Sunday, December 18, 2016

District Archeological Museum, Nellore.

Nellore has a Museum.Yes it does. Nobody, to whom I asked about this knew there was a museum in Nellore.Not the shopkeepers nearby my home, not the colleagues at office and not even the autowallahs. Everybody drew a blank at the mention of a Museum.Nevertheless I searched for it and made two attempts to visit it and on last Wednesday I got lucky. It was open.

Nellore District Museum is located in Saraswati Nagar on the Magunta under bridge road. It is a small red colored nondescript building. It houses some 7 sections. The first one has displays of tools of neolithic and paleolithic age which were found around Nellore. Second section has some terracotta and Bidri works.Then there is one where a number of swords and firearms are kept. For me only one section stood out. That was the one displaying coins. There were many coins of different eras and kings. The best were 6 coins of Roman period which were found near the coasts of Andhra Pradesh signifying the trade relations the people of Satavahana period enjoyed with the Romans. There are some Gold coins too on display.

The only other area of interest were a few pieces of Ming era vases and dishes.

This museum is only good for the local school kids for an introduction to archeology and History.  


Quick Facts:
Location - Left side on the Magunta under bridge road leading to KVR petrol pump.
Timings- 10 30am to 5 00 pm.
Entry Fee - Rs3
Fee for Camera - Rs20

Monday, December 12, 2016

HAL Aerospace Museum.Bangalore,India.

Museum. A lot of people drop their plans to come along with me on a trip as soon as I mention the word 'museum'. Boring is what they label it.Which is a shame.Museums, like libraries are portals of time travel. They take you on journeys of the mind. I personally love museums and the very first thing I check out when I visit a new city is the museums there.So a few weeks back when I found myself in Bangalore to meet my friend Bhanu I decided to check out the HAL Aerospace museum. My friend thankfully accompanied me with no complaints.

The HAL Aerospace museum is situated on the Old Airport Road at the HAL premises. The parking is limited but we found a space nearby and comfortably parked our bike.We reached the place at around 10am.Our plan was to take in the exhibits slowly and spend an hour looking at everything.We were wrong. By the time we ended our tour we had spent close to 2 hours inside. 

The whole museum is divided into 6 Halls as this map displayed at the entrance shows. Hall 1 is a circular building which has 7 galleries around its circumference, which have photographs of major events of HALs journey from its inception to the present.Each gallery covers a decade. I was surprised to know that HAL was engaged in servicing of fighter jets of the allies during World war 2.There were pictures of Vultee vengeance bombers, Gnats, Maruts ,Vampires and many other planes.Also there are pictures of various dignitaries who have visited the HAL site.There are photographs of Kings of Iran,Iraq, Afghanistan and a lot of other countries.

Hall 2 has many models of Aero engines. This is a very informative area as one can see the cross sections of the engines.Also there is a Basant aircraft and a parachute ejection system model.The most interesting part for me was the Pratt & Whitney engine on display. The upper floor has two flight simulators.The on the left is for kids but from I heard even kids will be disappointed with it.  The one on the right was a bit enjoyable. The only thing that makes it different from the normal video games of aircraft is that you have a joystick in your hands and the seat tilts to the left and right as you make turns.

Pratt & Whitney Engine
The rest of the halls have many Aeroplane exhibits out of which only a MIG 21, a GKN Westland Helicopter and an Advanced Light Helicopter interested me. We wandered around all exhibits at our leisure and took our own sweet time in checking out each and every exhibit.

It was nice to see a crowd.
After this stroll of 2 hours we headed towards the well maintained cafe and had some snacks. There is a good shady place to sit and we enjoyed our break. Nearby was a small pond which had many small fishes darting around. Amusingly I found a larger crowd here than in front of any of the exhibits. That was a clear indication of the kind of interest we have towards Museum.

Quick Facts:-
HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum
Location - Varthur Main Rd, HAL GB Quaters, Marathahalli
Timings - 9am to 5pm.
Entry Fees - From HAL's website-

Entrance Fees(Adult)
Rs 50/-  per head
Entrance Fee(Students and Children upto 18 yrs)     
Rs 30/- per head(with ID card )
Entrance Fee(Children upto 3 years)  
Physically Handicapped   
Still Camera    
Rs 50/- per each
Video Camera  
Rs 75/- per each
Basic Simulator Game 
Rs 50/- per head
Motion simulator      
Rs 100/- per head

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Chhattisgarh has a many lesser known places hidden behind its vast jungles and industrial complexes.
Devpahri is one such place near the Power city of Korba.Situated around 80km from Korba lies a picturesque waterfall on a small river.This place is so remote that one of my colleagues informed that the villagers around here saw electricity only a few years back.I mean they had no idea of the outside world.No idea of electricity and power.But things have changed quite dramatically now. There are good roads there.Hospitals and schools are working and in fine order.

