Kerala, Onam festival



I have travelled so many places but this time, it was special. coz, for the first time, I went as a Trip Lead through F5escapes.com. Thanks to them for trusting me and giving this opportunity. Had a great experience as a traveller with a responsibility of co travellers. New people, New place, New opportunity..unexplainable experience.

Itinerary:

Day 1: Reach Kochi airport - Fort Kochi beach - Church- Kathakali dance prog.
Day 2: Kumbhalangi peninsula island - Kumarakom houseboat
Day 3 : Aranmula - mirror making- museum- boat decoration
Day 4 : Onam sadya  - boat race
Day 5: Back to kochi airport

Day 1:
Had reached Kochi in the morning and had to wait for others to join. By noon had our group together in the hotel. It was already 2pm and we all were very hungry as each had waited for others arrival and due to unavoidable reasons it was delayed. We all went to nearby restaurant but everywhere it was closed by 2pm and we dint have much options. So we all had at different places as everyone had their choices. Somehow, had our tummy full for the timebeing with whatever we got.

By 5pm we all left to watch the Kathakali show. It was for 2 hours. First 1hour the artists showed how they do their own make up before the dance show. The theme was Dushshasanas vadham. The way they make up is a MUST watch to learn how much patience they really have to sit and carefully do it. All the colours used in the make-up are obtained from natural substances and herbs. For example, the red and yellow colours are made by powdering stones like Chaayilyam and Manayola respectively. A mixture of lime and rice flour serves for white. The green colour is produced by mixing Manayola and Neelam (blue). Coconut oil is used as the base for mixing these stone powders. Another stone, Chenchilyam is powdered and applied in order to protect the skin from burns. Kanmashi or Kajal (the black substance) is prepared by burning gingelly oil. Kumkumam or saffron is also used for the make-up. However, now-a-days many of these colour mixing processes have been replaced by easily available material like paper pulp etc.

he make up colour also plays an important role in Kathakali. According to Sastras color symbolism has got significance.They reflect certain categories of emotions and gunas(attributes).The classification and nature of character are as follows.

Green represents Sattivika nature (Godliness)
Red represents Rajasic nature (ambition and violence)
Black represents Tamasic nature (evil)
Yellow represents Sattivika & Rajasic nature
White with spirituality

The nava rasas (9 expressions) they showed in the performance was awesome. They first explain in detail and then the show begins. That way, one can really understand and enjoy their Kathakali performance.

After this program, we all had a good dinner in Rasoi hotel and finally had time to chitchat.

Day 2:
After having our breakfast we left for Kumbalangi penninsula island village (model tourist village), which was 30mins drive. We were welcomed by the guide Ms Jiji. Its a beautiful, peaceful place. We all sat in the country boat for a ride. Kumbalangi is surrounded by backwaters. Chinese Fishing Nets cover the island and the village boasts of rich aquatic life. An array of mangroves separate land from water and provide for a good breeding ground for prawns, crabs and small fish.

After coming back to the island, we had a refreshing coconut water. Later the artists displayed their talents. Pottery, coir weaving etc. With a coconut tree we can see how they use every and every part of it. They make broom, basket, mat, rope. Worth watching these, esp the local ladies who were full of energy, they sing, dance and made us also to do. Had a wonderful time at this place. One must try to spend more time here. We also saw crab catching apart from fishing. 


After almost 4hrs spent here, we had snacks and tea/coffee at the hosts home and then left for Kumarakkom houseboat. It was 2hrs drive. On the way we all had great time playing anthakshari. 
By 4pm we settled in houseboat and had our lunch. It was really yummy as all were feeling hungry!

The houseboat took us on the ride and we all enjoyed the beautiful view of backwaters. Few of them took a speed boat ride. After almost 2hrs, the boat was parked on the shore in a small village. We all got down and took a walk into that village. There was a beautiful Krishna temple and we spent sometime there. As it was getting dark, we all came back to houseboat. We had nothing to do except spend time together. So had different topics to gossip and after dinner we played cards and then went off to sleep. 

Day 3 & 4: 
Early morning few of us got up and went for a walk in the village again. It was so peaceful and relaxing walk. No pollution, chaos. We saw people calm and relaxing. Not like the machine life which we find in the city.

After we came back to our houseboat, we had our breakfast and the boat started back to the place where we boarded. We bid goodbye to the guys who served us on the houseboat and continued our journey to Aranmula.

Aranmula is known for...

1. "Sree Parthasarathy Temple" is situated on the banks of the Pamba River in Pathanamthitta district. There are several fascinating stories from different versions of the Mahabharata on how Parthasarathy landed up here but we won’t get into those now. The place gets its name because the idol of Parthasarathy was supposed to have been shifted here from a forest, on a little boat made of six pieces of bamboo. Hence the name Aranmula stayed on. The temple is also considered one of the 108 Divya Desams of the Shri Vaishnavas.

2. Mirror: A special alloy is used to manufacture the Aranmula Kannadi(mirror). The metal mirror manufactured in Aranmula is a front surface reflection mirror, which eliminates secondary reflections and aberrations typical of back surface mirrors. They are not made of the usual glass and silver nitrate combination. When they fall down, they don’t break. Yes, mirrors that don’t crack so easily! The exact metals that form the alloy are said to be a combination of copper and tin. This extra ordinary traditional hand made metal mirror, is famous for bringing prosperity, luck and wealth in to life.

Aranmula mirror as an auspicious gift

Story goes that the crown of Lord Parthasarathy was once found cracked. The local ruler summoned the head goldsmith and ordered him to make a new crown within three days. The goldsmith was worried as he neither had sufficient materials for this task nor had sufficient time. He returned home distraught and told his wife. The wife was a great devotee of a goddess and prayed for help. That night she had a dream where the goddess revealed to her proportions for a bronze alloy that shone like a mirror. The condition was that all the ladies in their community must sell the gold they had, to collect enough tin and copper. The crown made out of the combination of copper and tin turned out to be a miracle of sorts. It looked silver in color, like a regular mirror, was brittle like glass and shone with great brilliance. It reflected like a proper mirror. This metallurgical wonder was transferred from generation to generation over time.

The exact recipe of this mirror is a closely guarded secret of the Vishwakarma community. It is considered one of the ‘Ashtamangalyams’ or eight auspicious things every family must own. It is supposed to bring good luck to the owner.

Making this mirror is a highly skilled and tedious process. A single mirror takes several weeks to make. It cannot be mass-produced in a factory. Each mirror is handmade. Only mud from the local paddy fields is used to make the mould.

3. Mural painting: 
We visited an exhibition nearby. There were beautiful Mural paintings and its also famous for the vastu vidya.

4. Boat race on Onam: 
The villages around this temple consider Parthasarathy as their family god. Every year around the period of Onam, the residents of the villages around the temple commemorate the instillation of this idol by taking part in ritual boat races. The long snake boats accompanied by much fanfare and local participation compete with each other in a high-energy recreation every year. Three snake boats row in union to the accompaniment of songs and reach their destination. The oarsmen dressed in white dhotis and white turbans around their heads row the snake boats to the rhythmic tunes of traditional boat songs. Fifty-one snake boats from different provinces participate in this race. The boats are called ‘Palliyodam’ or ‘boat of the lord’. This is a community initiative and everyone participates in it with much merriment.

Story goes that a pious Bhattadri devotee who fed the poor a day before Onam was once waiting when no one showed up. A small boy appeared, received his hospitality and while leaving said from the following year he must bring food to the temple. That night the Bhattadri has a dream where it is revealed that it was Lord Parthasarathy who came in the guise of that small boy to partake food earlier. Ever since, year after year, the families continue to take food to the temple. Over a period of several centuries, this has become a large community ritual. Food is got on boats from the other side of the bank and offered at the temple.

The largest Onam feast is first offered to Lord Parthasarathy before thousands of devotees, especially the oarsmen who participated in the boat races are fed. In fact, it is easily the largest vegetarian feast offered in any temple across India. On manicured banana leaves, an array of foods is spread out to make an exhaustive Onam Sadya. This is also the end of the monsoon season and the freshest of crop is offered.

We visited the temple,  watched the boat race and had the Onam sadya too. It is an unforgettable festival trip to this place. The Malakkarethu house homestay where we stayed was too good. 

Day 5:
After good local breakfast, Idiyyappam and kadala curry made by the chef at the homestay, we all left to Kochi Airport to catch our flights back to home. 

