Friday, May 18, 2012

Mauritius - Honeymoon


I was getting married in 3 months to Anita :), and like any other couple I had to decide where to go for HoneyMoon. After lot of discussions and research I finally decided on Mauritius. My major source of research was TripAdvisor and few people I knew had been to mauritius (Manjeet, Abhinav etc). The closest competitors to the destination were Thailand (Krabi, Pattaya etc) or Maldives. I had been to Malaysia so that was removed from the list. I wanted to go to a place with beaches/natural beauty and which still had activities to do (that crossed maldives as option). Finally I started making calls and finalized a package with MakeMyTrip.

The 2-3 months passed by quickly and the marriage day arrived :) . After so much hussle and activity I was looking forward to the break. We flew to Mauritius in AIR Mauritius flight on sunday Feb 26th. We were really looking forward to the trip. The short flight of 7ish hours finished quickly and we landed in Mauritius. The weather in February is sunny/humid but still pleasant compared to Delhi/India. I was pleasantly surprised to see not much security/immigration checks etc and we were out of Airport within minutes of landing. A bus was waiting for us which got filled with few couples and on we went to our Resort.

We got a nice cozy room at the Resort and soon after check-in we just went to the resort's beach. We were staying at Casuarina Resort and Spa at Trou aux biches. We walked around the beach till evening and it was fun. Mauritius beaches are sort of like Goa beaches sans the people :) . Everywhere we went it was desolated. Only people we would see were European families on vaccation or Indian couples on Honeymoon. We played around at the beach and came back for dinner at the resort. We were tired from the flight and travelling so a nice candle light dinner was refreshing. The resort had indian (not so good :)) food as well but I was ok with the fruits/european food and a long list of sweets laid out for dinner. After the dinner we just hung around the resort/pool and retired to our rooms for a long next day.

The package included some sight seeing. We went to a ton of places. Everyday we would get up at 6..7ish get ready, have breakfast and off we went. There was a north island tour, south island tour and Ile aux cerfs tour. The north and south island tour were almost similar except that we did one of them in sunny/humid weather and one in cloudy/rainy weather :)). That was the best part. The climate keeps changing across the island just in few kilometres. We went to a old fort, malls, casino, a shiv ji temple, a waterfall, a meteor crater etc. We even saw 2-3 places where few scens from Bollywood movies Kuch kuch hota hai and Mujhse shadi karogi were shot. Mauritius has pretty much everything from hills to plains to greenery to beaches. The best part was the Ile Aux cerfs tour in which we did speed boat ride, parasailing and Under sea walk.

Under sea walk was our first of its kind experience and it was fantastic. We were few feet below sea water , hundreds of meters away from beach looking at the acquatic life. The corals, multi colored fishes everything was amazing. And it was scary too :). The weather added to the experience. It was windy and cool most of the time.

We took some optional tours in one of which we went on Catamaran cruise. We started off great and it was fun and adventurous as the huge cruise was sailing through water and bouncing on waves just like a joy ride. But due to bad weather we had to return half way. So we spent the rest of the day roaming around the resort, hanging out at the resort beach.

Our last optional tour day was to Casela national park. Here the most amazing part was the lion safari where we got to touch the lions. Yeah real lions. We spent few minutes in an open space with 3-4 lions and all we had was a stick to protect us :). Casela national park also has a nice quad bike trail which has lot of animals in open spaces including ostritches, zebras, deer etc. And riding a quad bike on a bumpy terrain was the best part. If only I was allowed to race :).

The last evening of the 6 day tour we mostly spent lazying around on beach soaking up as much of mauritius as we could. We stayed at the beach till the sunset and came for our last candle light dinner to the Resort. I also tried the locally brewed Phoenix beer which was pretty similar to Corona. We also took a scooty from our resort and went roaming/exploring nearby beaches. Riding in Mauritius was fun as the roads are mostly empty. We went to a public beach which was pretty neat and was hardly crowded. Finally we checked out of our Resort and took our bus back to the Airport with nice memories and tons of photos :).

Things to note:
- Mauritius can be very sunny so moisturizers/sun tan lotions are must
- Its best to take dollars to Mauritius and get them converted to Mauritian rupees from Airport as soon as you land.
- Mauritian rupee conversion is around 1$ = 29MUR and 1MUR = 1.7 INR
- Dont forget your beach wear like I did :)
- Mauritian People mostly know English and many know a little bit of Hindi as well so language/communication is not a problem.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A little experiment

I would make a plan that I would wake up at 6am, see the morning sun, do some exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, spend some time calmly and then start my day afresh. Then I would procrastinate and just tell myself that I would do it from tomorrow, or from next saturday, or monday, and then I would forget. I would read a blog, watch a movie, feel lethargic and the same thought process will trigger again, and again, and so on. Months pass by and then years. The weight that was supposed to go down, goes up. The energy levels that were supposed to go high go down instead. And nothing happens. So I thought of doing a small experiment.