A few weeks before I left chhattigarh and moved to nellore myself along with my friends visited these waterfalls.The place is quaint and remote.If solitude is what you are looking for,this place is excellent.
There comes a huge reservoir on the way to Devpahri.We spent some time here clicking pics and for some fun

Downstream of the Devpahri falls

A spot of calm 
Right near the falls

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Scuba Diving in Pondicherry,India. Part 2: Sea Dive Day

This is in continuation of my Scuba Dive experience in Pondicherry,India.
Here is the first Part. Part 1.

The next morning we were at the office of temple adventures by 7am. It was hard,waking up at 5 30 am on a weekend vacation where our original plan was to just chill. The thought of diving in the sea is what kept us motivated and excited. Though we were there at the office by 7 am it was around 8 am that we actually departed for the dive site. We had to keep our clothes and stuff in the office itself.Stuff meaning mobile phones and wallet. So I sent a text message to my family informing that I
wont be in contact till noon that day. So we set off wearing only the dive suit given to us and reached the point from where our boat was to start off after a ride of 30 mins. On the way one of the staff asked us if we took ay motion sickness tablet. I confidently said no as I thought having trekked and visited places in the Himalayas many times I would be okay.I was wrong.

At the site we helped out the staff in loading the stuff on the boat and we looked like a group of Navy SEALs embarking on a secret operation. We started off soon on the boat and the feeling of being on a secret mission only increased as we sat on the floor of the boat on opposite sides,looking at each other. The boat bobbed up and down as it hit the gentle waves. It made its way out of the small creek out into the vast open sea and made it to the dive site in around 30 mins. As I no longer had my watch I lost track of time. The boat crew expertly anchored the boat and we were ready to dive. The staff asked us who amongst us would like to go first. All three of us did not hesitate in raising our hands.It was decided we would be going first with a fourth person joining in. The rule was like this. Only 4 persons would be going down in the waters with the others remaining on the boat. Each person going down will have a instructor with them.So the client to instructor ratio was 1:1 which was an excellent thing and made us feel completely at ease.

I was the first one to go.The crew on the boat helped me with the equipment and in a classic James bond style I flipped over the side of the boat into the choppy waters. Everything went upside down.A hand grabbed me out and pulled me above water. Leon was there holding me. He gave me some time to relax and then gave me some pointers including a quick rerun of the basic signs.He asked me if I was ready to which I replied I was and we went in.I got out almost immediately. The same thing which happened in the pool happened here also. Instinctively as soon as I was going underwater I was holding my breath and not breathing through the regulator. Again I told myself to forget everything and concentrate on only one thing.Breathe.Which I did pretty good the second time. Soon Leon and myself descended slowly into the depths of the sea.Leon indicated to me to hold a rope,which I rightly assumed to be the anchor.We descended slowly taking stops now and then.At every stop Leon turned around and asked me if I was OK.Of course 'asked' here means asked in sign language.I replied I was 'Ok' by showing the 'ok' sign. The visibility in the water was somewhat poor.I knew it wouldn't be like the crystal clear waters they show in ads and at any rate I was here for the experience of a scuba dive and I was okay if I couldn't spot any fishes. But slowly the fishes started appearing.At first I spotted some lone fishes darting from left right in front of me. Leon had to indicate vigorously now and then pointing towards the fishes. I missed many at first but slowly I turned my attention from the 'breath' 'breath' mantra I kept repeating to myself to spotting the fishes.I spotted many.Then slowly shoals of fish started appearing.I was wonder stuck.It was a beautiful site. The fishes in the group gently swayed and moved in a graceful manner as they appeared in front of me and disappeared away into the murky depths of the sea.Now and then I put my hand near them. The group disbanded immediately and the fishes split in all directions only to regroup later some distance away.The scene was mesmerizing.

Soon we reached a depth of 12 mtrs. I knew this because we had two gauges attached to our gear.One was a pressure gauge showing the pressure in the oxygen cylinder.It was showing a pressure of 100 kg/cm2 if I remember correctly. The other gauge was showing the depth. It read 12 mtrs, the deepest we were going. We stayed around here for a some time just looking around. The whole experience was surreal. A human isn't designed to survive underwater.He cannot breathe there.He is surrounded by everywhere by something that has no breathable oxygen that we need to survive.Add to that there is the issue of pressure.For every 10 mtrs one goes downwards a pressure of 1kg/cm2 acts on the skin.That means double the atmospheric pressure every 10 mtrs you go down.So in these unfavorable conditions humans aren't designed to survive long term.But like in all field humans have come up with ways to survive for longs periods of time giving us the ability to explore the vast seas. So there I was wearing these human designed equipment in those unfavorable conditions trying to have some fun exploring the sea.I experienced first hand there an impressive resolve of humans to go beyond the normal in their quest to know the unknown.

