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the Subcontinent’s 1st adventure travel magazine

Vol I | Issue 2 |  July-august 2012 | `100

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dream treks

chadar, WARWAN snowman, island peak AJOBA-ratangad kailash-mansarovAr

FREE 2,400

Adventure Holidays

wild times in kaziranga

monsoon in KUMARAKOM | UNCHARTERED jaunsar-BAWAR | THRILLS OF KRABI


e d i to r ’ s l e t t e r July-August 2012 • Vol I • Issue 2

Editor Gaurav Schimar Editorial Julliane Foster, Jahnavi Sarma Krishna Varma, Mohit Kohli Design Shalini, Moeen Aijaz Marketing Nupur Kohli, Mridula Harshvardhan Raymond Pinto, Sanjot Singh Circulation Rajeev Nagar, Virendera Negi Advisors Col H.S. Chauhan, President, IMF Col J.S. Dhillon, Principal, IISM Dinesh Gulati, Ex President, Indian Express Tejbir Singh Anand, President, ATOAI Tsering Namgyal, President, ALTOA Leena O’connell, Yusuf uz Zaman Explore Media 5, Jungpura A, Mathura Road New Delhi - 110014 Tel: +91 11 4151 9967 info@exploreadventure.in www.exploreadventure.in Edited, Printed, Published and Owned by Gaurav Schimar. Published from Explore Media, A-22, Vikaspuri, New Delhi-110018 and Printed at Rave India Press, A-27, Naraina Industrial Area, Phase- II, New Delhi-110028. The views and opinions expressed or implied in the magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Explore Media. Unsolicited articles and transparencies are sent at the owner’s risk and the publisher accepts no liability for loss and damage. Materials in this publication may not be reproduced, whether in part or whole, without the consent of Explore Media.

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Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine the overwhelming response we ended up receiving for our launch issue. For this, we want to first thank our enthusiastic readers. While there were many congratulatory calls, messages and emails, there were also those valuable letters that encouraged us to better ourselves. To these particular readers, we are most grateful. It is our endeavour to incorporate your suggestions in the forthcoming issues. We are honoured to have renowned luminaries and experts from the world of adventure as on-board advisors. Most of them went out of their way to support us. We were touched by the support we sometimes got from the most unexpected quarters. Last, but not the least, I would like to thank our treasured contributors, who have laboured long and hard to present our readers with the best from the world of adventure. We now present the second issue of Explore, which takes you on yet more fascinating journeys. Trekking is the best way to discover the land. Our cover story is about six spellbinding treks that take you through different parts of the subcontinent. These treks are amongst those which avid trekkers from across the globe dream about. Here, I must add that the Chadar Trek had topped my bucket list for several years and the journey itself was like walking through wonderland. Having put the cover story together, I now have a few more additions to the list, with Snowman sitting right at the top. That said, every trekker has a dream trek that they just have to do. I hope that our cover story will give you a chance to pick yours. Our photo feature this time, takes you on a wild escapade to Kaziranga – home of the big five, most notably the rhinoceros. The rains are here, and I’m sure many explorers are just raring to go. While some travellers avoid the hills during monsoon, believe me this is one of the best time to soak up the lush greenery and fresh pine-scented mountain air. Still in doubt?... Check out our feature on Jaunsar-Bawar. And then, there is heavenly Kumarakom to entice you too. Also, don’t forget to read up on Krabi, an oft ignored part of Thailand. Yet, this charming island has many an adventure on offer for the thrill seeker. I recently got a call from a gentleman in remote Ladakh, who said that as he went through a copy of Explore, he was thrilled to see his photograph in it! I’m happy that my explorations have come full circle and the characters in my stories for Explore can see themselves in its pages. On that note, I leave you to discover the explorer in you! Happy Exploring!

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CONTENTS

24 Cover Story: Dream Treks 26 Chadar

Take a walk through history on the frozen Zanskar River and live with its natives

32 Warwan

Explore the wonders of this relatively unexplored valley

38 Kailash Mansarovar

The spiritual trek offers many thrills to the seeker

46 Island Peak 52 Snowman 62 Ajoba Ratangad The peak has all the trappings for you to take the sport to the next level

Reputed to be more difficult than scaling the Everest, the trek is simply a dream

Embark on an amazing trail in the Sahyadris which is bound to leave you craving for more

Features 78 Monsoon Wonders

Experience the magic unfolding amidst the backwaters of Kerala

86 Jaunsar-Bawar

Explore the hidden secrets of the land where the Pandavas started a family life

94 Krabi

The tiny province of Thailand holds many adventures for the adrenaline junkie

94 6 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | JULY-AUGUST 2012

100 Wild Wonders of Kaziranga Home of the one horned rhino, the wildlife haven is a photographer’s delight


114

Regulars

68 Profile

70 B  asics

72 Fitness

74 Gear

Harish Kapadia is an inspiration to many across the globe

It is imperative to prepare your body well in advance to avoid injury

05 Editor's Note 08  Contributors 12  Feedback 14  Updates 108 Footprints 110 Survive 112  Web Review 114  Driving Tips 116 Deals 118 Departures 120 Calendar 122 Book Review 124 Contest 126 What’s Next

Extensive treks require special preparation and skills to truly enjoy the sport

Pick the right gear and accessories before embarking on those excursions

zine e travel maga St ent’S 1 adventur the Subcontin

Vol I | Issue

st 2012 | `100

2 | July-augu

6

dREAm tREks

chadar, WarWaN peak sNoWmaN, islaNd ad aJoBa-rataNgarovar kailash-maNs

100

monSoon in Kumara

Kom

FREE 2,400

Adventure Holidays

wild timEs in kAziRAngA r-baWar | unchartered jaunSa

| thrillS oF Krabi

Cover photograph: Gaurav Schimar Location: Zanskar, Ladakh Cover Design: Moeen Aijaz

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Explore contributors

Lakshmi Ranganathan Lakshmi is a full time corporate professional working as a Research Manager at Biotechnology Company, Novozymes, at Bangalore. She has a passion for trekking and freelance writing, for which she ensures to make time against all odds. She has been trekking since the last 22 years, mainly in the Western Ghats and the Himalayas, spanning a range of terrain that includes a beach trek around Kumta in Karnataka and an ascent to Stok Kangri in Ladakh. Having seen fifty four summers, she keeps herself fit by walking, running and doing mundane household chores. And to spare her limbs, no gyms!

Nisha Varma Nisha is a fitness expert by profession. She is the Reebok Master Trainer and a personal trainer based in Delhi. Being an avid traveller, despite her busy schedule, she finds time to travel and has visited most countries in Europe, Russia, Istanbul, Israel, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, amongst others. Her work definitely takes her to different countries. Her favourite trip after Kailash-Mansarover, was to Israel and Russia. Besides travelling, she is fond of reading and loves books on healing, new age spiritualism and, of course, fitness! She writes articles on fitness in major publications and has also written books on yoga.

Depi Chaudhry Depi’s passion for the outdoors started early in life while studying at a boarding school in the hills of Sanawar, Himachal. This passion continued during his academic years, when he acquired an engineering degree and an MBA, and also across his corporate career spanning over a decade. Depi, author of trekking guide book, Trekking in Western Himalaya, feels that conventional guide books will get out dated with technology developments. He is a hands on person, learning various softwares to do his own guide books. He is currently working on many a trekking and cycling guide books.

Divyesh Muni Chartered Accountant by profession, Divyesh has been trekking and climbing since the last 30 years. Having undergone training in Mountaineering at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, he has participated in more than twenty Himalayan Expeditions, many of them joint expeditions with foreign teams. He has climbed 25 Himalayan peaks, of which 13 were first ascents. His climbs include a new route on Chong Kumdan I (23,199 ft), first ascents of Rangrik Rang (21,837 ft), Bhujang (21,522 ft), Khhang Shiling (20,866 ft) and ascents of Kamet (83,484 ft), Manirang (21,968 ft) and Sujtilla West (20,580 ft). He is currently a member of the managing committee of The Himalayan Club.

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Sameer Naik Sameer is a businessman by profession but an adventurer by heart and a marathoner by mind. A huge fan of Oscar Wilde, he lives by the quote, “To define is to limit”. When not negotiating a business deal, he is usually climbing in the Himalayas or trekking the Sahyadris, which are closer home, or cycling across the countryside. He firmly believes that pushing your physical self to the limits of endurance, elevates the mental state to a higher level not yet achieved. He has run the Cape Town 2 Oceans 56 K Ultra Marathon apart from the Mumbai, Delhi and Thane half and full marathons a few times. Writing about his explorations and otherwise, is a hobby he loves.

RajeEv Rastogi Rajeev started his photography around twenty years back to preserve his extensive travelling memories and later developed it as a passion. Nature at its best is always his favourite subject for photography. He has contributed pictures for almost all the travel magazines published in India. He has also worked for various tourism agencies and publishing houses in India and abroad. Presently working in Indian Audit and Accounts Department as Sr. Audit Officer, he is still pursuing his passion of capturing nature in her glory and has captured some beautiful moments at Kaziranga National Park.

Kevin Grange Kevin Grange is an award-winning freelance writer who has written for Backpacker Magazine, National Parks Magazine and the Orange County Register, among others. He has been to Bhutan four times and has completed the Snowman Trek three times, including twice as a guide. A native of New Hampshire, he currently lives in California. Beneath Blossom Rain, Grange’s account of his journey, packs an adventure story, a romantic twist and a celebration of group travel into a single entertaining book. The result is the ultimate journey for any traveller.

