Friday, October 31, 2008

Valley Of Flowers : Part III

I finally got down to finishing the last part of the trilogy that i had planned on writing. This post you could say is the Grand Finale. This is were i talk about the very reason why we planned the trek : to visit the Valley of Flowers.

All of us were pretty excited about this part of the trek. The previous day,we atched a documentary on the valley of flowers. An Indian researcher (i forget his name) has put together a documentary which captures the diverse ecology of the alpine valley. He visits the valley every year from June to October (or thereabouts) in the hope of learning more each passing year.

We were in awe of both his documentary and his passion for researching the valley. We couldn't wait to be there amidst the flowers ourselves.

The trek started early in the morning. The weather was picture perfect.Just the right amount of chill combined with mild sunshine.There was a spring in our steps as we started the trek. Maybe it was the silence around us added to the heightening sense of excitement. Unlike, Hemkund, there are no pilgrims here, just the hikers. There is no grazing allowed or human settlement. No mules and dhabas dotting the path. It was just us and Mother Nature.
After a short walk, we started seeing flora and fauna typical to this ecology. Each of us stopped every few feet to admire nature's beauty. Flowers of every concievable color and leaves with intricate patterns and the early morning dew on the gossamer spider webs was breath-taking. I was amazed at how beautiful the whole setting was. To add to this we came across a brook making its way down to the valley. Crossing that rickety,makeshift bridge was quite an experience!

It every photographer's dream come true to be surrounded by pristine beauty and for K it was not any different. He had to capture it all in his camera. He would stop every few meters to capture nature's glory. I let him be and walked alone. I just didn't feel like making conversation with anyone else in the group. I was content enjoying the solitude in this picturesque setting.
As i walked along i realized this kind of beauty is to be enjoyed and cherished in the company of a loved one and decided to wait for K after all ;)

We went walking along and taking pics and came across this glacier. There was huge crack right down to the middle of the glacier threatening to split and come crashing down any minute.
The glacier on the way to the valley. Notice the crack in the middle?

I simply cannot describe in words the rest of the walk. All i have to do is close my eyes to be transported back to that serene place. I will instead share some pics of the place.

Some fruit which grows there. An amazing hue of blue!

The valley is itself huge. Flowers of one kind grow in patches. Cross-pollination has led to the same variety of flowers growing in different hues.Thats what lend the color to the valley.It feels like the valley is one never ending stretch.

After a short walk, we came across yet another brook meandering in the midst of the valley.
This is where we settled down for lunch. It was the best picnic i have ever had. While the rest of the gang wanted to further into the valley and also visit the grave of Margaret Legge , a botanist who died in the valley on her quest for more information on the flowers.
The brook where we had our picnic lunch

Few of us chose to sit by the brook and take in the scenery. L and M, decided to meditate there. It was the ultimate place for them for meditation. K and I sat there savoring the beauty of the valley in quiet companionship. While another couple S and D decide to take a small nap :D

More pictures on the valley of flowers.

Sky through the flowers

Panoramic view of the valley of flowers.

Its easily the most beautiful place on earth!

P.S : All pictures are taken by K. More of his pics here

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ok na?

A strange thing happened yesterday which suddenly made me realise how much difference it makes being married,in the Indian society. I was out on the porch lighting lamps since it was Diwali.This neighbor of mine spots me and stops his bike and comes up to speak to me.
I am wondering what possibly would make him want to speak to me! We usually just nod and exhange a hi when we see each other.

He starts by saying he needs some information about an "alliance" for his nephew.This particular "alliance" happens to be my cousin's daughter.
The conversation went like this :
Neighbor : Nimm kade ondu hudgi idaaLe.... nimm tande cousin magaLu anthe...
me : err...(racking my brains to figure out whom he is speaking about.After a long explanation realised who he was talking about)
Neighbor : "hudgi hege? ok na? ("Whats your opinion about the girl?")
me : huh? err... yeah very nice girl and good family as well! (duh!!)
Neighbor : hudgi akka divorcee anthe? (Her sister is a divorcee)
Me : Akka divorcee aadre yenu? (How does it matter?)
Neighbor : proceed madbahuda ?("Should we go ahead?")
me : hmm... haan ....proceed maadi....yenu problem illa....(sure why not...go ahead!)
Neighbor : "naavu ade yochne maadtiddvi....sadhya eega ondu reference sikktalla!"(Its a good thing that we found a reference)
I just grin stupidly and nod my head!

I have never been asked such questions before! duh, i didnt know how to react! For God's sake,how does my opinion about a person matter in situations like this!Its upto the two people seeking alliance how they like each other and how much they think they would be compatible.And how does it matter what's the marital status is of the rest of the family?

I then realised that one's status in the Indian society is elevated after marriage.Your opnion matters when it comes hitching up two people!
What if something goes wrong and they blame me later in life?yikes! i want my single status back when faced with such situations! :D

Friday, October 24, 2008

Its a date!

I did something i have never done before.I went out on a lunch date........with myself! Not that it is something that has never been done before or is unheard of. I am sure people do this regularly but i had never until today fathomed myself eating alone.

