it was one of the best treks for first timers.Next step was to choose a Trek Agency.After doing lots of research I choose Great Indian Outdoors.As I found out later my whole planning paid off as GIO was excellent in its service.So everything was in place and all I needed was a leave.So last month when an opportunity presented itself I grabbed it with both hands and off I went to Uttarakhand for the Adventure Trip.To make things even better Bhanu,my childhood friend, took a sudden leave and joined me.Without further delay, here starts my day wise trip account.

         I arrived in Dehradun at 11 30 pm in the night.I took an Auto and reached Vasant Vihar,where the Guest House of GIO was located.Here the trouble began.We couldn't find the exact address given.All the streets looked the same.I tired to make sense of the maps given but couldnt. The road were deserted and no one was around.After spending 30 minutes searching,I saw a watchman.I asked him and he gave some vague directions.I called up Rahul,the caretaker and he said that he would be out of the house waiting for us.After asking two other watchmen we finally reached he Guest house. I checked in at 12 30am.After a brief chat with Rahul I went in to sleep.Having slept uneasily due to a power cut,I got up at 8am next day and had a nice breakfast prepared by Rahul.I had wonderful parantas and egg bhurji.

           I decided to take a stroll around the place and in the process also visit the famed Forest Research Institute(FRI).It was a sunny day.FRI was at a walking distance from the guest house and I reached the main gate in 15 minutes.I took a Rs15 ticket at the entrance and walked in.The campus was cool and pleasant with trees everywhere.There was a straight road with pretty houses nestled among trees,at each side.At one one house I saw two kids playing with a football in the small garden in front of the house.Everything looked so peaceful.I also saw people on bicycles zipping around the campus.I kept walking and after sometime I could see the main building emerge out amongst the trees.Just then I saw a girl with a fedora hat on her ,cycling and holding an umbrella over her.In the background was the beautiful building.The whole scene looked right out from a university campus of UK.I moved closer towards the building and started taking pictures.The building was built in 1878 by Dietrich Brandis.The architecture is Greko Roman.

             Initially I was doubtful of entering as I could see no one.I kept strolling at the front for sometime and soon saw a couple of kids emerge.I followed their direction and went inside.The building is huge and it gets confusing.I kept aimlessly strolling inside and was looking for some kind of map to guide me.The hallways especially were beautiful and I took many pics here.I found out that there are six museums inside the building.
One needs to buys a separate ticket for visiting them.It costs Rs25 per person.Two of them were closed for renovation.I visited the rest.They are more like four sections instead of museums in their own right.They were average and nothing remarkable for the casual visitor.Lonely Planet describes them as leftovers from a school science fair.Of the four,the wood museum evinced the most interest from me.There were models of machines and buildings here which i liked.After strolling to my satisfaction I made my way outside.I walked to an area known as Ballupur.After having lunch in a local restaurant I went to a internet cafe and went over my plan and strengthened it with back up plans and alternatives.After going over and over the plans and when I was satisfied I made my way back to the Guesthouse preparing myself for a relaxing evening and then tucking in for the night.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary,Chhattisgarh

'Seek the Tiger,Find the Jungle' So goes the catchphrase of a Jungle Resort advertisement along with a picture of a tiger which in turn is made up of pictures of a number of other animals.The first time I saw that ad I was totally enticed by it.I decided then itself that I would someday go on a jungle safari to spot a tiger.That was a year back and just three days back i visited the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary near Bilaspur to try my luck at spotting a tiger.I did a lot of research,studied maps,dug out old info from the internet and carefully planned our trip.Here goes my trip report.

Trip Report

Day 1

Satya and myself started off from our hostel at 7 30am and arrived at raigarh by 9am.Then we boarded the azad hind express and reached bilaspur by 12 noon.Our car was waiting for us and after having breakfast and doing some shopping for the trip ahead of us we started at around 1 30pm.Midway we decided to skip lunch and head directly to achanakmar village and take the afternoon safari which starts at 2 30pm.The distance from bilaspur to achanakmar is around 60km and we reached achanakmar by 2 45pm.To our dismay we found that the Gypsys available with the Forest Dept were already booked and we had to take our own vehicle with us.The cost for private vehicle is Rs1300 and for the gypsy it is Rs2000.Diesel Vehicles are not encouraged here though they allow them.We completed the formalities at the gate and a guide was allotted to us.Every vehicle is allotted a guide and it is mandatory to take one.So with our guide we made our way inside.

The path inside is a kacha road with two distinct ways for the tyres on each side with some growth of grass in the middle.Half an hour into the forest we came acros a village called Sarasdol.It is a beautiful little village.A little ahead there is open area with knee length grass all around..Our guide tells us that this in this area there is high probability of spotting animals.We saw a whole bunch of monkeys lazily sitting in the grass.The animals come here to sit in the sunshine.This is the only time we got the opputunity to get down from our car. We stopped by an anti poaching unit shelter and our guide chatted with the guys inside and tried to get the latest info about the animal movements.After this little stop we moved ahead.Sometime later we saw bisons crossing the path ahead and we stopped.The guide told the driver to switch off the engine and the driver promptly complied.We stared at the animals and took some snaps.The bisons were huge.Our guide told us that one time a bison got annoyed with a car's presence and attacked,overthrowing the whole car.We started again as soon as the bisons were out of our path.

