Thursday, 7 September 2017

The secrectly tucked Vasudhara-The mighty falls near Badrinath

Writing another post on trekking and nature after nearly a year. What kept me away for so long?????Nothing much other than a writer’s block. Now that I have overcome that, let me take you to an enchanting or a better adjective would be thunderous waterfall far away amid snowclad mountains.
When I proposed the idea of trekking to my friend Tina, she jumped on the idea and brought in another friend. And there started our long conversation and planning for our trek to valley of flowers (which will be documented later).
 After having successfully trekKed the valley of flowers, five of us extended our tip to visit Badrinath and trek again to Vasudhara. We started at 6.A.M from Govindghat, our base camp for valley of flowers and reached Badrinath by 7.30 A.M , directly went to the hotel Sarovar Portico, made an early check in, grabbed some breakfast and set out to Mana, the last village of India, which is 3 kms away from Badrinath in our vehicle. The last point to the motorable road is the entrance to this village. Here we got down and started off our early sight seeing by going to Ganesha gufa which  is a small temple dedicated of Lord Ganeshji. Few hundred mts of climb from this temple is your next tourist visiting spot and that  would be the Vyasa Gufa. Here Sage Vyasa is said to have meditated and written the Mahabharata while Lord Ganesh was narrating it. Since Vyasa couldn't hear much due to the thundering sound of River Saraswathi near by, he is said to have cursed her to become silent, and so she mixes with Alankanada in few hundred mts and then the mighty river is definitely less thunderous. This place of confluence is known as Keshava prayag. Our next stop was a Bhim pul. This spot literally stops any visitor with the compelling sound of Sarasawathi gushing out of the caves with her milky white water. The sheer amount of water that comes out makes you think, from where could so much water keep coming continuously………. You can sit  in the last tea shop , situated near the bhim pul looking her , trying to unravel the mystery behind the caves. Then we do some photo shoot of the bhim pul

After we had a strong kadakh chai at the last shop here in Mana, two of our friends decided to go back to the hotel and we three decided to proceed ahead. Now everyone was surprised at our decision to plan a trek after the strenuous Valley of flower trek. Questions like this started coming in
Are you by any chance mountaineers? - Obvious the answer was a No
Do you at least belong to the mountain? Well again except for a fake pahadan among us, we are close to beaches. Why is Tina called as Fake pahadan…. because she hails from mountains but I guess she has forgotten all about that and takes avomine while travelling in the hills
Then why this trek at an altitude????? Well we wanted to have fun and explore the nature at our convenient pace and we happily succeeded
Mythology says that Pandavas with Draupadi walked this way after the battle of Kurukshetra renouncing everything. When Draupadi could not cross Saraswathi, Bheem is said to have laid a stone across the river as a bridge to facilitate her crossing the river. You can see this here
The trek started at the Bhim Pul that is nearly 6 kms away from the waterfall. Each of us took 2lts of water, some energy bars and chocolates and we set out on our trek equipped with our trekking pole and hiking shoes. The first 3 kms was comparatively easy. There was a well-defined path, though a rocky one and   muddy at some places. We slowly trekked taking in the beautiful and awesome sceneries all along the way, clicking a lot of pictures, selfies and groupies. It was so much fun especially when we are with friends. The ascent was not strenuous as it was not very steep.

As we were falling into the comfort zone, Vaish heard a sound above us. We felt it was from a helicopter but she asserted that it was from a plane. We looked up the sky to unravel the mystery only to realize the noise was from the wind howling scaring us with not a single soul around in the vicinity. With Alakananda flowing beneath in the valley, hovering mountains covered in mist and snow, a river roaring behind the mountains, it was an overwhelming and at once a humbling moment. It was then we decided that we quicken our pace to be back before the sun sets.

As we trekked further, there were times, when it was just a pile of rocks ahead of us. We would ask ourselves where could be the path to move ahead?????? Then it struck us that there was no clear way and we must climb the rocks climb to forge ahead. The daring trio accomplished this too with no fuss. After another km we came across a small waterfall to be crossed. Since we were wearing forclaz 500 shoes, there was no fear of water entering into the shoes, and our fake pahadan took the lead to cross it. Next I followed suit though with some trepidation. It was then Vaish’s turn and as we waited for her to cross, she stopped midway pleading her inability to move further. As we were wondering why she feared, we realized that she was overcome by fear remembering our mishap near Govind ghat the previous day where we were lucky not be to washed away by the river. It just took a minute for her to overcome the fear and we were soon huffing and puffing as we walked and walked with no end in sight.