First things first. Its a small experiment of 1 week duration (just for start) so I can see the light at the end of tunnel if i feel like cheating. Here are few things I would do.

1. No Facebook/movies/sitcoms/serials/tv
2. No random browsing of web
3. Sleep by 11PM
4. Wake up by 6AM
5. Go for a jog
6. Read newspaper and have breakfast calmly and not in hurry as usual
7. And start the day.

Nothing fancy like do ton of exercise or lose 5 kgs. Just this. Lets see how it goes.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Auli it is...

Yet another shutdown brought the similar confusion this time like every year. What to do with the 9 day holiday in the shivering cold weather. This time it was a lot more uncertain and confusing as options to explore in north are limited now and most friends are either married or busy in hyd/bangalore :P. Also, i had been a lot more busy in office in last few weeks of december. After a lot of thinking my options got reduced to either going on a bike trip somewhere or going backpacking to Auli.

Just two days before the shutdown started my bro in law called me up and told me that he will also join me for the bike trip to Auli. A colleague in office also showed interest in the bike trip. Now i had more options to explore but no time to explore them. Finally on the last friday it was just decided that my bro in law, his bro and my sister (and my little nephew) all were coming in my bro in law's safari. Now just i had to decide whether i wanted to tag along with them or go on my earlier planned back packing trip. I didnt know what to do so at 11PM in the night on friday i just threw all the stuff i wanted to take along on the bed and slept. Finally i got up at 4AM and packed and we were on the road at 6AM on my bro in law's safari.


Auli is a small (toooo small, it doesnt even have enough shops leave alone a mall road) hillstation close to badrinath. The bigger city close to Auli is Joshimath which is also kind of a basecamp (ghangharia is another basecamp) from which lot of treks like valley of flowers/hemkund starts. Auli has just 3-4 hotels and few small dhabas which serve the usual maggi / tea / bun etc which is the best and cheapest food to have in hillstations. Its a long and very scenic drive by road and is mostly hilly after Rishikesh.

Just as soon as we hit the highway it was all foggy and we even got a scratch on the safari which barely hit the truck that stopped in middle of road coz it hit another truck just minutes before we reached there. Thankfully it was just a scratch and we continued our journey more cautiously after that. We had some breakfast in a dhabha and touched Rishikesh around 11ish. The road after rishikesh is broken at few spots and has landslides at other places but other than that its mostly a good road with Ganga river flowing close to the road most of the way to joshimath. The flowing river close to the road makes the route very scenic and beautiful. The best part is that i had never been on this route before in my life and i never knew that Ganga river looks so pure and beautiful after rishikesh. The water was so blue and clear that i just felt like going and sitting on the rocks on the river bank. But time wasnt on our side. Its a long drive from Delhi to Auli (500kms almost) and takes atleast 14 hours (rishikesh is just 4-5 out of these). We crossed some small cities/villages on the way and after having lunch @ dev prayag decided to drive at a stretch to reach Auli by 8. We came to know that driving in uttarakhand is not allowed from 8PM to 5AM so we had to push ourselves a little. We crossed Karnaprayag, Srinagar (Uttarakhand's version, not J&K) etc and it was already dark. Kapil kept on driving so that we atleast make it to Joshimath by 8. Priya, my nephew priyank and Ravi were sleeping at the backseat and got up around 6ish after which we were all tired and energized to talk as the way got more adventurous. We hardly saw another car on the road and it was pitch dark all around. December is not exactly the right time to visit auli as it snows only in late december or early jan when tourists start visiting and Badrinath etc close down in winters. While driving kapil and I got a glimpse of a animal on the road and we felt it wasnt a dog or pig and it surely looked like a tiger/leopard to us. All of us got alert and excited to see that and kept our eyes open to see if we would be lucky enough to see another one. We even started discussing what will happen if we have to stop somewhere and get out and the same animal comes and says hi ;) . After a while all of us again got a glimpse of a similar animal but this was much smaller than previous one and had a long tail. We just prayed that we reach in time and safely :D.

Finally we did make it to joshimath around 8:10 and started looking for hotels. GMVN b@@@@ds were not exactly friendly over phone and so I couldnt book in advance. But we did manage to get 2 rooms in GMVN joshimath guest house at a reasonable 1100/600 each (deluxe and non-deluxe room) and decided to crash early. It was awesome cold outside that we couldnt stay out much longer when we went for a walk. We slept early around 10.30ish so as to go to Auli in morning.

GMVN food was freshly cooked, and looked good but tasted very bad. Even the breakfast was tasteless. After breakfast we extended our stay @ GMVN thinking that Auli will be too cold in the night and drove to Auli. The way is again very scenic and though it was sunny it really was very cold.