If one can, do visit these places esp on Onam time. Once in a life time experience to see their culture,traditions. 

 Have a great time! 
Thanks!



Adiyogi, Isha foundation, Coimbatore




The Adiyogi statue is a 34.3-metre-tall excluding plinth, 45-metre-long and 7.62-metre-wide statue of the Hindu deity Shiva with white Thirunamam at Coimbatore in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the "Largest Bust Sculpture” in the world.

One can easily go to this place as transportation is simple.. through railways, roadways or flight. I had taken flight and we can easily get a cab and the drive is 1.5hrs from the airport. They charge around Rs.1,050/- to only drop near Dhyaana Linga.

Dyaana Linga

The bags are checked and later kept with them. No mobiles, cameras, bags are allowed. Only a small purse is allowed inside. After the check in, the way leads to Linga Bhairavi(Fire of the Feminine). Here they give you Neem leaf as prasadam and one has to consume it.

Linga refers to Shiva, the Primordial God of Energyand Bhairavi is His consort. The joint name is the result of old sages trying to represent both the deities in one depiction, the Linga bearing Bhairavi as an image. One sad thing that is happening in the world is, women are either becoming like Barbie dolls or they are trying to become like men. They have jealousy, masculine ambitions and other nonsense, but they don’t have that feminine fire. That is what a woman could add to this world, that she is like a fire. Linga Bhairavi is a big-fire woman, not a small-fire woman. She is not a doll, she is not a man, she is feminine to the core.

Dhyanalinga is more oriented towards your ultimate wellbeing. Immediate wellbeing is also packed into it, but for people who are seeking health, prosperity, and these kind of things, Linga Bhairavi will be far more responsive. But she also has the spiritual dimension attached. If you give yourself deeply into the process, even if you went there in search of material wellbeing, slowly she will take you into that.

One must observe complete silence in this place be it Linga Bhairavi temple or Dyaana Linga.

Theerthakunds:

Later there is Surya kund and Chandra kund, which are energy pools that melt away karmic blocks, and that allow you to experience Dhyanalinga. We can take a dip in one of the two Theerthakunds (energized water bodies) on the premises. These pools are energized by rasalingas, which have been consecrated by Sadhguru. The Chandrakund, for women, is consecrated with a slightly feminine energy and the Suryakund, for men, is more masculine in nature. The entry fee is Rs.20/- They provide a dress for ladies to take a shower and then enter the kund. We can come back and change our clothes and then go to Dhyaana Linga.

"The holy dip in ice cold water made the mind and body calm and devoid of tension. So peaceful."

Then we enter the Dhyaana Linga. Dhyana” in Sanskrit means meditation and “linga” means the form. Dhyanalinga is a profound meditative space that does not ascribe to any particular belief or faith, and requires no ritual, prayer or worship. A powerful and unique energy form, Dhyanalinga is a doorway to enlightenment and spiritual liberation. In the metaphysical sense, Dhyanalinga is a guru, offering spiritual seekers the opportunity to do spiritual practices in the utmost intimacy of a live guru, something traditionally available only to a few.

Just sitting silently for a few minutes within the sphere of Dhyanalinga is enough to make even those unaware of meditation experience a state of deep meditativeness. – Sadhguru

Experience:
We are allowed inside this room after a bell sound for every 15mins. There is complete silence in there. When we sit for meditaion, our body shivers and there is a feel of vibration in us. This can only be felt personally than explained. Its a differenct experience. I sat for 30 mins and when I came out, could feel bliss!!! Nothing but peace and happiness within. One MUST definitely experience this!

AdiYogi statue:

Located in Coimbatore, Adiyogi statue has already been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records. 2.5 years went into designing the statue, and the face is made up of small pieces of metal put together, which is a first-of-its-kind.

This towering statue is set in the backdrop of verdant lush greenery and the Velliangiri hills, which further makes it an intriguing spot to visit.

It’s interesting to note that its height of 112 ft, in fact, denotes 112 ways to attain freedom, or moksha, which is basically a theme in the yogic culture. It is also believed that the height symbolises the 112 chakras, the focal points of the body, which are used in meditation.

The statue was built to take forward the idea of promoting yoga, and the name also suggests the same. It is called Adiyogi, which means the first yogi, and Lord Shiva is known to be the originator of yoga.
By 6.30pm booked a cab back to airport and flew back. Even after months, feel that bliss when I sit down and think about this place. My first solo trip that gave me confidence, peace, happiness.

Batu Caves, Malaysia



Batu Caves,one of Kuala Lumpur’s most frequented tourist attractions, is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu, which flows past the hill. It is the tenth limestone hill from Ampang. Batu Caves is also the name of a nearby village.

The limestone forming Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. Some of the cave entrances were used as shelters by the aboriginal Temuan / Besisi people (a tribe of Orang Asli). As early as 1860, Chinese settlers began excavating guano for fertilising their vegetable patches.

When was Batu Caves built?...

Since 1892, the Thaipusam festival in the Tamil month of Thai (which falls in late January/early February) has been celebrated there. Wooden steps up to the Temple Cave were built in 1920 and have since been replaced by concrete steps.

To get to the Temple Cave, you will need to climb the steep 272 steps to the top of the Batu Caves (open daily from 7am to 7pm). You start from the foot of Batu Caves near the foot of Lord Murugan's statue. BEWARE of lots of monkeys here.

When it comes to the Batu Caves entrance fee, one of the great things is that the main temple complex (where all the photos in this article are from) is free.

How do you get from Batu Caves to Kuala Lumpur?
From KL Sentral, metro to and fro costs 20 RM per person.

Dress code:
Remember this is a place of worship. If you do not like being stared at or pointed at by locals be sure to cover your legs and shoulders; do not wear shorts, short skirts or low cut tops.

Its a Must visit place when you are in Kuala Lumpur.

Ramayan Cave:

When you enter, you find a big Hanuman statue. And just beside that theres a Ramayan Cave. Its also a must visit place. The entre fee is 5RM per person. No cave at Batu is more spectacularly embellished than Ramayana Cave, which boasts psychedelic dioramas of the Indian epic 'Ramayana'. Inside you can't miss the giant statue of Kumbhakarna, brother of Ravana and a deep sleeper (note the attempts to wake him with arrows and cymbals). Climb the stairs to a shrine featuring a naturally occurring lingam, a stalagmite that is a symbol of Shiva.

Varanasi

Varanasi, or Benaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi`s Prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrevealed. Mark Twain, the English author and literature, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Benaras, once wrote : “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together. ”

The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.

A sadhu is a type of Hindu wandering monk,who has given up materialistic life and dedicated their life to spiritual liberation. They doesn't like to live with the societies. They want to do something for the society.; They sleep with dogs, even with rich man. they see everyone as same. Their life can fit in a bag. They dont live in materialism, only in ashrams or temples. They think that if we do our well being, the country's well being will happen on its own. They are the protector of religion and don't run any cult. They are living life of that of a spiritual gypsy. They are always with and very close to the divine. In a sense, they feel they are God. If you are God, you have to be a God. God doesn't harm nor kill anyone.So who ever comes their way, they see and give them light/knowledge to guide them in their life.



Real truth of living of Aghoris..

Money cannot buy everything. Cannot see God with money. They meditate on corpses, eat human flesh as part of a sacred ritual or keep a skull as a reminder of the impermanence of life. The skull is something that you get both the sky and earth together. Its the last thing of the human rite. After this, ashes are most last.Anyone or another day we all are going to become this. All of these acts are done in their pursuit of spirutal liberation. Death is something everyone is scared of. When death nears, they start crying. So when you embrace death it will not come to you. Old one has to go, for the new one to come. So this Death and birth is something like a cycle. Holy ash is a main thing for an Aghori.

Everyone are living in Maya. Some like money, some like women, some like food..this illusion will attract you. Its not permanent, it will change. Everything will vanish someday. if we had a xray machine, you wear it and walk around the world, you see everyone as skeleton. you cannot find who is man, woman. from the point of God, everyone are like that. so do the Aghoris look at others. And see Sun, Hes a friend of the whole world. He doesnt say, Im your enemy, cannot come to your house. whoever you are Sun comes to every house. so Sadhus are like that who give their light to everyone. World was created for peace. we have to be peaceful. Love nature otherwise nature will take over us.