 When Vaish asked Tina, how far was the waterfall, Tina replied to former’s disappointment that may be we need to cross another two mountains but as we walked we realized to our dismay that it was more than 20 mountains. Finally, to our great relief, we did sight the Vasudhara in the distance and that spurred us to walk faster. As we neared it, we heard her thunderous sound as the fall descended from a massive tall mountain What an enchanting beauty she was worth all the trouble one has to undergo to have a look. No camera or words can capture her magnificence and splendor. You just have to walk all the way to feel and devour the scene personally as she falls from a height of 400 ft, cascading down to finally join Alakananda

Anyone who has seen Vasudhara will agree that she is a beauty from far and scary as we near her. She falls on the rocks below with a thunderous sound,If you have some time to watch her, you can watch her rhythmic fall on the huge rock below her, with intermittent misses. There is no way you can go below the fall to take a shower. You can watch her from few hundred mts and if you are lucky she droplets shall fall on you. At this minute, a realization will dawn on you, that there is so much more to life then our mere everyday bickering and there is so much more to explore and the time is so less. Here I think each of us made a oath to ourselves to come back to the mountains soon. The sheer magic of these pristine mountains pulls everyone and we are not spared too

After savouring slowly her visual feast for some time, we just sat there to munch on some energy bars and drink water to get over the tiredness even as we let her tiny droplets fall on us. Mythology avers that her droplets fall only on people who are pure in heart and we three were delighted at the drops falling on us.. The time we spent looking at her and enjoying her, we were speechless. We just enjoyed the moment in silence. We would have loved to spend more time but we had taken nearly three and half hours one way and now we faced the daunting task of reaching Mana in two hours.

While Vaish was happy with the return, she was named the descent queen as she found it easy to climb down. Tina was fine with both ascent and descent at her pace, I was a little skeptical because I was good with the ascent while descent brought some vague fear in me. But with friends around, I guess fear had no place. While both of them took turns to hold my hand to give me confidence, I tried to remain calm. They knew I was trying and let me do it as we   descended fast till one wild buffalo decided to stand right in our path and would not budge. We had no choice but to wait, as one side was mountain and the other side was a deep valley. While it just kept standing right there, Tina decided to make some sound to scare it away. Did her sound scare it? Nope, it was amused and turned to look at us and give us a dirty stare for solid two minutes. While Vaish was exploring possible escape routes, Tina was engaging the bull in the stare fight, I prayed intently. Luckily for us, one local guy emerged and helped us by shooing away the bull. Thanking him profusely, we continued with our descent to reach Mana in a record 2 hrs.

Having skipped lunch, we were so famished that we had hot noodles at a tea shop along with some chai. Without the pangs of hunger and refreshed well, it started sinking in us that WE Really DID IT!!! An arduous trek we planned and accomplished successfully all alone by three of us without any outside guide or help.
After completing this we concluded that we will be back to the mountains soon as It was not about the destination, but about journey!! 
When your friends are as crazy as you,any journey is bound to be stupendous.!!


Friday, 11 November 2016

Trek To Kedarnath

The thought of trekking at 47 in Himalayas and its strenuous nature set me thinking on age and ageing. It was then wisdom dawned on that age is just a number and a state of mind! What you think you are, you really become, young or old as per your thinking.!  It is again related to ones' experience, limitations, expectations and disappointments in life. Luckily I felt I am young in spirit. Most of people would not readily accept that a person at the age of 47 or above can be a first time trekker to the hills of Kedar, I realized that it is possible if there is a good support system to goad us as in my case with my sweet little princess who not only gave me the required confidence but actually pushed me to see what I could achieve. When my husband was apprehensive about my fitness and health, rest of the family and friends who worried about the unknown terrain, it was my daughter and my sister who bolstered my spirit and said I can do it. There was no second thought thereafter and the two of us, my sister and myself, all by ourselves, embarked on our journey that included an 18 km trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath by foot.