Soon the time came to surface and Leon indicated so with the 'thumps up' sign.I replied 'ok' and slowly we started ascending.We stopped every now and then because failing to do so would cause 'bends'. 'Bends' were caused if a diver ascended too quickly.When I was a kid I had read about bends in a issue of tinkle comics. It has to do with the difference in pressures inside the body and outside in the water.Even though Leon didn't tell me why we were stopping now and then I knew the reason. So it took us a while till we reached the surface. Since there were 4 pairs of divers underwater I ran into Bhanu and we took a pic together. We looked around for Abhishek but he was not around. It would have been wonderful if we had gotten a pic with the three of us together.Anyway we had no way to search for him so we carried on and moved on to the top.I was the first to surface. Before they took off the oxygen tank I looked at the pressure gauge and it showed 60kg/cm2.
Bhanu and myself
After they removed the equipment I slowly climbed up the ladder and sat down still reeling under that out of the world experience. The others asked me how it was to which I happily replied it was awesome! Soon Bhanu and Abhishek surfaced. They both had broad smiles on their faces and as they climbed on the boat we looked at each other and nodded acknowledging the superb experience.The three of us had many wonderful trips and adventures and this was one more.We sat down and waited while two more batches of 4 people each did the dive. All the while we waited on the boat as it bobbed up and down gently on the sea. Many of us puked because of the boat's motion including myself. While returning there was a count to determine the number of persons who puked and it stood at 8 out of 13. Bhanu and Abhishek did not.

After everyone was back we started off on our return.Somebody suggested they play a scene from the popular bollywood movie 'Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara' where Hrithik comes out from the sea after his dive and theres a beautiful score playing in the background.Its a great scene really. We joked around a bit about it as our boat rode away in the afternoon sun making its way for the land.

We were back at the office soon and as we were in a hurry to catch our afternoon bus we wanted to be done with the formalities as quickly as possible.This is the part where I was thoroughly disappointed with Temple Adventures.Up till that point everything was excellent.I was impressed by their work. But as soon as we reached all of the crew and instructors got busy for their next dive I believe. There was no proper closure of our trip and for our group. I ran from person to person to get the signature on our certificates. I felt like being in a govt office as I was directed from one instructor to another. Meanwhile Bhanu tried getting the pics taken underwater. Here also we had to crowd around the reception to get our pics.And it took a long time. Abhishek left for the hotel to get ready. After a long frustrating wait at the office we finally left at 1230 pm.Temple Adventures if you are reading this please note that like you had a class when the whole package starts, have a session at the end also asking about our experience and feedback and sign our certificates without having us to ask you.

After a very uncomfortable meal in a small,congested and hot restaurant near the bus stand we left Pondicherry at around 2pm. Bhanu went his way to Bangalore while Abhishek and myself left for Chennai from where I was to take a train to Nellore and Abhishek for Ramagundam. We managed to catch our train and there ended our wonderful trip to Pondicherry.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Scuba Diving in Pondicherry,India. Part 1: The Training Day.

I read somewhere that when you are diving underwater, once you get below 10 metres depth, you can't see the color red or yellow.Our Blood looks blue at that depth. In Pondicherry,India we dived to a depth of 12 metres and no I did not cut myself to check if the above stated bit of info is true.Far from it, I did not even remember that info.In fact I was completely lost in a state of trance.Surrounded by the green of the sea water and the sound of each breath I was taking echoing in my ears I was far away from the world.The scuba diving experience in Pondicherry turned out to be extremely thrilling and it all started out with a casual plan with my friends to just chill in Pondy for a weekend.

Abhishek my friend was the one who insisted we go to Pondy and along with another friend of mine Bhanu we spent a weekend in Pondy last month.We did not come with a specific plan to scuba dive but only had a vague notion to do it if the cost and time suits us. We assembled in Pondy at around 6 am in the morning and as all three of us were tired, we just slept till 12 noon. By 2 pm we were fresh and ready.The first thing we did was go to the agency offering the scuba dive experience, Temple Adventures. Their office is situated a few minutes from the beach in a small quiet neighborhood.We had hired out two bikes from our hotel and that made the search for the office easy. As we walked in we found a few people milling around the entrance. Heaps of scuba related equipment were laid out neatly on the cupboards near the door.We inquired about the scuba package.The shortest package they had on offer was the 2 day package costing Rs 7000. It would be starting that afternoon and would end by 12 noon the next day. The time suited us perfectly, the only thing to decide was if we were ready to spend 7000 bucks for that. It took us only 5 minutes to come to a conclusion and we booked ourselves a spot.

