Country roads, Camping & Waterfall bathing- A weekend at Jawhar

Road trips are a different kind of therapy, however, they are addictive. After a weekend getaway to Dapoli, I was tempted to take another adventure. I was planning something for 15th Feb weekend ( for the love of nature and outdoors) and everything fell in place.

Why Jawhar & How this plan?

I wanted to explore Jawhar from quite some time, however, I am so busy moving out of the state, that I haven’t explored Maharashtra fully. This year I am planning to explore more nearby places.

One morning I got a comment on Instagram from Deepali aka Albatraoz_stories that my travel stories are amazing and I am an inspiration for others. Well, that definitely made me feel good and I checked her profile, got impressed and followed back. She’s a bike rider documenting her explorations and journey to happiness. After some time I saw her story about Jawhar. That picture was with a waterfall and I was curious if that was a recent picture and she immediately confirmed the same. My next step was to connect with Jawhar Tourism and finalize my plan.

The people at Jawhar Tourism are prompt and super-friendly. Vaibhav got in touch with me and helped me finalize my plan, suggested which driving route to take and took our food preferences as well. I usually don’t wait for the company, however, my 2 girlfriends Sharanya and Pragya were willing to join. Girls’ day out on a Valentines day weekend 😉

Chalo Jawhar:

We decided to start at 10 am. It’s approximately a 4-hour drive from my place to the Jawhar Tourism office. We took the Ghodbunder road and NH48 route as the roads are good, and I am used to driving on GB road as my previous workplace was almost at the end of Thane’s GB road. The route is very familiar till Hotel Fountain. The fun starts when we take the right from there, continue on the NH48 and after crossing Vasai-Virar. I usually take my car out towards Panvel, so the drive seemed refreshing with view of hills and greenery around us. We took a lunch break around Ghol at a Dhaba as after that we leave the NH48 and enter Dahanu- Jawhar Road.

Dahanu-Jawhar Road is a treat to the eyes, a lot of times “Countryroads…” played in the background in my head. It felt good to finally hit the country roads. The road is surrounded by trees and well maintained as well.

As soon as we entered Jawhar, we were greeted by the statue of Maharaj Yeshwantrao Mukne, the last ruler of Jawhar. We missed the turn for the Jawhar Tourism office and realized that we were on Hanuman mandir road. I recollected that Hanuman Mandir was a viewpoint and thus continued even though Google maps kept on saying to take a U-turn. We halted for some time, enjoyed the view and clicked a few pictures there.

Jawhar Tourism:

After a short detour, we reached the Jawhar Tourism office, a small shop surrounded by beautiful Warli paintings, artwork and handicraft products made by Warli tribe. We met Shubham and Nutan mam there. Shubham was our host for the event, and Nutan mam joined us for the camping. We finished the formalities and began our journey towards the campsite. Well, we had no idea that the campsite was 10 km away from the tourism office, and that it would be such an amazing ride.

Reaching the Campsite village, Dhapar Pada:

We had to follow Vaibhav as he led with his bike and Nutan joined us in the car. We got to know that we were the only group for camping that night. That made us happier and we were like Private Camping yay! We crossed Jai Sagar Dam and Sunset point, which are the two main viewpoints of Jawhar. Thanks to Nutan she kept on sharing information with us.

The roads became narrower and greener as we followed Shubham; with every turn adding to the excitement. We crossed green patches, villages and finally reached the village where we were to camp. We parked my vehicle, and as soon as we got down the first thing we observed the beautiful Warli art on one of the houses. Then we saw a house with a notice on it, which read – “Warli Painting Workshop”. We were excited to try our hand at Warli painting and to interact with the locals.

Dhapar Pada village

Warli Paiting Workshop:

We entered the house, a clean minimalistic house with Warli paintings and were awed by the art. Kalpesh introduced himself and we bombarded him with questions about the paintings. All the paintings were made by him. We settled and our workshop started. It was fun understanding the motifs but what was more fun was to interact with them and understand the culture. We did not realize and it was one hour already, around 5:30 pm. My mind was getting distracted by that time as a wanted to watch the sunset I finished the painting and went out for a walk. Once we all completed our paintings and clicked pictures, we proceeded towards the campsite.

