Posted in forts in jaipur, india, indian, jaigarh fort, jaipur, jaipur city, jaipur diaries, north indian, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized, writer, writing

Travel Musings – Jaigarh Fort

One fine day, I decided to leave it all. Leave the derision that wakes you up in the night.
Leave the bullshit that does not allow you a good night’s sleep
Leave the people who never rise above their insecurities.
Leave the circumstances that compel you to doubt yourself
Leave the surroundings that makes you gloomy
Leave everything and everyone
Which and who, no more serve you
Or your life

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Posted in himalayas, mountain, mountains, nag tibba, the lesser himalayas, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, writer, writing

Travel Musings – Nag Tibba

“But before I die, I want to fight for life. If I can walk on my own, I can go wherever I like.”

And these beautiful lines from #elevenminutes aptly describe my state of mind while trekking towards the Nag Tibba base camp on day 1. I wanted to give up and get back to our guest house in the Pantwari village because of the excruciating pain in my shoulder blades and back but something stopped me. That “something” compelled me to believe that I can reach the base camp, come whatever may.

 

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Posted in nag tibba, snow trek, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, writer, writing

Travel musings – Nag Tibba

Lately, I have realized that on steep ⛰️ treks, you need to be careful with the weight of your bag. The heavier it is, the more it will hinder your movements. And on steeper terrain, you need to be cautious while traversing as any wrong move could hurt you.
This bag was around 8-9kg and I carried it for 6km till the Nag Tibba base camp and the resultant – inflamed ankles and knees.

 

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Posted in camp, gluttonyguilts, himalayas, india, indian, indian cuisine, indian food, mountain, mountains, nag tibba, north indian, shiwaliks, showononeplus, snow, snow trek, snowflake, the lesser himalayas, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, uttarakhand, writing

The crowning jewel of the Shiwaliks – Nag Tibba

What will be life if we do not follow our heart’s wishes for adventures?
My first Uttarakhand and a winter trek happened at the beginning of 2018. The temperatures in Delhi were already below 5 degrees and Uttarakhand signifies a red signal for cold prone people like me.
But regular adventures satisfy the soul and I am no different. When the opportunity came calling, I had to respond; otherwise I would have faced the regret of not going for a winter trek for a year or so.
Departure
I along with a bunch of three enthusiastic friends enrolled ourselves for the weekend trek of the professional trekking company Trek The Himalayas. We boarded the midnight train – Nanda Devi Express from Delhi and reached Dehradun by 6a.m.
Arrival – Day 1
Since we were not going to bathe for the next two days considering the requirements of this strenuous trek and a six hour journey through Mussoorie, we decided to slightly freshen ourselves at the railways station waiting room.
And man, what an experience it was!
Keeping your trekking and day bag alone and then going towards the rest rooms to refresh your mouth and wash your face sounds scary at first but trust me, it was not. I had a lady friend with me and we made sure to back each other up. But 6 a.m. in the morning is not the time that the thieves (they are actually waking up!) wander, looking out for precious something of travellers; so you are perfectly safe.
The tour guide from Trek The Himalayas picked us up at 6:45 a.m. and we were comfortably seated in a tempo traveller. We relished the silence of the Dehradun while its residents slept peacefully.
And then after two hours, came Mussoorie – the hill town I was most anxious to visit since childhood. The winding drive through the tree-laden roads with the sun light filtering through the swaying leaves is exhilarating to say the least. The colonial balustrades and the Britishesque street lamps did transform to a different universe, because I was in a different universe!
A few kilometres from Mussoorie, we halted for our breakfast break around 9:30 a.m. A local dhabha serving the most delicious butter loaded paranthas was opened graciously to the customers and boy, could we say no?

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At the restaurant, a small balcony beckoned us to savour the beauty that solemnly waited. The snow clad Shiwaliks with a few green patches stood there with the cold waves swirling around them like an enchantress.

