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Ladakh – The Land of High Passes

Ladakh is a land like no other. Bound by two of the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it is a high-altitude desert located at the western edge of the Tibetan plateau. Its awe-inspiring landscape has been modified and sculpted into its spectacular shape by wind and water over the millennia. The moon-like scenery is extraordinary: stark and barren but interspersed with isolated settlements of green oases full of swaying poplar trees, apricot orchards and cultivated farmland. Despite the rugged terrain and high altitude, the people of Ladakh exhibit a natural joie de vivre and their customs and lifestyle are a continuum from the past. Ladakh’s rich Buddhist heritage is on display at the numerous Gompas (Monasteries) that dominate the area. Perched high up in the mountain ridges, these enchanting medieval monasteries, surrounded by fluttering prayer flags, are still places of active worship and hold treasure troves of superb artifacts, images and ancient frescoes.

In the pic: The Lamayuru Monastery, one of the oldest monastery in Ladakh, situated at a height of 3,510 mts.

The Chopta Valley Trek

Legend of the  ‘Paanch Kedar’

As per the epic Indian mythology, the Mahabarata, the Pandavas defeated and killed their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. They wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide(gotra hatya) and Brāhmanahatya (killing of Brahmins — the priest class) during the war. Thus, they handed over the reigns of their kingdom to their kin and left in search of the god Shiva and to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), believed to Shiva’s favourite city and famous for its Shiva temple. But, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war and was, therefore, insensitive to Pandavas’ prayers. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull (Nandi) and hid in the Garhwal region.

Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Garhwal Himalayas. Bhima, the second of the five Pandava brothers, then standing astride two mountains started to look for Shiva. He saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi (“hidden Kashi” — the name derived from the hiding act of Shiva). Bhima immediately recognized the bull to be Shiva. Bhima caught hold of the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull-formed Shiva disappeared into the ground to later reappear in parts, with the hump raising in Kedarnath, the arms appearing in Tunganath, the nabhi (navel) and stomach surfacing in Madhyamaheshwar, the face showing up at Rudranath and the hair and the head appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva. The Pandavas were thus freed from their sins.

The Tungnath temple is the highest of the ‘Paanch Kedar’

In the pic: The Tungnath Temple, on the Chopta Valley trail at an approximate height of 3,500 mts

The Saurkund Trek, Manali

The Kullu-Manali valley more or less runs along a perfect North-South line as per any given map. The eastern side of the valley is flanked by the CB range, while the western side is flanked by the Bara-Bangal range. The Saurkund Lake is on the western flank, high above Manali at a height of 13,000ft. The lake is snowed in for almost 4-5 months in a year, and is accessible from May to November depending on the weather conditions.

To reach it one has to trek for about 3 days from the nearest village called Sankchar. This village is probably one of the highest villages in Manali at 9,000ft. Sankchar and its neighboring villages are decked with acres and acres of apple orchards. A walk through them in August (the apple harvest season) is not complete without plucking juicy, crunchy green apples and sinking your teeth into them…bliss!

In the pic: The Saurkund Lake at an approximate height of 13,000 ft.

Rishikesh – Camp Ganga Riviera

Situated on the banks of the mighty Ganga, getting to Camp Ganga Riviera is an experience in itself. In an effort to maintain the grandeur of an isolated beach & jungle camp, the camp is at a distance of 2 km from the nearest road head on the Rishikesh- Badrinath highway. One has to walk for approximately 2km (30 mins), crossing a quaint jhoola pul (suspended bridge) and the age old pilgrim’s path to Badrinath to reach the camp

And some one said, “We never really need a reason to go back there, again…and again…and again!!!”

You know what ? Right said mate 🙂

In the pic: The Beach at the camp

Mountaineering Expeditions

“Summiting peaks or running the toughest grades on white water is not a matter of ‘humans over nature’. Expeditions are but a few questions in moments that define individuals. Questions of how far can one push themselves? Of how much grit and determination can one come up with to carry on and not give up? Of how much can  one stretch their limits?

For after all, the only limits are your own…”

In the pic: Climbing up Mt. Bhagirathi II (6512 mts) in the Garwhal Himalayas, India.

Himalayan Treks, India

Admired by the young and old, trekking is the best option to explore the most remote nook and corners of the Indian highlands! It is a spellbinding experience to stand atop a pass and looking down at two valleys completely different and yet so similar or to cross small villages where people still live with no electricity, roads or telephones and where children come running towards you greeting “Namaste!”. It is an unforgettable event to walk through a mountain shepherd’s barn and his flock of hundreds of sheep and goats grazing on the lush green meadows. It is an occurrence of being spiritually touched while visiting monasteries in the harsh environment of Ladakh or simply getting awed by some of the most fascinating views of the mighty Himalayas.

In the pic: Sunrise over the Chopta Valley in Uttrakhand

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