Arathi Ramani Sen Arathi, an adventure enthusiast by birth, grew up having a fear of nothing! Mother of 3 boys (an adventure in itself), author, fitness enthusiast, a performing jazz dancer and avid cyclist, Arathi spares no opportunity to pack her backpack and step out in search of adventure. Jungle trails or discovering unexplored paths on the cycle, wildlife safaris or snorkeling, the mountains or the sea – just some of the favourites of the adventure seeker in Arathi. Currently working on her second book, she plans to go for a trans-Himalaya expedition on her mountain bike soon.

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Explore letters to the editor the Subconti nent’S 1St ad venture trav el magazine

Vol I | Issu e1 MAY-June 2012

| `100

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FREE 2,400

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Adventure Holidays diving in lakS

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Congratulations! Explore! That’s the philosophy I have been living by for years. In my travels across the globe, it has been my endeavour to explore less known and hidden places. When I chanced upon Explore at my hotel in Bangalore, what drew me to the magazine was its superbly designed cover and the preamble of what lay inside. I simply picked it up, took it to my room and read it, front to back. Almost everything that I came across in the magazine was alluring. I do hope to embark on a trip to the places described in a very powerful fashion. I congratulate the people behind putting Explore together. ~ Ashok Subhramanium, Dubai

Wider Coverage Explore has come out very well and I am sure you must already be getting a lot of positive feedback about the same. I feel it is very comprehensive and does cover a wide spectrum of adventure options. I am writing to you personally as a reader, so I am

The magazine is not one of those read and throw away ones. Explore is surely for keeps

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unable to resist myself from giving you some unsolicited feedback, so here it goes…. Do you think it might be more worthwhile to cover adventure options in a little more depth rather than wider coverage of options? Also is it possible to give out structured program lists against some of the options for folks, who want to avail the adventure options. For example, if you are covering, say rafting, then maybe you could go much deeper and also throw up list of potential rafting programs across the subcontinent.

region will find very useful. You have nicely covered unexplored regions of Ladakh, which is a great thing. I wish your team all the best and a bright future ahead. ~ Ataullah, Turtuk

More Please

Congratulations on the big leap of going ahead and bringing out an adventure magazine to India. A great insight to the regions covered. Hope to read many more interesting articles on places and deals. When talking about deals, I realized that what you have covered is high end properties. Not everyone can travel that way and hope there are other options too. I am from South India Accept my heartiest congratulations of launching an overall great outdoor and love travelling, and have not explored much of the northern magazine. ~ Anup Vikal, Gurgaon region, so to find reasonable deals would be helpful. Also being a Overpowering magazine, you should focus more I was simply overpowered by the on regions and unexplored areas not amazing imagery of Lakshadweep known to many. in the launch issue of Explore. I  ~ Sandhya Menon, Chennai envy the photographer for living Maps & Facts in such a mesmerising world. That As a well-wisher of Explore, I have said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading a few inputs. It would be helpful to the magazine. Besides the story have a location map at the beginning features, the regular sections can of each story. The map could also be quite handy for any adventure serve as the route to be taken by the and regular traveller. I liked the detailed treatment given to the cover traveller. The same also gives context to the story. I found the Batalik story. Almost all thinkable aspects pertaining to place and activities have description useful in terms of ‘Fast Facts’, ‘Tips’ and ‘Essentials’. It felt been presented in a matter of fact manner. I believe the magazine is not like I had actionable information to actually make that trip. The Zanskar one of those read and throw away day-wise description format was ones. Explore is surely for keeps. ~ Priya Pandey, Mumbai good too, you may have the same format for more stories as you go Greetings from Ladakh forward. The magazine is a good Congratulations for the launch of effort in an upcoming area of interest Explore! From the moment I laid to a wide spectrum of people. my hands on Explore in Leh, I have ~ Vikram Mathur, New Delhi become a fan of the magazine. The May-June 2012 issue, has lots Drop us a line of photos and information about editor@exploreadventure.in Ladakh which every traveller to the


Explore updates

Explore Launched Explore was launched on May 17 at a hi-adrenaline evening at DoubleTree Hilton, New Delhi. The launch issue was unveiled by Rigzin Jora, Minister of Tourism and Culture, J&K, and Col HS Chauhan, President of IMF. The launch was attended by other eminent personalities from the adventure, travel and media world, besides the advertisers and sponsors. Explore is an effort by like-minded adventure enthusiasts to bring home adventure travel to readers. The niche magazine aims at presenting an account of experiences to both the die-hard adventure enthusiast and the wannabe adventurer. Gaurav Schimar, Editor of Explore, said at the launch party, “Explore is not only about experiences and journeys. It’s the presentation of a voyage into the realm of action and its associated paraphernalia. We aim at presenting the entire gamut of adventure options in the subcontinent and be a comprehensive guide for those who’ve always wanted to experience life in its adventure avatar but never knew how to.” Schimar added, “Explore aims to be the final word on adventure in the subcontinent, and be the ideal platform for adventure seekers and service providers.” Explore announced certain initiatives like zero-waste havens, winter adventure carnival and safety workshops in the field of adventure tourism in India in association with its partners.

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Summer Adventures at Kashmir The Indian Institute of Skiing & Mountaineering (IISM), Gulmarg, is the premier skiing and mountaineering institute of the country under the Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India, which was established in 1969 with the primary aim to train instructors in different activities to promote adventure tourism in the country. After the return of normalcy in the state, the institute, under the guidance of Col JS Dhillon SM & Bar, has been completely revived over the past three years. For the current summer season, IISM is conducting several courses for adventure enthusiasts to give vent to their adventure streak. These courses are in the field of trekking, parasailing, water skiing and hot air ballooning. The courses are open to both Indian citizens and foreigners and can be tailor made to cater to people of all age groups. The courses are highly subsidised by the government and the institute charges only ` 5000 per course, per individual. The course fee includes all costs of boarding, lodging, training and equipment. The institute can cater to the needs of different groups on specific demand, be it school or college or corporate groups, clubs or general individuals. The focus activity is skiing, which will commence from December onward. IISM is planning to conduct six skiing courses from 24th December 2012 till end of March 2013. The schedule of courses can be accessed online at www.iismgulmarg.com.

Tata Motors Full Throttle Experiences Cougar Motorsport is the programme partner for the Tata Motors Full Throttle Experiences – a series of driving expeditions for owners of Tata Motors utility vehicles. These expeditions, titled the 'Himalayan Experience', the 'Nilgiri Experience', the 'Konkan Experience', the 'Thar Experience', the 'Kutch Experience' and the 'Jungle Experience', span the best drives across diverse terrain that are unique to India. Participants in these expeditions will experience the breathtaking beauty of these drives and the capability of their vehicles with full logistical, medical and service support.


Explore updates

Two New Routes from Druk Air Drukair will operate two flights each to Singapore and Mumbai, according to its summer schedule (May-December). Drukair Commercial Manager, Tshering Penjor, did not reveal airfare specifics on the two new routes, but said that the airfare to Singapore would be 'marginally higher' than its Paro-Bangkok route. Bhutanese are currently charged Nu 25,546 for a full fare round trip to Bangkok, and Nu 12,487 for a one-way journey. Tshering Penjor claimed that the Drukair airfare for Singapore would be cheaper than stopping over in Bangkok and flying to the city state. The flight time from Paro to Singapore will be four hours, which includes a stopover in Kolkata. For Mumbai, Drukair is looking to charge an airfare close to what it charges for its Paro-Bangkok sector. The flight time will be three hours and twenty minutes, and will not include stopovers.

Saving the Rhino As rhino poaching numbers climb in several African regions, even as the species becomes more endangered, a controversial new way of stopping the practice is gaining traction: the rhinos are tranquilised, their horns harvested and they’re allowed to live and grow new ones. NPR Radio Station reports say that 448 rhinos were killed for their horns in 2011 – a third-straight record-breaking year in South Africa. But why is the Rhino poached? Simply due to the widespread belief in Asia that their horns are a medicinal cure for all maladies. Rather than adorning walls, many horns are ground up into medicines, sold mostly in Southeast Asia. The proposed solution would be rhino farms where the animals would be anesthetised and de-horned to try and decrease poaching and illegal sales. To suppress black market activities, some advocate rhino ranches, where the horns are cut in a way that allows them to grow back. The horns would then be harvested legally. Proponents hope the practice would lower market prices and decrease incentive for illegal poaching, but critics argue the demand could grow beyond legally sustainable levels. Many conservation groups are, of course, opposing the new practice.

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Perfect Celebrity for a Road Trip Jennifer Aniston has been named the perfect celebrity friend to share a longdistance road trip with. The actress, who shot to fame as Rachel Green in the hit US sitcom ‘Friends’, picked up 13.5 per cent of the votes in the UK poll, Stuff.co.nz reported. She was followed by Simon Pegg, who starred alongside Nick Frost in the alien road trip movie Paul. Pegg got 10 per cent of the votes in the poll of more than 1,000 people that was carried out to mark the start of Sky Movies HD road trip movie season. Dumb and Dumber funnyman, Jim Carrey was third with 8.5 per cent of votes. “It’s clear that comedy is the best policy for a road trip partner, and Jennifer Aniston, Simon Pegg and Jim Carrey most certainly have it covered,” Sky Movies’ scheduling manager Jade Tan said. “Whether they’re on the run, on a buddy trip or a wild adventure, any of these names would definitely deliver a trip to remember,” Tan added.