It must have been like 6-8 degrees but the super cold winds made it really cold. Kapil got excited seeing some rough terrain in the open space in Auli and started driving his safari there. Auli is surrounded by barren, high and weirdly awesome hills on each side. We could see snow peaks all around from here. We clicked some photos and went ahead to the last point till which one can drive in Auli. The ropeway goes a little further than this point. There is only one hotel at this top point - Hotel clifftop which I would say is too overpriced (he showed us a 9000 rs room which wasnt worth it) but it would have been really nice to stay there as its the only hotel in that area and there is literally nothing much else around the hotel. One can have a nice and quiet (or a super party time if there is a bigger group) by staying in this hotel as there is really no disturbance from outside and you would spend most time in / around the hotel.

We had some maggis near the place at a dhabha where some locals told us that they were guides and there is a trek to a place from where you see a village which is naturally in shape of a heart and some other view which forms the shape of India map. After reaching i felt both heart and india shape were crappy talk but the trek and the view from the end point of trek were worth it. It was really really tiring more so because there was not much oxygen in air at that height. It started becoming cloudy and as we started thinking it might rain the guide said it might snow :P. We started hurrying up as there was absolutely nothing to take cover during the trek but once we reached the end it became sunny again.

We drove back to Joshimath after coming back from trek and retired to rest as we (atleast some of us :P) were really tired. We dint feel like having another crapy dinner at GMVN so we thought of trying out Hotel Drona. This was the hotel that is searchable on internet when you are looking for hotels in auli/joshimath and surprisingly the guy said it was empty and available when every one else was just talking crap and saying Auli is all full. Crazy skkkers. The food menu was very exhaustive but there was no point looking around the menu as the only things available were roti, paneer and dal and soup, and chinese would take lot of time sir. Still, the food was pretty good and this was probably the best meal we had in the trip. I walked back to the hotel with Ravi and it was really dark and we could see tons of stars in the sky. It didnt even look like the same sky we see from city which mostly just lets us see 10-20 stars at max. It was really awesome. The last time i had seen these many stars (or a little less then this) was from Rishikesh while camping. It was a pretty site.



Next morning breakfast was somehow better than GMVN standards (or may be our level came down) and after breakfast we went to "Tapovan - hot water springs". Well give it a pass, there is really nothing much there other than a small temple and a covered area where some locals are washing clothes or taking bath. We did miss tapovan by mistake and kept driving towards dont know where (we later came to know that we were going towards border :P) which was still better than tapovan. After coming back from here kapil, di and ravi went for trolley ride to Auli but i stayed back in joshimath and wandered around aimlessly. Late in evening we went to nar singh (or something similar) temple which is the place where Badrinath temple's puja is conducted during winters when Badrinath temple closes.
The temple was very different and there were no other people so it was good to visit that temple. After seeing the temple we went to main market and ate some crappy 'chaat' at a local shop. We went for dinner to a 'multi cuisine' restaurant which claimed that it served south indian and surprisingly was the only place which actually did south indian (unlike others which just claimed). We slept early after dinner so as to start on our way back by 4.30 in morning back to delhi.

All in all it was really a nice and quiet trip to Auli. Though there is hardly anything to do in Auli but it does make for a calm and quiet trip.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Friday!!

It was just another friday with _no plan whatsoever_. I was waiting for Jagan to get done with his work but he showed no signs of leaving office. Finally i bid adieu and picked up Ketan and off we went at 7:30PM to Atta. Just two of us started our long journey of overeating.

We had decided that we will eat something light and go home and have home food. This is how it went:

5 Gol Gappe
1 Aloo Tikki
10 Chicken Momos .. in just 5 minutes
6 Donuts !! (Yum!!) .. in less than 5 minutes

It would have looked like a eating contest to sane people :P. We sat outside GIP and I said phew, we dont have appetite for KFC chicken, to which Ketan promptly replied - Lets get it packed :D. We didnt! thankfully. Finally at 9ish we missed Jagan and called him up and picked him from office only to start another ride. Jagan said lets go to India Gate and I said 'I dare you man' and so we were off to India gate. Only with one break - to MacD. Best part was that we bought burgers/fries for 'take away' and sat in the car right in front of MacD and ate :D. Well, ok! fries was on the way. We finally reached India gate at approximately 11:00 and after parking the car just started walking towards Parliament house.

We were discussing the topic started by Jagan - "Aspirations" and the discussion got so involved that we didnt realize we had already walked 2 kms and reached parliament house area itself. I remember the last time we had gone to India gate we kept saying for parliament house that 'its too far etc' and couldnt even cover half the distance that day. Which brought us to our conclusion of the day - "Life happens to us when we are too busy doing other things" (in this case Life being parliament house and other things being the talking).

After more and more discussion we decided to go back as we got worried for the car :P. We discussed more and also concluded that if one does not have a big goal/dream or one does not know how to fulfill that big dream or reach the big goal, then its best to keep doing whats best for you in present. Local Maxima as the math term goes. Phew! too much discussions. I just know that whatever be the destination, having fun in the journey is most important, or the goal is not worth it. Finally we left India gate at 12:30 and went to Atta again at our same old coffee shop. With a hot cup of chocolate Ketan and I had another Chicken wrap!! I gotta lose some weight, phew!!