After filling up some forms and reading some informational booklets we had a 1 hour class where our instructor Leon explained to us a few basic pointers about scuba diving.After that theory class we had a practice session in a swimming pool.Now I consider myself fairly comfortable around water.When I was a kid my dad used to take me and my siblings to rivers and lakes for a bit of water fun.In one summer vacation he even took us to the River Godavari nearby my home in sweltering summer heat for 15 consecutive days to teach us swimming. These constant rendezvous with water made me a bit comfortable around water bodies. I thought I will be fine and go through the scuba dive experience like a hot knife through butter.I was wrong.During that practice session in the pool my instructor, after having checked all the equipment on me and giving me all the instructions, told me to slowly go underwater. As I lowered myself slowly into the eater with the regulator in my mouth,I instinctively stopped breathing even with the regulator in  my mouth.This is exactly why they have this training. I raised myself up and surfaced. I took stock of the situation and told myself to breathe through the regulator. The instructor told the same thing. Breathe.Breathe. Breathe.The second time I did okay and started breathing through the regulator.After getting comfortable it was time to learn some basic underwater signs and actions. We practiced a few signs like signalling 'ok',' go up','go down' and 'something wrong' which can also be called 'all is not well' sign. The 'something wrong' sign is followed by indicating the location with our index finger. We also learnt and practiced what to do in case the regulator falls out of our mouth. All this practice was over by 6 pm. By the time it ended I was confident of doing well the next day out on the sea. 

We headed to the beach after the practice to have some sea food as all that practice had made us hungry.To our dismay there was not one seafood stall anywhere from the north end of the beach all the way to the south end. Finally at the end point we spotted one restaurant which had seafood but it was full so we just had some bhel and fruit salad in a nearby stall. We spent some time at the beach and went back to our hotel by 9 pm. We went out again for dinner.We had to be at the office of Temple Adventures the next day at 7 am so though we wanted to stay up late we slept by midnight.
The actual scuba dive day on my next post.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An interview with

A few days back I was approached by a travel portal for a interview. I gladly accepted and a couple of days ago it got published on their website.

Bongyatra's 'About us' section:

My interview

For the rest of the interview click here -

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 5.

It is a strange thing for us occasional trekkers,we wait for months for the trek and then once it starts we want it to end as soon as possible.The physical demands starts taking its toll from the first day itself. But then again this is what we enjoy. The whole thrill of trekking lies in that physical endurance that one goes through.It is a queer thing to explain.We are in pain and at the same time we enjoy every bit of it.

Day 5 bought us to the last day of our trek and we were both relieved and a bit sad.Relieved because we could sleep on a smooth mattress that night and we wouldn't have to use the toilet tent again.Sad because we were going to miss the wonderful mountain scenery and the adrenaline.

We had a wonderful night's sleep and were feeling mighty refreshed. The first thing that Ishita Didi asked us in the bright morning was if we felt any tremors the night before. None of us felt anything and we said she must have imagined it.Later when we reached Thimphu I checked it out in an internet cafe and found that there was an earthquake in Myanmar the previous night.But in our campsite there were no news of anything happening nearby or from the monks there.So we knew nothing of the earthquake. After a leisurely breakfast we started off from the campsite passing through the Monastery complex.We bid goodbye to a few monks who were out taking a stroll in the morning sun.

There was nothing much during our walk down to the end of the trail. We walked past a couple of prayer wheels and a few small structures.Nothing remarkable. We reached the end point in a couple hours. The trek trail makes it through the forest to this point and from here there is a tar road. Our coaster was waiting for us.We boarded it and we couldnt wait to go to our hotel and take a rejuvenating hot water bath.A half an hour drive bought us to our hotel.There ended our Druk Path Trek. 

In the evening we went out for a stroll in the city streets. The famous traffic booth of Thimphu was nearby our hotel and sure enough there was not much traffic in the streets.The skies above were overcast and now and then it drizzled for a bit.Enjoying this cool but comfortable weather we walked all the way to the Tashicho Dzong. This Dzong opens for visitors only in the evening at 5pm and closes at 6pm. A dzong is divided into two parts.One is for administrative purpose and the other part is for the religious purpose. We strolled inside the vast courtyard for an hour and finally at 6pm made our way back to the area near our hotel.After a few random visits to shops and cafes we went in for the night at around 10pm. The next day we departed for India in the morning. We reached New Jalpaiguri by evening. And our thrilling Druk Path trek trip was over.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 4.