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But this ephemeral moment was marred by a red butted mischievous macaque ready to pounce any moment. Time to rush back!
The journey from here to Pantwari village went in a quiet power nap which lasted another two hours.
The drive through the village was definitely eventful considering the frolicking crowd – an afternoon Pahadi wedding in full gusto. Half sleepy, half awake, we listened to the cheerful crowd singing the local Pahadi songs and tried to decipher what each word meant, although we were unsuccessful!
At Pantwari village, we were provided changing rooms at a local guesthouse and the next hour was spent in freshening up again, changing into our trekking gear and preparing our carry on luggage. A quick fulfilling lunch provided us the necessary energy required for the daunting journey ahead.
The Nag Tibba trail begins from the Pantwari village (1450m) and ends at the Nag Tibba top 9-10 km away. Since it is a steep trek with fewer gradual trails in between, it takes time to reach the top and so in between the village and the top, there is an area designated as the Nag Tibba Base Camp where temporary camping facilities are provided.
Compared to the breathtaking trails of Himachal (my view at that point of time), Nag Tibba trekking route is least serene. The initial journey is through a pebble and mud laden trail which is steep as well as slippery due to dry leaves. You need to carry a light bag and comfortable clothes because the continuous uphill trek saps you of energy and will power. As my bag was around 8kg and I was wearing three layers (because of below ten temperatures), I had to remover a few layers and tighten up the straps of my bag. Taking frequent rests became a routine here which was never the case in my previous treks.
The scenery is not as enjoyable as you would expect – dry parched terrain, scattered greenery and big lose boulders and pebbles on which you have to tread carefully lest you shall suffer a back breaking fall. But the surrounding view of The Lesser Himalayas compels you to forget the hurdles of the journey.

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We started the trek at 2pm and the swiftest person reached the base camp by 5:30pm covering 6km. I reached by 6:30pm due to multiple factors – a heavy bag, back ache and ankle inflammation which developed during the journey and loss of time as I went astray in the trails and had to wait for about 15-20 minutes for the people preceding me.

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When I lost my way in the trails

As the night drew in, the ambience got colder and it must have been around 1 degree in the night. Basic camping facilities were prepared for us with pit-hole washrooms. Trek The Himalayas took good care of everything – tea, dinner, temporary restrooms, warm sleeping bags but better facility for water should have been there because there were no nearby streams.

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The night sky was star studded and it was mesmerizing to watch so many twinkles after ages. You do not get to see the children of universe this clear in Delhi.

Trek to Nag Tibba top – Day 2
The back breaking journey had been so tiring for me that I decided to not go for the early morning trek to Nag Tibba top. I took my time in getting up but then eventually decided that I would not be able to forgive myself if I did not trek all the way up to the peak. The opportunity seemed too precious to miss!
The biting cold was so ominous that it was difficult to change into my second trekking gear which had to be cold specific considering the chilling mountain waves lingering around us. A quick breakfast of soul satisfying plate of steaming maggi brought me back to my fighter instincts.

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This particular trail to the Nag Tibba top is also steep but easier compared to the harrowing one we had completed on the previous day. The pebbles had gone though the boulders were still there with slippery edges of melting snow. And my all weather trekking shoes weren’t for snow because hey, no spikes!

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So what did I do when I saw a few flakes of snow for the first time in my life? I kept looking. I tried to keep a few in my hands but the warmth melted them away.

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The melted snow on the trail was a tad challenging considering many of us were first timers for a snow trek. Slipping now and then on the trail, I managed to reach the top where a large patch of snow awaited the avid trekkers. Many of our trekking mates experienced snow for the first time and so went on to play body skating games on them. I, however, having slipped and fallen a few times, stayed away and took on a few lovely snowflakes.

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The Nag Tibba top is adorned with a pole which carries prayer flags in multiple hues. And the view from the top is soul filling to say the least. At 3022 m, the highest peak of the The Shiwaliks or The Lesser Himalayas, you do feel a sense of achievement while enjoying the breath taking ranges. The whole Lesser Himalayan range along with a few peaks of the mighty Greater Himalayas is a sight to behold and lose yourself in.

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But as they say, the descent is always tougher than the ascent. And on a steep trek you have to be highly careful, especially on slippery melted snow patches. We had to tread cautiously on the loose pebbles, boulders and mud lest we would have suffered a bone breaking fall.
Back to the base camp, we had a delicious protein and carbohydrates filled lunch of kidney beans, rice, chappati and legumes. We had to take care of the time factor while trekking down as descending during the evening can be dangerous.
We finally reached Pantwari around 5pm and changed back to comfortable apparels after spraying our whole body with Moov.

