Kedarkantha – A Dreamy Snow Trek

Kedarkantha – A Dreamy Snow Trek

Fresh winter snow, picturesque sights, the forests, clearings and pretty campsites, the trails of Kedarkantha trek are straight from a dreamland. In fact, I got some sights and memories from the trek in my dreams even after 8 days of coming back; Though this wasn’t my first Himalayan trek, the “trek hangover” was a strong one, maybe because of the settings and my improved fitness levels.

According to trekking community – Indiahikes, Kedarkantha trek is the Best Winter trek. I was looking for a winter trek to consume my annual leaves, and the title of “The Best Winter Trek” tempted me to chose Kedarkantha. Also, I was particular about experiencing Garhwal Himalayas as my last trek was in Himachal (Sar Pass).Without any further thoughts, I booked Kedarkantha trek with Indiahikes, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Reaching Gainchwan Gaon:

The base camp for Kedarkantha trek is Gainchawan Gaon, it is an 8-9 drive hour from Dehradun. We had a pick up from Dehradun station. The drive is beautiful with forest covers and Yamuna river and Rupin River accompanying us.

Gainchawan Gaon is near Naitwar in Uttarkashi district. The drive is through Mussoorie and then the Yamunotri marg, but later diverts to Purola road. A special permission needs to be taken at the Netwar barrier as we enter the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. The sights after Purola were very refreshing, and the best part of the journey for me was the last 5 km, on the top of the tempo traveller, adventure started before reaching the base camp itself. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Guest House at Base Camp
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View from the window

The guest house is a beautiful wooden house, and I was lucky to get a room with amazing view. Even though most of the people had introduced themselves in the traveler during the 6-hour drive, we had again introduction and briefing session. It was a good icebreaker and gave an idea about the interests and profession of the trek mates. For me, the night at Gainchwan was an unforgettable night, gave some really good connections and memories. I have some amazing stories and memories at Gainchwan with my new friends and trek mates. The base camp fairly gives you an idea about the people with whom you can make a connection and enjoy the rest of the days. We were all very excited for the trek and hoped to see a good amount of snow, as that’s the highlight of any winter trek.

Gainchwan Gaon To Julota:

This was in actual, the first day of the trek. We were told it will be sunny, but I didn’t expect it to be that sunny. The trail goes through villages of Haltari and Altwar. The locals greeted us and we met some amazing kids along the way.

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The wooden architecture of the houses is pretty impressive. The trail was steep, but we were getting drained due to the sun, and not mainly because of the trail. I realized I had over packed when the sun was overhead and my bag felt really heavy. The second half was a forest trail with pine and oaks and less sunny, but I was already drained by that time. Even with the heavy bag pack, after a steep ascent, reached Julota campsite.

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The Julota campsite is a clearing and hence was surrounded by forest trees. Even after being drained, my trek-mates and I were chilling out and even walked a little to sit amidst the forests. It was a great feeling, just the three of us in the silence, soaking up every bit of nature and peace. However, a mild headache started post sunset, which increased in the night. I felt pukish as well, and later puked. I was getting quite anxious post that, as they are symptoms of mountain sickness. The trek leader was really helpful and told me it might be due to sun and exertion as well and to chill and take a good sleep. The good sleep really worked as my oxygen levels the next day was pretty good, more than that at the base camp. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I decided to offload my bag pack as I wanted to do the summit climb, and not exert my body before the summit day.

Julota to Pukhrola (KK Base):

This was the most dreamy and fun-filled day of the trek for me. Some of the sights seemed straight from my dreamland. The day started with forest trails, and then after some distance, we find snow patches all around. We were so excited, and all of us clicked a lot of pictures. Our trek guide kept saying, “Mam ab toh snow hi snow hain aage, baad mein photos le lena” ( There will be a lot of snow, you can click pictures later). But I could not stop clicking, Amit, the co-guide warned us that he will throw a snowball if anyone stops very frequently for pictures. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜€ The snowball fight in one of the clearings was the highlight of the trek. Just loved playing with fresh snow with everyone.

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The last part of the this day’s trail was the most scenic one. The river streams surrounded by snow and trees not only looked serene, but the sound of the water was therapeutic; Halted there for some time just to enjoy the moment. After that, we trekked through the trees to reach a Pukhrola. The beauty of Pukhrola campsite is breathtaking. It is like camping between the mountain ridges, one can see the Kedarkantha summit as well, we were at the base of Kedarkantha peak. It even started snowing for some time and was cloudy. Our trek leader was worried, as the summit climb becomes really difficult and slippery if it rains/snows. But soon the clouds cleared.