Sunset, Chai and Photography:

With Khadkhad Dam on one side surrounded by hills and trees, the campsite looked beautiful. The Golden hour had started, so we just kept our bags in the tents and went a little ahead. The sunset was mesmerizing, we dipped our feet in the water and watched the sunset. It was that kind of moment when you feel like putting a pause button on time. All our tiredness or worries were left behind and all we had was that beautiful moment.

We clicked some snaps and soaked in nature and realized we were a little hungry and we should eat. We had earlier decided to go for a walk, but having Chai and snacks were important as well at that time. The previous group was wrapping up and we took our Chai and sandwich. Vaibhav’s dad informed us that the sandwiches we were having was a local preparation exclusively available at Jawhar. They were really tasty and eating two of them cheating on my diet. While having chai we interacted with Vaibhav and his father. He assured us safety and mentioned that a lot of female solo travelers and groups keep visiting.

Bonfire, Dinner & Storytelling:

After it turned dark we did some night photography and shadow photography as well.

Shubham asked us for the bonfire. Pragya had to eat early so we decided to start the fire after dinner. We shared experiences and stories and gazed at the stars. What’s a countryside experience without a bonfire anyway. Sharanya and I were hungry after some time and it was our time for dinner. The home-cooked food was so tasty that we ended up finishing the nachni papad and as a sweet dish, there was gulab jamun. We had another round of stories and experiences sharing around the bonfire after dinner. As we had to start early for the waterfall bathing experience so I thought of sleeping around midnight.

The Awaited Sunrise:

My biological clock made me get up around 5 am. It was cold but somehow managed to get out of my tent to reach the washroom. After some time even Pragya got up and I gave her company to the washroom. It was a bit cold we tried setting up the bonfire on our own but in vain. Shubham got up after seeing us struggle and helped us for the same. The Bonfire felt good and warmed us but we were waiting for the sunrise.

The warmth of the sunrise cannot be compared with any bonfire. I walked towards the sunrise point and tried capturing the first rays of the Sun. Pragya joined me soon and said “Aise kitne sunrises aur sunsets hai jo ham dekh hi nahin paate hain” ( We miss so many sunsets and sunrises in life.) That’s true we take so many things for granted and miss so many beautiful moments. We sat there in peace for some time I even tried some yoga poses and Sharanya was exploring the other side of the campsite.

The checkout was at around 9:00 a.m. So we explored the campsite a little there was a table land and we went walking all the way till there. We thanked Kalpesh and the kitchen crew bought some souvenirs and goodbye lovely village of Dhapar pada.

Waterfall Bathing:

The drive to the waterfalls was amazing, on the way they were places with excess water of the dam was following which formed a waterfall-like structure. We halted near some fields, which was the starting point of the waterfall hike and had to descend from a slope. The view was amazing from there it looked like a painting.

We walked through the Marigold fields and it was fun. The first view of the fall like structure seemed interesting. We had to cross the stream and go further downwards. As we continued walking we were surprised to see another waterfall which was flowing very forcefully. I was thinking the first initial stream we saw must be the waterfall however this was the waterfall where we had to take bath.

Shubham called us the further and showed us another stream which was very deep, forceful and looked surreal. We clicked some snaps and when to take a bath in the medium stream. It seemed risky initially but once you are inside you don’t feel scared in fact it was pure fun. We got a nice back, neck and body massage. I pushed myself a little behind and I could see the waterfall flowing in front of me. Even after coming out, I could feel the force; I felt I am still below the waterfall.

Well, that was the end of the trip but what a beautiful ending. Shubham saved the best for the last. We walked back, changed our clothes at a local’s house and continued our journey. Again we followed Shubham till Jawhar Tourism office.

While on the way back we acknowledged how beautiful the journey was, how lovely the people were and what an adventurous weekend we had. We do not necessarily need a long trip to relax and refresh sometimes a short getaway is good enough.