Manikarnika Ghat:

For 3000 years people have gathered to worship on the shores of the Ganges in the holy city known as Varanasi. Overwhelming at times, Varanasi is the mystical centre of the Hindu world where every visitor can witness an abundance of life and death rituals.
"Death is a celebration at Varanasi"

Triund Trek, Dharmshala



Located 18 km from Dharmshala, Triund makes for an attractive trekking destination, with well-defined forest trails and breath-taking views of the entire Kangra valley. Triund is the crown jewel of Dharamshala , situated in the laps of Dhauladhar mountains, it has the perfect view of the Dhauladhar mountains on one side and Kangra valley on the other.

My Experience:

I had been to 2 treks before this with groups. But they always rush us to walk fast or somewhere the time was not enough and I dint enjoy the trek. Everyone has their own views and I wished to walk at peace, enjoying the beauty of the mountains and nature while trekking. So this time I decided not to go with any groups and planned on my own. My husband never went on any treks and always used to say whats there on trek. Hence, wanted to take him on a trek atleast once and get that experience.


We had to go to India for a family function and time was limit so choose Triund trek as it was only 2 days. After googling and getting info from one of my friend, selected crazypeaks where they have private treks also. Enquired with them and booked for 2 of us for trek which included a guide, a tent stay on top of Triund, tea,dinner and breakfast. It costed  almost Rs.4000/- for both of us.

For hotel stay at Mcleodganj, Booking.com was helpful. We can select according to our budget and choice. I normally prefer a decent and budgeted one and not a hifi types.. better save for travel than spend on hotels hehehe!

We took flight from Delhi to Dharmshala. Later a taxi to Dharamkot, McLeod ganj which costed Rs 800. Reached in the evening and since we were tired just had dinner and called the guide who said he would meet the next day mrng and we can start the trek.

The view from the hotel window in the morning was awesome. Saw the sun rise through the mountains and the locals busy with their daily routines.

We had our breakfast, packed what was needed for a day and left with the guide. He gave options either to walk or take an auto or cab till the starting point or base camp, Galu. And we obviously choose to walk, we had come all the way to experience this only right! And it was a coincidence that on the same day, 4th May, 3yrs back i had my knee ligament tear surgery. And it was as if i have come to celebrate. Only after my Knee surgery, I started trekking. 3 yrs, 3 treks.. Valley of flowers, Tungnath and Triund. Grateful to God for showing this side of the nature.

Started at around 9.30am  and reached the entry point at 11.15am. The way was just mind blowing. Walked on the roads, then passing through a blend of Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak forests. After giving our names at the check point, they even ask how many plastic things we are taking so that while returning it has to be shown and dumped in trash. We continue the trek to Triund. Since it was a weekend, it was crowded. Trekking for some is just like meditation and for some, it is just fun. Triund Trek is for all kinds of travellers. It is a trek where you can enjoy the nature at its best and also take your dear ones along, even kids can try if they are interested in trekking. The awe-inspiring beauty of the mountains in Triund will take your mind to a dreamland for sure!

The first 5kms was not that tough..it was rocky as we went in the month of May and slightly steep but not tough to climb. There are many small shops to take breaks, for tea, maggi. One interesting thing which I saw was refilling of water instead of buying water bottles. We must carry our own water bottles instead of simply buying and littering in the nature. Never ever miss having maggi and ginger-lemon tea on mountains. Its the best refreshing while trekking.

Another thing what I noticed was people playing loud music on speakers while trekking. Its really disturbing others who are walking. If at all they want to enjoy the music, there is an option called Headphones/earplugs. Some of us go all the way to the mountains to just be in the nature, listen to its music. The birds chirping, the sound of the insects, the sound of the wind and trees dancing to its tunes, soothing sound of waterfalls and so many small small things that we miss in our concrete jungle. Even after the boards have the Dos and Donts, these educated people really dont understand the value of nature. If someone comes to your house and throws tantrums, will you be happy? Moreover few people have no common sense and just keep shouting nonsense. Would request the readers and future trekkers not to spoil the beauty of nature. The silence of nature says a lot of things and when we go there, we can listen to our SELF. Its like a meditation and stress reliever. Please take care of what you are doing while in trek. Coz its not easy for everyone to keep going on trek. It takes lots of efforts and one must respect each other by not disturbing with noisy music and shouting/screaming.

The last 2-3km of the trek after a glacier, is tricky and slightly tough as there are 22 curves which is also steep. People do climb shortcuts but one must be really very careful as we never know which rock is strong and which is about to fall. Never risk on such things. Have seen guys falling and hurting their legs and their journey becomes difficult as we are neither on top to rest nor at the base camp. Also you may spoil the fun of the others who accompany you.

We reached Triund top at about 4.30pm. The view of the snow capped Dhauladhar range just in front of us is mesmerizing. We forget all the tiredness and just sit in peace. Everyone has their own experience. Having a hot cup of tea refreshes and you get lost into another world seeing the beauty of mountains. Tent was set and since its cold up there, we put on all the warm clothes and watched the sunset. We can also see the city down. About 8pm dinner was served. Rotis, veg sabji, dal and rice. Hatsoff to these people who get the provisions and water from down everyday. For the first time I dint take my camera as I always wanted to just enjoy the nature as it is! Stared at the sky that was full of stars. God created such a beautiful world that we forget in our routine life.

After a good nights sleep in the tent, got up early in the morning to see the sunrise. We had hot tea and aloo paratha for breakfast. Our guide told us to start the walk down to base camp by 8am. Walking down was not that tough.. It was rather enjoyable. Only thing we need to be careful not to run and fall. On the way, we can see mules carrying provisions to the shops. Every shop is set at a km distance. So it is really easy for us to know how many km are left. There was a mixed feeling while coming back. Happy feeling as we have done the trek, a little sad that we are going back to the routine life full of stupidity hahahaha! But, we have no choice than to return! The beautiful morning with the chirping birds, wild flowers swaying with the bees on it, the mountains.. these incredible beauty cannot be measured with any thing. That feeling only has to be felt and experienced. 

Met few people on the way, few seniors, few juniors. There is so much learning in meeting different kind of people. When you meet, you learn, analyze yourself, you start seeing the world and life in a different way.You grow and understand that this life has so many shades. By the time I have realized that it is difficult to capture real beauty and real people in camera. This is something which you can feel only on ground level. We need to go and talk to people. You need to get into their stories to know them and to understand that everybody is made up of strange stories. None is afraid of anything these days. Everyone mingles up and shares their life experiences. Sometimes, we end up having deep conversations with a stranger too. Travel and exploring are never about clicking pictures..its about real people with real experiences, unlearning what society has taught you and learning new way of life to understand that.. Life is beautiful.

Lots of memories and a heart full of satisfaction of doing a solo trek. None to force me to go fast, none to wait to make me feel guilty about my pace. Overall the best solo trek till date. Hope to go on such solo treks in future too.

We stayed in a hotel for a night and next day had flight back to Delhi.

If anyone planning for this, keep a day to visit other places in Dharmshala.

Wishing everyone healthy and safe treks. Have a great time. 
Thanks for reading!

General info:

Best Time To Visit Triund Trek:

Triund trek is accessible throughout the year, except during January and February. Heavy snowfall during these months cut off some sections of the trekking route. The best time to visit Triund is from March to June because of the cozy and comfortable weather and clear views. The weather in Triund is cool and comfortable round the year, except for chilly winter months.

Duration: 1 night, 2 days

Triund Trek Height: 2,850m above sea level

Triund Trek Starting Point: Galu

Triund Trek Distance: 
7 km (from Mcleodganj to Bhagsu village) | 3 km (from Bhagsu Village to Triund)

Difficulty Level: 
Easy to moderately challenging, popular among adventure enthusiasts of all ages.

The trek involves gradual to steep ascents that even amateurs can cover. And since the Mcleodganj to Triund distance is not much, it is not very exhausting either. The trek comprises of undulating and steep but well-defined trails through the lush forests of green rhododendron and oak trees. So, there need not be any hassle about how to reach Triund or getting lost in the way. The first 5 km of the Triund trek are simple. Thereon, the Triund trek route gets steep and requires a sturdy walk. This stretch is popularly known as 22 curves because of the 22 sharp curves en route.

However, if you are trekking during winters, the trek becomes slightly difficult due to the presence of snow on the otherwise firm and well-defined path.

Things to carry:
Water Bottle
Munching Items..like Dry Fruits, Chocolates or Energy Bars.
Sunglasses
Cap
Powerbank
Hiking pole
camera or phone
Fitness Tracker to Track your Hike or Trek
Medical/ first-aid kit
Sunscreen, Sunblocks, and Lipbalms to prevent sunburns
torchlight
trekking shoes and tracks for your comfort

Happy Trekking! Be safe and enjoy life!