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Dinner at the Sagar restaurant, Dehradun

The journey from Pantwari village to Dehradun was spent in taking a few scattered power naps and watching the lighted view of Mussoorie and Dehradun. The tempo traveller of Trek The Himalayas dropped us at the Dehradun railway station at around 9pm and we had dinner at a nearby restaurant – Sagar. The Nanda Devi Express geared itself again to ferry the travellers from Dehardun to the national capital and we also went along with her flow.

https://www.trekthehimalayas.com/

 

Posted in himalayas, india, indian, mountain, mountains, north indian, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized, writer

Mountains o’ mountains

Dear Himalayas,

Greetings of the day to you, whether you are the lofty Greater Himalayas, the enchanting Middle Himalayas (Himachal) or the mud and pebble laden Lesser Himalayas (Shiwaliks).

You see, the biggest regret of my life till date is not exploring your mesmerizing valleys, climbing your challenging peaks and relishing the sense of achievement that comes with such experiences. Well yes, I can count the number of treks that I have been to in your bastion, but there remain hundreds of places untouched by my eyes and unexplored by me feet .
And just a week from now on, I am supposed to visit your area once again but hell no, life always has to be tricky for me.

You know, these ankles of mine have lately started misbehaving. And by misbehaving, I mean an extreme case of naughtiness and disobedience.

My orthopaedist says a usual case of calcium and Vitamin D deficiency because you know, physically I’m a woman even though I try to think and reason out like a man sometimes. But yes, sometimes I do behave like a woman and hence these rants!

Back to the case of being a woman and suffering from deficiencies even though I drink two glasses of milk a day and can’t keep my hungry tongue away from the silky texture of home made yoghurt. (My mom will viciously disagree about two glasses because of those lactose intolerant specific days).

And to add insult to these deficiencies (pun intended), I used to run with the shoe laces tied around my ankles. My orthopaedist said no wonder Shreya madam, no wonder.

So after two months of abstinence from trekking, running and travelling, popping a host of medicines and being thrust with injections in my derriere for the past four weeks, I thought I had finally recuperated. I could climb the stairs of my office again with no taunts from happy colleagues in the lift. I could run again and shed that extra flab I had graciously gained around my waist. My left ankle was raring to trek your trails again.

I could wear my favourite heels again and when I did, I fell down because I had forgotten that my ankles were still unstable.

My right ankle gave a wink to my left ankle.

And there went my plans of doing a trek of 9km, wandering a tea garden like a Yash Chopra muse and wearing my pretty pink trekking shoes again to spoilt waters.

But above all, I’m wondering when will I inhale the air that wanders around you and get to see your beauty again. I wish to be as strong as you are but sometimes I overstress myself and shit happens.

My life is short and I can not stand at one place for the whole day and that too for years unlike you.

This ankle pain has literally been a pain in whatever portion of my original ass I’m left with. I have never been so inactive and I hate this helplessness.

Meanwhile, my parents are laughing at my belief in the impossible feat of getting my right ankle back on track within the next four days. My orthopaedist was pretty strict today considering he had given me a go ahead last week.

So Thursday is the day when the fate of our next meeting will be decided.

This letter mentioned my womanly rants (no offense to any lady, but let us learn to laugh at ourselves) more than my love for you and your children. But my child like heart yearns to savour the fresh aroma of mountain soil, the coniferous and the sweet rhododendrons.

I desperately want to meet you, more desperately than my future mother-in-law. Wink wink.

Regards
Shreya Srivastava

 

Posted in chicken, cochin, custard, fish, fish tikka, fried fish, grilled fish, kayaking, scuba diving, soup, south indian, south indian cuisine, travel, travel diaries, travel writing, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized, upma

Travelogue – Come and enjoy the pristine white sand beaches of Lakshwadeep

Can you keep yourself away from the clear turquoise blue waters of Lakshwadeep after you have visited the Andamans? An absolute no!

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Compared to the Andaman islands, Laccadive and Minicoy are difficult to visit because prior permission is required from the Government of India. There is only one aeroplane which flies from Cochin to Agatti island once a day and the ships plying between different islands has a frequency of three days. Helicopter services are also available but at an added cost.

We could only visit one island but you should plan your trip in a way that you visit not only Kavaratti(where you can indulge in water sports) but also Bangaram(where you can enjoy the mesmerising view).

Day 1

We boarded the evening flight from Delhi to Cochin and reached the latter at 9pm. We had booked a studio apartment in the Atlas hotel which is just 2 kms from the airport. The pick up and drop services were provided by the hotel.