Day four was the day we were going to reach our highest point of the trek.We were naturally excited.The day had started off with the cool mountain air waking me up as Ravi has left the flap open when he went out of the tent.As I made my way out I could see that the surrounding mountain tops were all covered up with snow.The snow fall which had started the day before must have continued in the night.The view was breathtaking.The mountain tops shone in the bright sunlight and everything wore a fresh look.

 After breakfast we started off on our trail.We walked past the lake to our left and continued straight ahead.The terrain was rocky with bushes of a muddy green colour here and there spread over the area.To be honest this was a bit dull.As we continued waking we came across a stream which was completely frozen.In some areas I could see that only the top layer was frozen making for a transparent layer.Underneath it crystal clear water flowed gently.We walked along this stream,over the frozen waters playfully breaking the ice here and there with our sticks.At one point we branched off from the stream and continued on the trail.After an hour of walking,we reached a point which provided a magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.We were on top of a hill ahead of which lay a huge valley.Directly opposite was the face of another hill.We stopped here, had some snacks and took a lot of pics.The altitude at this point was 4000MSL.

We then marched off.We kept walking and sometime later far ahead we could spot a lake nestled in the middle of a mountain.It was still far away.The landscape was neither still the same dullish green with rocks everywhere.Not particularly enticing. This stretch reminded me of the movie 'Wild' where Reese Witherspoon treks along the Pacific Crest Trail.We approached the lake after some half an hour after the first sighting.There was a broken down dwelling made up of stones nearby where abhishek, Satya and Ravi settled down. Ishita didi went downwards towards the lake to have a closer look and to take some pics.After that short break we again resumed our walk.The trail now traversed through a completely rocky terrain.There were sections of stone walls with crumbling rocks clinging to the sides and some heaps of smaller stones accumulated at the bottom.And finally as we walked over a final stretch of uphill ascent we arrived at the highest point of our trek. My watch showed the altitude to be 4100MSL. We stopped here and took some pics.

Then we started our downhill walk.Again we walked past some spectacular cliffs.An hour's walk through this magnificent terrain bought us finally to the last prayer wheel on this trek.From here we could spot the city of Thimphu down below.We stopped for some much needed rest and took a lot of pics here. We wanted to spend some more time here but Sangayji insisted we move ahead.
From here it is a complete downhill walk.We walked past a quaint building built at the edge of a hill.I don't what it was but its location was excellent.As we trudged downhill far ahead I could see we were approaching a Monastery complex.There was a big building to the far left and a group of much smaller buildings to the right.There was a ground too in the middle.To the far right were set up a group of tents which we correctly assumed to be our campsite.This place was called Phajoding.It was at an altitude of 3500MSL.
As we neared the monastery complex we could see some children playing football.They were all wearing the bright red monk robes. The sight of those cute kids in their red robes running around was a joy to watch. Amit threw away his bag and rushed to join the kids.He asked them if he can play to which the kids cheerfully nodded and amit joined in. Amit was wearing a sleeveless tshirt exposing the tattoo he had on his arm.This proved to be a wonder for the kids who stopped their game and flocked around him to look at the tattoo.After this brief distraction the game resumed.I clicked a few pics and mulled about joining the game myself. Ravi meanwhile caught up with me and suggested we both join too. So throwing the bag and the camera we ran in on the ground. With our newly formed friends from our support team, lama and dorji joining in too, we had a good number now.We played for some time enjoying the game.Sometime later Abhishek too joined in. Satya couldn't because he was still feeling a bit tired and sick so he went directly to his tent and took some rest. Meanwhile I was breathless with all the running and called it quits. Didi all this while was taking pics.After the game finished we all took some group pics with the kids.

We then walked towards our campsite. This was a piece of land allotted for the trekkers to set up their tents here. The biggest relief was the toilets set up there. In the night after dinner I walked to  nearby shelter to take a look at the city Thimphu glowing with lights. I took a few pics but none were any good. Lama was there too taking in the views and we had a lengthy conversation about Bhutan and its people.It was wonderful talking to him. Suddenly it started drizzling.I did not want to get stuck there while it rained so bidding goodbye to lama I ran back to my tent and tucked in for the night.Thus ended a wonderful day.

Quick Facts
Starting Point- Jana Tsho (3830 MSL) 
Highest Point - 4100MSL
End Point - Phajoding (3500 MSL)
Start time - 0815 Hrs
Highest Point time - 1300 Hrs
End Time- 1600 Hrs

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 3.

After a refreshing night's sleep,our second in the wilderness,I woke up to bright sunshine beating down on our tent.With the last day's experience I did not bother to try to view the sunrise.Instead I woke up leisurely and took a stroll around the campsite.The ground was damp with dew and it was still a bit cold even with the sunshine.The area nearby was a mess with the horse droppings.Gingerly avoiding these droppings I made my way around and took a complete circular stroll. The weather was still hazy denying us,for the third day,any views of the snow capped mountains in the distance.