The sunset from Pukhrola was one of the best sunsets of my life, the colours, the beauty left me totally lost. The entire trek group watched and captured the sunset in peace. No amount of pictures or videos can give justice to that sunset. You have to be there, to feel it. It was an amazing time at the KK Base, we were glad we made it till here and anxious about the summit day. I prayed the weather remains supportive, as that plays a major role while climbing a peak.

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The Summit Day – Pukhrola to Kedarkantha peak

The summit day, the day for which we were waiting anxiously for the last three days. The wake up was at 4 am, and I was up before that, I am sure a lot of people were. The temperature had dropped to -2 to -3 degree in the night. With 4 layers of clothing, spikes, and gaiters, we started our attempt to conquer Kedarkantha peak. Step by step we were reaching close to our goal. In a single line, without overtaking we were following the narrow trail. We were lucky that it was a clear day. The first rest point was a good milestone, we could see the campsite from above. Snow peaks were all around us, but not at the eye level. After some rest, we started again. A steep climb for another one hour leads to a Shiva temple, mythology says this was the initial Shiva shrine Kedarnath, but Lord Shiva got disturbed during meditation and hence disappeared to the present day Kedarnath. It is said that he left his throat behind hence the peak name in Kedarkanth. (Kedar – Shiva , Kantha – Throat ). I took a halt before going up, it’s important to pause and appreciate how far you have come. And then when I reached the top of the peak, I was awestruck, mesmerized by the view. So many peaks at the eye level. A gentle reminder that we are very small, very small in this universe, yet we can conquer anything we want if we truly want it.

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The entire trek group made it, each with their own pace. We sat there enjoying the view and trying to capture the sight. That feeling was overwhelming, to make it successfully to the summit, and that breathtaking view. Our trek leader shared the names of the peaks visible, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Swaroghini and Rupin ranges, Har ki Dun valley, Drapaudi ka Danda, Bandarpooch, Kalanag. Each and every peak has a mystical story associated with it. After some group pictures, we started the descent. We had to trace the route back to the base, Pukhrola.

Kedarkantha peak- KK base- Akhoti Campsite:

Descending can become challenging when the snow melts, and as it was a steep one, our guide was keen that we reach the base on time. His common slogan changed from Chalo Chalo (Keep walking) to Bhaago Bhaago ( Run, Run). While he didn’t mean it literally, but the descent was a quick one for me. It’s more about the technique and the spikes gave good grip. Sliding was too much fun, and as the snow was fresh, we could slide on 2-3 patches. I lost balance and almost my phone on one the slide, but controlled using my elbows.

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After the point from where the campsite was seen, I purposely slowed down. When again will I get to see such sights, snow and get such good air, hence I took a halt as well. Deliberately I joined the last batch of trek mates, and then mixed feelings sink in, accomplished that we made it, sad that it’s over.

After the base, we had to descend further till our new campsite. We had to reach until around lunch time, and so all maintained a good pace. This was a fun trail, initially the same route we covered on the second day, the dreamy snow and forest trails, and then a diversion for Akhoti.

The final descent: Akhoti to Gainchwan Gaon:

Akhoti campsite is a new campsite, it is actually a thatch hence mules can be seen around. After Pukhrola, it was very difficult to like any campsite for us. Akhoti is surrounded by forests and some flowers. The sunset and even the sunrise was very beautiful from the campsite. It was beautiful in its own way, however comparing it with Pukhrola, would not be fair. As this was the last campsite of our trek, everyone was relaxing and enjoying each and every moment of it. We played few games as well.

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When we started the last day of our trek, the final descent, we realized the reason for having Akhoti as the campsite. The trail from Akhoti to Gainchwan Gaon is an amazing forest trail. There were Rhododendron trees and it was again a dreamy forest trail, minus the snow.

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We had to cross a river stream as well and climb few rocks. It was fun and challenging. This time again we took a halt to Haltari and had Maggi.As only the last part of the trek was left, we wanted to enjoy every moment of it, capturing as much as possible.

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Also, it was decided that we will do the last patch of the trek together, as a team, hence we waited for the entire group to come and then walked together till our guest house at Gainchwan Gaon. Feeling accomplished, we were back at the base camp. The stay this time at the guest house was a different one, we were relaxed, confident this time, and had a sense of achievement. Five days in mountains can change a lot of things. Spent some time walking in the village next morning, before the start of our return journey to Dehradun. The best part of travel, and in particular treks, is that you start alone, but come back with a bunch of good friends.