But I love you…My experience of dating a toxic narcissist

“I hate you” I got up at 3 am to 23 missed calls and a video where my ex-boyfriend was looking straight into the camera, roaming on the streets without clothes and said, “I Hate you”. He said that four times, and he showed me his teeth before saying these words. I got 2 more videos after that, one where he is showing me his drunk swollen face while roaming on empty roads in the dark, another one was a video from the railway tracks, a train crushing a stone. The second one came with a caption as well, “It’ll be my head instead of the stones I’ve put on the tracks”. Those videos were sent around 1 am. I got up at around 3 am for nature’s call and saw them. At around 8 pm he told me that he has informed his sister that we are planning to get married, and asked me to decide dates for the functions. We were chatting simultaneously in 3 different chat apps and all lovey-dovey talks! This is what it feels like to be in a relationship with an emotionally abusive, toxic narcissist person. Sudden peaks and sudden valleys. We had a great weekend, we went on a trek, were having a great time and then suddenly he points a mistake of mine and shouted at me, during the descent. Such people can’t withstand you giving even the slightest of the attention to anyone else. I interacted with a fellow trekker on the trial and he judged me and assumed something and passed a comment, and when I tried explaining he shouted at me! So basically with an emotional abuser being yourself is a crime, explaining yourself means you are overreacting and over sensitive. After the trek was completed I was booking a cab and handed over my phone to him for 2 mins as I was packing my bag. I saw him reading my chats, and read one of the chat and reacted, he hit himself on the wall. It was a chat with a friend I had a momentary crush on long back, way longer than my ex came in my life, It was a normal clean conversation and I had tried explaining a lot that we are just good friends. It was not the first time he did that. He sneaked my phone many times and read my chats, took some phone numbers from my phone and texted my friends as well. I had clearly communicated that I don’t like anyone invading my privacy. But such people can’t respect boundaries, in fact, they have a constant urge to break the boundaries you try to set. I once told him I don’t want to meet him, he sat outside my house for hours, calling me continuously to come and meet once, when I still denied he clicked pictures of my dad and car and shared them with me. He constantly judged me on my past, assumed I will be repeating the same mistakes, spoke nasty things about me and made me feel terrible about myself.

It’s difficult to completely articulate what I have been through. It felt like I am walking on eggshells like I can get a reaction anytime and at times I did not even realize the trigger point. Here are just some other things he said :

  • You are a piece of shit
  • You are selfish and self-centered, you always think about yourself
  • Your efforts are just 10%
  • I don’t trust you and every 5th sentence you say is a lie
  • I don’t like any of your friends, they are disgusting ( Yes he hated all my friends, complained about them constantly)
  • You “Chutiya Aurat”, “Gaand mara” and many other abusive words I don’t even want to remember
  • You are a fake nature lover
  • You are not capable of doing challenging work
  • Your Photography angles are really bad
  • It was my calculative decision to date him ( he was horrible on paper, quite literally)

He was overly insecure, possessive and did not like me being happy with myself or with anyone else other than him. He wanted to control everything about me, but always denied that he wanted to. For example, he would comment sarcastically on my social media posts. He wanted my Google location to be on always, whenever I switched it off due to battery issues he would create a scene and start a fight. He tried isolating me from my friends, he used to find flaws not only in me but also my friends. He tried to put me down always by bringing up something from my past, or simply by making me feel guilty for being myself. He manipulated and gaslighted me to such an extent that he started making me feel bad about myself. Every time I dressed up well for a function, he would try to spoil my mood and body shame me indirectly because he couldn’t handle me loving myself and admiring myself.

It seemed like I am having a relationship with two people, one an extremely good person and the other a MONSTER. This monster can go to any extent to make him feel superior. This monster is a liar, absolutely fake person wearing a mask of goodness so that he can destroy me whenever he feels he has gained my trust.