I was deeply immersed into this whole animal spotting thing and was thinking of the stories of Jim Corbett and the many other stories of man eating lions when suddenly something came underneath our tyres and gave a loud crackling sound.I jumped in excitement and fear at the same time.It was a fallen branch of a tree.I relaxed.The whole jungle atmosphere and the stories my mind was throwing up got to me and I reminded myself that I was fooling myself with all such thinking.One more hour passed and nothing showed up.It was getting dusk and light was slowly falling.Our guide then took us to the Majhidongri Watchtower.It is on a high altitude and we could see all around the forest from here.The view was spectacular.There are two watchtowers.This one and the other at

Kumhipani which is inaccessible by car.From here we moved to a lake.Just fours days back a tiger was spotted here drinking water.We stopped by here and scanned the whole perimeter of the lake.Again nothing.We started off.By now light had fallen considerably and our driver had to switch on his headlights.A little ahead we saw deers.Lots of them.We stopped,took some pics which didnt come out because of the fading light.After this we reached the starting point and thus ended out first safari.At the gate the attendant told us that a gypsy was available for use the next day and we could book it today itself.After a brief discussion amongst ourselves we decided to take the it and booked it.We then moved off to a nearby coffee center.We had coffee and some snacks and then went for our resort at Shivtarai.We

had some difficulty in finding it.What with the darkness all around.Green Valley Resort is located behind a High school.It offers nothing but the bare minimum.The rooms were bare.The Food was excellent though.We ordered dal,egg curry,rotis and rice.We sat outside,wearing our winter wear, in the open under the stars.The chill passed through our clothes and was making us uncomfortable.One mouthful of dal fry and roti later a comfortable warmth seeped inside.We finished our dinner and were soon fast asleep.I would suggest you book this resort as your last resort(no pun intended).Try the Forest Rest House first at shivtarai first.All the other FRHs(Lamni,Chaparwa,Achanakmar ,ataria) have been closed for tourists.The only stay options are at Shivtarai and next at Amarkantak.This is in view to protect the core zone.

Day 2

The next day we woke up at 5am and were off by 6am.Everything was still dark and light was slowing approaching.We reached the gate and after completing the formalities a gypsy was alotted to us.Our driver excited by the previous days experiance joined us.So the five of us the gypsy driver,the guide,our driver,satya and myself started off in our gypsy.Three of us satya,the guide and myself stood on the back.This was thrilling ! It felt like those discovery shows where they go on safaris in the plains of africa. The engine hummed quietly,twigs got crushed underneath the gypsys tyres,somewhere far birds chirped and I kept my eyes glued to the path ahead of us in

the hope of spotting something. On our second attempt I was hoping to catch a glimpse of a predator.

I imagined myself to be a famous hunter out in the jungles on the trail of a tiger.I had watched ghost and the darkness a long time ago and the story kept revolving in my mind.This time our route was a different one we started off from where we ended the previous day.We reached Majhidongri Watchtower again and the views were even better than before.The mist in the mountains added more charm to the already spectacular view.Next on the route was tha lake at Sivahalsagar.Our guide told us if lucky we could watch crocodiles sunbathing.But we had no such luck.We saw a tame elephant

though.There are four elephants in the sanctuary.One of them was very angry.It was pacing to and forth and one of the mahouts kept saying that there was lot of 'heat' inside him.Whatever that meant.There was a shelter here and we spent half an hour talking with the mahouts.They entertained us by telling stories of how they catch elephants and tame them.After spending some time here we moved on.On this tour also we saw nothing new.Again we saw bisons,deers,wild hens and langurs.Though a tad bit dissipointed we were satisfied at having experienced our first jungle safari.Our tour ended by 10 30am.From here we went back to bilaspur,did some shopping,had lunch and by 5pm we were on our way back to raigarh.Thus ended one of my best trips in chhatissgarh.

In Brief

->Achanakmar Village is around 55km from Bilaspur.

->Shivtarai comes in between and is around 15km form Achanakmar WS Gate.

->We hired a scorpio from Saigal Travels from Bilaspur(9039631630).Rs1200 for One day plus Rs 8 per KM.They also offer a Gypsy with a package.Rs 6000 including 150km.Maa Travels(9827888704) are also good.I had good experience with them on my previous trip to Ratanpur.

->The only Stay options are FRH(Forest Office,Bilaspur,9752458999)(Co st is Rs600/day) at Shivtarai and Green Valley Resort at Shivtarai(Rs1200/day and Rs1500 per day.Both negotiable)

->Bring a SUV.Sedans and Hatchbacks can't negotiate the path inside the jungle.Also a Diesel Vehicle is preferable.

->Inside tell the guide to cover the open wide area near Sarasdol,the Majhidongri Watchtower and the lake at Siwahalsagar.