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