I gave him a lot of chances, I had very strong reasons to walk away within the initial months of the relationship. When for the first time, he sneaked my phone, read my chats and denied that he read them; Later that evening, he took me to a deserted place and started asking me questions about a past incident in a very uncomfortable manner, that made me very uncomfortable obviously. He forced me to lie and then blamed me for being a liar. He even humiliated me once in public, created a scene on the road, held my hand looked into my eyes and said “I won’t let you go” and laughed like a mad person. ( I was going to a party with my friends and he did not want me to go, because of “Mujhe takleef hai”). Well, he did not let me go alone, he forcefully came with me, and guess what he absolutely faked being a normal couple in front of my friends. He ruined my last year’s birthday as well, my girl best friend hugged and kissed me and he reacted in such a bad way, he misbehaved with her, threw food, chair, my power bank. He couldn’t digest me giving my attention to anyone, not even my close friends. I can understand insecurities as I really love my best friend a lot, but this kind of reaction confused and scared me at the same time. It did not stop there, he did not let me spend time with my friends and played a victim to show how badly he’s impacted. He took me away from my friends, cried in front of me, stripped in front of me and went to take a swim in the river. It was around 1 or 2 am, dark and cold.

His behaviour was very creepy a lot of times, on the last day of our first trip together he tried telling me some weird things “You don’t know me Praks, you only know what I have told you, 60 % of which is a lie, I will change you completely, and you won’t even realise. I won’t let you go on any solo trips or trips with your friends. You don’t know me…”. I was shocked and confused, why would the person who claimed he’s in love with me say such things to me! I took some time to digest things; a few minutes later he asked to go for a walk and then hugged me and cried like a baby thanking me for being what I am. And then again the false claims of being madly in love with me.

When later I realised he’s being emotionally abusive and started setting rules, he couldn’t tolerate it. When I informed him I have booked a trek with my friend, he shouted on the street and hit himself at a bus stop. I was angry but did not want a scene so I ran away, he followed for some time and I realised and stopped, he just said sorry and I just left from that place. What followed was again abuse, He emotionally blackmailed me that he will tell my secrets to my mom and he will call her and tell shit. It was around 12 am. He then made me type a message to his sister and then asked to delete it so that I look crazy in front of his family. He also asked for a screenshot of that message, I have that message still.

This is his old trick, he told me a lot of nasty things about his ex, claimed that she was crazy and all, that she cheated on him. He always played a victim, when he was actually the abuser. His ex girlfriend is still clinically depressed, inspite of getting married and having a baby. I genuinely pray for her healing.

I had reasons to walk away, a lot many of them, I chose to stay. I had a lot of red flags, I ignored them. That’s because of the cycle of abuse, which I will explain later along with a few other real examples. Basically, after every explosion came a honeymoon phase, where he would show he’s guilty, madly in love with me and go out of the way to do things for me, just to make me believe he’s changed. As soon as he realized I have forgiven him, he would emotionally abuse again. It was so mentally draining that I felt I needed to seek therapy. He denied taking therapy and mindfucked me so much that I had reached a point that I was questioning my sanity. It took a lot of strength to walk away as he had created a lot of emotional dependencies purposely. He tried to gain sympathy by playing a victim, that he had a bad past hence he’s unable to have a normal life.

I thought I will fix him, take him to a therapist and teach him how to have a healthy relationship. But I was wrong. I ended up impacting my own mental health. I actually started questioning my self-worth, at a point I believed it was all my fault, because I had an adventurous past, because I am so extrovert, I have had so many connections, that’s why he’s insecure. Yes, he was a master of manipulation. His trust issues and insecurities weren’t my fault. Nothing can justify abuse, his past trauma wasn’t my fault. Tolerating his drama and abusive toxic tactics because he “loves” me went out of question when I realised that he doesn’t want to change and what you aren’t changing you are choosing. He chose to be an abusive person, the fact that he was able to turn on/off the abuse depending on the audience proves that he was aware of what he’s doing. He was aware he was abusive. He maintained a very good image in front of everyone, any new connect, his family members, my friends, his friends and even social media.

He was always ready with a list of excuses

It was difficult to walk away, but I did. It was needed for my survival, it was needed for my sanity. My journey of healing was a long one, but I was strong enough not to give up. I started doing all the things he made me feel bad about, my solo trips, dressing up, meeting my friends and being a happy extrovert person spreading happiness. Thankfully I have strong support of friends and family who helped me in the process. I made a lot of new connections during this journey, who helped me unknowingly, who gave me a listening ear, did not judge me and with whom I could be myself. I am not just a victim, I am a fighter, a survivor.