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Explore updates Aero Balloon 20

Glory Heights Since the highest peak in the world was scaled by Sir Hillary and Norgay in 1953, and perhaps even before that, conquering Mt Everest at 29,029 ft was and is the dream of every mountaineer. Threatened with avalanches, extreme weather conditions and reduced oxygen level, Mt Everest is definitely not for the faint hearted. This, however, has not stopped numerous lion-hearted mountaineers across the globe from attempting to scale the peak every year. Indians too have been in no way behind in the pursuit of this pinnacle of mountaineering glory. In 2012, for the first time ever, 53 members from five Indian expeditions scaled the peak successfully. This is the largest number of submitters ever from India to have scaled the peak in any given year. To commemorate this achievement, IMF, in association with Explore, devoted an evening to the Spirit of Mountaineering in India – Meet the Climbers: Everest 2012 – at IMF Campus, New Delhi, on July 6, 2012. The five Indian teams that scaled the peak in 2012 were felicitated at the event. The evening saw notable luminaries from the mountaineering world stress upon the ecological importance of mountains in maintaining the flora and fauna of the planet, whilst spreading awareness amongst the general public about mountaineering. The day was also marked by IMF paving the way forward to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the first Indian ascent in 1965, falling in 2015.

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The ambitious ‘Aero Balloon 20’ project of Uttar Pradesh Tourism, promising the rare adventure of watching the entire river front of the city from a height of 500 ft riding on a helium-tethered balloon, is hopefully going to start soon. The team members of the company, which has been selected by the department for the project, will visit the Ravidas Ghat, which is the chosen site of the balloon flight on June 29. According to Regional Tourism Officer (RTO), Dinesh Kumar, “A New Delhibased company has taken up the project on PublicPrivate Partnership (PPP) model and it is expected that the Balloon flights will begin from November.” Around 20 people can enjoy the balloon flight at one time. The balloon will take six flights in an hour and around 1000 people can avail the opportunity of balloon rides in one day. The cost of the balloon ride will be `100 for adults and `75 for children.

IndiGo Starts Flights to Dubai, Bangkok IndiGo, India’s largest and fastest growing carrier, will expand its international operations with the introduction of new flights between the cities of HyderabadDubai, Chennai-Dubai and Kochi-Dubai. In addition, IndiGo will start its second daily and direct flights between Delhi-Dubai and Delhi-Bangkok sectors. These new flights will be operational effective August, 2012. IndiGo will be offering introductory return fare of `11,200 (or AED 734) on the new flights. Speaking on the occasion,Aditya Ghosh, President IndiGo said, “Having launched our international operations last year in September 2011, it has been a great encouragement for us to receive strong response from our passengers. In line with our endeavour to meet the requirements of both business and leisure travellers, IndiGo has opened ticket bookings on its Dubai route." IndiGo, with effect from August this year, will add new flights connecting Dubai to India’s key destinations like Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi. Passengers who wish to fly to Dubai and Bangkok can plan their travel in advance by booking tickets through IndiGo’s official website: www.goindigo.in.


Explore updates

Bear Watching in the Spanish Pyrenees

Red Bull X-Fighters in Delhi It’s safe to say that one of India’s most iconic structures was the majestic backdrop to some jaw-dropping action, as the Red Bull X-Fighters put up a stellar display of freestyle motocross action that the Capital is unlikely to forget in a hurry. The evening of 30th June saw the most mind-blowing-adrenaline-pumping-heart-stopping FMX action you would have ever seen in the flesh. That’s right! FMX stars Nick Franklin, Nick DeWit, Gilles Dejong and Martin Koren had the Delhi crowd eating out of their hands, as they showcased their skills in a high-octane 45-minute display that no one would forget easily. The Red Bull X Fighters Jams is considered a build up to the World Series, which is the biggest and most respected Freestyle Motocross event on the planet. The Red Bull X-Fighters travel across the world to almost every continent every year to further expand their fan base and understanding of the world’s most challenging FMX competition.

World Superbike Championship Coming to India With MotoGP coming to India next year, things seem to be on the rise for Indian motorsports, as confirmation has now come in of the World Superbike Championship to host a round on March 9-10 in 2013 as well. The news comes after Infront Motor Sports and the Buddh International Circuit signed an agreement to host a round of the FIM World Superbike Championship for four years from 2013 to 2016. Infront had, in fact, met with the race organisers, Jaypee Sports International (JPSI), in 2011 even before the inaugural Formula 1 race and when the track was still under construction.

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Waterproofing specialist Gore-Tex is running a competition to give four people the chance to study brown bears in the Spanish Pyrenees, while also improving their photography. The four-day project is one of Gore-Tex’s many Experience Tours, where competition winners get to try a variety of exciting activities both in the UK and abroad. Brown bears were re-introduced into the Pyrenees in the late 1990s, as part of an EU project, and there are now about 30 bears in the mountains. The prize winners will be joined by two forest rangers, who know the best places to spot the bears; a biology expert, who will give the team an insight into the bears’ eating habits, habitat and behaviour; and a professional photographer, who will help the participants improve their outdoor photo skills. Entries to the contest will close in July.


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onding Team B Skills hip Leaders ip Treks h s r Leade ment n Ma age ent e g n a h C anagem Stress M itation and Med s orkshop Yoga W rences Confe Nature


Explore updates 7 year Old Indian Sets Record as Youngest Trekker to EBC Overcoming obstacles like cold temperatures and a high wind-chill, seven-year-old Aaryan Balaji has become the youngest person to trek all the way to Everest Base Camp at 17,600 ft. Aaryan, the son of an Indian Navy officer, is the youngest ever in the world to have trekked all the way from Lukla to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal on May 13. He is also the youngest to climb Mt Kalapathar (18,222 ft) on May 15. In the process, the seven-yearold defied his age to beat an eight-year-old American's record, displaying his adaptability to the highest standards of physical fitness. Reaching the base camp below Mt Everest is considered to be one of the most arduous tasks on earth.

Goodyear India Brings Eagle F1 GSD-3 Tyres to India Among several other innovative products launched by Goodyear India in the country, the company has one more ace up its sleeve. The country's leading tyre company will now manufacture Eagle F1 GSD3 in India. With this production, the company will be able to enhance their passenger tyre portfolio especially where sports loving fans, who are always on the lookout for better performance and style in their auto accessories, are concerned. Eagle F1 GSD-3 is an award winning tyre, which has seen favour in other global markets ever since it was launched in 1993. It was originally designed in Europe and now Indian fans too will be able to enjoy its benefits. The tyres offer better traction and handling in wet and dry road conditions.

Maharashtra Sports Ministry to Recognise Adventure Sports Maharashtra State Sports and Youth Welfare Minister Padmakar Valvi recently declared that adventure sports like mountaineering will be brought into the fold of the ministry. A government resolution to the effect is likely to be issued soon. Valvi was speaking at the felicitation ceremony of the 20-member Giripremi team that scaled Mount Everest recently. “Mountaineering involves specialised skills, and we need to promote the sport and encourage young people to take them up.” Valvi also promised the Giripremi team financial reward for their achievement. Speaking on the take of the Sports Ministry, Umesh Zirpe, team leader of Giripremi, said, “It is good that the government has recognised that mountaineering is a sport and not a hobby. Mountaineering requires a lot of technical skill, dedicated training and teamwork. We are now planning to travel around Maharashtra to promote the sport.”

Bonita Norris Climbs Mount Lhotse Climber Bonita Norris successfully summited Nepal’s Mount Lhotse (27,562 ft) on May 27. All of 24 years, Bonita is the youngest British woman to have conquered the mountain. Describing the experience of reaching the summit, Bonita said, “I was the only person in the whole world who had this view. It was the most breathtaking moment of my life and moments like this are what make these trips worthwhile.” Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world. The peak is Bonita’s third peak over 26,000 ft. In the process, she has broken another record – she is now the youngest British female to have climbed multiple Himalayan peaks over 26,000 ft, including the Everest.

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6 dream Pack the gear, strap on those boots, charge the camera, double check the supplies, discard the known and head out for some stunning rambles!

treks 1

2

warwan | KASHMIR

3 4

kailash-mansarovAr | TIBET

island peak | NEPAL

5 6

ChadaR | LADAKH

snowman | Bhutan

ajoba-ratangad | Maharashtra


PHOTOGRAPH: GAURAV SCHIMAR


cover story

Photographs: GAURAV SCHIMAR

AthoughWalk history

Most people know of Chadar as one of the most gruelling treks. But few people still brave the frozen Zanskar River, as it was done a thousand years ago. And they have their reasons to do so, says Gaurav Schimar

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Chadar

It’s a night of revelry at Rigzin’s courtyard in Padum. The rum does its rounds as the bonfire crackles. With each swig of liquor, the spirits of the ten men huddling around the fire rise and so do the echoes of the chatter in the still night. The men are a motley group of Zanskari farmers, porters and guides, all set to travel to Leh, and I am the odd man out in this closely knit group. It is January and the roads have been closed for months with no one entering or leaving the valley for weeks. While it is understandable that

Fastfacts

Route map: chadar trek Leh

Indus River Nimoo Chilling Day 5

Tilat Sumdo Day 4 Lingshed

Hanumur Pishu Sto d

Riv

er

Tungri Karsha Sani 3550 m Padum

Paldar Sumdo Day 3 Sumdo Tilut Werak

Ma

rkh

aR

ive

r

Hank

Day 2

5000 m La Rubering

5000 m Charcharla

Zangla

Getting There Normally, Chadar Trek starts from Chilling and more recently from Lamaguru, unless, you find yourself on the other side of the journey to begin with. Chilling is a three hours drive from Leh. Leh is well connected by air in winter.

When to Go The trek can be done during a window of two months,from January till February. But do keep a few days as buffer for exigencies and the right weather conditions.

Day 1 Thengde Shade

Where to Stay Though modern day trekkers prefer staying in tented accommodation, the ice caves are the traditional dwellings on the river for the locals and make for much more comfortable environs to spend the night in.