We landed at Dehradun and after a day trip of Haridwar, we stayed overnight at Dehradun. Next morning, we drove about 460 km to Sitapur and stayed overnight at Hotel Shivalik. This hotel has good rooms, clean towels and easy hot water supply essential in the early morning. They cook tasty hot food and it has a homely ambiance. I would strongly recommend this hotel in this ghat section.
 In the morning after a quick hot water bath and a cup of hot chai, we were dropped at Sonprayag. From here our private vehicles do not ply. We had to hop on to one of those jeeps that are tuned to these rugged roads to take us after a short drive to the entrance of our trek path at Gaurikund. 
All excited we both carried our back packs with some medicines (for emergency) dry fruits and electral, wore the winter wear, bid bye to KK and started on our trek with a prayer to the lord. From here we had the option to take a pony ride to Kedarnath. Though many including the pony guys suggested that we would not be able to complete the trek on our own and we better take the pony, we put the trust on ourselves and started to walk. A few yards on the route, we come across the main temple of Gaurikund where we paid our obeisance before continuing with our journey. 
Our constant company during my six hour trek was the imposing Garhwal Mountains, the sound of gushing waters of Mandakini below us in the gorge and occasional passersby on ponies or foot and ofcourse regular vrooming of the helicopters above the mountains. Some parts of the trek have well laid foot path with railings, while at some places it is fully washed off due to the rain.
Here came the moment of realization that I am not the center of the universe but a mere speck in it whose very existence right then was fully controlled by HIM. Though we trusted on ourselves and on our trekking pole to take each step forward, it was our abiding faith in HIM that saw us through to reach the destination without any harm. 
These pictures might look scary, but do not be discouraged by them before you take the plunge to do the trip. With His grace, you will do fine.

After a trek of five kms, we came to our first stop, Bhimbali. Here we had a cup of hot chai though refreshments are available. After taking rest for a few minutes to recoup ourselves, we proceeded on our journey. The route is not so easy from this point. You have to walk carefully on a slope at your own comfortable pace giving yourself short breaks. Always remember to keep yourself hydrated during any trek. All through the distance till the top, there are make shift toilets, benches to sit and drinking water facility to the travellers. 
Having walked another six kms we reached a place where we could witness the massive devastation caused by the rage of Mandakini in 2013. The old township of Rambara is nothing but in shambles. The landslides, the destroyed hotels and the old bridge brought to us memories of the devastation and the immense power of nature’s fury. Here we learnt the lesson to “Respect the nature”. Having prayed for the departed souls due to floods, we took the new route to upper Linchauli. From this point, though it was quite difficult for us to trek without frequent breaks, we plodded on.
On reaching upper Linchauli, we encountered sudden and heavy rains. We sat down for a while at a tea shop for some rest and recouped ourselves with some hot tea. We were aware that we had another four kms of uphill walk and time was ticking fast. We did some good thinking and reasoning and decided to hire a pony for the rest of the journey to avoid any risk in this rain. If you are wondering, if we could get a pony after having travelled so far into the trek, rest assured that ponies are available pony all the way. Do not be bullied into taking a pony at the beginning of the trek as you can always hire one midway
The ride on the pony was not as easy as we had imagined. It was quite scary when it climbs on the edge of a ridge or ambles down some slope. Finally, after a pony ride for another two hours, we reached the top of the Kedarnath trek, with the temple in sight. We paid for the ride thanked the pony master abundantly and started our walk towards the temple. To my big relief, I saw KK standing near the helipad waiting for us. 
Another few kilometers of walking took us to the temple and Hotel Bikaner place, one of the few hotels in Kedarnath. I will write more about the temple in my temple blog soon.

1. If you are planning for a trek on the mountains, start your daily regime of walking and jogging 3 months prior to the journey, if possible do some yoga and breathing exercises. Take the medical advice before embarking on such a journey
2. On the day prior to the high altitude trek, take the prescribed tab of DIAMOX. You may have side effects, do understand the side effects by asking your doctor.
3. Carry a back pack with a padded strap. It is more comfortable to carry and less stress on your shoulders
4. Do not carry too many eatables. Carry few dry fruits and liquid to hydrate you. They say iron rich food helps
5. Thermal wear is not necessary unless you trek on the snow as you tend to profusely sweat while trekking. But wear it if you cannot handle cold at all.
6. Take a raincoat for yourself and your camera if you are carrying as the climate high up there is unpredictable
7. Above all enjoy the scenic beauty as the journey is as important as the destination


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Pristine Ooty at Destiny Farmstay

Life is so busy,humdrum and hectic for most of us , that we hardly have time to appreciate nature. Take a break, a small one at least, to get away from this hustle bustle and enjoy the beauty of pristine nature, Rejuvenate and come back fully refreshed ready to get into the daily grind, is the mantra I keep telling my hubby.He did relent and we finally did take a short break. He planned the holiday and I had no clue about the place  until I landed there.