This is all just a trailer to what I have been through, to actually go through it was a nightmare. I am not writing this to defame him, I want to come forward and share my experience as I want others to know my survival story. My healing wasn’t easy, it was messy but I am healed and I am growing to be the best version of myself. I still get some anxiety before the start of a trip or attending some big event, but I go for it and make the most of it. I will share more details of my healing journey and what I have been through in subsequent posts. You are not what happened to you, you are what you choose to become. I am becoming the best version of myself.

Sailing at Gateway of India: Reset with Mumbai sunset

Why I love the sunset sailing experience at Gateway Of India, Mumbai

Living in Mumbai- The city of dreams seems filmy and dreamy but it’s easy to get lost in the city. The fast-paced life, the chaos of everyday hustle, traffic, maddening crowd makes one forget the simple joys of life at times. How many times do you pause in your own city to enjoy the sunset ? Many of us won’t even get to leave our offices before 8 pm 😉

I am a sunset lover, I crave for sunsets. I travel away from the city at times only to watch a beautiful sunset. If you are a sunset lover you will understand what I mean. My first true romance with Mumbai sunset at Gateway began in 2016 when I went sailing there for the first time. I usually love new experiences and don’t repeat them, but I sailed thrice at Gateway of India. Everytime it fills me with joy and love for the city; Makes me fall in love with my own city again.

The first time I witnessed a peaceful sunset in town- 2016

What makes this experience so special ?

Picnic Feels: For someone who doesn’t stay in South Mumbai, reaching Gateway itself makes you nostalgic and reminds you of all the times you have come there for Mumbai Darshan, for taking a ferry to Elephanta Caves or Alibaug or just for spending a day in town.

Mandatory capture, Great Photobomb by the Crow

View of The Iconic Taj: The iconic Taj Mahal palace looks beautiful and photogenic even from the Gateway; But the view of Taj along with the sea takes you back to Old Bombay and its charm. It looks as if it’s straight out of a postcard. As soon as you take the boat from the jetty, you start bidding goodbye to the crowd, the noises and the chaos; Watching that is a beautiful sight and feeling.

The Waves: The sound of the waves is therapeutic, and it’s not everyday you get to soak that. Just get lost in the waves, with your thoughts and you won’t even realise how time passes. You need not need a beach holiday to experience this when you can be close to the waves in your own city.

Golden Hour: That hour when the sky turns softer and redder ! It’s a beautiful sight to watch from the sail boat. The waves reflecting the orange-red colours of the sky, the wind in your hair and if you have your friends with you on the sailboat, the smile on their faces, a perfect moment.

Peaceful Sunset: The sailing experience at the sunset slot (4-6 pm) is like a ceremony to watch the setting sun and appreciate it’s beauty. The fact that this can be done peacefully is refreshing. Those 2 hours seems the best investment and once the sailboat changes its direction to go back to the jetty, you are filled with “I wish I could freeze this moment” kind of feelings.

Twilight/Moon Rise: If you are lucky enough, you can get to see the lovely colours of the twilight. The after sunset sky turns into a beautiful canvas of hues and it makes you realize and appreciate the wonders of nature.

Everytime I go for sunset sailing, I come back refreshed, happy and lighter. It’s not something I can get bored of as every day is different and every sunset is unique and beautiful in its own way and a reminder that endings are beautiful as well, that some endings are necessary for a brighter tomorrow.

Important Information:

  • Gateway Sailing club provides sailing at multiple slots, sunset sailing is just one of them.
  • Contact: Jimmy Nadar, Gateway Sailing club +919987000004
  • The sunset slots timing may vary as per the season, please check with the sail club before booking

Alone not Lonely: Kudremukh Trek on a weekday

Rolling green hills, clouds kissing the mountains, forest trails, bamboo shrubs and a dozen waterfalls, the Kudremukh Peak trek has it all; No wonder it is called the Himalayas of the south. The scenery keeps changing on the trek and will surely amaze anyone. Kudremukh is not the highest peak of Karnataka, but it is the third highest (6207 ft) and hence a good trek, it is known for the variety of scenery it offers.

Kudremukh, which literally means Horse’s Face, was on my list for quite some time and I decided to tick that off the list this year. The reason I chose Kudremukh Trek was I wanted to experience the Western Ghats, the clouds passing over the rolling green hills was a sight I wanted to see for real. Also, it was really hot and humid in Mumbai, so Kudremukh Trek seemed like the best option.