The river seems sufficiently frozen. The time seems right.

the Zanskaris had to accept and survive the harsh and cold winter months, I consider my becoming a part of this secluded world at such a time, nothing but a tryst of fate. As the night gets colder, we reach out to music and dance to get the blood circulating. The festivity was brought to an abrupt stop by Rigzin’s wife, who had prepared a sumptuous meal for the

whole lot of us. This was the last real meal that we would have on this mystic land. I wonder if that added to the charm of the company and the meal. The next morning would see us set out for Leh – on the Chadar – a trek across the frozen river Zanskar known to the world as, perhaps, one of the most challenging trails. The long wait for my Zanskari friends and me is finally over.

WALKING ON (L to R): A wooden bridge over the Zanskar near Nerak Village; the group heading towards Tilat Sumdo

At the best of times, Zanskar is a remote and desolate land, located in the heart of the Himalayas at an altitude of 11,500-23000 ft above sea level. For six months of the year, when the roads are snowed over and the river is freezing slowly, Zanskar is completely cut off from the outside world. In due course, the river has a sheet of ice that is strong enough, for the most part, to support the weight of trekkers. This sheet of ice is called Chadar and the trek is popular with adventure junkies the world over. But for locals, the Chadar is a lifeline, their only route to the outside world for anything – be it for supplies, medical help or any contact at all, for two months of the year.

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cover story The following morning brings with it a frenzy of action around the house. The sledges are tried and double checked. We take stock of supplies and measure the kerosene is measured. Letters and gifts are handed over for families and friends in Leh. We neatly pack everything onto the sledges and head out to Karsha Gompa, the biggest monastery in Zanskar and home to about a hundred Buddhist monks. At the monastery, we gather around the head priest of the ancient gompa as he chants to invoke the blessings of the Gods on the group. Rigzin’s wife’s eyes are shut tight in prayer, for her husband’s safe passage. Rigzin sits still with his hands clasped, eyes following the movements of the priest. I look a little bewildered as the chanting at the gompa reaches a crescendo. Finally, the head priest stops praying and turns

towards us. He makes gestures in the air and then chants a little more and ends the prayer ceremony. We thank the priest and the entire procession walks out of the gompa. We all huddle into the jeep that is to drop us at the starting point of the trek. Traditionally, the trek used to begin from Padum itself, but, with the road being built, the river does not now hold over the stretch near Padum. Though the road is built all the way till Hanumur, we decided to start the trek at Zangla, below the ancient castle perched atop a hill. All goods are off loaded from the jeep and we take stock once again. On the banks of the river, Dorjey took out some rice from his bag and prayed vigorously (a regime he followed non-stop while walking the entire length of the river), gradually

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joined in by every member of the team. The grand finale before we set foot on the river was a chorus of – Bharat Mata Ki Jai!

THE PERILOUS AND THE SACRED (L to R): Making way through a semi-frozen stretch of the river; prayer flags atop the sacred juniper tree; walking on ice

The air temperature is minus15 Degrees Celsius at noon, the ice on the surface of the river remains frozen at minus 30 degrees and the gushing water below it dips to minus 20 degrees. The terrain is treacherous and demanding. The slightest slip can be life threatening. Thirty seconds in the water is enough for hypothermia to set in. Rigzin, being the senior most in terms of his experience on the Chadar, was the designated leader and guide. He carefully took the first few tentative steps and started leading the way. We all followed, one by one. I was timid but full of enthusiasm. I was finally walking on the Chadar. A dream was


Chadar turning into reality and I felt I was transcending worlds. The river was far from easy to manoeuvre. And, as I tried learning the tricks of how to walk on slippery ice, Rigzin thought me to 'read' the ice and understand the signs presented by the elements. I am informed that one should be ready to read and adapt to the ever-changing nature of the Chadar. The ice was sometimes firm and stable and at other times slippery, thin and dangerously unpredictable. Distracting my attention from the river, Rigzin continues, “Leh is a nerve centre connected by mobile phones, internet, roads and aircraft. For us Zanskari’s, it is a world of seemingly endless possibilities.” I reflect upon the desolation of Zanskar, where the way of life is pretty much the way it

Phototips Chadar, though a photographer’s delight, can get quite challenging capture, as the river is frozen everywhere and the terrain is all white and brown. So you need to look out for those distinct opportunities which are presented to you at every bend of the Chadar. Do not miss out on the icefalls on the trail, which make for stunning pictures. Also, the Zanskaris walking on the Chadar provide for some authentic shots, but do respect their sensibilities while taking those shots. Though wildlife is rare, one can spot the odd ibex herd grazing around the river. Do look out for the snow leopard or at least its pugmarks, frozen in ice!

has been for hundreds of years. The modern world manifests here only in some small ways. Electricity is available for an hour a day. There is no hospital, and a medical assistant is the only healthcare at hand. Cellphone signals don’t reach here and to get a decent modern education, they have to trek out to towns like Leh. The ice beckons me to her lap within the first two hours of our trek and I experience my first fall, a phenomenon which is repeated every two hours thereafter on the first day! With every fall, I realised that it was the stunning imagery all around, which was the culprit. The unfolding scenery captivates you to an extent, that you tend to forget you are walking on ice. I got more adept navigating my way as

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cover story the day progressed. So much so, that soon I was gliding along instead of walking, like the rest of the Zankaris. We approached our first halt, Nerak, as the natural light faded. We decided to skip the ice caves and checked into a cozy homestay on the banks of the river. The next couple of hours saw a frenzy of cooking and all of us were snug in our sleeping bags within no time. The night would’ve passed without incident, had it not been for the bukhari tumbling down and its leaping flames almost eating up my sleeping bag with me inside. Everybody burst out of the room as the pipes toppled, and the first one being Dorjey, who had been walking around in the dark and the was the suspect for the 'catastrophe'.

belonged to the Indian Air Force and was used to ferry locals to Leh at times. A loud crashing sound had me hugging onto a nearby cliff for dear life. An amused Rigzin looked on as I, engulfed in fear, contemplated whether the noise was because the copter had crashed or an earthquake had started? Amidst broad grins, I was assured that the noise was created by big chunks of ice falling into the river below. As we joined the rest of the group, it was heart warming to be greeted with steaming hot squash, prepared by the advance party as the first course of our lunch. This was followed by rice and dal. What a pleasure it was to eat this hot food while sitting on the frozen river, enjoying the mid-day sun. For some reason, Rigzin decided to

Within an hour of setting out on our trek, the following day, we were rewarded with perhaps the most stunning scene of the journey. Just past a bend, came into view a gigantic waterfall, frozen in mid air – known as the icefall. I dropped everything and went on a shutter release frenzy. After spending almost an hour at the fall, Rigzin and I were the only ones left behind, as the rest of the group had moved on. Overhead, we spotted a helicopter, which I was informed

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walk way up ahead and I was left in the company of Dorjey, who led the way with a constant chant on his lips. He didn’t even stop chanting when he fell down, which he did every now and then. I, by now had almost mastered my walk and had learnt to take in the scenery without falling. One of the crew members advised me to try walking like one does while skating, instead of walking, to gain speed and avoid falling. I had taken heed and was enjoying it, till the pain started setting in my calves and knees. By the end of the day’s journey, muscle fatigue had set in. I was to find out only later that the skating walk was fine if one wore gumboots and not the thick army boots that I had on. But I did manage to trudge on with the rest of the


Chadar trekkers till the next halt of the day – Paldar Sumdo. We hiked into an ice cave, our home for the night. Rigzin, Dorjey and a couple of others headed out straight to the deep gorge around the river, in search of fire wood, which is extremely important to survive the freezing temperatures of the night. The rest of the trekkers started to unpack the ration and light up the stoves to make some tea. I sit down and nursed my aching muscles. The dough was ready by the time Rigzin and company come back with wood. A huge fire was lit and a frugal dinner was set up. Chappati is cooked directly on the logs and is passed around to every man present inside the cave. The Zanskaris believe that if the chapatti

has developed holes, then the Chadar is likely to be perforated and that they have to move with extreme caution the next day. As the rum flowed, the chanting soon made way for singing and dancing to lighten the mood and to keep the blood circulating with temperatures dropping to minus 40.

LOCAL FLAVOUR (L to R): A narrow section of the river; prayer flags adorn a tent near Lamaguru; Dorjey breaks into a dance in the ice cave at Paldar Sumdo

The next day, at the break of dawn, we were back on the river. We digressed briefly to explore caves that were once used by travellers. But now they were deserted, because they were associated with ghosts and death. We came across soot on the walls and half burnt wood, as Rigzin talked of legends that make the blood run cold! It is said that there are ghosts lurking at every bend of the Chadar, waiting to claim every traveller’s life, at least

Road to Nowhere The road along the Zanskar River is being built for several years now and has been fully built from Padum to Hanumur and till Lamaguru from Chilling side. If BRO completes the entire stretch of the road, which will be an engineering marvel, Chadar will simply be a trek in history books, as no one will trek on the frozen river in the presence of the road. Also, one does not know if the river will freeze then, and if it does, to what extent. Today in the stretches where the road has been built, the river has stopped freezing completely. Also, all the debris, thanks to road cutting, simply goes into the river. The debate on whether to build the road or not has been raging on for long, but it seems that ‘advancement’ will win the battle.

once. We prayed to a very old juniper tree and took a twig each, which is considered a holy blessing. After lunch, we came across a group of ‘adventure trekkers’, who donned branded adventure gear. Our gear looked primeval in comparison. We had none of the technical gear, crampons and gators that these guys flaunted. Most of us were not even wearing proper shoes. I too had gotten rid of the army boots and was now wearing feather light gum boots. Pleasantries and notes on the state of the river were exchanged. Things were not all that great for most part of the day ahead. We had to leave the river in places as it had not frozen completely. It was quite a task to climb the precarious cliffs with the heavy load each of us carried. These diversions took hours and slowed us down considerably. At Tilat Sumdo we halted at another ice cave for the night. Dorjey, the experienced old man, regaled us with the history of the Chadar over a bonfire. It is believed that the first time anyone made this journey, a red fox led the travellers to Leh! The fox did make an appearance that night, albeit in dreamland. Finally, it was the morning of the last day of the journey. The road head at Lamaguru was just a couple of hours away and everybody was merry. I had a spring in my step. As we reached the road head, prayers were offered to the holy spirits. Everyone was safe! Dorjey left his animated chanting to break into a jig. I guess he too was glad at the prospect of seeing his daughter in Leh after three long years. I sat a while on the Chadar to savour the fulfilment of a long cherished dream. Rigzin called for me as everything was loaded onto the waiting jeep. I took the final steps on the Chadar and walked off to the dirt track above. I knew, this would not be my final goodbye. I would surely be back for more.

