Friday, May 30, 2008

Chakrata Trip

Another weekend. Another trip. Me, Abhinav, Sourabh and Jagan took off to a splendid weekend trip. A hill station which is not heard of, a place that is far from civilization, thats Chakrata.

We started around 6:00 and our first stop was Paonta Sahib Gurudwara. We did not plan to go there, but because it came on the way we just went to pay a visit. Ate in the 'langar' too after a longgg time, it was fun.


Behind me is Paonta Sahib Gurudwara


First view of hills


Roads were bad, so we were too happy to reach and hot tea greeted us :)


On our way to Sun, at the end of the road...


After a longggg day of driving, what more does one need...a quilt and a chair :))


But thanks to some guy who had 'booked' the chairs, that we found a new hangout..on the top of the hotel :)) .. who likes boundaries ;)


Oh!! and Maggi and Pasta


We opened the room, and sun welcomed us..


View from around the hotel


Sleeping beauties :P


Getting Lost is sometimes by choice..


The fall of Troy :P


Not tired, just posing :P


Him too!!


Trek!


Waah! kya photo hai ;)


Was he really clicking us? or his shadow :D


Find Jagan in the photo, if u succeed? ask him for treat :D


More Trek!!


Break!!


That tiny building in the picture is our Hotel!!


Bade chalo!!


Dude! wait for us..


Those are polo grounds. Britishers used to play there..


woah!!!


Pics are funny!!


It still has room for 10 people?


Tiger falls!! (not literally :P)


No rains since long and this is the flow, what would happen in Rains!!


Thanks to local Elections, every damn shop was closed! we were lucky to find MAGGI!!!


I can give 1000 bucks to go here again...ok you win, 2000 bucks


Just cant have enough!!


Went to hotel Snow view just to have pakoras, and it was raining. Ah! dont remind me of the time..


Snow peaks were actually visible (ah! we need more optical zoom), so we know how Snow View hotel got its name eh!!


Drive back to Delhi was fun...we just saw 3 vehicles in 2 hours and 50 kms.


Hills and hills...


And more...


He believes he can fly..do u?


Jeeyenge saath saath..girenge saath saath :P

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vaishno Devi

Vaisno devi

People find it amazing when you tell them that you stayed in Delhi for years and did not go Vaishno Devi. So as soon as my di asked if I would be interested I said yes. Best thing was that Bhanju the great was also coming so four of us (both dis, jiju me and kiddo) boarded a bus and started our journey to Jai Mata Di. The best part of the journey was about to come, the conductor started a movie we would have never expected in our wildest dreams - Nache Nagin Gali Gali, by God what a movie it was. Thanks to him that I got reminded of my college days as I started shouting 1-2-3-4 "band karo ye atyachar" (stop this torture). Finally after some resistance from me he had to give up and he stopped the movie (huh!). The rest of journey was smooth.

Around morning when we were passing Jalandhar the weather became awesome, it was rainy and green all around. The rest of ride was great, the roads in Jammu were in good condition and I felt like driving too. I knew it was a long shot so I didnt ask the Bus driver to let me drive :P. We reached around 1:00 PM and checked into a hotel. We had to leave next day morning but we didnt find any bus that leaves for delhi in morning so we ran out of options. We got all whacky ideas around 3:00 PM to take a chopper on both sides (to n fro) to the Bhavan and take the evening bus back :P which amused me beyond limits.

Well, we left the plan and just went for lunch in 'Jewel' Restaurant which offered good food and choices. Best thing about Vaishno Devi was Self service in all restos. We reached the helipad around 4:15 and were told that we had to wait for 2 hours :P. Now we had almost nothing to do so both dis and kapil got busy with Kaaku and I got immersed in music. The views from the area were great but funny thing was that we
ended up with no camera (my cam had US charger so I didnt bring it and Kapils cam just didnt work huh!). We finally took the chopper around 6:30 and within 5 minutes we reached the Bhavan which 'ideally' had taken atleast 5 hours if we had gone by foot. We got entry in the army gate 3 and were done with the darshan around 9 o'clock. We had dinner and were decently tired when these people had finalized on not
going to the Bhairon Mandir which a friend had told me to go for sure as darshan is incomplete if we dont go there. So finally I ditched these people to visit Bhairon Temple and Dis n jiju started on their way back to Hotel.