Masinagudi



Masinagudi has treats to delight all kind of tourists. It is located in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, and is one of the five ranges in Mudumalai National Park. If you long for the adventure of wildlife safaris and love being surrounded by the wild, Masinagudi is the ultimate destination. Wildlife spaces like Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur National Park and Theppakadu Elephant Camp make it a wildlife hotspot.

We had been to Masinagudi in Aug 2018. Thought to stay for few days but unfortunately due to strike we could stay only for a day. But that was very beautiful day we spent in a resort. A quiet place surrounded with mountain and clouds, a rainbow in the morning. A memorable day well spent. Would someday go back there to fully enjoy the beauty of the nature again. 

We had been to this place from Bangalore on a road trip. When we covered 1hr distance, our vehicle broke on the way. We had to wait for another vehicle for almost 1hr. And luckily got a better vehicle..hehehe :D

To reach this place, we have to pass through Bandipur forest area. No vehicles are allowed to stop as wild animals freely roam here. We could spot many deers, peacocks, wild pigs, monkeys, a bear, elephants. But one thing personally I didnt like was honking on the road unnecessarily. There was no traffic but probably due to habit, people honk. It disturbs the animals on the roadside where they were peacefully sitting, gazing, having their own time freely. Hope someday they put a board saying no honks! There is also a safari in this Bandipur forest. We could see the same animals that we saw on the roads. 

Next day we went to Gaganachukki waterfalls. It is said to be Niagra waterfalls here. Barachukki and Gaganachukki are two waterfalls situated near the island town of Shivanasamudra in the Mandya district of Karnataka. The Gaganachukki waterfalls are best viewed from the watch tower at Shivanasamudra. Since it was monsoon time, the water was gushing in full force. We couldnt go to Barachukki waterfalls due to rains and water was overflowing everywhere. This time Kerala was in floods and everywhere there was alert.

It was a confused trip altogether but everyday we had some adventure and enjoyed without getting tensed. All is well that ends well. The trip was relaxing and memorable.

Chikmagalur, Karnataka

Chikmagalur is a town located in the Chikmagalur district in the Indian state of Karnataka. Chikmagalur district is the birthplace of coffee in India. Located in the foothills of the Mullayanagiri range, the town with its favorable climate and coffee estates attracts tourists.

Chikmagalur is connected to other parts of the state through roads. National Highway 173 (India) passes through the town connecting it with the state capital Bangalore, located 250 kilometres away. State Highway 57 (Karnataka) connects between Shimoga and Hassan.

We had booked a tour package to and fro Bangalore through Karnataka vacations.

Day 1: Bangalore to Chikmagalur (14th july 2018)

Drive from Bangalore airport to Chikmagalur. It took almost 6hrs.  On the way, we had been to Shravanabelahola... one of the most important tirthas (pilgrimage destinations) in Jainism, one that reached a peak in architectural and sculptural activity under the patronage of Western Ganga dynasty of Talakad. Chandragupta Maurya is said to have died here in 298 BCE after he became a Jain monk and assumed an ascetic life style. We have to walk up the hill barefoot, almost 700steps.
(for more info..check HISTORY)

Day 2: Ayyanakere - Dabdabe waterfalls - Mullayanagiri - Baba Budan Giri 
After good rest and breakfast, we left the hotel for siteseeing. We had been first to Seethalayanagiri and Mullayanagiri, which are view points after a small trek. Since we had been there during rainy season, the place was too foggy and nothing was visible. But one can enjoy the breeze, cloudy, rainy climate.

Next we went to Dabdabe waterfalls, also know as buttermilk waterfalls. We have to take a jeep to reach this place. Its a beautiful waterfalls inbetween nature. The jeep drive was crazy though.

Sri.Guru Dattatreya Bababudanswamy’s Darga on the Bababudan hills in Chikmagalur Taluk is an ancient and important institution held in high esteem by Hindus and Mohammadans alike and is resorted to by large numbers of Pilgrims from all parts of India.

Theres a siri cafe when you come down. Do visit it and have a coffee.. The ambience outside is beautiful.

Ayyanakere Lake is an ancient lake situated at the eastern base of Baba Budan Range hills. This is the biggest lake in the Chikmagalur district and the second largest lake in Karnataka. Ayyanakere is also called as Dodda Magoda Kere and it is surrounded by beautiful hills. It is one of the prime places to visit in Chikmagalur.

Day 3 : Kemmangundi - Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger safari.

Kemmangundi is a hill station is located at Tarikere taluk of Chikmagalur district. This picturesque hill station is situated at a height of 1434 meters above sea level. It was another foggy and rainy day and so we couldnt see any view from the top.

Next halt was at Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Safari.. Its a very small safari. People get fooled actually thinking we will spend few hours. But fact is its not even an hour to finish the safari. Entrance is only Rs.100/- so paisa vasool if u see a tiger and lion.. itne paise mein bas itna hi milega kinda safari!!!

We came back to hotel early as nothing was left to see that day. And it was a long hectic drive too.

Day 4: Jog falls and Bangalore 

The last day here and also long drive back to Bangalore. We drove to Jog falls..the second highest plunge waterfall in India located in Sagara taluk of Karnataka. It is a segmented waterfall which, depending on rain and season, becomes a plunge waterfall. The Sharavathi river takes a spectacular leap at a height of 292 meters falls in 4 distinct waterfalls - Raja, Rani, Rocket, Roarer.. to form the 5th highest waterfall in Asia. Its really very scenic view.

Later we headed towards Bangalore airport that took us almost 9hrs drive...





Rameshwaram

Rameswaram, standing firmly in the middle of India and Sri Lanka with its clean sea breezes, less crowded temples & sacred ponds. This famous “Island City” has been the center of attraction for travelers across the world. It is connected to mainland India by the Pamban Bridge. Rameswaram is the terminus of the railway line from Chennai and Madurai. Together with Varanasi, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India to Hindus, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimage and also one of the 12 Jyotirlings. Rameshwaram is one place you must add to your travel bucket list.

It is said the Hindu god Rama built a bridge from here across the sea to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana. The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is at the centre of the town and is closely associated with Rama. The temple and the town are considered a holy pilgrimage site for Shaivas and Vaishnavas.

Legend

Rameswara means "One who is lord of Rama" (Ram yasy Eashwarah) in Sanskrit, an epithet of Shiva, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. According to Hindu epic Ramayana, Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, prayed to Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana in Sri Lanka. According to the Puranas (Hindu scriptures), upon the advice of sages, Rama along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, installed and worshipped the lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the Brahmin Ravana. To worship Shiva, Rama wanted to have a lingam and directed his monkey lieutenant Hanuman to bring it from Himalayas. Since it took longer to bring the lingam, Sita built a lingam, made of just Sands of the shores, which is also believed to be the one in the sanctum of the temple. This account is well supported by the original Ramayana authored by Valmiki were it is written in yudha kanda .Sethu Karai is a place 22 km before the island of Rameswaram from where Rama is believed to have built a floating stone bridge, the Ramsetu bridge, that further continued to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram till Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. According to another version, as quoted in Adhyatma Ramayana, Rama installed the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka.