We reached home at 2 and were amazed that we had been roaming since 7:30. Thats a solid 6 and half hours. By god can one beat that. It was a nice and simple evening with two friends and lot of eating :D.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Long Weekend without plan!!

(Wrote it long back, dint post it . Actual date: 22 sep 09 :))
On wednesday I suddenly got a realization that I didnt plan anything for the coming long weekend. It had never happened in last 3 years that I didnt plan for a long weekend atleast few weeks in advance. This was partially because of work, this that and mainly coz I had a much bigger plan for the coming long vaccation.

But still the weekend went very well. We left office around 9ish although I had stopped working long before that :D. We had to go eat somewhere. My opinion was to sit somewhere in some restaurant, order good food and keep chatting chatting and chatting. Although there is not much nowadays that we talk about now that a dude among us is getting married. He is always like 'I have time till 11PM' or stuff. We went to Great India Place mall so we could eat and catch late night 'Dil bole hadippa' show.

Jagan was excited driving his new Alto. Lately whenever we get any opportunity to go out Jagan is almost the first one to say yes. The old 'I cant come, i have work, lets go in one hour' Jagan has almost vanished with the new 'oh lets drive' one ;). As soon as we entered the mall Abhinav narrated his escapade a few days back when he was shopping and he ate at chicken noodles at yo china joint and loved it. All my plans to 'sit/order/eat' went for a toss and we took 2 veg and nonveg noodles from the yo china. Leave alone order, we were standing in middle of mall and eating. Mall was surprisingly empty for a friday evening even for 9:30PM. We concluded that it might be coz of a bomb hoax and continued our journey to stomach filling. Noodles were not as surprisingly good as they were in Abhinav's narration and even he agreed to that :D. We went to KFc (whatever happened to the good 'lets sit / eat / talk plan) and ate loads of chicken and gulped loads of new krushers.

After a hearty meal we went for dil bole hadippa and came pretty late and so slept pretty late as well. We got up also very late and ordered lunch from some place. After loads of paranthas and some movie in parallel we finally left home at 4:30. We went to the gas station to get a cylinder for Jagan's place. After a lot of mindless driving in absolutely opposite direction we finally reached just in time. From there we saw a kids garden and just parked the car to try a few rides (to test if they would break with our weights :D). We left for dinner to go to GK , some italian restaurant where we had to eat "VEG" coz of navratras. Huh! pity you veggies for all the 'great' food you eat. Jagan mentioned that 'food is ok' but his opinion didnt really count considering that he never tasted anything even close to having a heartbeat. Finally we ordered some good lasagne and stuff and it didnt really go so bad. We went to Vipuls place post dinner to have some dahi-bade he had got prepared for us.

We reached Vipuls house and it was really nice and cozy. We saw a nice movie on his airtel dth which stored all movies in last 7 days. Movie was appropriately named 'I think I love my wife' and it caught our interest immediately. We started watching and ate Hot chocolate fudge that Vipul ordered for us. Although we were already full we still finished the dahi-badas that he had got for us. Finally we left his place at around 12 and came back home and slept a little later. Finally I reached home a full day later and essentially got just 1 1/2 days at home for weekend so didnt even get a feel of a long weekend anyway. All in all it was a long weekend well spent :).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leh!!

After 3 years of dreaming, 3 months of planning, 3 people started their journey of 9 memorable days. It was a dream come true, finally it was happening. Something that lot of people yearn to do in life, more of a once in a lifetime experience - A bike trip to Leh.

We had a time crunch, just 9 days, which is by all means just sufficient enough to do the trip sans any mis-adventures, and fortunately we didnt have any (ok! we didnt have many). We had bought all the stuff needed, from meds to ropes, hired all the stuff needed for camping, and finally the much awaited day arrived.

6th June 2009 (Delhi to Manali)
I went to my bro in law's (kapil - one of my co riders) place on friday night so that we could get all packed and ready to leave early morning on saturday the 6th. We took a long time to do all the packing and tying stuff on bike and finally slept at 12ish to wake up just 3 hrs later. Bikes looked good, we were in high spirits and so we left home at 3:45AM to meet Ranta (the other co rider and my batchmate) at GT karnal highway.


It was a first time so some goofups were expected, but I didnt expect one just 20 mins after starting. The rope on Kapil's bike gave in as it touched the rear wheel and all the stuff started falling. We stopped to fix it up and I was already feeling 'oh this is not good' about it when two police walas came by asking 'wth are you doing'. We showed them IDs, and our attire (rain coat/knee n elbow guards) convinced them that we are no thieves so instead they started looking at us with awe struck eyes and started asking questions about 'oh are you driving 1500kms'.