After a leisurely breakfast we started off on our trail. We set off exactly in the opposite direction of where we came from the day before.Our trail today took us through another rhododendron filled section of the forest. The flowers shone bright red against the green of the other trees.Had I had a better camera than my Panasonic Lumix I would have been able to capture much better pictures of these beautiful flowers.

Sangayji having some fun while Durgaji and Satya look on.
We had started off at 3610 MSL at 0740 Hrs in the morning and our goal was to reach Jana Tsho which was at 3830 MSL. There are multiple ways to reach this campsite and taking stock of our group Sangayji decided to take the shortest one. This was because satya was feeling sick.He had headache and a slight fever. It looked like he did not acclimatize properly as usually he doesn't get sick easily.Also Ishita didi's stomach travails did not subside completely. So it was decided to take the shortest and the most easy route to Jana Tsho.The one thing we missed is a lake that lies on the long route. We weren't disappointed though instead we were glad of the less distance to cover.

The terrain initially was similar to the previous days.Green forests for most of the time.Midway into the day's trek we came across a stream.The sound of the gushing water reached us much before we even had a glimpse of the waters.We walked along the stream for sometime and then came across a small bridge over it.Here we stopped for a while to take much needed rest and shoot some pics as well.We resumed our walk and 30 mins later had a small snack break under a cool shade.After that break the landscape seemed to be changing as we neared our destination.From the green belt in the initial part we marched into a rocky and barren landscape.We were now on the top of a hill and we could see layers of hills in all directions surrounding us.We walked over this desolate landscape for over an hour to finally reach our campsite at 3830 MSL at 1145 Hrs.

This campsite nearby the lake Jana Tsho was the best of all the campsites this trek has to offer. Our tents were set up near the lake which was nestled cozily along the foot of a hill.There was the lake and the hill behind it on one side.On the opposite side there was a gradual drop into the valley.The other two sides had our trail,passing through the campsite.Far away we could see the mountains but again no sights of any big peaks.

As soon as we reached we sat down on the warm grass to give our tired legs some rest as we took in the wonderful atmosphere.Our support team served us lunch there itself.It was on one of the most scenic and memorable lunches I ever had next only to the apple I ate near the Roopkund lake the year before.After lunch we chose our tents and tucked inside the sleeping bags for a quick nap. Our brief reverie was broken by a gentle patter of rain drops on our tent roof.We rushed outside to have a look. Sangayji was rushing around gathering some branches of the nearby bushes.We asked him what he was upto.To which he replied that he was going to build a fire and drive those rain clouds away.I was incredulous. Ravi said that what sangayji was doing was indeed correct.Technically it could be done but the success probability was very less. Anyway we watched him do it and to me it didn't seem to make any difference. Later with some more dry branches he built a small bon fire and we all gathered around its warmth. A little later it started raining again.This time it was a mix of rain and snow. We ran back to our tents and settled down inside the warm sleeping bag.I flipped open my tent covers now and then to just look at the snow.It was all very beautiful. Late evening we had our dinner early and slept after idle chatter late into the night..

Quick Facts
Starting Point- Jangchulakha (3610MSL)
End Point - Jana Tsho (3830 MSL)

Other Days Posts-
Hike to Taktsang Monastery
Day 1
Day 2

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 2

After an uneasy night's sleep in the sleeping bag I woke up some time in the night.It was still dark outside and my watch told me it was still 5 am. I wanted to catch the sunrise so I left my cozy sleeping bag rather reluctantly and ventured outside into the chilly morning air.A cold wind was blowing immediately sending a shudder through my body. I looked around the campsite taking in the night time view.Unlike Roopkund (comparisons were inevitable no matter how much I resisted) where the snow capped mountains faraway always gave the campsites a heavenly atmosphere,here in these campsites there wasn't much to look out for in the night. I strolled around the campsite a bit and waited for the sunrise. The sunrise when it did come was a disappointment.The sun rose up quickly and turned the night sky first into a bloody orange colour and then into a sparkling blue. The day was clear and the weather good. But not good enough to give us any views of the peaks that lay around us.

Amidst this warm morning we had our breakfast of porridge,sandwich,boiled eggs and bananas. Durgaji asked how we were holding up. Ishita Didi was feeling a bit sick and she did not have much for breakfast. We suspected the food she had in our hike to Taktsang for her upset stomach.Then Satya was feeling a bit uneasy. We put this to the altitude. He was having problems getting acclimated. The rest of us were in good health. Abhishek was in high spirits, cracking jokes. Surpassing my expectations ravi was in excellent condition showing no signs of any fatigue or health issue. Then Amit too was at completely at ease. As for myself barring a couple of hours of headache the day before I was good.