Places to see at Rameshwaram:

  • Ramanathaswamy Temple
  • The temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka and also one of the 12 Jyotirlings. Early in the morning when we go around 4.30 to 6am we can have darshan of the Spatika linga that has been done abhishekam with milk. Later you have to take bath in the Agni Theertham, that is in the Bay of Bengal and other 22 wells inside the temple and then we can have the darshan of main deity Shiva. 
    There are sixty-four Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. According to Skānda Purāṇa, twenty-four of them are important. Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the Tīrthas are within the Rāmanāthasvāmī Temple. The number 22 indicates the 22 arrows in Rama's quiver..  
  • Panchamukha Hanuman
  • The Five Faced Hanuman Temple is located at a distance of about 2 km from Rameshwaram Temple and has an idol of Hanuman fully covered in Senthooram (vermillion. In 1964 after the cyclone of Danushkodi, idols of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita were brought from Dhanushkodi and placed in this temple. It is believed that the floating stone used for making the bridge across the sea to Lanka (Sri Lanka) is the same stone that is kept outside this temple floating in a water tank. These stones are oval in shape and have coarse texture with small craters. The temple is open on all days from 6 am to 7 pm and its proximity to the main Rameshwaram temple means that it is a must have destination in the itinerary of all pilgrims visiting Rameshwaram. 
    The Story Behind Five Faced Hanuman Temple :
    The origin of the Five Faced (or panchmukhi) Hanuman can be traced to a story in Ramanayana. When Lord Rama was engaged in the final war with Ravana, Ravana asked Ahiravana, the king of Pathala, to take Rama and Lakshmana to Patala Lok. Ahiravana, in the disguise of Vibhishana, the noble brother of Ravana, took Rama and Lakshmana to Pathala to kill them. When Hanuman got to know about this he entered Pathala in search of Rama and his brother. There he discovered that the life of Ahiravana was hidden in five lamps which were placed in different directions and Ahiravana could only be killed by extinguishing these five lamps at the same time. To accomplish this, Hanuman took the form of Panchamukha Hanuman and blew out the five lamps in five directions. Along with Hanuman, the other four faces are Hayagriva, Narasimha, Garuda and Varaha. It is this Five Faced Hanuman idol that is kept in the temple at Rameshwaram. 
    The five faces of Hanuman also signify the five senses (panch indriyas) over which Hanuman has mastery, as he was a great yogi. They also represent the five elements (wind, water, earth, fire and sky) which are the basis of creation.
  • Dhanushkodi
  • Dhanushkodi is an abandoned town at the south-eastern tip of Pamban Island. Tourist can visit by their own vehicle and end up with Pillars of Ashoka. Its also a sangam of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean.  
  • Ramar padam
  • Ramar Padham is a Temple for Ram’s Feet, it is Situated in the sandy hillock named Gandha Madhana parvatham (The village where this temple is located is also called as Gandha Madhana Parvatham). The word Parvatham Literally meant Mountain, as per the reference in the epic Ramayana , there was a mount in this place in the ancient times. The feet of Lord Rama is engraved in a stone chakra in this place. The Ramar padham is the highest point in the Rameswaram, one can see the full panoramic view of Rameswaram island by standing on the top of this Temple. It is said that one can view sri lanka by standing on the top of Ramar padham. It is however a lie you cannot able to see Srilanka from here. The view of Pamban bridge, Dhoor dharsan Tower, villoondi theertham, olaikkuda light house, Ramanatha swamy Temple, Rameswaram bus stand, Sea can be viewable clearly.If you have Binoculars don’t forget to bring them , when you plan a visit for Ramar padham (It may be a admirable occasion for you if you bring so). 
     Mythical Story of Ramar Padham :
    It is said that Lord Ram Stands on this place and plan for the bridge, Before he built a bridge (Ram Sethu) across the sea. And it is also mentioned in the Ramayana that Hanuman took rest with his team mates before flew to srilanka in the search of Sita. 
  • Jadayu theertham
  • This temple is dedicated to Jatayu, considered to be the King of birds, who was an ardent and loyal devotee of Lord Rama. The legend behind this temple is associated with instances from Hindu sacred text Ramayana. According to the religious beliefs, when demon Ravana had kidnapped Goddess Sita, Jatayu had helped Lord Rama by fighting the demon. During the fight, Jatayu’s wings were slashed because of which it fell to the down and died. 
    Afterwards, Lord Rama had buried the Jatayu body at the place where a temple stands now dedicated to Jatayu. it is said that the entire place where it was buried, turned into vibhuti, which is the holy ash that is obtained after the yagnas by the saints. It is also believed that Jatayu also helped in getting herbs from mountains to save Lord Rama’s life.
  • Lakshman theertham
  • This temple was built in the Rameshwaram so as to offer sacred prayers to Lord Lakshmana. It is believed that Lord Lakshman (the brother of lord Ram) installed a Shiva linga and worships lord Shiva for vanishing his sins and took bath in this theertham.  
  • Agni theertham
The eastern sea shore opposite to the Ramanathaswamy temple is named as Agni theertham . This is one of the 64 sacred baths in Rameswaram (theerthams), Every day thousands of pilgrims took bath in this holy sea .Holistic rituals such as prohithams, yangnya( yaham), tharpanam(ritual for the ancestors who were dead) has been performed in the shores of Agni theertham.

It is believed that , by took bath in this sea will vanish ones sins, and make them pure again, and mixing the ashes of the dead person in this sea (Agni theertham) will brings peace to the soul of the dead . Pilgrims those who are plan for sacred bath in theerthas should first took bath in Agni theertham and followed by that bath in theerthas inside the temple.

Mythical story behind the Agni theertham:
The Word Agni in Sanskrit means fire and it also refers to the god of fire, and theertham means sacred water. One may wonder that why this sea is called by the name of fire.

After  rescuing his wife sita from the demon king Ravana, Lord Rama told her in a suspicion tone.

“Sita I’ve rescued you from my enemy Ravan, and I’ve done my duty and satisfied the demands of honour, you may have been touched by the Ravana, How can I know that you are pure” and he distrust her purity.

Sita got angry over Rama because of his suspicion and told to the Rama’s brother Lakshman that “ Lakshman ! , put a funeral pyre! I intend to enter into the flames” , Lakshman put a pyre in order to respect the words of his brother’s wife, Rama neither stop her nor he said anything to her. Sita enters into the flames of fire.

She prays to the lord of fire , “ Protect me Agni for you know that I’m pure of heart and body”.

Truth in her words, deed ,action and the prayer , the fire around her doesn’t hurt her. instead of burning her into ashes it made the fire god Agni to appear.

The fire god Agni appeared before Rama and said “Ram sita is pure, Chaste and Sinless, you take her to your abode Ayodhya with you and rule the country with her”.

Because of touching a chaste, pure and sinless women fire god Agni got a sin, He prays to Lord Shiva and took a bath in the sea in Rameswaram to vanquish his sin. The place he diminishes his sin by took a bath is called as Agni theertham .
  • Viloondi Theertham
 It is one of the beaches and also one of the 64 theerthas (sacred water body) in Rameswaram. It is situated 6 Km far from Rameswaram main bus stand. Villoondi theertham beach is a calm place with the silent tides. There is a good water spring situated inside the sea ,it is the main attraction of this place. (Sometimes sea water mixed with that spring water and makes it saline). There is a small Shiva shrine near to the Villoondi theertham . The shiva lingam here is named as Thrayambakeshvarar.

Mythical story of Villoondi Theertham:

The word “villoondi “ literally means “the place pierced by arrow “ and Theertham means sacred water in Tamil language.

There may be some scientific reasons for the existence of pure water spring inside the saline water body, but there is a mythical story from Ramayana which states the existence and the reason for the good water spring inside the sea in this place.

After rescuing his wife Sita from Ravana, Rama and his crew flew from Sri lanka to the Rameshwaram, at Rameswaram they perform rituals and poojas by installing a shiva linga.

After performing the rituals and took bath in the theerthas (Sacred baths) Rama with his crew flew to his birth place Ayodhya by means of pushpaka vimana (A flying machine acquired from ravana) . On the way to his abode, the crew asks for water in thirst.Rama suddenly took his arrow and shot it into the sea , the place where his arrow pierced in the sea, emerged a spring. By that spring, the crew quenched their thirst and thank Rama.
  • Kodanda Ramaswamy temple
The temple is surrounded by sea and remains a tourist attraction. It is easily accessible from Rameswaram. It is believed that Ravana’s brother Vibishana joined Lord Rama’s army at this place. This is the place where Vibishana was crowned the king of Lanka by Lord Sri Rama.The walls of the temple have beautiful paintings inscribed on them, depicting the story of Ramayana. Kothandaramaswamy Temple has several images of Lord Rama, wife Sita, brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibishana.

This temple is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal Ocean and lies at the southernmost tip of India

Historical Background:
The temple is estimated to have been constructed about 500-1000 years ago. Rama, the main idol, is depicted as having a bow (Kothandam), and hence the name Kothandaramaswamy for the idol.

The temple is believed to be the place where Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, asked Rama and his vanara (ape men) army for refuge. According to this tradition, after the abduction of Sita, Vibhishana advised Ravana to return her to Rama. However, Ravana did not listen to the advice, which led to Vibhishana fleeing from Lanka and joining Rama's army. When Vibhishana surrendered to Rama, the vanara army urged Rama not to accept Vibhishana believing him to be a spy.

However, Rama accepted Vibhishana under the insistence of Hanuman stating that it is his duty to protect the ones surrendered to him. It is also said that after the slaying of Ravana, Rama performed the "Pattabhishekam" (ascension to king of Lanka) for Vibhishana at this place. The story is depicted in painting across the walls inside the shrine.