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Kedarkantha trek for me, indeed was like a dream, which I wished should have continued for some more time, but all dreams come to an end, and life goes on; Some lessons learned, new friends made and as always memories for a lifetime.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti Singh

Bhrigu Lake – A trek of many firsts

This post is a Guest blog in collaboration withย Bikat Adventures

Everything happens for the first time in life. The weird part is you have no control over when and how you will get introduced to those experiences.

It could be very early in your life or when you are 80.

I happened to do my first trek at the age of 24 and the chance was Bhrigu Lake.

It was in May last year when I went to do this 4-day long trek that began from Gulaba, a few kilometers from Manali. And, I was told there was going to be a lot of snow.

I had never walked on snow before. So, I was kind of scared yet excited.

I, along with 14 other participants, began my journey from Gulaba. Everyone was pepped up and excited. The first day was about walking through sprawling meadows. We were overshadowed by the huge Hanuman Tibba Peak behind us.

It was about afternoon when we stopped to have our packed lunches. It had been long since the last time I had a picnic in the outdoors. It felt nice to have lunch with the strangers underneath bright sun surrounded by lush greenery.

Around 4 in the evening, we reached our campsite for the day. Dark clouds were forming. So we hurriedly pitched our tents. For the first time, I pitched my own tent.

By the time we were done, rain started to pour down. We all moved into the kitchen tent to enjoy Maggi and the hot piping tea.

Finally, the night came and we were counting stars. The sky view in the night was surreal. Since we had to start early in the morning, I went to bed and fell asleep in seconds.

The next day, we had to traverse through the snow. I was scared because I had never seen this much snow in life. As they say โ€˜the best part comes after overcoming fearsโ€™, I took a sigh of courage and went ahead.

It was a great learning for me, walking on the ice. It is not easy. There goes technique in traversing on ice. Once you master it, everything becomes easy.

The climb to the lake was steep. I heard someone saying that the lake changed colors with seasons.

On my way, I also wondered why Sage Bhrigu, after whom the lake is named, came all the way up to meditate. It turns out there is a heart-rending story behind it.

After Sage Vishwamitra killed all the children and wife of Sage Bhrigu, he became depressed and went to suicide in River Beas. The river stopped him from giving his life and suggested he meditate near the lake to attain peace and closure. So, he did.

Once we reached the top, I realized what made him have closure. The views around the lake were absolutely thrilling. The clouds floated around you. The scene was breathtaking.

I also learned another thing.

Bhrigu Lake being my first trek was an achievement in itself. But achieving 14,000 ft of height all in two days was a bigger achievement, especially for a first-timer. Even on long and more difficult treks, you get to achieve this height on the fourth or fifth day.

Bhrigu Lake was my first trek, it surely wouldnโ€™t be my last. I was sure of that. Beas Kund was next.

By Dhaarna Kukreja

A gypsy with a heart of a writer, Dhaarna has just stepped into the world of trekking and she is falling in love with the mountains with one Himalayan trek at a time. When not trekking, she can be found talking and thinking about the food all day long. Also, a cinephile.

Tiny Diu Island- A Coastal Paradise

Tiny Diu Island- A Coastal Paradise

Diu island, this wasn’t even in my travel or bucket list this year. But still happened to be my first trip of this year, and I am so glad of the decision to cover Diu. I was planning something for 26th Jan weekend with my two close friends; After multiple change of plans, Diu was finalized. We read few blogs online, and it seemed promising, but was still not sure as some writers transform boring places to heaven with words. But Diu seriously is a coastal heaven, an underrated one. Most of the people don’t even know that Daman & Diu are different places ! (There is a distance of 684 km by road).

Reaching Diu:

Diu is easily connected via roadways in spite of being an island. There is good connectivity from Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Baroda. There are flights as well except on Saturdays, but they are usually expensive. There are no direct trains to Diu from Mumbai.

As we already had booked our tickets to Mount Abu via Ahmedabad ( one of the cancelled plans), we decided to take an overnight bus from Ahmedabad, and return by direct bus to Mumbai from Diu.

The Chill Vibes:

As soon as you get down from the bus, you can feel the chill vibes. Quite literally, as it was very cold and we had only bag full of beach wear ๐Ÿ˜‰ but very soon we got acclimatized. We had no plans, hence first we took an auto to hotel from the bus stop. The auto fares are clearly mentioned at the Jethibai Bus Station. The rates will always be around that, hence it is better to keep a copy of it.