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cover story

Traverseto

Paradise 32 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | JULY-AUGUST 2012

Hop on to a spectacular trek starting from the lush green forest and meadows of Kashmir to the arid landscape of Zanskar, says Depi Chaudhry


warWan

Photographs: DEPI CHAUDHRY

Day 1 At 10:30 am after breakfast, my porters and I set off on our 90 day trek across

We were stopped at the police check post as they were not sure if this area permitted trekkers. This was not a common trekking path leading to the Kashmir Valley as the valley across the pass was infested with terrorists a few years ago. They consulted some senior officials over the radio and, finally, we are given permission to depart for our trek after an entry in the register. All the formalities had taken up a lot of time

Batkol N

Sukhnai 2809m 2765m Gunbar Nar Rikinwas Gumbar 2735m 2642m Day 1 Margi 2631m Kuzuz Nar Basminah Afte 2580m Mungil Nar Mogli 2575m Warwan 2575m Inshan 2571m 75OO 34’04 E 33 48’69 N

river

the Himalaya to the Nepal border. Obviously, such a long trek had to be accompanied with heavy gear. Solar panels to recharge my batteries, laptop for downloading my GPS data on a regular basis, the list is endless.


an War W

Warwan is a beautiful valley adjoining Dachhan, spreading from the villages of Hanzi and Inshan. The Marwah river passes through the centre of the valley, which boasts of enchanting meadows. These meadows are used for grazing cattle by the nomadic Bakarwals. The region is almost completely unexplored, at least by conventional travellers, and fit into my plans for my next big trek. My original plan was to enter the Warwan Valley from the Amarnath side but the rush there made me decide to do the trek backwards.

ar

Tak Danu 3350m Ranmargi 3207m Day 2 Katwari 3317m

3735 m Denora Camp 3225 m Day 4 Panikar 3433 m a l a N Sar Lake ng Day 3 4551 mChlo Baban Gali ar 4388 m il N k s Lonvild Gali Mu

Dhrumgam Nala

Sain N

ar

Route map: WarWan

and we unfortunately could cover only a short distance before finding a camp for the night.

WASHED IN BEAUTY (Top) Warwan river flowing close to Rikinwas

In order to reduce the weight we were carrying, we had consented to carry with us a single tent. As the porters occupied the tent, I slept in the open. However,

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cover story the rain forced me to go back in and join the rest of them. And the night was spent with all of us cramped into one tent, barely able to sleep.

Day 2 The next morning, it is overcast and we start walking towards the pass. It’s a continuous climb. We choose to take the less travelled Boban Gali. From a distance you can see the pass, but as you reach the top you realise that it was after all not the pass. There still are lots of false crests to be crossed. The porters soon get tired and they start to lag behind. The path had already been plotted for the trek with the help of Google Earth, which I had loaded in my GPS using birds’ eye imagery. It was not difficult to find our way, though there is no visible trail. It gets late; we are unable to make it across the pass. I insist that we descend and find a camp. We had already reached 14,435 ft. We descend down another 656 ft and camp for the night.

That night, I decide to sleep in the vestibule of the tent, as the sky was grey.

Day 3 The next morning emerges grey. We depart early to get to the pass on time. We climb fairly quickly to the pass/gali and start exploring different parts of the beautiful pass. The top is a wide valley with snow covered mountains all around and a glacial lake at one end of the slope. As we start heading down the steep slope, the weather gets worse and it starts raining. The porters make tea under a stone shelter. The weather closes in. We are all wet and cold. In an hour’s time, we see a Bakarwal dhok (shepherd shelter). They are kind enough and give us a dhok for the night. But the dhok had leaks in places. The Bakarwals gave the porters some firewood to warm themselves and dry their clothes. There are no trees in the area and we gathered that they brought the wood from the tree line about 15 km away. While coming

down the steep slope on the ice from the pass, one of the porters used the stove to break his fall and the stove was damaged in the process. So, with our lone stove gone, we cooked our dinner on an open fire. GREENERY ABOUND (Clockwise from below L): Valley leading to Sagar Nair; the Boban Gali

Day 4 The rain still persists the next morning. This resulted in our late departure.

We get lucky again and the Bakarwals offer us an empty dhok for the night. It didn’t turn out to be empty though, as we had cows and goats for company 34 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | JULY-AUGUST 2012


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And, though the rain did not stop, the enthusiasm of my porters helped us to cover some distance in the rain. The rain made the path slippery and we were soon walking on the steep slope through grass and high altitude flowers. Soon, we spy another set of dhoks and the porters are ready to take shelter for the night. The Bakarwals see us coming down the slope and gather to see us, as they have not seen a tourist for over 15 years. They thought I was a foreigner. Even in the good old days, only international trekkers visited these areas. They invite us for tea and offer us some food. Though the

Bakarwals look scary, they are a very hospitable group. We get lucky again and the Bakarwals offered us an empty dhok for the night. It didn’t turn out to be empty though, as we had cows and goats for company while taking shelter from the rain and cold. The floor was completely messed up with dung. The boys quickly pushed the dung into corners with flat slate stones, shovelled some dry mud on the wet patches and spread the tarpaulin sheet on the ground. Right then, it felt like we were in the lap of luxury. The smell suddenly faded into the background. The Bakarwals donated some wood and filled the room with smoke, further dousing the stench of dung. They also offered some goat milk to the porters. Our warmth was, however, shortlived. The roof started leaking in many places and this forced us all to huddle together in the small dry patches available in the room. The Bakarwals kept dropping in to chat with us. The conversation varied from anecdotes from their interesting lives to the days of the terrorists. They spoke about how terrorists would come and rape their women and demand a sheep to be killed for their meal. At times, they would even take their women to their hideout for weeks. Often, the women got pregnant.

bakarwal Bakarwal (or Bakharwal) is a nomadic tribe based in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountains of South Asia. They are mainly goatherds and shepherds. They lead a lonely tough life in the high altitude meadows in the summer months and migrate down to the foot hills in the winter months. Each year, they come back to the same spot with their animals. They have been doing this for generations. They travel in pairs but sometimes they may go alone or in larger groups. They are accompanied by their bhotia dogs, and their pack-animals. They frequent the Kugti Pass near Hadsar, Baralacha La, Chandra Tal, Warwan Valley, Lahaul Valley and the remote valleys near Manali - Tos Valley, Chanderhani.

Day 5 The following morning seemed to provide some respite from the rains. The clouds cleared and the whole valley looked fabulous and green. We were frequently stopped along the way by Bakarwals requesting medicines. We soon started running

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cover story out of medicines and had to substitute medicines with vitamin tablets. I did not want to let them down and was sure half their problems could be solved psychology. One part of the trail was a little nerve wrecking with many landslides. We could have easily crossed over by using our rope. It was a hard gravel slope with a cliff on one side and we kept slipping along the way. It was a long tiring day as we had to encounter and tackle many steep slopes. Finally, I saw the army camp at Ranmargi and looked forward to their hospitality.

Fastfacts Getting There Inshan is located in the Warwan Valley, south east of Srinagar and is connected by road (230 km - 6 hours) via Margan Pass. There are plenty of shared taxis in the area. Panikar is located on the Kargil to Padum road (4 hrs). There are plenty of shared taxis and busses connecting it to Kargil. Padum is not well connected and there are some shared taxis and a few buses a week.

When to Go June to October is the best time to undertake the trek. The passes are open, though the nights can get cold. But the day temperatures are pleasant.

Where to Stay While on the trek, there are no options except to pitch-up a tent or stay in a Bakarwal’s Dhok. At Inshan, one can stay at the army post or a village home. At Panikar, the only option is Khayul Guest House. From Inshan till the base of the pass, you have small army units, who may lodge you on request.

I assumed it is one of my friend’s units. When we reached the camp, I was kept waiting while the Captain in charge finished his game of cricket with his boys. The moment we met, pleasantries were exchanged and introductions made. He informed me that I am fortunate to be alive. He enquired about my satellite phone and the calls that I had been making to my wife from the same. I was to find out later, to my utter dismay, that the usage of satellite phones in India is illegal and probably the only people who used these services were terrorists. So the minute the army traced the signals of my phone, the transcript of my conversation with my wife was recorded and four helicopters were ready to launch an attack on me. What saved me was the bad weather. I enjoyed the army’s hospitality and dinner was a mouth watering affair.