I was told that the way up to Bhairon Temple is 'very' tiring but umm it really wasnt. I took one small break and reached in no time. I just went inside the temple and came out as I didnt know what to do inside and didnt really want to find out ;). I started on my way back to Katra which was supposed to be a good 12.5 kms away. I found three people from haryana on the way and we became friends and we came down together. The electricity had gone and nothing was visible at all. People were just using their cellphones to guide themselves (God! Thanks to mobile phones).

After taking few breaks and short cuts (including more than 1000 stairs) we finally reached Katra at 2:30 AM and after bidding adieu to the Haryana folks I went to my hotel. Much to my amazement nobody opened the door of our room on repeated knocking. I thought dis and jiju would be in deep sleep so I went down to check with the hotel manager but he didnt have extra keys. Nobody picked the phone also when we called the hotel room. Now I got worried. Where the hell were these people at 3:00 AM in the night. I came out of hotel looking for nothing in particular when I saw them walking towards me :P. Dis n Jiju had come half way walking and half way on horses ('pitthu'?) but they reached after me :P. We went to the room and ordered tea and toasts and finally slept around 4:00AM.

After having a good meal in morning we took a taxi (god damnit its expensive - 7k to reach delhi one way) and came back to Delhi more tired then probably we had ever been. Finally I can tell people that yes! I have been to Vaishno devi. Jai Mata Di.


More Info: Comfortable buses/Volvos go till Katra everyday at good frequency from Delhi. Most of them start after 6:00 PM or so. Buses stop only twice so do take few munchies to enjoy on the way. Chopper saves time and can be booked before hand through websites but I still recommend to take an extra day and go those 16kms by foot. Plan your return before hand as well because buses start from Katra or Jammu only after 6:30 and there are NO other options other than hiring a Taxi (better take one from Delhi itself or better so, drive!).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trip to Lansdowne..

It was yet another idle friday with the usual movie (Iron man - must watch ;)) with Abhianv and Pavan (Raheja busy with ummm and Jagan in US) and roaming around with a plan to play Tennis late in the night when a plan struck us. It was 1:00 AM in the night (ok technically it was saturday morning) when we just thought of going for a trip. We had been thinking about going to Lansdowne since a long time so our destination got finalized. I had to meet a friend who was visiting from bangalore who I called and invited to join us at 1:00 which offcourse he denied. Then I also called Vikas (school fren) at 1:30 who was enthusiastic enough to "think about it" after being awoken in the middle of night ;).

Finally it was only three of us - me, Abhinav and Pavan. We decided to leave at 4:00 so we thought of getting some sleep. Surprisingly, we were on the road at 5:00 and so our journey started. It took us long 7 hours to reach Lansdowne but the time flew so fast that we hardly noticed it. We discussed so many things and there was no stopping us - relations, gals, marriage eh, the traditional crap :P. We finally reached around 1:30 PM or so with only a single stop for breakfast and checked into Hotel Mayur (3/5, decently ok value for money) in the main market itself. There are not many hotels and we were lucky to get accomodation.

As soon as Abhinav and Pavan saw the bed, they just crashed. Now as someone rightly pointed out - 'have you gone so far just to sleep', so offcourse I woke them up :D and had to hear all sorts of abuse for waking them up. Well! after a lot of pleading and pushing they finally got up and we had food. Its so amazing that one likes any kind of food when he is hungry, but the food served by Mayur was actually good :). We finally left the hotel to roam around the place around 4:30.

Our first destination was the very overhyped and totally useless man made lake where one can 'ride' a boat. There were hardly any other tourists in that area other than us and all of them actually took a boat ride in the dirty water. After spending some time around the lake and fiddling with the video camera to shoot still pictures we took off. Our car was parked at the end of the road (no road post that area literally) and somehow the forest behind it was on fire (oh, i am not kidding), we saw a couple of stairs going nowhere so we thought of going on a short trek. The trek was good and tiring other than the fact that the forest fire had spoiled the air completely. We reached the top of the hill and sat and started our usual chatting again. After coming back we also noticed that our great car owner had left his window totally open inviting carjackers with both hands, but the place is so devoid of people that we would have found the car even if we had come back a day later :D. We didnt know what to do next, so we went to the main market. We started wandering in the main market which was full of locals and hardly any tourists when we came across a board saying ' Kaleshwar Temple' so we thought of paying a visit. That temple is supposedly very very old and it was all dark around the area at 7:00 o'clock itself. While climbing down the stairs we were just thinking that we have to climb them up too on way back :(( .