First things first, we were fairly impressed by the roads and cleanliness of the island town. Even though had read about the cleanliness, it’s always a surprise to see clean, well managed roads in India. Being a Union Territory, the roads are excellent and it’s vert safe to ride a scooter here.

The atmosphere is very laid back, more laid back than Goa or Gokarna for that matter. People have breakfast here till around 11 am. Everything is closed in mid-afternoon, people enjoy their afternoon naps. The beaches are serene, almost virgin; There were times when there were only we three girls on beach.

Sight Seeing:

The best part about Diu is it can be covered in a day. The top attractions can be visited and enjoyed in one single day and you won’t even feel tired, that’s the magic of Diu. One can either rent a scooty for sight seeing or take an auto package. For us, as we were 3 people, taking auto package was a better option.

Our sightseeing mode – Beautiful colourful auto with a cheerful talented driver. He played an excellent playlist for us.
Harsh, aur auto driver/friend, is a talented civil engineer living in abundance in Diu

Diu Fort & Fortress of Pani Kotha:

This was first in our sight-seeing list. Personally, I have an inclination towards forts, partly because of the history attached, and also for the architecture. The Diu Fort, known as ‘Prace De Diu’ is gives is spectacular view of the sea. If you love Portuguese architecture, you would love exploring the fort. In an opinion poll conducted in Portugal to list the New Seven wonders of Portugal built during their colonial rule, Diu Fort was chosen as one wonder from India. Personally, the structure is quite impressive, and top highlight of the island.

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One can see the fortress of Pani Kotha as well from the fort. Pani Kotha was a prison formerly, now features a lighthouse, we couldn’t go there by boat, the locals said they have discontinued tourist visits there. We were just amazed that even the jail seems so beautiful. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Fortress of Pani Kotha

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Diu Museum:

Diu Museum was once a church. The St Thomas Church was converted into a museum in 1992. Photography is not allowed in the museum. It has ancient, antique wooden artifacts from 16th Century. Get lost in peace and history here for sometime.

St. Paul’s Church:

St Paul’s Church is one of top attraction of Diu. Apparently it is the only functional church till now from the colonial times. This can be considered as a part of the Diu Fort itself as it’s almost in the extended area of the fort. This monument of ancient heritage is an architectural and art marvel.

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Naida Caves:

The Naida Caves are not in every tourist’s list, but they should be. The Naida Caves are uniquely picturesque with magnificent rock formations. The sunlight filtering through the canyons is a sight to behold. Exploring the Naida Caves was too much fun and we underestimated the beauty and area of the caves initially.

Jalandhar Beach:

This wasn’t even in our sightseeing plan, but we anyway had to cross the beach so asked our auto cum DJ to halt there. A very quaint little beach, with bridges and beautiful benches. A dreamy beach with hardly any humans around. I was tempted to go for a swim, but was warned by our local friend & auto-DJ that it is unsafe to swim there as the sand is very uneven.

Chakratirth Beach:

From Jalandhar beach, we hopped to Chakratirth. Chakratirth beach is another dreamy place, and can be said as “almost-virgin”. One should look out for solitude and the Portuguese vibes here. This is a very picturesque beach with a small Shiva temple on one end of the shore.

Nagao Beach:

Well Nagao Beach is the most commercial beach of Diu, yet very clean and one can find their own perfect spot to chill, enjoy nature and have a swim. We were lucky to find a good spot, with very less humans around. ( such anti-human days ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) There’s a small hillock from where one can see the beautiful sunset, that was one of the most beautiful sunset of our lives. More than the sunset, maybe the moment made it more memorable and mesmerizing.

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The Beach & Chill Life:

You need to soak in the beach and chill life to experience the essence of Diu. Though sightseeing gave us an idea about the history and major attractions, the highlight of the trip will definitely be the beach moments. The next day we decided to just experience the laid back nature, and I am glad we did.

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Chill, watch the sea or just do nothing at these beautiful benches near Diu Tourism Office

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Apana Foodland:

Had read about Apana Foodland on Natgeo Travel blog, and also other reviews hence this was on our list. We started our day with good food, sea view and amazing hospitality. The manager welcomed us and took our pictures as well, without us asking him ๐Ÿ˜‰ Apana Foodland is a must try if you are looking for good food with a view.