Vibishana took all the efforts to persuade his brother Ravana to return Mother Sita to Rama whom he abducted in a cowardly way. Not only Ravana disagreed with Vibeeshana’s advice but heavily came down on him to hit him with his legs. Leaving his incorrigible brother for good, and came to Rameswaram where Lord Rama was camping then and sought asylum. As a tribute to his impeccable qualities, Lord Rama crowned him the king of Lanka even before Ravana was killed in the battle. Remembering this event, the temple is built in this island.

Sri Anjaneya is nearby praised as Anjaneya the Supporter. When Vibishana came to Rama after breaking his relationship with his brother Ravana, the monkey army did not agree to accept Vibishana as they suspected his sincerity. But Sri Anjaneya recommended Vibeeshana’s case explaining that he had personally observed his activities in Lanka and found him good in all aspects and that he deserved to be accepted by the Lord. Hence, He is called Anjaneya the Supporter. 

 It is believed that he takes the just prayers of the devotees to Lord Rama and helps them achieving their desires.Traditionally, we see Sri Anjaneya in a worshipping form near Lord. In this temple, Vibishana is awarded with this right. It is also noteworthy that Vibishana was offered the ‘Azhwar’ title as he was accepted by Lord. In this small temple, Garuda Bhagwan and Acharya Sri Ramanuja have their shrines. Those seeking leadership position through proper ways and to be away from the wicked pray here. Lord helps them. This is the philosophy behind the coronation of Vibishana.
  • Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's Memorial
  • Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, popularly known as the “Missile Man of India”, was the 11th President of India between 2002 and 2007. He died of a cardiac arrest on July 27, 2015 in Shillong where he had gone to deliver a lecture. In the memory of our beloved people president Abdul Kalam , there is a grand memorial monument built over his tomb to honour him. 
    Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam National Memorial in the Rameswaram island becomes one of the Must Visit top ten places places to visit in the Rameshwaram for the tourists. Dr.Kalam’s worldly body rest in the peace beneath this monument’s central place, and his aura filled everywhere in this memorial through his thoughts . Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam memorial showcases Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s history. Personal belongings used by him, his portraits and his statues. Statue of the our former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, playing the musical instrument Veena is placed in the center of the memorial. There are two other silicon statues of Dr. Kalam, in presidential suit, in sitting and standing postures. Sample model of the Agni missile placed in the Garden, which lies at the backyard of the Memorial.
  • Pamban bridge
Pamban Bridge is a railway bridge which connects the town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. The rail bridge is, for the most part, a conventional bridge resting on concrete piers, but has a double-leaf bascule section midway, which can be raised to let ships and barges pass through. This road bridge is also known as Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. The Pamban Road Bridge connects the National Highway (NH 49) with the Rameswaram island. It stands on the Palk Strait and between the shores of Mandapam (Place on the Indian Main land) and Pamban (One of the fishermen town in Rameswaram island).


Flamingos @Dubai birds sanctuary..

RAKWS(Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary) ... Amazing and peaceful spot for Bird gazing and Bird photography, specially Pink Flamingos.

Tungnath, Chandrashila trekking


One of my dreams come true.. Used to see the pictures on social media and wanted to trek this place. Planned to go with Wow club, the ladies group but due to various reasons couldn't book. Later checked to go with trek the Himalayas group but couldn't get train tickets from Delhi to Haridwar. Disappointed and was casually googling if I could find something. Luckily got a ladies group called Women on clouds who offered this trek along with train tickets. Without any thought just booked the trip. But it was for only 4 days and it was really hectic. If anyone planning for this trek, please have 1 more day so that you can really have energy and also enjoy the trip at peace, just a suggestion.!

About the place:

The trails of Garhwal Himalayas evoke thrill and adventure. Lofty terrains leading to the summit make for an incredible experience and the surrounding beauty leaves you enchanted. Chandrashila Trek with Chopta and Tungnath is one of the most exciting and challenging trails you can tread in Uttarakhand. Soaring up at 13000 feet, adorned with mists, coniferous, and snow, this is one heck of a trek you must take.The best part about the Chandrashila Trek is that it is a year-round trek.

Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world and is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples located in the mountain range of Tunganath in Rudraprayag district, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The Tunganath (literal meaning: Lord of the peaks) mountains form the Mandakini and Alaknanda river valleys. Located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft), and just below the peak of Chandrashila, Tungnath temple is the highest Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to be 5000 years old and is the third (Tritiya Kedar) in the pecking order of the Panch Kedars. It has a rich legend linked to the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata epic.

According to Hindu mythology Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati both reside in the Himalayas: Lord Shiva resides at Mount Kailash. Parvati is also called Shail Putri which means 'daughter of hills'.

The Tunganath is indelibly linked to the origin of the Panch Kedar temples built by the Pandavas. The legend states that sage Vyas Rishi advised the Pandavas that since they were culpable of slaying their own relatives (Kauravas, their cousins) during the Mahabharata war or Kurukshetra war, their act could be pardoned only by Lord Shiva. Consequently, the Pandavas went in search of Shiva who was avoiding them since he was convinced of the guilt of Pandavas. In order to keep away from them, Shiva took the form of a bull and went into hiding in an underground safe haven at Guptakashi, where Pandavas chased him. But later Shiva’s body in the form of bull’s body parts rematerialized at five different locations that represent the "Panch Kedar" where Pandavas built temples of Lord Shiva at each location, to worship and venerate, seeking his pardon and blessings. Each one is identified with a part of his body; Tungnath is identified as the place where the bahu (hands) were seen: hump was seen at Kedarnath; head appeared at Rudranath; his navel and stomach surfaced at Madhyamaheshwar; and his jata (hair or locks) at Kalpeshwar.

Legend also states that Lord Rama, meditated at the Chandrashila peak, which is close to Tungnath. It is also said that Ravana did penance to Shiva, the lord of the peaks, when he resided here.

Chandrashila Trek route:  (29th March - 1st April, 2018)

Haridwar – Sari (base camp) – Deoria Tal – Chopta – Circuit (Chopta – Tungnath – Chandrashila Peak – Chopta) – Haridwar

Day 1:


We had reached Delhi railway station and met our gang at 6am. We boarded the Dehradun Shatabdi train that would reach Haridwar around 11.30am. Since we all came from different destinations, all were already tired and sleepy. Had introduced each other and slept off in the train. 

Reached Haridwar station around 11.30am and got into our vehicles. We had our river rafting first after our lunch at Rishikesh. River rafting at Rishikesh is a must do. We completely enjoyed it. We also jumped in the Ganges and felt blessed. Due to less time, we couldnt see the Ganga Aarti thats  famous there. And it was very crowded as it was a long weekend. We were all exhausted by then and just left for the camp to take good rest. 

Our camp was Aspen Camp at Rishikesh. It was a small trek to reach down there and when we reached it was almost 7pm. It was dark and was fun walking down the slope to get down to the camp. The owner, Mr Ankit was very caring and friendly..interacted with all the guests in his camp. After good dinner we all retired to our tents to catch up good sleep so that we get recharged for our next day. 

Day 2:

Morning we got ready by 7am and went out to see the beauty outside. The camp was very nice..with beautiful flowers all around and the view of mountains, birds chirping. Just perfect nature to be in.

We had our breakfast and left the camp. It was a long drive. Had lunch outside. We had to reach Sari village by noon but due to road widening and works, we were stuck and reached only by 5pm.

The trek was about 2hrs to reach the Magpie Camp, near the Deoria tal (lake)... It was almost 7pm and no lights out anywhere. So we went to the camp. We had bonfire with other guests of that camp, munching pakodas and hot tea. They were 2 retired couples, and 1 family. We all had good time playing anthakshari and a little boy named Ayan danced for bollywood music.  After a good dinner we rested for the day. It was reallyyy cold up there :D

Day 3:

Deoria tal is located at an altitude of 2,438 meters (7,999 ft). The lake is known for its wide 300° panorama. Mountains like Chaukhamba, Nilkantha, Bandarpunch, Kedar Range, and Kalanag can be viewed from here. 



Hindu mythology states that the Devas bathed in this lake, hence the name. The lake is also believed to be the "Indra Sarovar" referred to in the Puranas by wandering Hindu mendicants, Sadhus. It is also believed that it was the place from where the mighty Pandavas were asked queries by Yaksha. According to the locals it was also said that this lake was built by Bheem, who was strongest among the Pandavas, to appease his thirst, and Yudhister, who was the wisest, suggested Bheem to build his own lake.