 After that breakfast we started off for the days trek.The target for the day was to reach a campsite known as Jangchulakha at 3385MSL.
Rhododendron Flowers
We retraced our steps to the monastery we took the day before and walked past it to catch a trail.This trail passed through a thick forest.We walked through this for some time to emerge into an area where the rhododendron flowers were in full bloom.The flowers shone bright blood red against the dull background of brown and black. Durgaji plucked one and casually put in his mouth.He was munching on it as I looked on with amusement.He urged us to try one. Barring Amit and myself none of the others even showed any interest. I looked around a bit and plucked the one which looked a bit fresh.A bit hesitantly I put it in my mouth. It tasted a bit sour. I did not take another one and joined the others.

Right out from this rhododendron flower we walked into a landscape filled with thin tall trees protruding into the clear sky. They were devoid of any branches and leaves. They carried with them a most desolate and dry feeling.A short walk among them later we were back in the forest cover.

At one section we emerged from the thick forest cover into an opening by the side of a hill.Here the trail clung to the edge of the hill and the views from this point were spectacular.Layers of hills carpeted with the dark green foliage stretched till the horizon. This was a short section and once again we were enveloped by the trees all around.

We halted for lunch at 12 noon.Again the food was terrible. I almost choked on those thick rotis.
After lunch we started off again.An hour later I could spot our campsite far away placed in the middle of a clearing. There were not many trees around.It looked a bit like a meadow but with a smattering of bushes here and there. Repeating the previous day's routine we flung our bags on the sheet and laid down for a bit of a rest.

Satya taking a little break
After sometime we got up and chose our tents. It was still 2 in the afternoon and we had a lot of time on our hands. Some of us slept while others took strolls around the campsite. In the evening it started drizzling so most of the time was spent inside the tents huddled together chatting.Rains in the mountains is a wonderful thing.The spatter of the raindrops on the tent covers with the dark clouds gliding over the hills outside creates a hypnotic atmosphere.After a quick dinner we retired to our tents and were fast asleep in a couple of hours.
First view of our campsite

One of our tents

Quick Facts
Starting Point- Near Jele Dzong (3360MSL)
End Point - Jangchulakha (3610MSL)

Other Days Posts-
Hike to Taktsang Monastery
Day 1

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Bhutan's Druk Path Trek. Day 1

After that grueling hike to Tiger's Nest the day before we were 'warmed up' for the first day of our Druk Path Trek. 'Druk' means 'Dragon' in Tzongkha,the most spoken Bhutanese language. Druk Path is one of the most popular treks of the country as it is short and offers wonderful views. As I mentioned in my Prologue post, I chose Bhutan and the Druk path trek after a lot of research. The definite highlights of the trek to which I was looking forward to were the chance to spot Gangkhar Puensum,the highest unclimbed mountain in the world and Chomolhari, the second highest peak of Bhutan.

On our first day of the trek we had a hearty breakfast in our hotel and then we started off in our coaster for the trek's starting point.We bid goodbye to the staff of the hotel as this was the end of our stay in Paro and we were to finish our trek in Thimphu,the capital of Bhutan. The starting point of the trek is near the National Museum which lies on the outskirts of Paro. We reached the starting point after 30 mins.Our support team was already waiting for us. There were 3 porters and a few horses. All the equipment and food stuff was packed and ready.As soon as we reached, after a brief round of introductions, whoever had opted to give his rucksack for the horses to carry, gave away their bags. Only Satya, Ishita didi and myself carried our bags.Our starting elevation was 2540MSL and the time was 0840Hrs. We started off, six of us, with our bags and sticks.There comes a phase 15 to 20 minutes after a trek starts when you feel that this is a lot harder than you thought than it would be.The bag feels heavier and your lungs cry for rest but as time passes these feelings fade away.This happened to me on every trek.
A farmhouse

Initially,the trail is wide and passes by a few picturesque farmhouses with apple orchards but we couldn't spot any apples.We passed by a small dwelling where an adorable toddler was playing around in the veranda. We stopped here for a bit and enjoyed the little kid's antics. We scampered off when we heard Durgaji calling out for us.