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Ghoghla Beach:

It was here we concluded that we underestimated Diu. Ghoghla beach is a very serene beach with clean, long stretch of sand and hooka trees all around. With very less people around, this was the best place to swim, relax and forget the world. There are some decent restaurants on the beach, where you can grab some snacks and drinks before getting lost in the tranquility of the beach.

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Do the Diu ?

Diu is not in many people’s list, as was the case with us. But we loved the place so much that we many plan another trip soon. You should Do the Diu if you are looking for a perfect beach and chill holiday, Portuguese architecture, good food and views. I hope it remains the same always though, maintaining the tranquility and beauty of the place.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti Singh

Flashback Weekend : Travel & Outdoor 2017

FeaturedFlashback Weekend : Travel & Outdoor 2017

It’s the fifth weekend of 2018 already !! It seems like I celebrated New Year Eve just last week ๐Ÿ™‚ Time flies seriously, from one weekend to another, one month to another, and the year is almost over. I felt my 2017 was like that. One trip to another, from one holiday hangover to the other. Beaches to Mountains and repeat ๐Ÿ™‚

2017 was my most traveled and outdoor-spent year. I had decided to explore more, discover new destinations and in fact I ended up spending so much time outdoors that I couldn’t pen down my travel stories and epic journeys. Better late than never, and flashbacks are important as well!

So here it goes –

January – Kumta to Gokarna Coastal Beach Trek:

Started my first long weekend with a Coastal Beach trek. After lot of failed plans, booked this trek with TrekMates, luckily there was only 1 seat left and without wasting any second, just booked it. Gokarna was anyway in my bucket list, and a range trek along Arabian Sea Coast seemed pretty exciting. Started from a small town Kumta, in Uttara Kannada and reached Gokarna crossing 11 virgin, scenic beaches, hiking through cliffs, and breathtaking views of Arabian Sea. It was not just another trek for me, but a journey I will remember for lifetime. Imagine chilling on a beach, without knowing the name of the beach ๐Ÿ™‚

The best part of the journey was that I started alone, but came back with a bunch of friends.

February – Bhandardhara Camping

Winter & camping go hand in hand. Lake side camping with my college friends seemed like a great idea and booked this experience along with my three college friends. This experience was again provided by Trekmates. What seemed like a small group and a silent camping experience, turned out into a night of crazy laughter, dance, music and most importantly the ghost stories. Bonfire, bunch of crazy friends and good music is a sure shot guide to a perfect camping experience.

The morning was one of the most beautiful mornings, waking up to a view is an amazing feeling. Beautiful places aren’t far away !!

March- Lonavala Drive and Wet and Joy Water Park

I thought let’s take a break in March and be a little indoors. It was a hectic work month and also the month of Holi festival. But somehow planned for a day outing and went to Lonavala for a drive. It was my first road trip on my new car, so quite an excited one for me ๐Ÿ˜‰ Though it was just a usual drive and chill plan but we ended up enjoying at a water park- Wet and Joy. Unplanned outings are best at times.

April- Lucknow

Lucknow, Nawabon ka Shahar. It was a close friendโ€™s wedding and it was unavoidable. This was more of a foodie trip. Enjoyed Lucknow Chaat and Kulfi, and obviously the wedding was too much fun. Dance, Dhol and drama, typical Indian wedding scenes. Moreover, it was like a mini college reunion.

May – Kasol , Manikaran

The most awaited month of the year, I was waiting for May from 2016. I had booked Himalayan Trek in November 2016 itself. Kasol was the base camp for my Himalayan Trek. Kasol is a place where even if you are in a group, you will find solace. The base camp is set at a beautiful place. This place is best discovered walking, we went walking till Manikaran Gurudwara, crossing entire Kasol, the road is still fresh in my heart and mind. Kasol is like Mini Israel of India, one can see lot of Israelis around, Israeli cafes and beautiful paintings as well. The walk towards Katagla bridge is mesmerizing as well.

June- Sar Pass, Delhi

My Journey to Wonderland, from Kasol to Sar Pass is already documented, and I can almost write a book on it. This was a Himalayan trek to Sar Pass with Youth Hostel. My return was planned via Bhuntar and Delhi. Though I started the trek alone, by the end I had few really good friends. I had one day free, and spent it with my new friends , cafe hopping and eating in and around Connaught Place.

July- Thailand

My unplanned international trip, thanks to office departmental offsite. The offisite was planned for Bangkok and Pattaya. The trip seemed refreshing after the Himalayan trek. This was an all in one trip, shopping, partying, sight seeing and even adventure sports. Loved shopping and exploring the Floating Market, had no idea there’s love bridge in Pattaya as well.