Think of Ooty and we instantly dream of a verdant  Nilgiris, uncluttered scenic beauty and far from the maddening crowd of the city life, But Ooty proper  has become so commercial these days that you might not find these very things you came looking for. Instead go to the near by places in the hills and you will enjoy that pristine scenic beauty which you crave for. One such locale is in Avalanche near Ooty. Here is my short travelogue on this trip and some information about our stay at Destiny Farmstay

We started by the Indigo flight from Chennai at 10.AM (preferable to start by the earlier flight), landed on time at Coimbatore at around 11.15. The prearranged cab that was waiting at the airport took us  towards Ooty.  We took a short break en route for lunch and also refreshed ourselves with the very inviting sugar cane juice from the roadside vendor. My son was wondering if it was hygienic ….who cares :). All we wanted was some cool juice to quench ourselves. 

We took the Kotagiri route towards Avalanche and the scenery and the drive was really good. Seeing the green hills I knew we would have a wonderful weekend getaway but did not realize  how great it would turn out to be  until I reached the place. Traffic on the Kotagiri route was not  much and we reached emerald a small hamlet in two hours. There was near zero traffic towards the destiny farms. There was no hassle as the route was clearly mentioned both in the website and their mails. 

We were constantly contacted by their staff so that they could arrange out transport from the parking lot. I was wondering what the whole fuss was about. We would anyway reach their place in our vehicle. Well well well…. Only on reaching the parking lot did I understand the importance of their calls. At the parking lot , we were pleasantly received by some courteous staff with  a smile and welcome drink.  After refreshing we were taken to their vehicle. The drivers of our vehicles have arrangements to stay there. Their vehicle is somewhat like an army truck  that can easily maneuver along the rugged path of our adventurous trip  that started right from here. There are no smooth roads laid here.I am not sure of the reason though  I saw a board saying that the place belongs to forestry department. Could it due to that,I wondered?The staff at Destiny say that it is meant to give an adventurous feeling to the guests. Well it did give:) 

Destiny Farmstay is nestled in the valley surrounded by Nilgiris and overlooking a lake. It is a perfect holiday destination. Just one look at the surrounding ambiance, I knew I would enjoy the next two days.

On arrival at the reception of the Destiny Farmstay amidst rain , we were escorted inside their administrative building with ever helpful staff who had umbrellas ready for the guests. 

After a quick check in, we then walked to out cottage called as chairman's villa. Up we climbed the stairs and into the balcony and the glow in my husband's face and the wow expression spoke volumes of how impressed he was at the enchanting scenery!! What a beauty!!! We  must have all seen the beautiful Nilgiris from Ooty but the view from here was at once breathtaking and awe inspiring.. The clouds kissing the mountains , the blue lake below, the greenery all around , the chirping of birds, the neighing of the horses from the stable and the cows grazing the grassland, what more can one ask for? This is real heaven on earth. The weather was just perfect for this blessing  and I was in cloud nine that KK  had planned this wonderful holiday. 
Charman's Villa
I think the one striking thing about the stay here is  that you are cut off from the outside world except in the reception area. No WiFi or TV in your rooms. So we can again relearn to connect with fellow human beings, talk to strangers, smile at kids and wish if you like at a fellow walker when you go out for your walk. Well I did connect with many lest I be seen looking at my phone all the time. 
There are deluxe rooms and cottages and these rooms are cozy, well maintained and very neat.

The food is good. You have an excellent room service room and staff who do their work with a big smile. We had buffet and the spread for the vegetarian and non-vegetarian was good. Coffee was excellent 

They have organised activities keeping in mind the needs of most of us. For the adventurous type, you have horse riding, trekking, rappelling, climbing on the rocks, fishing etc.
Fishing activity by the guests at destiny
For the romantic ones who would like to croon karaoke corner beckons them
For those who like to relax playing a game of TT or carom, here is the perfect spot and of course you can go for a walk enjoying the salubrious climate
Young kids can swing and slide and have fun.

They have a dairy farm and the milk supplied to their restaurant is from here.
Dairy farm
Some of the vegetables that are used are grown here locally like the beets, cabbage, broccoli and many herbs. An herb tour is organised by them if you are keen to know the herbs grown here.
There were so many activities and we thoroughly enjoyed our two days stay here.
The only suggestion I could think of was, they are not yet physically challenged friendly. No doctors on call or no medical facility nearby. So If you are planning to take kids or elders, do prepare yourself with the necessary medicines.
For more information do check their website HERE
After an early breakfast and flag hoisting ceremony on Independence day we headed back to Coimbatore airport.

Was the trip worth it????....OFCOURSE !!If given a chance I would go again with my daughter.

Till the next post, happy reading and planning for your visit