Since my usual lunch gang in office was out on vacation owing to Diwali, i thought of giving it a try today.

Now, it is very important to choose the place where you want to enjoy your first solitary meal. It should either be a very crowded place like a fast food joint, where no one notices you or it should be a place where there aren't many people. The popular restaurants are not a good choice. People instantly notice that you are alone and they might end up thinking you are a loser to be dining alone! You will be subjected to pitying glances or stares, making you conscious and that might ruin the whole experience of dining alone.

After deciding between the food court in the nearest mall and a small, quiet cafe in the nearby theater auditorium, off i went to the mall close to my work place. This also gave me a chance to go pick up a few books that i had been wanting to. After almost an hour of browsing through the various sections in the bookstore, i picked up a few books and then headed off to the food court in the mall.

The shortest line was at the subway counter and I decided to head there. After the sub was ready, I found myself a quiet corner and settled down to enjoy the meal with the one of the books that i had bought. Unfortunately it is difficult to read a book when you are attacking a sub whose stuffing threatens to spill out in all directions.

I gave up reading the book and settled down to the next best thing , studying other people. :D
I noticed that there were a few more people enjoying their solitary lunch.One girl looked like she had a lot of experience (nope am not judging her social life :D). She was totally immersed in the novel she was reading. There were others who were not quite comfortable eating alone.All they wanted was to be done with their lunch quickly!There were techies in large groups enjoying their friday lunch, flaunting their company identity cards. Then there were these college kids who looked like they had bunked classes to enjoy with their friends. And all the aunties out for their Diwali shopping getting a respite from slogging in the kitchen. And of course the high-society types. It always makes me wonder why they would want to eat at a food court. I saw Charu Sharma once at the food court in another popular mall in the city.

By this time i had finished eating my sub and i would say it was not a bad experience eating alone. One lesson from this was experience is not to order something messy if you are planning on enjoying your meal with only a book for company!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Valley Of Flowers,Part II,Haridwar and beyond....

We had to catch the Mussorie express from the old Delhi railway stattion to reach Haridwar . The meeting point for the KMA was the comesum hotel at the railway station(as someone in the group wisecracked, "some come and some dont come "!!).
On reaching Haridwar in the morning,we were stranded there for a couple of hours as it was the concluding day of the Kaavad mela.Hordes of pilgrims had camped all over haridwar and the traffic was at a stand still.

Kaavad Mela in Haridwar

After a long wait, we proceeded towards Rishikesh to the nearest garhwal mandal vikas nigam. There are GVMNs all over the Uttaranchal. These were built mainly for the promotion of tourism. Some of them are maintained well while others are in a decrepit state.

After freshening up and eating a hearty breakfast we started our bus journey towards JoshiMath to reach another GMVN. The journey itself was very pleasant and we spent our time looking at the passing landscape ,getting acquainted with the KMA group. The group was in top spirits as we started gaining altitude leaving behind the sweltering heat of Haridwar.

The next day was when all the hard work started.Our destination was the small hamlet Ghangria which is a 13 kilometres trek from Govindghat,about 30 kms from Joshimat. The distance sounded easy enough but turned out to be a killer as we had discounted the terrain and the heavily laden rucksacks.
The initial part of the trek was exciting as it was an easy walk up the hill with breath taking views of the mountains around and the gushing torrents of Ganga in the gorge beside us. As the initial adrenaline rush wore off,and the landscape remained unchanged, we began to experience fatigue.The 8-kg ruck-sack made things worse. The final descent was almost impossible and i was ready to give up. Only the thought of some hot food and a warm bed kept me going :D .

There are small dhabas all along the way for weary pilgrims and trekkers to rest and restore their energy levels with steaming hot chai,paranthas or maggi. Everything here is twice as expensive as the only means of carrying these goods are using mules.

One of the many dhabas on our way....

Roaring Ganga keeping us company throughout the trek.

We later realised that this was the toughest part of the trek! Some places it was almost a 90 degree incline.Once we reached Ghangaria, we were told to look for Hotel Priya which would be the place where we would be camping for the next three days .I was sure glad when atlast i spotted Hotel Priya!

The next day was the trek to the holy shrine of the Sikhs, Hemkund Sahib.
We started the trek around 6 AM in the morning. The visibility was almost zero. All along the way we heard the pilgrims periodically bursting into "Jo Bole So Nihaal,Satsri akaal".Sounded more like a war cry to me! And then there were others who would chant Ik Onkaar non-stop. It was amazing how these people effortlessly managed the climb, chanting all the while , when most of were focusing our efforts on just walking along the mountain.
We reached the peak after a 3 hour trek and we were in for a disappointment, the Hemkund lake was fully covered in mist. Having seen beautiful pictures of this place on the web, this turned out to be a major dampener.

Trudging along........

We decided to visit the gurudwara first before heading to the langar. Blankets are provided inside the shrine for all pilgrims. After warming ourselves ,we headed to the langar to eat some steaming hot kicchdi and drink some sickly sweet tea. It was manna for us weary trekkers.