After coming back and having dinner (again in hotel mayur) we went to 'Snow point'. This was the first point that we saw in Lansdowne that actually gave a feeling of hill station. It was entirely dark all around and no human in view. Only we three were sitting under the shade and chatted again till eternity. Finally around 11:30 someone shouted from nowhere and we thought of leaving. After coming back we repeated Jab we met for the nth time and finally slept.

The morning was beautiful, we had a good breakfast (in hotel mayur :P) and we went to tip in top around 11:00 o'clock. These people had taken so much time to get ready that I had already taken a walk alone in the 'Lovers lane' thats just beside the snow point. I had gone a couple of steps after which I realized that it was 'Lovers Lane' and not 'loners' :P so I came back. Tip in top gave an awesome view of the valley around, although it was quiet hot by now (12:00 PM) and sunny so we didnt spend a lot of time there but we did thought of coming back. We again took a path less travelled and went for a short trek. We also saw two Churches and also saw a 20 minute movie played in one church about Garhwal Rifles (Salute to Indian army). The weird thing about lansdowne is that there are just too many roads. Even when we were on the trek there were roads in view. Anyway, after resting and catching our breath and drinking Sprite (which was just sweet water now) we left for Santoshi Ma temple.

Just like any other place in lansdowne, Santoshi Ma temple was desolated of any human presence, so much so that their was not even a pandit in the temple. Santoshi Ma is supposedly the highest point of Lansdowne. Other than us their were just 3-4 other people in a group who left pretty soon. We sat on the corner of the temple looking all over the area and enjoying the fresh air. It was around 1:00 when we left the temple to see the Museum which was closed around that time. We did find a Army dude there who was kind enough to let us hold his Rifle which weighed 4.7 KGs (crap!! how do they fire it) and also told us about the CAT course.

Now till date I had heard of only two CATs - one the traditional pet animal cat and the other IIM - CAT :P. But this CAT course was the best thing about lansdowne trip. CAT course is the whole set of hurdles that an army guy goes through during his practice/training session. We tried our hand at it too. We did it all from rock climbing to rapelling. It was thrilling.

We were exhausted by 3:30 and I was so hungry that I could have eaten a pig. We had a good lunch (guess where :P) the best part of which was the Lassi. It was the thickest Lassi we ever had, even thicker than Needs/Punjabi Rasoi or Nihal of Hyderabad :D. After lunch we went to our room and this was the first time when I slept before the other two :P . It was around 7 when we got up and were fully charged to get the best out of the few hours left in Lansdowne. It had rained already while we were sleeping so the weather was all the more pleasant.

We left for Tip in top again and it was pitch dark when we reached there. We could not even see each other leave alone the path which was going into the woods. It was crazy and adventurous. We reached the end point and could see a million stars in the sky. We spent some time there and left for dinner again. After a small dinner of Maggi and pakoras at uhu uhu!! Hotel Mayur :P we again went to Snow Point. It was crazily dark now thanks to the rains. We sat for more than 2 hours there and when we thought of leaving it started raining :P. Now getting wet in rains is one thing but getting wet in a hill station in middle of night is totally different so we thought it to be more wise to wait. Rain Gods got into playful mood and so they stopped the rain for sometime so that we would leave and as soon as we left, they turned the shower on again. We had to literally run when electricity also went and it was pitch dark. We could not see the road and could not get out mobiles out as it was raining. Thank god there were no dogs to welcome us otherwise it would have been a lot more fun :P.

Finally we left Lansdowne with happy memories in the morning. The way back was awesome as it was raining all along. Overall it was a great and fun filled trip.


More Info: Lansdowne offers lot more than first visible. Its a good place for trekkers who want to go for short treks. There is a good book about local places thats available in the Saint Marys church which also has good detail about the treks. There are not many hotels in Lansdowne so if you are going with family do _not_ go without reservations. There are not many eating joints too, best bet is Hotel Mayur eh!!! Although websites say that best time to visit is summers, but I feel summers are pretty hot in Lansdowne, and if you go to a hill station you should feel the chill so better go in good weather around rains or in winters. Other than roaming on the roads and providing good environment to talk/chat, Lansdowne does not have much activities to do other then Trekking, one can always visit the temples around that are on a short drive of 20-25 kms and are well known and old.