The surroundings at the beginning of the trek were a bit dry. There were few trees scattered around and far away we could spot the rugged mountains.Everything was deathly quiet with only our chatter breaking the silence now and then.At one point the silence was broken by a roar of the engines of a plane which slowly came into our view as it took off from the Paro Airport.It took a sharp turn as we were looking.We stood there watching the plane make its turn and slowly disappear into the crystal blue skies. With it was gone the roar of the engines and once again we were immersed in the silence.
Mani wall

We were gradually gaining elevation and Slowly the dry barren landscape turned into a green one and we were beginning to get enveloped by the trees.After an hour we reached a wall.This is called the mani wall.The altitude here is 2860MSL. Satya was using the google tracks application to measure our distance and till that point we had covered 3km. This mani wall marked the end of our gradual ascent and from here onwards the trail took a sharp ascent through a dense forest.There was not much change in the scenery for the next couple of hours as we trudged along the leaves covered path.

At around 12 noon it was decided to have lunch. We all sat down under the shade of a few trees. The sun was warm and the shade offered a welcome respite from its heat. The lunch itself was nothing much.A mashed potato,a banana, a sandwich and a tetra pack of fruti. Food was one of the major disappointments of the trek agency we employed.

After lunch we resumed walking and an hour later we as we were walking up over a particularly steep section we could see a Monastery far away. This was the Jele Dzong Monastery mentioned in the trek schedule.(The time was 1205Hrs, the altitude was 3400MSL at that Point and the distance covered was 6.42km.)

The monastery was still faraway and the path was uphill but Sangayji encouraged us by saying that our camp lay downhill.We finally reached our camps at around 1pm. Our campsite lay at 3360MSL and we had covered a distance of 6.75Km from our starting point to our campsite.The tents were already set up by our support team who had overtaken us during the trek. There in between the tents a sheet was laid out on which were placed some of our bags. I walked over to this sheet and flinging over my bag on it sat down myself.The camp site was beautiful.Located at the foot of a hill on which stood that Monastery,the campsite was surrounded by shrubs and bushes for the most part with trees jutting here and there.Far away we could see mountains but for the most part we couldn't see any snow covered peaks because of the hazy weather.

Pushing aside my bag I laid down there on the sheet, under the open sun. The sun shone warmly on my closed eyelids as my chest heaved up and down taking in the air.It felt wonderful after that tiring trek. A few others joined in too. Seeing this Durgaji cautioned us not to fall asleep as it may lead to loss of sleep in the night disrupting our body's time table. He was right and it is always better not to fall asleep in the afternoons there. Since the Campsite lay at an altitude of 3450 MSL, a high altitude zone,we started to feel the effects of the altitude. I was having a mild headache and some uneasiness.

Ravi and myself chose a tent for ourselves and took our things in. I unpacked my sleeping bag and got in to take some rest. Inspite of our guides warning not to take any medicines I took my migraine pill and syrup because as I like to say to myself, I know my body best.After 30 minutes I was slipping into an uneasy sleep. As I was teetering between sleep and being awake I was woken up by satya calling me out for a walk to the Monastery.
Our campsite 

I woke up rather reluctantly and with a lot of persuasion. I in turn woke up Ravi and together we got out. The others except were already ready and we all walked off in the direction of the Monastery.It was another uphill climb and with a lot of whining we reached the top. The Monastery lay at the top of the hill with a winding path approaching it on the other side. As we approached it I could make out that it was damaged in many parts and looked a bit worn down. From the path we took from campsite we emerged to the side of the actual entrance and here and there I could make out patches of wall broken.

The Jele Dzong Monastery
Sangayji went inside first to ask for permission.He came out with a young monk following him. The monk was a sprightly lad of eleven years.We followed him and entered from another entrance. He took us over creaky stairs and past dust filled walls to a huge hall. This hall was dominated by a massive statute in the middle. This was spectacular. Out in the hills, miles away from anywhere,in the middle of nowhere,inside this ancient monastery, was this huge statue.I was overawed by it. The walls were lined with shelves containing books and other stuff. We asked the monk about the history of the place. He didn't say much but quietly went away and brought with him a sheet of paper which he handed over to us. There was a brief history about the place written on the sheet. We sat down on the wooden floor and read it.There wasn't much written there which I didn't already know. After spending some time there we moved out. It was a pity pictures aren't allowed.That massive statute sitting in that hall was a sight to behold.

After a bit of casual strolling around the perimeters of the Monastery we made our way back to the campsite. We spent the time till dinner with casual banter. Dinner was served around 7 30 pm in the Dining Tent. I don't remember what was served on that day but during the whole trek the standard fare consisted of different combinations of rice,dal,rotis,soup and a couple of vegetable curries.
After dinner we had nothing to do and the cold was creeping in, so we decided to call it a day and tucked into our sleeping bags. Of course another hour passed with talking from tent to tent and then finally we slept.

Quick Facts
Starting Point- Near National Musuem (2540MSL)
End Point - Near Jele Dzong (3360MSL)
Total Distance - 6.75Km
Total Time- 4 Hrs 25 mins
Mid Point- Mani Wall (2860MSL)