Anyway, we were all fixed up in 10 mins and on our way. We reached GT karnal at 4:10 and Ranta joined us slightly later. So there we were, Kapil on his Pulsar 150, Ranta on Pulsar 220, Me on my Avenger 180 just starting the ride we were dreaming of all the last few months.


We hit the road and we were driving fast. It was still dark but that didnt let us slow down. All of us were touching 100, passing all vehicles that were trying to overtake each other. The slow 4-wheelers eh!! Our first main stop was at a dhaba around 6:30 to have some Tea and sandviches. This was the first place where we were being looked at as some aliens had just come to a dhaba to have tea. Bikers in delhi/chandigarh are a rare commodity, we were just glad that we were not being asked for autographs (ok thats too much to say :P).


We were passing chandigarh at 8 AM itself. I had been expecting much worse, 220kms in 3 1/2 hrs was pretty good with few small breaks. We were about to hit hills in a few hours so we kept speeding on plains. Our next stop was at around 10:30 at a bus stop for breakfast. It was a decently shady place but we still thought of eating there. The road was not as awesome as it was till chandigarh and it was much worse after this. Within few hours we were on the hills, and our bums started cursing us more than ever. We crossed mandi , and hoshiarpur and didnt even stop for lunch as we wanted to just reach asap. As we were closing Kullu, it started raining.



Now although we were carrying and semi-wearing the rain coats, driving in rain is still a pain. So we kept driving for some more time until it started pouring real bad. We finally made a stop at kullu to re think on our plans and have lunch. Lunch was a treat. Although it was nothing so great but only after starting eating that we realized how hungry we were. Our shoes were totally wet but we didnt have a choice as it was still raining. We thought of even staying back in kullu but felt may be driving 50-60 kms more at 4:30 even in rain wont be that much of a issue so we pushed for manali. Driving on hills in rains is challenging, and I felt woah!! this is thrilling, but I knew that this was just tip of the iceberg, the real thing was waiting for us beyond manali.

It was around 6:30 and still raining heavily when we reached manali. Finding hotel in such rain, specially when you are drenched from head to toe is not easy. But we were lucky that we got a decent hotel for decent price (we were not in a position to negotiate but still got 150 bucks discount :D). We unloaded the bike of all stuff and brought it to the room and within 10 mins of checking in, our room was a big mess.



We cleaned up and got a heater to dry our stuff (not so successful attempt) and thought of going to mall road for dinner. We started walking and it was very pleasant. It wasnt raining now and our bums were much better. We kept walking and walking and after every 5 mins we would ask someone how far is mall road and get the same answer 'bas 1 km hai'. Finally after walking some 3-4 kms we reached mall road and it wasnt a treat. There were people everywhere. It was so sucky to see so much crowd far from delhi/noida. We found the most empty restaurant - sher-e-punjab and had the most suckiest food of the trip there.



We finally retired to our beds and had a nice sleep only to start the more challenging part of our ride the next day...

June 7th (Manali to Sarchu)

It was a pleasant day as we got our tanks filled (bike - petrol :)) and left manali around 6:30AM. Our first destination today was Rohtang. After a long 60-80km drive which was full of 100s of cars and taxis we finally reached Rohtang. All three of us got parted by mistake but fortunately met again at Rohtang. The drive was good but the road was all broken and muddy. I was not so pleasantly surprised on reaching Rohtang which had cars / chai walas and people all around. We had even seen traffic jams on our way to Rohtang. I mean people dont have any work or what? We met another biker gang from noida itself and had our breakfast at Rohtang.



This was the most expensive meal of our entire trip I guess. Maggi costed 40 bucks here, but people dint have much choice too. We ate like crazy and were feeling happy that we were almost leaving the last crowded place on our trip. Just as we took the first turn beyond Rohtang, species siezed to exist. Here on, we would just occassionaly see a biker gang, a lone biker, or a SUV cruising through the desolated roads, fighting with the ice and snow on the muddy road underneath. The drive just got tougher, Ranta had fallen once before Rohtang, I fell once few kms after Rohtang, but it was all worth it. The views we were getting here had just gotten beautiful. And with those, our frequency of stopping also increased. My camera was in my rain coat pocket just ready to click every few minutes.

Most of the people stop on their second day at Keylong to get acclimatized but because of time crunch we had to push further. Leh was 500kms from Manali so in any case we had to cover half of it on 2nd day so that we could reach Leh on 3rd day. We had a good lunch at a very well located restaurant at Keylong served by a very polite chef+waiter+owner. Around 2:30 we started again to make it to Sarchu by evening. On the way came Jispa which is a small place with a few hotels towering over the river in their backyard. The road was again all broken now and we came across a lot of places with water stream flowing over the road atleast knee deep. At times we could make it through the stream without touching water, but it wasnt possible all the time. It was dangerous too, to try to cross without getting wet. Kapil wore polythene bags above his socks to prevent water from seeping in. Ranta and I just got our shoes wet. Again :P. It was freezing and we could not even feel our feet for a long time, specially after what was coming.