Reaching Base Village/ HomeStay:

Kudremukh peak is in the Kudremukh National park which comes in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. The nearest airport is Mangalore but I got a good deal for Bangalore flight tickets and as I was planning solo, I thought it would be better to go via Bangalore. The base village for Kudremukh Trek is Mullodi, which is a remote village hence there is no direct connectivity. There are KSRTC buses to Hornadu from Bangalore bus stop; one can stop at Kalasa (you may need to request the driver to drop at the square before Kalasa). From there another vehicle or SUV to reach Kudremukh forest check post. There are many homestays around. Some homestays also arrange transport from Kalasa.

I had done my entire research and was planning to follow the same route and connect with a local person at Kalasa or any homestay. But social media is amazing, and I met Jatin from Plan the Unplanned who joined me for the trek and he has been an amazing trek lead and trek mate. We took a non-stop bus to Hassan and then another bus to Chikmagalur. From Chikmagalur to Kudremukh we went on a bike. The distance is around 95 to 97 km. It was an awesome experience on the bike, surrounded by trees, lush green patches, bamboos, jackfruit trees and coffee estates. Clouds and hills accompanied us as well. We crossed Kalasa, Kalasa main road is very cute. It seemed like a lovely quaint town. After Kalasa, we had planned a stop at a waterfall near Coffee Gudda. The area is also called Coffee Gudda, named on a famous homestay.

The waterfall is called Elneeru. Elneeru means Sweet coconut, it is said that water is as sweet or tastes similar to coconut water. The ride to Elneeru is through muddy roads and one can drive till the motorable area. Then one has to descend down a little to reach the waterfall. On the way, came across another beautiful waterfall, it looked like a wallpaper. I was overwhelmed by that waterfall itself. Jatin had to tell me that this isn’t our final destination. 🙂

After further descend and a then little hike, one can hear the sound of falls in full flow and birds chirping. In some time the Elniru falls become visible. It is a huge waterfall full of energy, feeling the water on your face was a bliss. I even tasted the water, it actually tastes sweet 🙂

After a rejuvenating break at Elniru falls, moved towards our Homestay- Bella Homestays. Bella Homestays is a beautiful cosy home away from home. It is a traditional style cottage with amazing views, surrounded by trees. The upper deck or aangan is a beautiful place for chai and the food tasted even better in such a setting. The sounds of nature are always there with you – birds chirping, crickets and the raindrops. Post some delicious home cooked food, we hit the bed as we had a long day the next day.

The Trek day:

One has to start early in order to be back at the homestay on time. The forest department also advises being back before 6 at least. As we were trekking on a weekday, we had the leverage to start the trek a little late. It was a rainy night and morning, so was difficult for me to get up. 😉 We had chai on the deck, got ready and packed my daypack. Had some tasty Idli and Sambhar for breakfast followed by filter coffee. We started for the base village Mullodi in a jeep. The distance is approximately 6 km to the Forest department office, from where the trek actually starts. The ride is adventurous as one crosses coffee plantations, muddy roads with waterfalls and streams as well on the way. The forest department office is a small structure where one needs to take permission and a guide. After all required permissions we started the trek, with a guide and a dog named Pandu. At the start itself, after few minutes of walking there comes a stream crossing. As it was raining heavily and continuously the flow and depth of the stream was heavy.

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After the stream crossing, there is a slight ascent on a muddy path surrounded by ferns, several shrubs and lush green grass. This continues for around 1 to 1.5 km and then there comes an elevated plain and a stand-alone tree which is called Ontimara.

On the left on Ontimara, the trail becomes flat for some time, on the right one can see the Kudremukh valley and Somavati river flowing below. The trail soon converts into a forest trail- dark shola forests with water streams. There were a lot of leeches at this point, I initially thought I am saved from them, but later realized that it’s difficult to actually avoid them. Another stream crossing there are open meadows. It was an amazing feeling to trek through dense forests, with open meadows in between. The transition of scenery played kept the thrill till the end.