August- Vasai Fort & Lonavala

Vasai fort was in my checklist from quite some time but finally made it in August. This was again an unplanned outing. My friend called, on Friday and we immediately made the plan. Even though some people said that there’s nothing to explore at the fort, I always believe in going , seeing and then believing; and I am glad I did. The walls and structure of the fort still remains and gives the idea of how magnificent it may have been in the past. Rains and perfect breeze added to the beauty of the outing.

I also went for a drive to Lonavala with a new friend. It was just the perfect day for a Lonavala drive.

September- Mysore Farm House

My secret hide out spot, where I always go when I feel like running away, is my sister’s farmhouse on the Mysore Ooty road. The farm life can give anyone a detox and break from the mundane city life. Epic sunsets, beautiful mornings and fresh air, just the perfect break one needs to rejunavate.

October – Igatpuri , Vihegaon

Sometimes leaving early from office and going on a drive is not a bad idea. This was around Diwali time, the last working day before the festive break. I left before lunch and decided to go to Igatpuri with my friend. The drive was amazing and we ended up discovering a beautiful waterfall – Ashoka Waterfall near Vihegaon.

November- Mysore City

November was an eventful month, with its ups and downs. I had 3 days of joblessness and I thought going to Mysore was the best idea as I had no prior bookings. So I boarded the bus to Mysore. This time though, I was in the city itself and didn’t go to my sister’s farmhouse. To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the beautiful sensations in the world.

December- Alibaug, Phanaswasdi, Owe Dam

December was a break and thanks giving month for me. 2017 has been a wonderful year for me. Lot of travel, some good new friends and millions of memories. I was craving for a beach holiday but, and then one weekend I met a close friend for brunch but we ended up going to Alibaug. Spontaneous plans at it’s best. I spent the New Year Eve silently, with a small trek to Phanaswadi and later till Owe Dam.

Cheers to the good times and I hope 2018 gives me more reasons to laugh, explore and write.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti

Journey to Wonderland: Kasol to Sar Pass

Journey to Wonderland: Kasol to Sar Pass

Snow clad mountains amidst pine trees , the sound of river flowing, breath-taking views, beautiful sunrise and sunset, and the star-lit sky. Pretty much like a wonderland ? Yes, my journey to Sar Pass from Kasol, indeed seemed like a journey to wonderland. I was mesmerized by the natural beauty by the time I reached Kasol base camp. I was pretty excited, as it was my first Himalayan trek, which I had booked long back with Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI).

Reaching Kasol:

The best way to reach Kasol from Mumbai is taking a flight till Delhi and then taking a bus to Bhuntar. There are flights directly till Kullu also but the frequency is less, also they are quite expensive. The reason I selected to go via Delhi was the road journey from Delhi to Bhuntar. In 2006, I went on a road trip from Delhi to Manali, and it was full of breathtaking views. The journey from Delhi to Bhuntar din’t disappoint me either. River Beas accompanies you throughout the journey; the flow keeps increasing with the altitude. Mighty Beas river flowing through the hills is a sight that needs to be captured.

We reached Bhuntar early in the morning. ( Had left alone, but found a backpacker from Delhi, who was going on the same trek as mine). It is an overnight journey, we started from Delhi around 9:30 pm. Our bus was actually late; few passengers lost their bags on the way. Apparently there was some issue with the door of outside bus storage compartment and few bags fell. As an obligation, the driver took the bus few kms back, but in vain. I was glad the bags weren’t mine, couldn’t imagine a 10 day trek without my backpack !!

Bhuntar to Kasol is around 31 km. We took a state transport bus from Bhuntar to Kasol. That was one epic bus journey. The bus was full of locals, and few other backpackers like us. We got place to sit though. The best part were the songs, it seemed like an very old playlist of mine. All peppy Punjabi songs, Imran Khan, Honey Singh and other artists. The view and the playlist was a great combination. A hippie was trying to sell us drugs, he thought our purpose of going to Kasol was dope and rave parties. We somehow convinced him that we aren’t interested. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kasol YHAI Base Camp: Reporting & Acclimatization

Finally we reached Kasol. The journey till Kasol only was so eventful, I was sure the coming days would definitely be memorable. The YHAI campsite is located on the banks of Parvati River. There are certain formalities to be done once you reach the base camp, like submitting the receipt, YHAI membership card, doctor’s certificate, etc. Post which, you get assigned a tent. Being from Mumbai, I was feeling cold at the Base camp itself. I was wondering what would happen at higher altitudes. But then after discussing with the camp staff, got assured that we will be acclimatized.