We touched the bara lacha la pass around 4:30 PM or so which had to be crossed to reach sarchu. It was all snowy all around. I had never seen so much snow in my life. Wherever we looked there was snow. And the worst? It started snowing :D. We kept going and going, feet numb and wet, just trying to push further and further so we can sleep another night ;). And just then we came across a traffic jam. I know its funny that how can we get traffic jam in no mans land, the actual problem was a broken truck in the middle of road, and there was no enough space for a car to pass it on that single lane road.

Fortunately, our bikes got through. We had some problem as the back tyre skidded on snow, but we made it. Till now we were just numb and cold, now we were breathless too. Staying at 16000 feet for few minutes is in itself not recommended specially if you are coming from delhi just the day before, but we had to push our bikes. Anyway, it wasnt so bad. We just laughed about it and crossed the pass in no time. Just after crossing the pass around 5:30 or so (it was already getting dark) we found a small restaurant to have tea. We quickly drank tea to help us get some heat and warmth for another hour of drive.




Just as we left the restaurant we came across the longest stream of melting water on the road. But we had no choice again and we just started driving across it, getting our feet more wet and cold. Sarchu valley had started and the views were breathtaking. We kept driving, passing by tented accomodation looking for a proper hotel so that we could warm ourself fully. But alas! there are no hotels in Sarchu. We finally decided to open our own camp and set it up but we didnt realize that it was getting darker and colder.

After trying our best and keeping as calm as possible even when our feet and hands were all numb and giving in, we finally finished setting up the tent by 8:00PM. Previously we had plans of setting up the tent and going for dinner at a nearby restaurant (more of a tent and a guy making food) but as soon as we finished setting up the tent, we just went inside and gave up the thought of eating.




It was so bloody cold that we didnt even remove all the stuff from the bikes. We actually didnt even lock the bikes properly. We were so numb inside the tent, wrapped in the sleeping bag that thinking of going out itself would have killed us. We still did get out to get the bike keys, and when I was trying to just un tie one of the bags from the bike I just couldnt. My hands were totally numb.

We finally left whatever stuff we had outside and didnt leave the tent until morning. We ate whatever biscuits and stuff we had and drank the icy cold water and tried to sleep. We must have got some sleep during night but it was not at all easy. All through the night we felt numb and the winds outside were so fast that I was feeling the tent might just blow off anytime. It was scary. Very scary.

June 8th (Sarchu to Leh)

The morning brought what I had been hoping for all night!! The sun light. Only after getting out of tent at 6:30 we realized that the water on our bike/shoes/stuff had just frozen in the night. And we later came to know that the temperature in the night went to as low as -13 degrees on that night. Finally we loaded all the stuff on bikes again and started our journey to leh.

We passed another pass at 16000 feet - lachungla to reach Pang. On the way to Pang we also stopped at Tandi (I think it was before Pang, dont remember exactly) to fill petrol as this is the last petrol bunk before Leh. Pang has nothing but 10-12 tents which serve food. We had a good meal here and soaked as much sun light as we could. The journey till Pang was very tiring, I even lied for 2 mins and dozed off at one place where me and Ranta stopped. I could have given anything for a cozy bed to crash on.



After Pang started More Plains. They were the most amazing and longest part of the journey. The straight road was just endless and we kept driving. Me and Kapil were together now and we had lost Ranta. There were hills all around in most amazing colors and shades very difficult to describe. We kept driving for atleast 2 hours until our next Pass would come - Tanglangla at 17500feet. Kapil got slight altitude sickness here and after having lot of glucon-d and whatever biscuits and water we had left we tried to push further. The road here was the most broken road during the whole journey. We just kept driving somehow through stones and rocks to finally reach the plains. Ranta was waiting for us here since last 2 hours :)).

We had a weird type of maggi here which Ranta had already eaten and didnt warn me about (@#$@!#$ Ranta) and I gave a head massage to Kapil as he was feeling a bit of headache. The next 70kms were a treat. All plains!! It was easy and fast and we reached Leh around 7ish. We found the ITBF guest house (Thanks to my uncle) and checked into our rooms, named changla and khardungla ;). First thing we did after getting inside the rooms was crashing on beds :D. We had a nice nice bath (brushed after 2 full days, phew!!) and had a nice dinner at the ITBF guest house itself as we made plans for next day.

June 9th (Inside leh)

This was the most fruitful day of our whole trip. As we were waiting for the permits, which thankfully were being arranged easily by ITBF (Salute!!) we decided to visit Hemis gompa. This is a must visit place for its silence and the views. Whole leh city could be seen with all the hills in the background. It was just amazing. We kept sitting and admiring the whole city for a long time. There was no hurry :)). After this, we went to Spituk Monastery which again was beautiful. We also rotated the 'wheel of dharma' and lot of smaller wheels of dharma that were there in this monastery. Actually, those were present everywhere in Leh. We finally came back and got permits and left the guest house for Khardungla.