Day 6 At about 8.00 am, when we were enjoying the army’s hospitality with tea in bed, a messenger came in and informed the Captain that a party is required in Gumbar. The Captain jumps up and gets on to the radio set. He comes back and apologises saying that his boss wants to see us. He is a nice man. We finally leave at 11.00 am after a group photo. I have twenty heavily armed commandoes, ten in front and ten behind. I wonder at all this security but stay calm and continue taking pictures. The journey is very slow with
frequent stops. As we approach Sukhnai Village (the action village of 2006), like true commandoes they start scanning the village and the hillsides before moving ahead. Every turn and bend is maneuvered professionally. They COUNTRY ROADS are divided into different groups taking (L to R): Leaving Panikhar; Warwan different paths through the village. I notice a telephone booth in the tiny village. I get in to make a call to my wife.

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valley – one of the best rivers for rainbow trout fishing in the country

I must have redialed her number at least ten times, but was on call waiting. The Commandoes were getting restless as we were getting late . Finally I get through – a sigh of relief – I inform her of my not very pleasant situation and ask her to call a few friends for help. In a short while, we reach Rikinwas - I requested the young officer to permit me a phone call. I call my friend Rishi Raj. What a relief when he informs me that I am being escorted from Rikinwas to Gumbar and would be left free once I reach there. It was a surprise that in 30 min all the necessary calls had been made by my wife and friends. I was confident now. We march in darkness and reach Gumbar at 8:30 pm. The Lt. Col. greets me with a hug. We chat and discover he went to school on a hill opposite my school (Lawrence School, Sanawar). The ice was broken. I start sharing my technology expertise on GPS and getting Google maps on Garmin handsets. I


warWan

Day 7

pulled out my Mac Book from my Pelican Box and gave him some music and maps (1: 50,000). I also give him some Russian maps of the Himalaya. We say goodnight and I have strict instructions not to move more than 10 metres from my room. It was a make shift room. A cattle room modified for use by the army in the summer. The only toilet was attached to his. Thirty minutes later, I decide to get to the toilet and see him reading the maps in bed. He thanked me for the maps.

We chat over numerous cups of tea with the Lt Col outside his room, awaiting our scheduled departure to Inshan. It is a better day, as I head towards Srinagar, this time accompanied by only 10 Commandoes who are not as heavily armed as before. I exchange email addresses and mobile numbers with Rishi Raj. We leave after another group photo. The plan is that I would be handed over to 19RR (another army unit), somewhere in the middle. We meet the 19RR soldiers outside a village. Now I am with them. A much more relaxed lot of guys. I start enjoying my walk through the Warwan Valley. This area was very

popular with international trekkers. We stop at Aftee, their camp, for a cup of tea and move on to Inshan with another lot of soldiers from 19RR. I have a vehicle waiting for me at Inshan to take me to Srinagar. I was informed in the morning that I need to be left free in the presence of the local police, a policy adopted due to human rights activities. The police had been asked to come across. It took about a minute to sign some papers across the table and then a photo to prove that I have been handed over in good condition. That is when it struck me why we had the photo session yesterday and this morning. An exhilarating feeling of having survived this adventure overcame me.

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cover story

Path to

Photographs: bina chheda

Revered by pilgrims across the globe, Kailash-Mansarovar has all the trappings to make it a highly exhilarating journey, says Nisha Varma


kailash-mansarovar

trainer I had little to worry on that score. I attended a briefing at the MEA HQ where we were told the dos and don’ts regarding luggage, safety, travel through the risky terrain and the risks involved.

It is said that the Kailash – Mansarovar trek is one of the longest, the most difficult yet one of the most popular treks in India. People usually undertake this for religious reasons but I went on this trek in June 2007 on an impulse. It was while watching a TV coverage of ‘the yatra’ that I decided to apply through the Ministry of External Affairs and hoped to get selected. After the selection is completed and the money deposited, one goes through a stringent physical and medical test to ensure one is in good health and free of any lung and heart conditions, which can get worse at high altitude. Being a fitness

We could carry upto a maximum of 25 kg and the bags have to be wrapped in waterproof material to protect it from rain and waterfalls. We were also given a list of emergency medical kit to prepare and take with us along with recommended food items like dried fruits, nuts and biscuits. The clothing included protective rainwear, a light parka (in case it snowed) and at least two pairs of trekking shoes (in case one pair gets wet). A camera was a must, as the trek itself is spectacular. Chlorine tablets to purify water was an absolute necessity as was some emergency medicine for intestinal infections.

GODLY: The sun rises over Mt Kailash

On the eve of the trek, there was a meeting followed by dinner at the Gujarat Samaj in Civil Lines where all the trekkers met each other for the first time. Amid the noise and revelry, signs of nervousness were clearly visible on the faces of yatris like me who have no religious drive to undertake the trek. The evening winded up with a lot of mixed feelings, uncertainity and nervous excitement. The next morning we departed from Delhi for Kathgodam. The non AC bus buzzed with devotional hymns in all conceivable languages!

Route map: kailash-mansarovar Dolma Pass 5800m

TIBET

Direpu 4800m Tarchen 4800m

Parkha Plains Rakshas Tal

Hore 4550m Lake Mansarover

Chuggu 4550m

INDIA Navidhang 4200m Kalapani 3600m Gunji 3200m Dharachula 1930m

4600m Zong Zerbu

Kailash Mount

Taklakot 4600m Lipulekh Pass 5100m

Malpa 2600m

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kailash-mansarovar

cover story After our meal stop at Kathgodam, we progressed to Almorah where we spent the night. The beauty of the hills and the wild flowers that bloom along the hill sides were mesmerising as we made our way to the next stop the following day. After another brief stop, we progressed to the next base where we were again hosted and briefed by the ITBP personnel. A special mention needs to be made here for the entire group of this paramilitary force who accompany the yatris right upto the Chinese border at Lipulekh. Dharachula is a border town between India and Nepal. The Kali Ganga flows fiercely through the town and one has to really make an effort to get used to her gushing sounds. It is

Fastfacts Getting There The base camp of the trek in India is at Dharachula. The nearest airport to Dharachula is Jolly Grant at Dehradun (250 km) and the nearest rail head is at Kathgodam (285 km). Regular taxis and buses are available for Dharachula from Kathgodam. It is best to take the night train from Delhi to Kathgodam and travel to Dharachula by road in the morning from there.

When to Go The Tibetan plateau is a dry region with scanty rains, so any month between MaySeptember is good. August may sometime experience moderate to heavy rainfall. One has to apply by March for the 27 day trek organised by Government of India. But there are other variations of the trek which are organised by private outfitters.

Passing through scattered glaciers, steep landslides and picturesque waterfalls, one is lost in the beauty and marvel of nature here that horses, ponies and porters are hired by individuals. The trek is long and arduous and it is difficult for one to carry their own luggage. These aides accompany you throughout the trek till the border. Apart from ponies and porters, our group also hired cooks and bought food material to carry for the trek. The Kali Ganga was to be our companion all the way to the last camp. At times, it seemed dangerously close and there was danger of slipping and falling into these angry waters. At other times,

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NATURE’S WONDERS Travellers take a break at the pristine environs of Mansarovar Lake

she vanished out of sight and we could hear her roar in the distance. It was during this part of our journey that an unfortunate incident happened. We lost a horse and tried hard to console the inconsolable horse owner who had lost his only source of livelihood. The journey begins in Delhi, which is at 200 ft above sea level and finishes at Kailash base camp which is at 19500 ft! One of the major benefits of this long and ardous journey is


kailash-mansarovar

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faithfacts According to Hindu mythology, Mansarovar Lake is the personification of purity, and it is believed that whoever drinks from the lake will go to the abode of Lord Shiva after death. It is also believed that he will be cleansed of all his sins committed even in hundred lifetimes. Buddhists also associate the lake with the legendary lake known as Anavatapta in Sanskrit and Anotatta in Pali, where Queen Maya is believed to have conceived Gautama Buddha. According to the beliefs of Jainism, Kailash Mansarovar is associated with the first Tirthankar, Lord Shree Rushabhdev. Ashtapad mountain, which is near the Kailash is a place where Lord Rushabhdevji attained Nirvana (Moksh) along with his disciples.

that it provides a long period for acclimatisation. However, two of our female team members succumbed to the hardships of acclimatisation and had to be rushed back for medical aid. Physical injuries are also in plenty and, despite my training, I suffered a painful ligament injury on the second and most difficult day of our trek through the Budhi Ghati. This is the place where we had to go down ‘4444 rocky steps’ and then begin the ascent again. A massage with mustard oil, anti-inflammatory drugs and bandages did help and I managed to move on.

SHINING BEAUTY The high altitude Gauri Kund

Passing through scattered glaciers, steep landslides and picturesque waterfalls, one is lost in the beauty and marvel of nature. The majestic Himalayan ranges are overwhelming and one really feels small, vulnerable

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and humble. The waterfalls throw out a rainbow of colours when the sun shines on them, the rocks in the gushing river are smooth and show interesting lines and patterns. This involvement with nature takes one through each day with renewed enthusiasm. Each day, the trek started early in the morning after breakfast and finished around noon as trekking in the afternoons is not recommended due to strong winds. The daily menu comprised of hot soup (very welcome), dal, potato, local greens, roti and rice. Breakfast was usually tea, puri aloo, cornflakes and milk, and was always eaten very early around 5.30 in the morning. The heavy cost of transportation is one of the reasons for these simple meals in remote areas.