Having my hunger pangs satisified, i felt guilty of not doing any Seva(volunteer work) in the langar. So a bunch of us sat down to the task of washing the vessels. It seemed like some people volunteered to this task becuase they got to soak their hands in hot water when it was freezing outside ;)

Inside the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara.......

Having waited for a while for the mist to clear, we set out downhill. This seemed relatively easy and halfway through the mist cleared. That is when we realised how narrow the path was and how steep the precipice was!

We climbed down quickly enough and were delighted to be treated to hot hot Jalebis and chai!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Valley Of Flowers, Part I - Delhi

Back in college , (boy! that makes me feel old, although i assure you,that was just 4 years back), when there was a mail thread from the gang on what each one of us wanted to do in our lifetime, i too had my own list of things..... what i didn't know then that the top most on the list would come true. Going to the Himalayas once in my lifetime.

K and i being avid travelers, decided to trek to the valley of flowers in Uttaranchal. July and August are the only two months when the flowers are in full bloom through out the valley. The treks are more or less organized around this time of the year.
I was very excited about the trek and apprehensive at the same time as i had never been on a hiking trip ever!
its one thing to walk a few kilometers to the waterfalls or the nearby stream while you are on a vacation but quite another matter when you have to be walking in rugged terrain with a heavily laden back-pack for hours together.
One thing that held me back from going on these hikes or treks is the phobia for answering nature's call ...err...amidst never know what's lurking out there :P
I was relieved when i heard we would be put up in rooms there rather than pitching tents.i knew things would be alright. :) My experience of trekking being zilch,K was very encouraging and said that it wouldn't be as difficult as i thought. Easy for him, as he has scaled almost all the peaks in Karnataka and done two Himalayan treks.

In spite of having these self-doubts there was not a single time i thought of any kind of preparation for the impending trip.Another couple, Y and K who were to join us on the trek would take one day trips for practice during the weekends.

About a month before the trek i began to panic as i had no idea about my ability to sustain the trek or my stamina levels. We decide to put these to test and set out on a weekend trek to Satyamangala forests in Chamarajanagar,Mysore. Although i couldn't keep pace with the rest of the gang , i completed this trek successfully.... This boosted my confidence levels and i was all set for the Big one!

The day dawned bright and sunny...sounds too cliched isnt it? well, i wish it was like that...instead K and I were slogging on our laptops till about an hour we were to leave for the airport.

Anyway, off we went to the airport and on the way i get a call from a cousin saying that there were serial blasts happening everywhere in Bangalore and she asked me to be careful as i was headed to the airport. It was quite a shock to hear that the blasts were happening quite close to my work-place. I immediately called up colleagues at work not knowing what the intensity of the blasts were. I was relieved to know everyone was safe and much more when i heard they were all low intensity ones. I was still in a state of shock as to how someone could do this to my beloved Bangalore... such things only happen in other cities and you get to see these things on the television!

After an uneventful flight ,we landed in Delhi at around 9:30 pm and immediately set out for the Silk Board guest house near IIT. I had conjured up visions of homely comfort when Y had booked the guest house. Alas, that was not the case to be.On being show into our rooms, my heart sank.The paint was peeling, the furniture looked old and dusty. The bathroom was dingier. We had no intention of hanging out in the guest house except to sleep in the night so we decided to stay put.

The first day in Delhi was spent indulging in one of my favorite activities - shopping!This was mainly because both K and i had visited the usual tourists places in Delhi before,so we decided to skip them.

We still had two days before we would set off to Haridwar where our trek would start. The next day we headed to nearby Mathura and Agra. Here are some pics!

A pic of the Agra Fort. I must say the fort has been very accuratley re-created for the movie Jodha-Akbar.

The famous monument of love, Taj Mahal. We did what most tourists do when visiting the Taj.
Get a pic of the two of us sitting on the stone bench in front of the Taj :D

The last day in Delhi before we took off on the trek, we didnot have anything planned as we had a train to catch to Haridwar in the evening .So decided to watch a movie.The nearest mall had "Singh is Kinng" playing.Oh what a mistake it was ! Most parts of the movie had the rest of the crowd in splits and the few genuine jokes didnt get a reaction from them. It only left us wondering about the intelligence of the Delhi audience!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Small things in life that bring joy....

  • Freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning
  • Long walks at night
  • Holding hands
  • Curling up on the couch with a good book
  • That unexpected sms or phone call
  • Cooking a good meal
  • Give in to the urge to eat yummy chaat :)
  • Watching the rain
  • Sitting on the sea shore and listening to the sounds of the sea
  • Sitting by the window and watching the world go by on a lazy Sunday evening
  • Smell of burning incense at twilight when the lamps are lit
  • Waking up to Suprabhata by MS/Vedic chants on festive occasions


I finally gathered the courage to create a blog for myself. I am stumbling upon words as i write my first post. After having read scores of blogs by some of the most eloquent writers and reading about their interesting lives i wonder what i will be blogging about.But lets wait and watch shall we? :)
After all, i have been wanting to put down my thought since aeons.....this is as good a time as any to start.

So here's to me!!