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Kudremukh peak becomes visible after some point. The clouds were coming closer and nearer as if to kiss and hug you. Amidst the open meadows, after further walking, there is a board by Forest Department Office stating the direction and distance (7 km) to Kudremukh peak. After another dense patch of trees, is another stream of water, and the last water source before the peak. After stream crossing, there is a steep ascent. All of us were walking at our own pace, and I achieved what I wanted to from the trek- deep connection with nature and solitude, all this mid-way itself.

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It started raining heavily at around 11 am. On the right, the view was mesmerizing, clouds passing over rolling lush green hills. Tried taking few time lapses there. After further ascend you reach the second Ontimara.

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Before reaching the Ontimara, I was amazed by the Kudremukh range all around me. From the ontimara, the view on the right was enthralling- rolling green hills vibrant, full of energy passing all the energy on to us. We jumped in joy and then sat there soaking in the beauty of the moment.

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After the Ontimara, the trail is a mix of narrow paths between dense forests, bamboo shrubs and steep ascents.

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The whole of Kudremukh valley opens up after some point. The guide tried to explain the structure of the peak in Kannada. He pointed at the part of the mountain which resembles the face of a horse and mentioned Kudre-mukha, and then pointed at the stomach and back of the horse and explained how the mountain resembles a horse. Language is not a barrier when both want to have a conversation. He also explained that we will climb the “horse’s back” part of the mountain and the climb is steep and zig-zag.

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The zig-zag steep climb is difficult comparatively but the views encourage to keep going. It was raining so much, along with the winds that I felt as of the raindrops are slapping me. There were times I could not even open my eyes.

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After the end of the zig-zag point, paused for some time to look and appreciate how far I have come. The rolling hills, lush green and full of life, the open meadows, the grasslands everything on the trail was just perfect, why go to Scotland when you can experience this in India itself.

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At the end of zig zag point, there is a rock cluster with a blue arrow mark showing the direction to the peak. Jatin pointed at some ruins and mentioned there used to be a British Rest house there. The last part of the trek is not a steep climb because of the shape of the mountain. It is a level walk past green fields.

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As we went closer to the highest point, the rains kept increasing. It stopped for sometime when we reached the peak. At the peak, there is Forest Department Board as well showing the details of Kudremukh peak and other peaks of Kudremukh national park. As it was raining continuously, there was no visibility, all I could see was clouds below.

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Waited sometime there to see the hills and clouds play peek-a-boo. After sometime started the descent, capturing and soaking in as much as possible. The descent was a fast one, as we wanted to reach on time and I was hungry as well. We crossed a skull as well near a stream. Jatin saw a wild boar running ahead as well. We reached back till the jeep drop point by 4:30 pm.

Leech bites, heavy rains, gusty winds nothing could stop us to conquer the peak. It was just us at the peak. Kudremukh trek is otherwise a popular trek but as it was a weekday, it was only we three on the entire trail. At many points, I was walking alone and got answers to many questions. I was alone, but not lonely; Inspired by ontimara and nature.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti Singh

References:

https://incrediblemalnad.com/chikmagalur/trekking/kudremukh-trek/

https://indiahikes.com/documented-trek/kudremukh-trek-2/

Cafes, Views & Chill – Few Hours in Dehradun

What do you do when you have few hours to spend in a new city but don’t want to visit the popular tourist places? For me, I like to dive into the culture of the place, as much as possible. It depends on the purpose of travel as well, my objective was to chill and soak in the vibes of the city as I was leaving for a trek next day. Had read about the Cafe Culture of Dehradun and thought to give it a try. I believe cafes and restaurants give more idea about the local lifestyle than tourist places. Initially, I had half a day in Dehradun, but my train got stuck in the middle of the forests, and I realised there was some power supply issue. Instead of reaching around 1, reached at 3 pm.

 

 

Without any plans or booking, was just backpacking. My empty stomach couldn’t wait to eat (read as hog 😉 ). So checked in at a hotel near the station, as railway station was the pickup point for the next day. After dropping my backpack, booked Ola Auto. Orchard Cafe was first on my list, my friend who’s a native suggested that.