Early morning we got up at 6am to see the sunrise at the lake. It was 5mins walk upto the lake. We saw many tents that were camped near the lake. 

It was indeed a beauty to watch the nature with birds chirping and sun about to rise. I went around the lake to see the place. At another point found a view point where we can see the mountain range and the beautiful first sun rays falling on these snow capped mountains. Cant explain that beauty! We have to just see, experience and feel that.

I was thankful that this place was not cancelled due to our time issue, which was being planned before reaching here. 

After having our breakfast and packing our lunch, we left for Chopta. We had to trek down back to Sari village that took 1.5 hrs. The way was slipperty when coming down. One has to be really very careful and not just run. Takes knees for a game ;) 

We drove to Chopta. Reached Chopta around 10.30am and started our main trek to Tungnath and Chandrashila.  The way is really nice but due to steep and altitude we get breathlessness. Its actually an easy to moderate trek, if everything goes well. The climate was changing every now and then. As we walk up it was breezy, cold and sweaty. This effects a lot while trekking up. Please take care and be aware, if you are planning to trek...

Not every mountain trek is same. It depends on the person and the altitude it plays with our body. Every trek is different and we get different experience. I had thought I could do it easily as I had done Valley of flowers. But I was wrong. After appx 2hrs trek, I was completely exhausted, unable to breathe, unable to put one step forward, stuck with the altitude sickness, felt to puke, odd feeling in tummy.. I just..just gave up.. NOT ANYMORE.. but.......something happened....

The moment I gave up and was standing, saw a man smiling at me and coming down from the trek. He was very simple, middle aged guy. He stopped beside me..pointed his index finger at the top, and said, "SEE THERE... WHEN THEY CAN DO IT, EVEN YOU CAN DO"

With some hope i sighed and said, Yes, WHY NOT ME!

But, He stressed and said.."NOT WHY.. EVEN YOU CAN DO! Chalo now go and finish this!" and he just went off, after I thanked him for motivating.

As soon as he left, I dint know what happend to me, I just cried. No thoughts about anything. finally had some water. And.... started my walk......The next 40mins of my trek was filled with so much energy, no thoughts, people were smiling, talking, asking me to sit for a while and rest, clicking pics for others.. It was just a diversion from my pain and thought of not doing. Some Will Power, some positive vibe i had got suddenly. Felt that He was The God Himself.. without His push, I would never had done this. If one believes, its faith!!!

I could not believe I reached Tungnath temple in 40mins. Truly a wonderful experience it was. I had taken some dates which i offered to Lord Shiva, though temple was closed. It was a Manasika prayer done. Gave to people near the temple and to my friends. Please do carry some dryfruits to offer to God and give to others like prasad. Its a blessing to reach in first place. And once you reach, having a date kills the thirst. People thank you for that too. Its a nice feeling! Spent sometime watching the beauty of the place and it was indeed PEACEFUL! Felt some kind of self satisfaction, some kind of happiness.. :)

Since it was already 2pm and mists started covering the peaks, thought no point trekking to Chandrashila point. Except one girl from our gang made it. Others, we all started walking down.

Saw a worker who had ice in his plate and eating with a spoon. I asked him why are you eating this. He replied saying, We eat this snow with salt so that our body gets used to this cold climate. Its our daily routine. I was really surprised. He just smiled and he continued eating.

Finally we reached the base completely tired, exhausted, with leg pains...but satisfied we could make it to Tungnath.

Got into our car and went to our Magpie jungle camp. We really had a good hot water bath that refreshed us from the trek. Had dinner, packed our things as we had to leave next day early to Haridwar. Then hit to the bed..slept like a log. It was warm inside the tent and needed good rest.

Day 4:

Got up by 4am and left by 5am to Haridwar as we had our return train to Delhi.

On the way we saw Rudraprayag, where River Mandakini and River Alaknanda joined to form Ganga. and also Dev Prayag, where River Alaknanda and River Bhagirathi joined to form Ganga.

We reached Haridwar railway station by 4pm and just relaxed.

Our trip ended with wonderful experience.
 

Suggestion:

If you are a first time trekker, then this expedition is the perfect experience to enjoy the thrill of the Himalayas. Prepare thoroughly with regard to clothing and other protective gears to endure the unpredictable mountain weather.  Build enough leg strength and ample gym training, anything that can equally replicate the actual trek. Practice using your backpack and choose wisely with adjustable straps when buying. Use a good quality-walking pole and remember to enjoy yourself while hydrating yourself frequently.

 Things to Carry 

– Good condition trekking shoes
– A pair of thick woolen socks never hurt when trekking in the Himalayas
– Keep a thick winter jacket for dealing with the cold
– Trekking Pants are a must for scaling the peaks
– A woolen cap to protect yourself from the biting cold
– A pair of sunglasses to avoid the glaring sun
– Sun Screen
– A 2 ltr. water bottle
–Glucose
–Dryfruits
– Trekking pole
– A first aid box is a must have on this trek
–Torch light
– carry light backpack

Thanks for reading.. Have a grt time!

Jebel Jais, RAK

Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah...The spectacular Hajar Mountains in the eastern part of the emirate were formed over 70 million years ago and stand nearly rises 1,934 metres above sea level, and is the UAE’s highest mountain.

After so many years visited this place Jebal Jais Mountains, Ras Al Khaimah. Its almost two and half hours drive from Dubai.Away from the noise and the concrete jungle. For those who wish to spend the night under the stars, there are a number of established camping spots or one can hike the mountains/biking.


Its the best place for camping in winters. Sometimes it also snows. Out into the beautiful nature..surrounded by Hajar mountains. Best view for Sunset and Sunrise.

Al Ain Zoo (Wild life photography)


Al Ain Zoo is a 400-hectare (990-acre) zoo located in the foothills of the Jebel Hafeet Mountains in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. It mainly comprises Arabian antelopes and oryx, eland, gazelle and can be found in the tree shaded paddocks which offer excellent breeding conditions.

The zoo features a big cat house. Lions, pumas, black and spotted leopards and jaguars are found here. In addition to this, it also has a reptile house, monkey compounds. The zoo also has a "train" with open carriages. It does not enter the "yellow" section which hosts the African lion, Bengal tiger, chimpanzee, puma, salt water crocodile, panther, Nile crocodile and leopard. The Al Ain Zoo is home to over 4,000 animals, with at least 30% of its 180 species considered endangered.

It takes about 4 to 5 hours to cover the full zoo. Must visit place...

Valley of Flowers

Difficult roads often lead to Beautiful Destinations....
 

Everyone has a dream..but life is not a bed of roses that we can easily get through..(exceptions may b there)..but def not for me!!

I had dreams of going to Valley of flowers for more than 3yrs..but due to my weight couldn't take the step. Then i had my knee ligament surgery last year (May 2016)... that time all my dreams got washed off.

But God is kind to me... Got a mentor who guided me and i lost 13kgs in 3months time and that bought me back to think abt this trek to Valley of flowers.. And luckily saw the first ladies grp by Trek the himalayas (trekthehimalayas.com) n immediately booked without a second thought! And finallyyyyyy... i DID IT!! Though trek was difficult for me..i was the last in the group..our trek leader supported me n so did my lovely gang.. Cheers to the gang! Now im proud of myself 😊😊and know my strength..!!!

About the Trip..
 Trip was from 22nd July to 26th July 2017

Day1: Haridwar to Joshimath
Day2: Govindghat to Ghangaria
Day3: Ghangaria to Valley of Flowers to Ghangaria 
Day4: Ghangaria to Hemkund to Ghangaria 
Day5: Ghangaria to Govindghat to  Joshimath
Day6: Joshimath to Haridwar

Day 1:

After reaching Haridwar railway station, our group met outside. There were 2 vehicles and 11 of us. Immediately started our journey to Joshimath. On the way had stopped for breakfast and lunch.
It was really long hours of travel. But did not get bored as was delighted to see lush green cover, small villages along the road, ravishing waterfalls and gushing rivers while the cloud cover rested above the peaks and offered a beautiful feast to my eyes. My vision was soaked in the Himalayan beauty as I kept staring outside the window and clicked pictures. 