The first day at the camp I felt as if I at a military camp, the rules, the schedule, expected discipline. There were timetables and schedule displayed to give everyone a fair idea of how the upcoming days. The first day was rest day, while the rest of the days they had planned exercises, and mini treks to acclimatize the group. The training was very much helpful later at higher altitudes.

 

Grahan Village:

Grahan is a small village with only 50 houses and a population of around 350 people. Everyone knows each other here , chances are that if you meet someone here once, you will keep meeting them again. The houses are traditional wooden houses, some of them are 200 years old.

The hike to Grahan is incredibly beautiful, with picture perfect locations on the way. Just the start of the trek and I was mesmerized with the beauty of Parvati Valley. Though later I had sinus issues due to change in temperature and altitude, but soon was acclimatized and kept hiking, one step at a time.

The wooden houses are visible only in the last 100-150 m of the hike. I remember we were greeted by a group of happy children. We were the last batch of our trekking group as we were taking halts in between and soaking in the beauty of nature. A young and confident boy, Vishwas volunteered to show us the way to the YHAI campsite. Finally we reached the first campsite. Words are less to describe the beauty of the place and even the people there. You have to be there in the moment to actually understand it.

Magical Padri:

Grahan to Padri was a 9 km hike, covered in approx 6 hours. The trail was through the stream and forests. We had to cross old bridges too. The best part of this hike was the post lunch trail through the forest, I felt like taking a halt and nap there itself ๐Ÿ™‚ The views from Padri camp were mesmerizing, we could see the icy mountains, the forests and even horses grazing.

There was something magical about the place, everyone felt so happy and cheerful. I remember laughing so much with my group, my new trek mates, that my stomach was aching. We named that mountain where were discussing about trek, people, life and what not, as the Laughing Mountain. We were warned that there were snow bears around the camp-site, hence going out alone in the night was not advisable.

Ming Thatch:

In terms of distance, the trail from Padri to higher camp, Ming Thatch was longest, ie 10 kms. The trail consisted of thick dense forest, narrow bridges crossing the stream, and spectacular views of snow peaked mountains through the pine trees.ย The lunch point of this climb had amazing views. It was the best lunch of my life, lunch with a view.

On reaching the camp site, it felt like an achievement, as it was a higher altitude camp ( 11200 ft) and we reached safely.ย The oxygen level becomes less from here, and also there is a drastic change in temperature. We were advised to wear proper inner , jackets and gloves to protect from cold temperature. We got to know that Ming Thatch camp is perfect for star gazing, and even Milky Way is visible clearly post 2 am. Never in my life, I had seen the Milky Way, so I had made up my mind to get up at 2 am; I was lucky enough to get a nature’s call around that time too.

Waking up at 2 am, in freezing cold, and witnessing the wonderful galaxy, was truly an experience of a lifetime.

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Nagaru:

Ming Thatch to Nagaru was a 5 km, 5 hour climb. Even though the distance was less compared to other trails, this was more of a climb and very less of walking. This was the highest camp site, with amazing views. The altitude is 12,500 ft, and it felt great. There was no water at the camp, only water source was the glaciers. We got network here for sometime, after five days of being disconnected.

The sunset was amazing here, and the majestic mountain views can make everyone realize how small we and our problems are in this world. We had to start early the next day, 2 am scheduled wake up call. The reason for starting early was that the snow starts to melt later, hence we had to cover maximum area before that.

Nagaru view pointNagaruPANO_nagaruSunset_nagaru

Final Milestone: Nagaru to Sar Pass

The final day, the day when we will conquer Sar Pass. We started very early, with torch in one hand, and walking stick in another. This was the first time we started walking in jackets, with gloves and all. It was a different feeling altogether. We were walking in a line, the guides were very helpful. For most of us, it was the first time we were walking on so much snow. We had to cover 14 kms in 6 hours. And finally, with slow but steady pace, we reached Sar Pass, the frozen lake pass. That feeling when you are actually at the point which you were thinking about for days. Some of the patches were quite slippery, but all of us managed without any injuries.

Sar PassChai after SP


The Descent: Sar Pass to Beskari

I was assuming this would be the easy part, once that the highest point is accomplished. But this was the most slippery part, and one needs to be very careful, patient and mentally strong. I had never witnessed snow mountains so closely in my life, and there I was, walking, climbing and crossing them. Our batch could not experience Beskari slide as the snow was less, being the second last batch. But still, it was a great experience, the beauty of the place can leave anyone stunned.