My most memorable sight on this trip was that of Om Parbat, at our last base camp - Nabidang. An ‘Om’ (in devnagri script) is written in snow on a vast mountainside, which is visible on clear, cloudless days only. One is really fortunate to spot this, as it is an unbelievable sight and leaves one speechless. As we left the comforts of our motherland and got ready to enter the Chinese side, we were in a state of nervousness. Paper work and immigration formalities took some time after which we were ferried by a bus to a town called Taklakot, which housed the rooms we were to stay in. The town was interesting and full of gift shops. In and around Taklakot are temples dedicated to Ram and Sita and a tomb of the legendary Dogra chieftain Zorawar Singh.


cover story a short while here we scampered downhill through glaciers and snow and spotted the emerald waters of the Gauri Kund. It is a small lake, which retains its emerald green colour all year around and is frozen most of the time. According to legend this is where Goddess Parvati used to take her bath. While on the last leg, we saw the south face of the mountain which is called the Ashtapad. It was here that we first saw the beautiful Lake Mansarovar where we stayed for three days and stopped at different camps, which took us around the lake. It was a

A part of the trip to Kailash is done by bus. En route, we stopped at the Rakshasa-Raavan Taal, which is a large patch of brilliant blue water amidst wilderness and was very picturesque. There is a huge rock right in the middle of the lake from where Ravana (it is so believed) used to meditate upon and worship Lord Shiva. Soon after Rakshasa Taal, we sighted Mt Kailash for the first time. The spellbinding majesty of the mountain is awesome and I was mesmerised by the sight. The trek took us around the mountain in four days and we spent one night at Derapukh, at the base of Mt Kailash. Not only was this the point where we came closest to Mt Kailash and we even treked up for

HIGHER GROUNDS (L to R): Trekkers making way to upper reaches; the beautiful Paiku Tso at the foot of Mt. Shishpangma

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a bit, but this was also the perfect spot to catch a beautiful sunrise the next morning. The next morning saw the most difficult stretch of the trek where we climbed a bit, this being the highest point of our journey at 19,600 ft and the lack of oxygen was acutely felt and each step we took felt like a huge struggle. Reaching this point (also called the Dolma Pass) was an achievement in itself. It was probably here that my ‘trek for trek’s sake’ attitude got converted into a deep spiritual experience. I experienced a depth of stillness and silence and complete peace within my being. After staying


kailash-mansarovar calm and serene experience. The shades of blue changed with each hour through the day. It is said that the small pebbles around the lake have religious symbols on them. Some are shaped in the forms of gods like Ganesha whereas some have Om or some other religious symbols etched on them. I too have found some of these pebbles and treasure them as mementos from my memorable trip. The Tibetan side is adorned with several monasteries and shrines. These monasteries have beautiful murals, pictures, thangkas and stories to tell. The Tibetan camps,

The Unconquerable Mount Kailash in the Gangdise Mountains is part of the Transhimalaya in Tibet and has never been scaled. A number of mountaineers have prospected the mountain with a view to climbing it. In 1926, Hugh Ruttledge studied the north face, which he estimated was 6,000 ft high and ‘utterly unclimbable’. Herbert Tichy was in the area in 1936, attempting to climb Gurla Mandhata. When he asked one of the Garpons of Ngari whether Kailash was climbable, the Garpon replied, “Only a man entirely free of sin could climb Kailas. And he wouldn’t have to actually scale the sheer walls of ice to do it – he’d just turn himself into a bird and fly to the summit.” The latest attempts in the 2000’s were aborted due to international pressure against the ascents. Lately, China is considering putting a ban on all expeditions to Mt Kailash, owing to religious sentiments.

It was probably here that my ‘trek for trek’s sake’ attitude got converted into a deep spiritual experience

however, are rather dirty and unkept and at Darchen, one is ‘attacked’ by hoards of women selling all kinds of beads, baubles and ‘sputik’ malas. This experience can be rather intimidating and only the most experienced travellers could bargain successfully and get the best deals. The place was also full of wild dogs who looked fierce and their constant barking and howling left me scared. To top the horror of it all, there were no restrooms all around the camp in Darchen. With the parikramas of Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarovar completed, we headed back to India via Taklakot. Our incredible experience continued on the way back to Dharachula and the descent was fast and easy. We encountered several landslides on our way back. After halting for an overnight stay at Dharachula and Jageshwar, we headed back to Delhi. Jageshwar is a small hill town full of ancient Hindu temples and a ‘jyotirlinga’. On landing in Delhi, surrounded by its noise and hustle and bustle, all the silence and peace of the mountains seemed a distant past. As an after thought, I believe this journey can only be successfully accomplished if it is ordained. I travelled with people who walked barefoot all the way through and had not even a scratch on their feet! There were people in their seventies who travelled easily and there were women in traditional saris who also travelled in the cold climes with little but a cardigan to protect them. Meditating all through the trek was a great experience and the silence of the trek is one to be experienced! It is hardly surprising that Mount Kailash calls one over and over again.

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Every man is an

Island Peak in Nepal at 20,000 ft is not only one of the most beautiful treks in the world, but also the perfect expedition to get a taste of technical mountain climbing amidst towering peaks, says Sameer Naik

Having done a few major 16,000 ft plus treks in Nepal and a few others in the Indian Himalayas, we had been itching to get on to a real expedition. Island Peak had eluded us before due to various reasons. Our team strength this time was five, plus the Sherpa and porters. We stayed at the lovely Everest Hotel, which is a fair distance from Thamel, the district for mountain gear shopping. The day we arrived is when we shopped for gear and accessories. For me, going to Thamel gave me the same feeling that a kid feels in a toy store. Shopping done, we were all set to begin. The next morning, we headed to the Tribhuvan International Airport

Photographs: Sameer Naik

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ISLAND PEAK

Route map: island peak 5545 Kala Patthar 5330 Cho La

5364 Everest Base Camp 5140 Gorak Shep

4700 Dragnag

(Amjatse) Peak Island

6335 Cholatse 4240 Pheriche 6367 Tabocha Peak

4470 Machhermo

3493 Tengboche Thamo

National Island peakPark Sagarmatha

Namche Bazar

2805 Jorsale

4410 Dingboche Ambulancha 6856 Ama Dablam

Kengtego 6685

Thamserku 6608 Phakding Kusum Kanguru 5367

Lukla

National Park Makalu Barun

and the drama begun. The weather took a turn for the worse. Incessant rain resulted in most flights to Lukla being cancelled. After an aborted attempt to land the flight in Lukla (9,320 ft), we land back in Kathmandu, dejected. Then out of nowhere, Ashish, a team member, managed to get us on another flight and we finally landed in Lukla. From Lukla, it’s a 4-hour trek to Phakding (8563 ft) and a further 7-hour trek to Namche Bazaar (11,300 ft), which is the last civilised town. Here is a tip: look for the Khumbu resort, strategically located, excellent facilities and superb views of Kongde Ri at 20,300 ft and to the east is Thamserku at 21,730 ft. Namche is

also the acclimatisation halt for most expeditions and treks. We trekked up to Syangboche (12,200 ft), which has the world’s highest airstrip, and then further on to the magnificent Everest View Hotel, (the world’s highest hotel at 12,730 ft), which offers spectacular views of Mount Ama Dablam at (22,360 ft) and of Mt. Everest. The next day brought us to the world’s highest Buddhist monastery

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cover story Fastfacts Getting there Island Peak (20,300 ft) is located in the Sagarmatha National Park, or the Mount Everest Base Camp region for the uninitiated. So, getting there is basically a cakewalk. All major airlines fly direct from New Delhi, Mumbai to Kathmandu. Once there, take the most amazing (read scariest) domestic 14-seater flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Leave a day or two as back up because weather can be fickle and tight schedules could mean you might have to leave midway during the expedition. From Lukla, you take the same trek as the Everest Base Camp (EBC) till you reach Dingboche where the trail deflects to the right towards Chhukhung and then to Island Peak.

at Tengboche (12,700 ft), which was an ethereal experience in itself. The Tengboche Gompa was completely destroyed in a fire in 1998 and the current monastery was built from scratch in the following years. As luck would have it, Everest and Lhotse were offering glorious uninhibited views. En route to our next halt, Dingboche (14,470 ft), we come across the school founded by Sir Edmund Hillary at Pangboche. At Dingboche, however, the weather suddenly played truant and we had a whiteout that did not augur well for the rest of the expedition. From Dingboche, the path deviates to the right for Chhukhung (15,520 ft) and parts from the EBC Trek. The terrain, which was greener till Tengboche, suddenly changed colour to different

When to Go September through October is considered the best time to attempt the summit. Although mid-April to May is also a popular period. What to Eat Tea-houses on the EBC Trek serve decent hygienic food. The menu is mostly Continental and Nepalese. Take your pick according to your palate keeping in mind that to eat light is always safer. Potable water is another major worry. Locally available water is almost always polluted and upset stomachs are common. Prices of each 1-liter bottle starts at NC 50 at Lukla and end up at NC 300 by the time you finish. The other option is to take water-purifying drops that you get across medicine outlets. Add a drop or two to a liter of water and you are done for most of the day.