We reached our hotel at Joshimath and refreshed ourselves. Then had a meeting with our Trek Leader Kavitha. We all introduced ourselves and then had a brief idea about our trekking. Many of us were beginners and had no idea of how the trek will go on. We all were excited. Finally after the discussions, we had our dinner and went to sleep as it was very tiring day. And the next day we had to get up and start our Trek. 

Day 2:

Our day started at 5 AM for the tea. We had tea and packed our backpack and also the lunchbox and water bottles with some snacks and our trekking pole. At 6 AM we had our breakfast and by 7 AM we all were set for the new day. Then sat in the vehicle to reach Govind Ghat, the entrance for the trek. It took around 40mins to reach there. The morning view of the nature was refreshing and fantastic. The mountains, clouds, rivers, horses.. any picture cant justify what the eyes see!

At the entrance  we have to give our name, emergency contact number and they issue a card which you have to keep till you come back. If you dont have trekking pole, you get trekking sticks here for Rs 50/-. Some of us opted for porter service for our bags.. through mules. And then our trek begins after a group selfie ;) 

The first phase of the trek was simple.. the path was laid and ups and downs. We enjoyed the walk watching the beautiful nature. It started raining too.  Clicking pictures, gossips, taking rest in between.. everything went on well till lunch break. After lunch, the way was little steep and was little difficult for few of us. People who were fit had no issues.. They were walking normally. Finally reached Gangaria base camp and it took almost 6hrs. 

When we reached Deepak hotel where we stayed for 3 days. We got our bags and rooms. Refreshed ourselves and our trek leader made us do few exercises that made our body relax. Then had hot tea and snacks. All were so tired that we had early dinner and end of the day.

Day 3:
Dreams of many people.. Valley of Flowers! Finallyyy the day has come!! All were super excited and after the breakfast, packed our lunch box and water bottles and backpacks and started our trek.

The morning view of the place was heaven.. The start itself was little steep but way was properly laid. No mules go this side. If people cant walk, they can opt for Doli service of a Basket service. Doli is where 4 people carry and Basket is where one person carries you in a basket on his head. On a serious note, when you see them carrying people in such a place, heart goes for them. Some say its livelihood for them but felt no humanity. Sad to see that!! But thats life.. it goes on!!

The Trek to Valley of Flowers is definitely not an easy one.  The actual Trek starts after crossing the bridge on Pushpawati river. The pictures on google shows a lovely path but in actual when we go there its all rocky and ups and downs. Upon that this is a monsoon trek and it was raining. We never know the next step how it would be. One has to have the will power and stable pace when trekking. Even though the trek leader may keep saying "Chalo chalo" "keep moving" and your fellow mates would have gone so much further, please dont loose hope on yourself and just think of walking at your pace as you only know your limit to push further. Take their words in positive way and move on. And Trekking is never a race... just enjoy the beauty of nature and keep walking and walking!!

There were moments when I used to curse myself for coming all the way and kept saying "Why the hell have i come here to take such a pain.. it was better to sit at home and see the pictures on Google". Trust me.. it was not only me who thought this, but many others too (we honestly confessed when we went back). But at the end, all the pain was worth going there! :)

After an hectic walk (for me) reached the Valley of Flowers!! It is definitely a Heaven!! I had a long walk and when some people said its the same flowers everywhere, just stopped and enjoyed the place. The cool breeze, chirping birds, flowers moving in the wind, the mountains, the clouds, the drizzle and of course the valley full of green carpet with yellow, purple, blue, pink shades of flowers, the butterflies, the bees.... what else can be asked here.. Sat on a rock for few moments and enjoyed the realy beauty of the valley.

After clicking pictures of the valley and selfies with frds, me and my 2 frds sat on the rock facing the valley view and had our lunch there.. Unforgettable and the best moment!! The beauty of this cant be explained in words.. it can just be felt!

After this, we had hot tea there bought by our trek leader and then started to descend. It starting raining. I was carrying my DSLR and it was not advisable if you are planning to take.. unless its less weight and you can handle it. And in rains you cant even click any picture with that!! Better carry less and enjoy. click with your mobiles or gopro!

Coming down was even more difficult as stones were little slippery and the main reason being FEAR. But somehow came down safely. The satisfaction of seeing your dream fulfilled says it all. Some sort of peace and happiness is filled inside you... that YOU have Done it!!!

After reaching back to base camp..did our exercises to relax the body then had hot tea, soup and early dinner. We were lucky to find a massage boy named Soham Singh and wonderful leg massage he does for 15mins. It is much needed for the legs.

At night, few were confused if they can go for Hemkund trek as body was damn tired. And if they could do as its higher altitude. Few opted for mule service due to health issues.

Had a good discussion abt how the day went and about the next day plans and all retired to sleep.

Day 4:

Next day morning back with 5,6, 6.30.. ie 5am tea, 6am breakfast, 6.30 ready for trek!!!

2 opted for mule and others started walking.. It was the same way as to Valley of flowers..but in middle theres a diversion and another way goes to Hemkund sahib gurudwara. All started of with slow pace as it was really steep and few of us felt breathless after 2km itself. 3 of us took horses in between as it seemed difficult and the rest walked up. I felt thankful that I took horse else wouldnt have made it... as I was very slow and would have taken hours to walk up.

The view was mindblowing and as nearing to the place, we could see many flowers. The queen of flowers Blue poppy and Brahmakamal, the state flower of Uttarakand..and many colorful flowers. The place was covered with clouds by the time we reached. We could hardly see the full Hemkund lake or the Gurudwara nor the  snowcapped mountains behind Gurudwara..as we can see on google pictures.It was freezing there.. and we were surprised seeing people taking dip in the holy Hemkund water near the gurudwara. We went inside and prayed. Sat for sometime and had prasadh. There is a Laxman temple (Sri Ramas brother) next to Gurudwara. Then came to langar and had hot tea with hot khichdi. Due to rain and clouds nothing was visible clearly. Then we started out to descend.

It was really cold and beautiful. We can enjoy the getting down as it was easy... watching, clicking all the flowers doesnt show any pain at all. Again some feeling of happiness when you are out of the world into the nature. Its truly a blessing!

Back to the hotel happy and tired, we all gathered up to talk about how the day went. After dinner, packed up things as next day have to get back to Gangaria... The bags can be sent through mule, if opted for.

All were finally very happy and satisfied that we had been to our dream place!

Day5:

Morning after breakfast, tea we started out walking down back to Gangaria. It was raining and we actually took time to walk down and be with nature too. Clicking pictures that we missed while going up.. group pics, selfies,etc carried on. By evening we reached Gangaria and got into our vehicles to reach Joshimath.

Back to hotel.. had hot tea and some snacks. Few went for ropeway cable to see Auli.

Then had a gathering to collect our certificates from Trek the Himalayas.. shared our views with each other, had a gud dinner. Thanked the staff. Had some fun time with all and packed up things as next day we had to leave back to Haridwar.

Day 6:

After tea, bid bye to our trek leader and each other. Got into the vehicles and by evening back to Haridwar station.

Ends the Trek .. :) with a happy happy feel!!

During the trek, met few people with diverse talents..especially, a 55+ year old uncle, who was a frequent trekker and had done base camp to Everest, listening to his stories, I felt,  so dead at what I was doing and there is so much I can do with my life, work necessarily doesn’t have to take front seat in life and with just little endeavor you can answer every call that excites you and at that point I knew I have got what I wanted from my trek.!!!!

Now, if you are planning for this trek.. some useful informations: 
  • ATM is lastly available at Joshimath
  • Warm clothes, gloves, cap.
  •  Be prepared for rains and carry a good rain gear
  • The number of flowers you see in the Valley of flowers are based on the season you go, each week could be different. And, don’t expect anything like what you see in the morphed pictures of this place! 
  • You can acclimatize well with your daily ascend. No need to rely on medicines like Diamox
  • This trek is quite suitable for people who have are beginners. This trek is well equipped in terms of logistics. (Connectivity, mules, well laid treks, helicopter services, etc.)
  • For people who don’t want take up the climb to Hemkund Sahib, mules are easily available 
  • Good walking/hiking shoes are must. 
  • You can extend your stay and visit Badrinath, Mana and Auli. 
  • Don’t be scared of landslides, they are usual in this terrain and most of them are harmless. It is more hyped than you think. 
  • Mobile network is not that good. only BSNL works. but there are few shops nearby where they charge Rs 10 per min for a call. ISD is Rs 70 per min.  
  • Dont carry heavy things for the trek. just enjoy the walk in the nature!
HAPPY TREKKING.. BE SAFE AND ENJOY!!