Orchard Cafe is on the Rajpur Road. Rajpur is anyway known for the Cafes, but I was very particular for a cafe with a view. It’s on the outskirts I can say, on the foothills of Mussoorie hill. The ride to the cafe was amazing, as it crosses the entire Rajpur road and goes till Dehradun-Mussoorie road.

Rajpur Road has some amazing cafes, it is a good place for shopping as well. But I was looking for a quiet “chai with a view” kind of an experience. It was difficult to find the place, as Google Maps was showing to take a narrow lane. Even the auto driver got confused, we saw a group of Tibetan ladies walking in that lane and asked them but they had no idea. Finally, we decided to take the lane, which further narrowed down. After sometime could locate the Cafe, it is surrounded by bamboo trees. As soon I settled, I wanted to order. The place has some authentic Tibetan, Chinese and Thai food. I ordered Cheese Kothey, Honey-Chilli Potatoes and obviously Chai. The place is apparently run by Tibetan people hence the food was authentic ( and not Desi Chinese place).

The vibes of the place, the mountain views the rustic wooden interiors, all together made me forget my long tiring travel till Doon. After eating, I just sat there doing nothing, watching the mountains and drinking chai. I spent some good amount of time there, interacted with the staff, observed few local people. Spending a laid-back evening is a bliss for someone from a city like Mumbai.

 

To be honest, I didn’t feel like going from that place, but I suddenly recollected that I am very far of from the main city, and after sunset would be very dark and cold. This time I decided to walk till main Rajpur, and not take any transport. Nothing beats exploring a place on feet. One can visit MDDA park as well as it anyway comes on the way.

Walking aimlessly, observing people, in a new city is an amazing feeling; No one knows you, judges you, and you can randomly throw smiles at people. I smiled at some school and college students, and few artists, overheard two guys talking about their gig. Crossed a beautiful Buddhist monastery, and then after walking a few kilometres came across a quaint, beautiful cafe. Even though we were full, decided to step in for a coffee.

Cafe De Picollo is one of the prettiest cafes I have been to. It’s a white cottage with fairy lights and beautiful wall paintings, seemed straight from a fairy tale. Had some yummy crepes with coffee. I saw the same two guys who I had overheard earlier, sitting in the same cafe, one of them smiled and winked. For a second I thought he’s following me. 😉 De Picollo is a modern cafe and not a traditional one like Orchard.

After coffee, crepes and conversation, booked a cab till the hotel. Few hours in Doon valley gave me a lot of memories, stories and a unique cafe hopping experience. On the return journey, had only 2 hours, so had dinner at Clock tower and bid goodbye to Doon valley…

If you have only a few hours in Dehradun, and looking for non-touristy places:

  • Visit Rajpur Road- There are a lot of Cafes, restaurants and it’s even good for shopping
  • Have Chai with a view at Orchard Cafe
  • Visit MDDA/Rajpur Park
  • Clock Tower (Ghanta Ghar): Even though this is a famous tourist attraction, it is surrounded by shops, markets and restaurants.

Straight From My Heart,

Prakriti Singh

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. 🙂

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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. 😉 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. 😉 😀 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

Contest entry for The Adventurer Blog Contest May 2018 by Bikat Adventures” 

Bhrigu Lake – A trek of many firsts

This post is a Guest blog in collaboration with 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 ‘the best part comes after overcoming fears’, 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 wouldn’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

Done with Goa and Gokarna ? Consider exploring Coastal Gujarat- Do the Diu

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 😉 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. 😉

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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 😉 ) 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 😉 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 2017: 12 Months, 12 Destinations & millions of memories

12 months, 12 Destinations, many outings and millions of memories

It’s the fifth weekend of 2018 already !! It seems like I celebrated New Year Eve just last week 🙂 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 🙂

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 a 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 any way 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 a lifetime. Imagine chilling on a beach, without knowing the name of the beach 🙂

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 😉 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 friend’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 a 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 a 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 off-site was planned for Bangkok and Pattaya. The trip seemed refreshing after the Himalayan trek. This was an all in one trip, shopping, partying, sightseeing 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 thanksgiving month for me. 2017 has been a wonderful year for me. A 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

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. 😉

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 🙂 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. 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. 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,  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.  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