The studio apartment was nothing short of extraordinary. There was a big hall with a television, a dining area, a spacious kitchenette, two bedrooms, one with the attached washroom and a stand alone washroom. The amenities are top notch considering the price – 4800 for four people.

Day 2

Waking up early to relish the Cochin skyline was a good thought. A beautiful view with towering coconut trees awaited us as we opened the balcony doors. But we could not keep basking in this magnificence as we had a flight to catch at 8am.

A 36 seater Air India plane is responsible for carrying the dreamy eyed travellers heading for Lakshwadeep. The turbulent airs above the Arabian Sea make this journey a tad scary considering the small size of the plane. But adventure is always welcome!

We reached Agatti at around 10:30am. Since this is a military airport, we are not allowed to shoot once we are out of the plane – army personnel make sure of that. This is the smallest airstrip we had ever landed on. The surrounding turquoise blue waters do seduce you once in a while to steal a photo shoot but no rule breaking here.

From Agatti, ships and helicopters are the means of transport to the other islands. We were headed to the capital Kavaratti and a two hour eventful ship journey awaited us as we clambered on the slippery deck. We had booked our stay at SPORTS complex and one of their people accompanied us and carried our entire luggage, which was a relief as it is a huge task to carry heavy items across a boat which is swaying dangerously.

The waters of the Arabian Sea are ferocious and the waves have a tendency to move the ship by 1 or 2 metres – enough to give you nausea.

We reached Kavaratti around 1pm and had a delicious lunch at the SPORTS complex where we had booked a stay for three nights. It was a lovely change to hog on the authentic Lakshwadeep cuisine which has evolved from the Keralite one. And to have this while sitting at the beach and listening to the roaring waves is another experience in itself.

Lunch – a delectable spread of fried tuna, chicken curry, beetroot prepared with coconut and rai seeds, chappati and rice.

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Dinner – Slurpy sweet corn soup, spicy fried tuna, dry matar paneer, yellow dal, chicken curry and beans cooked in coconut milk.

Day 2

The second day started with us gearing ourselves for SCUBA diving in the lagoon area around Kavaratti. The SPORTS complex offers experienced instructors who first teach you about the do’s and don’ts of breathing underwater and then they give you a first hand training in the shallow waters of the beach, thus allowing you enough time to practise. While Shrenee was able to cope with equalising pressure, I had a difficult time getting used to venting air pressure through my ears.

After 10 minutes of practise, we were taken by a motor boat to the area where corals are in plenty with colourful shoals of fish and sea creatures residing in them. The deep turquoise blue waters hide a vibrant world reminding me of The Little Mermaid.

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The evening was spent in a jeep which took us to all the nooks and crannies of the island. We also got to see the eastern section of the island where the general public is not allowed to roam because of the shallowness of the continental shelf.

The Kavaratti light house is one place that you should visit. The view from the top is mesmerising and comes after a hard climb of 180 stairs. And you have to clamber the steps without your foot wear which are definitely not allowed inside.

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Breakfast: Idli, sambhar and chutney.

Lunch: North Indian spread

Dinner: Two types of chicken, mixed vegetables and caramel custard

Day 3

The third day started with a lovely breakfast spread of fluffy omelettes, breads and upma. The upma was prepared in a different way – finely grated carrots mixed well with roasted semolina.

We were taken a small glass boat to the borderline lagoon area from where we could relish the colourful corals and fishes. Bread crumbs were thrown to the fishes which merrily ate them and kept swimming near our boat for more treats. The zebra fish and the parrot fish are regular here and the boat men said that they actually wait for their arrival.

Lunch: Dal, roti and chicken cooked with caramelized onions. The dessert was a mouth watering coconut cheese cake.

Evening was spent in kayaking around the shallow waters. You can get the kayaking boat for 200 bucks for an hour. It is one of a kind of experience to row the boat yourself and go wherever you desire. The water is so clear that you can clearly view the sea bed.

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One more advantage of staying at the SPORTS complex was that you are always on the beach where you can sit back and relax. The hospitality here was top notch. We might have missed out on Bangaram but where could we have enjoyed seeing those colourful fishes and beautiful corals! There is so much more to enjoy in Lakshwadeep that we are not crossing it off our bucket list anytime soon!!