Thanks to the weather that the drive to khardung-la was a treat. We covered 40kms with a few photo breaks within 2 hours itself. It was the most height I had covered (till now!!, new record comes later :P) in so few kms (5000 feet in 40kms). There was nothing so great about khardungla or being there that one can talk about. Its just the feeling of being on the 'highest motorable road of the world' which supposedly gives a 'high' to people that I dont understand. There was even a couple probably on their honeymoon who drove in a innova all the way to visit khardungla. Huh! come on people, there is switzerland/mauritius for honeymoon, not this. Anyway, people do what they wanna do :P. Ok back to topic.

We were back from khardungla in no time (1 1/2 hr max) and around 4 we were in leh. We were told that sun stays up until 7:30 appx, so we decided to visit Magnetic hill also. I left my bike in guest house and pillion rode Ranta. After a long 30km drive we stopped at Gurudwara pathar sahib. Just 2 more kms and we were at Magnetic hill.

First we didnt realize. Then we tried. And then I could see that the bike was going uphill without engine. Then we fought (ranta and me), then we fought more, then we convinced each other and I won. We could see that the road was going up and bike was going up hill but we knew it was an illusion. But anyway we had good fun there ;). Finally we started on our way back and reached the guest house only to see that Kapil had not reached though he was ahead of us. After waiting for 1/2 hr we got worried and kept going back and forth on the road we had come from but couldnt find him anywhere. After an hour of 'oh we hope he is ok' to 'wth' we finally got an sms from him and we came back.

Me and Ranta went for dinner around 9:30 when whole of market looked closed. Fortunately Leh is safe even though it looked all desolated and restaurants were open. We stopped at a tibetan restaurant and asked the guy for a suggestion. Dont, okay not dont, NEVER do that. He suggested cheese momos which were the suckiest thing we ate during the trip. It was just two semi warmed balls of cheese inside the cover. We couldnt eat it. Fortunately during waiting itself we had seen himalayan cafe across the street and had decided to go there. We had some more stuff to eat in himalyan cafe which wasnt so dissapointing. And off we went to doze off at our guest house to recover ourselves for another day full of adventure.

June 10th (Pangong Tso)

Ranta and I didnt wanna drive bike. We were just too tired of so much driving and were not amazed at the idea of another 150km drive crossing another pass which we didnt know till now was going to be most lethal of all. We tried to find a taxi to go to pangong tso but no taxi dude went below 4000-4500. Which needless to say was Too much. Finally we gave in and decided to take one bike only so each of us could drive only half way.




Kapil had already left for Pangong tso and when we started he was a good 50km ahead. When we talked on phone he told us that its snowing around that area. We gulped some air and gathered strength and courage to still do it. It was slightly rainy and cloudy in the morning and I was sure we wont be pleased with the weather and roads ahead. And I was so right.

Just few kms before the changla pass, the roads were filled with ice. Now if the road has snow on it, you can still drive, but anything and everything just skids on ice. Well, we didnt know that so well so we kept driving. We were lucky to cross some section of it until we fell. I was driving at that time and my knee got bent. I was lucky that it didnt go worse and we were still ok. I told ranta to drive but he told me to continue. Well! the rear tyre wouldnt move. We were reaching the 'oh i give up' thoughts soon. We started moving the bike physically, one guy pushing it from behind and another holding it. Wherever we found some muddy section we would feel happy and safe and drive a little only until we hit another icy patch. We even thought of giving up and going back as we didnt know how much of it was left. But we didnt. Finally we reached changla pass and celebrated our victory over nature (huh! what a fight) with maggi (another new type) and tea. Somewhere inside we were still scared of what would happen the next day while going back, but we pushed that thought out of our minds.



Weather was getting better now and roads got better. It was really no mans land. We were not seeing anyone for very long stretches, only occasional army trucks or a one off vehicle with some tourists. Finally around 4 when we were just approaching pangong tso we saw a biker coming in opposite direction and as i said to Ranta - 'who is this biker going back from here at 4 :O' that I realized and said - 'Arey ye to kapil hai :D'. Kapil told us that he had been waiting for 2 hours so he was going back thinking we were not coming. Well!! we were in stone age again as cell phones wouldnt work anywhere remotely outside leh.

All three of us finally went to pangong tso. It was super exciting to see a lake which wouldnt end as far as we could see at such height. It was beautiful. We clicked a lot of photos but couldnt stand out for a long time as it was very chilly out there. We found a room (a room in literal sense - it had just 3 beds/quilts, a light and nothing else, at all) for just 300 bucks and went for lunch. We ate like crazy and had two teas each and still I was shivering (wearing a warmer/sweatshirt/jacket/rain coat) inside the tent. We went back to room and couldnt come out of the quilts for a long time. When it got dark we got out again to have some tea and started chatting with fellow bikers from maharashtra and noida again who gave us some tips on how to ride in snow. Finally we crashed around 10:30 or so to get back to leh early in morning.