DescentDescent_!Descent_SP

Mini Switzerland of India: Bhandak Thatch

Beskari to Bhandak Thatch trail seemed straight like a wonderland. The trek was mainly over, but the amazing views din’t leave us till the end.

Bhandak Thatch in my opinion was the most beautiful campsite of the trek. It is called as Mini Switzerland of India, and to be honest, I felt it’s exaggeration,ย  but the place actually is Mini Switzerland. We were lucky to experience rainfall at this camp site, and it just added to the beauty. View from our tent was amazing, and post rain all snow peaks were covered in more snow, making the place look more similar to Switzerland. I had mixed feelings here, happy that the trek was completed successfully, with so many amazing memories and a bunch of good travel friends; sad because it’s over. But it’s best to live in the moment and enjoy. Everything seemed magical about that place, and I was wishing the day shouldn’t end.

BhandakBhandak group sessionBhadak descent

From Bhandak, we descended to Barsheni Village crossing beautiful villages of Kalga, Pulga , Tulga and reached Manikaran. Finally had a bath, hot spring bath that too, after 10 days.ย  Celebrations continued after reaching Kasol, we were now certified trekkers.

A journey and adventure of a lifetime ended, leaving behind, memories, lessons, pictures and some great friends. I will never forget my journey to wonderland…

 

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti

25th Birthday, 25 Lessonsย 

25th Birthday, 25 Lessonsย 

19th November 2017 – I am a quarter century old today ! I was pretty much excited for my 25th birthday. My entire year went awesome; explored new places, made new friends, discarded some toxic people from my life and spent a lot of time with nature and myself. I wanted my 25th birthday to be a different experience, not regular partying and dinner scenes. Wanted to disconnect and be with nature, see the sunset, sunrise, and the night sky. So I booked star gazing camping with a travel group, at a village where there would be hardly any network. I was almost reaching the base railway station of the campsite (Asangaon), and I get a call from my mother that my grandmother passed away. I returned home to support my family. I had spent almost 6 hours in train continuously , had a very bad headache too. But I had to be strong, I did not even shed a tear in front of my mom or dad. My sinus triggered due to train commute and stress. My birthday eve and weekend was not at all close to what I had planned, but how does it matter ? You need to be there when your family needs you. 

My birthday overall went good, I disconnected myself, no calls at 12 am, as anyway had to get up early as mom had early morning flight. I watched the sunrise, had a good breakfast and my close friends came over to my place to cheer me up and took me out for sometime. 

I took the time to reflect, and jotted down 25 lessons I have learned so far; 25 lessons learnt documented on my 25th birthday :

  1. Not everything will go as per your plan, accept it , life is full of uncertainties, be prepared for everything
  2. You and only you are responsible for your happiness, there are external factors, but peace of mind is an internal job
  3. Laugh and smile often, makes you forget everything for that moment
  4. Manage your finances well, you never know when you may need surplus money
  5. Live in the moment
  6. Don’t postpone things and happiness for a later time unless necessary
  7. Waking up before the sunrise leads to a very positive day , gives immense energy and even some quality me-time
  8. Face your fears, small steps at a time, but do face them, may or may not conquer
  9. Distance and Duration of friendship doesn’t make it strong or weak. It all depends on the connection between two true selves.
  10. Spend time doing something you love, as much and whenever possible, it refreshes you
  11. Stay away from toxic people and negative sources, automatically focus on oneself would be more.
  12. Take care of your health, nothing is worth compromising your health
  13. Follow your heart, don’t seek too much advice from outside, everyone has a different path and outlook.
  14. Document experiences, whenever possible, a good way to reflect on your experience, positive or negative.
  15. Respect every opinion
  16. Let things go
  17. Your family will always support you , and want the best for you
  18. Love yourself, always be there for yourself.
  19. There are some people who always want you to stay happy and smiling, Treasure them
  20. You cannot please everyone, and even trying that is merely waste of time
  21. Not having any expectations from anyone is the simplest formula for happiness
  22. No point in stressing about things which are beyond your control
  23. Don’t create mental blocks for anything
  24. Never say no to any new opportunity, even if it seems challenging 
  25. Travel as much as you can, we were born nomads, and not meant to be in one place forever

    Straight From My Heart, 

    Prakriti