June 11 (back to leh..)

We started on our way back around 7:00 or so and crossed changla with lesser problems this time. Though there was more snow/ice on roads now but we knew a few techniques now. Well! we still fell once but it was not so bad. We visited Shey palace (huh! dont bother to go) on our way back and reached guest house around 2:30ish. Ranta and I went for lunch and to roam around the local market and were finally back around 4:30. We had been thinking of going via srinagar as crossing those 4 passes on the leh - manali route again was really not so exciting (ok! it was scary :P). We enquired and found that curfew in srinagar was over so we left Leh around 6:30 to try to reach as far on Leh - kargil route as possible.



Just one hour of drive and it had gotten dark. Roads were not so good at times and bike was skidding on the broken stony road. But anything is better than ice and snowy road. I was leading the gang and was just praying that no breakdown happens as we were in middle of nowhere (nothing new in that :P). Around 8ish as our speed had gotten pretty slow coz of dark, we decided to stop and found a nice hotel 120kms from leh. We got a cheap deal (just 350 bucks :P) and good chinese food at the place and slept off to leave early morning.

12th June (To srinagar)

It was a long drive, but we had to make it happen. We crossed Kargil/Drass/Batalik, all places that came in newspaper and movies so often (Salute to Indian Army) and reached Zozilla pass. The drive through it was not so easy but still easier than 4 passes on the route we had come from. It was raining and the road was very very slushy with water/mud/stones all around but we had become pro's already. After crossing zozilla we came across the beautiful city SoanMarg where we had our lunch and I just wanted to stay there but other two wouldnt let me. We pushed for Srinagar and finally reached around evening and checked in. We had a nice boat ride in the Dal lake in the night and came back to hotel.

13th and 14th June (back to delhi)

Kapil left srinagar before us to try for Delhi in one day (he made it!! reached Delhi at 12:00 hours in night ;)). Me and Ranta left a little later and tried to go as far as possible. We crossed Jammu, and finally at pathankot we decided to reach Jalandhar for the night. After taking a hotel we had a nice dinner at Havelli which was crowded as usual even at 10:30 in the night. The drive from Srinagar onwards was all plains and nothing exciting. We were just going full throttle at 100 all through just to make it back to Delhi by sunday, 14th afternoon. And we did. I was at home at 2:30 or so on 14th june and god! what a sleep it was that night.

Well. Needless to say the trip was an experience of its own kind. Although we had a little time crunch and not many earth shattering mis adventures (kapil's bike got punctured just once/ranta bruised his hand near jalandhar) the trip was still great and totally worth it. I am looking forward to more bike rides but with a strict limit of no driving more than 250kms a day ;)..

Monday, May 11, 2009

Destiny

It was just another usual meeting monday. I came to office on time. Went through all the planning meetings and got free only after 4:30. I knew the coming 2 weeks were going to be hectic so I thought of getting started with the work. I started working on something and thought I will leave only after its over. Time passed by very fast. I was just trying to get over with the work. It was taking more time than I expected. Then around 8:00, my usual leaving time, a friend came over and we started chatting. Soon it was 8:30 and I just got a thought - I gotta leave now and I told him to catch up later. My machine got stuck and I could not continue for another 5-10 minutes. Once I started my dad called up. As usual I cut the phone to call back. As I called back Dad's phone was busy and I wasted another minute or so to get to him. Finally I had a brief 30 seconds chat and I kept the phone.

Then I finished what I was working on and thought of verifying it. But machine got stuck again. I wasted 2-3 minutes figuring out and gave up and got up to leave. While going I stopped for 20-30 seconds at a colleague's desk and then left office. While going to parking I went to ATM. Usually I take around less than a minute to withdraw cash. But the machine was saying 'unable to dispense cash'. I tried exactly 4 times and wasted around 20 seconds each time and then left the ATM.

I started my bike in parking and left office. There was a red light right in front of office which wasted around 70 seconds. I took a right turn and was going at around 50kmph speed when suddenly out of nowhere I saw a bull walking right in the middle of road. I applied breaks, the bike skidded but it was under control. I went ahead thinking woah! that was close and just as I was thinking a guy on a cycle was crossing the road at a leisurely pace. I saw him , applied breaks but it was too late and I banged into him. Next thing I knew was I was skidding across the road with the bike and soon we were on the ground. I got up and after a little cleaning up I started the bike and left for home. Fortuantely the bike didnt break down (just a twisted handle and broken speedometer) though I saw some petrol spilled on the road. As I was going home I was thinking the whole thing.

Just 2 seconds here or there and this accident would not have happened. Everything was timed so precisely. Me getting late in office after months, ATM not working, chatting for 1/2 hour with friend. And just with accuracy of 2 seconds, it happened. Is this something called as destiny?