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shades of brown. Chhukhung, our last supply halt, was a sleepy little hamlet, which catered to a select few mountaineers and trekkers going to Island Peak or Chhukhung Ri. As we neared our goal, nerves got a bit frayed and the weather really was not helping. After a four-hour trek to Island Peak base camp (16,666 ft) from Chhukhung, we were welcomed by

Somewhere along the way, it stopped being a physical act and became a complete mind game


ISLAND PEAK some iffy weather. Two members of our team had opted out by then and we pitched for the summit straight from the base camp. As time would tell, it was a decision we would thank ourselves for. We started for the summit at 0230 hrs. It takes about nine hours to reach the summit from the camp and the summit window closes not later than 1000 hrs. As one would expect, it was freezing cold, so much so that our water bottles had frozen. The climb to Crampon Point was mostly in darkness. The cold made our noses water incessantly and the moment we stopped walking, body temperature dropped perceptibly. We climbed steadily but before Crampon Point (where

GADGETTIPS The trek from Lukla to Island Peak Base Camp is a photographer’s delight. So, not to carry a camera would be a cardinal sin. However, remember to carry extra batteries as they run out sooner in cold weather. Rechargeable batteries are good, though the teahouses charge a bomb and more to recharge them to full strength. Ditto for cellular phones although you get a full 3G network these days for most part of the trail. Also advised is a dust proof cover for the cameras or cellular phones. Get local SIM cards for cellular phones, as they are far cheaper.

we put our crampons on) another team member, Sunil, dropped out and now it was just me, Ashish and Dawa Sherpa. We reached Crampon Point past 0700 hrs, just past the break of dawn. Exhaustion set in, but the magnificent sight from our vantage point with Mount Ama Dablam among others in clear view, made it all worth the effort. After a brief rest, we secured our crampons and roped up with each other fastening ourselves for security. We climbed further on the ice field and finally got a full view of the magnificent summit wall. The snow by now was almost knee deep and plodding in it was tough work, especially with a 5 hour climb behind us. The slope seemed gradual but every step felt like a summit climb unto itself. Somewhere along the way, it stopped being a physical act and became a complete mind game. You ask yourself the same questions over and over again, “What the hell am I doing here?” “Why do I even want to do this?” I could feel the cold seeping in my toes and fingertips with every passing minute. But despite the

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Dos & d0n’ts Imja Tse, or Island Peak as it is more popularly known, is an entry-level expedition (a permit is essential and can be obtained at www.nepalmountaineering.org) and a semi-technical peak, which means that the final climb has to be done with full climbing gear. Basic climbing techniques and the nomenclature for climbing gear are of enormous importance. Physical fitness is a given and avoiding alcohol and smoking during and 2 weeks before the expedition is advised. Do consult your physician before embarking if you have respiratory or heart related ailments.

physical fatigue, I knew, somehow, I will summit today, weather permitting. The ice field is marked by scores of notorious crevasses, large and small, and we skirt and make our way around them to the base of the ice wall. The snow, however, was holding and, even though we fell quite a few times, it was primarily due to fatigue rather than much else. The sheer wall of almost 200 metres was daunting and thrilling at the same time. Two years of waiting, a few months of preparation, eight days of hiking across the Himalayan terrain and we were finally there. Just a couple of hours separating

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our goal from us! That minute I realised how much I was aching to be on the summit. But the mountain is no place for emotion. We kept our rhythmic tandem of steps and breaths going. The early morning view of the mountain glistening at dawn was a sight for sore eyes and at the same time blindingly bright. Ideally, I would have loved to stay and take more pictures but we really couldn’t afford to lose any more time than we already had. Or let our bodies cool down to beyond a point. By this time, I was thinking about little else but the summit. With the weather window deadline closing in a couple of hours and the weather getting colder every


ISLAND PEAK Finally, two hours later, which seemed like a few years, we reached the top. We had made it. The feeling that one gets up there is indescribable! Finally, two hours later, which seemed like a few years, we reached the top. We had made it. The feeling that one gets up there is indescribable! It’s a huge adrenaline rush combined with the heady intoxication of achievement. By now, the cloud cover had taken over and we could barely see each other. I must say that apart from being overjoyed, it was also a huge relief that we made it.

minute, our goal seemed to be slipping away from us. We lost track of time, but it was 0900 hrs by the time we reached the base of the ice wall. Once there, we began our preparations. We had spotted about 15 climbers on the ice wall before us. The previous group had fixed a rope before we reached, so that saved us some valuable time. With our ascenders fixed on the rope, Dawa went first, followed by Ashish and me last. It was exhausting work, front pointing, jumaaring and axing alternatively, inching our way up the seemingly endless ice face. At 20000 ft, all your senses, actions,

decisions, thoughts, intentions and such are so vulnerable and suspect, you just go through the motions at times. The weather had also turned quite bad and focus was the key word now. Raise jumaar. Front point the crampons in the ice wall. Haul yourself up. Repeat till you think you will drop dead. Just checking that every one such sequence raised me by about 0.6 metre. At this rate, I will have to do it 320 times to reach the top. Damn!! Unbelievably, we encountered traffic on the rope, with previous teams now descending. It was a harrowing time shifting ropes and letting them pass, not to mention that our momentum took a hit.

Having taken the perfunctory pictures, we descended swiftly because the weather seemed to be getting nasty again. But descending is a far more demanding exercise than it looks, especially with fatigue kicking in. And out of nowhere a snowstorm hit us, that kept getting stronger with every metre of our descent. I think, somewhere along the way, we were completely numbed out from just about everything. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached our snowed out tents at about 1630 hrs, five hours from the summit. It was snowing heavily by then, but it didn’t matter any more. As luck would have it, the snowstorm cancelled out all summit attempts for the next two days. Our decision to not go for high camp and summit straight from base camp had paid off. Three days and a few kilos lighter, we were back in Kathmandu wearing our sunburns like medals. Regardless of how many expeditions follow this or not, the Island Peak expedition will be etched in our minds for all the right reasons.

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Beyond


Photographs: Lakshmi Ranganathan / KEVIN GRANGE

snowman

In remote Bhutan, there is a trail believed to be the toughest trek in the world. It takes you to the remote Lunana Valley, which is one of the world’s most isolated locales. But do not let the ghost stories scare you, says Lakshmi Ranganathan

‘More people have climbed the Everest than completed the Snowman Trek’this line kept ringing in my head as I lapped up all the information that I could gather. The Lunana Snowman Trek in Bhutan, listed as one of the most difficult treks in the world, is considered so not because it is technically difficult but because of a combination of factors like unpredictable weather, snow bound high passes, flood damaged trails and bridges, complicated logistics of pack animals and the remoteness of the place, which would hinder evacuation if there was a problem. The nature of the trail itself that demanded staying at a high altitude for nearly three weeks besides the mandatory physical fitness that was needed to cope with long ascents and descents each day. “Oh, come on,” I thought, “it couldn’t be so treacherous if yaks and horses were also trotting along!” Then came the shocker, which was the cost and the duration of the trek. There were two ways to do this. The 24-day Lunana Snowman Trek I, starts at Drukgyel Dzong and ends at Sephu. The 26-day Lunana Snowman Trek II, which includes Gangkar Puensum Base Camp, starts at Drukgyel Dzong and ends at Dur.

The longest trek I had previously done was in the Annapurna Region in Nepal lasting 19 days. There were a few others that did not really bother me. What was really worrying me was the job of finding a suitable trekking partner. Finally, after a marathon search, I found one, though she firmly told me that she would quit midway if she needed to. How reassuring! My travel agent, with an amused smile, also assured me that I could continue alone. He said that no Indian trekker had as yet gone beyond Laya and having constantly handled extremely ‘fit’ trekkers from abroad and

Route map: snowman TRek Roblutharg Shakyapassang Chebisa Jangothang

To D e

lhi Thongbushong

To Kath

mandu

Narihang Woche

Thanza Rodophu TARINA Lhedi Lhingshi Tsochen Jichu Dramo Dhumzo Punakha Nnowman Chukarpo Shana Thampetso Wagdue Marouthang Thimphu Drukgyel Nikka Chhu Trongsa Limithang

To D

aya

G To

Laya

To Kolkata

To B a

hak

a

ngk

ok

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cover story cackling tourists from Kolkata, I could well understand his doubts about us! However, to me, the fact that we were the first Indians doing this trek, was an additional motivating factor. I chose to do Snowman I, saving the GP circuit for another time. My companion also had the option of returning to Thimphu from Jangothang, Lingshi or Laya. On D-Day, we drove from Paro to Drukyel Dzong, an ancient fort in ruins, and met our guide, cook and kitchen help, all of whom had done this trek many times. The herders were already loading our gear onto the horses. They looked at us in amusement and with a searching look that said – “So, you think you can do the Snowman Trek, crossing 11 passes and walking 360 km over 24 days?”

The Jhomolhari Segment The trek started off very tamely as we ascended, following the broad trail along the Paro Chhu River. Over the next three days, from Drukyel to Jangothang, the trail veered through golden paddy fields, hamlets, chortens, a holy water spring, yak cheese farms around Soi, a couple of army camps, where our permits were checked, and lush verdant lichen draped forest. My greeting of ‘Kuzu zangpo la’ (‘Hullo’ in Dzongkha) to all the people I met on the route received many amused looks. The following day, we trekked in the protected Jigme Dorji National Park, a biodiversity hotspot. Many paths in the National Park led to Tibet and we had to take care not to stray into them. They were the ancient trade routes before they were closed after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Just as the forest got more enchanting, the trail got

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Fastfacts Getting There Bhutan has an international airport at Paro and is also easily approachable from India by road through two border check posts, one located at Phuentsholing (Bhutan)–Jaigaon (West Bengal) and the other at Samdrup Jhonkar (Bhutan)–Darbanga (Assam). The nearest railhead is New Jalpaiguri (West Bengal) and Guwahati (Assam)

When to Go Though organised by outfitters throughout summer, the best time to undertake the Snowman Trek is the first three weeks of October. Although the official season extends longer, if you go at any other time, you’ll either get very wet, snowed in, or both.

Permits There are no visa hassles for Indians, who only require a valid identification proof. Acceptable ID’s are Passport/Voter ID/Driving License. PAN cards are not valid.


snowman

murkier and muddier. We had to cross many side streams on slippery boulders as they did not have bridges. Stream crossings on boulders or log bridges had always been my Achilles heel. As the crossings increased, I decided to wade across them in my shoes, much to my guide’s concern. I was used to this and not only did the water help clean out the mud, it also saved me from some acute acrobatics on slippery stones! My biggest travail on the trek was the trail itself and not the steep ascents or descents. In fact, at no point on the trail, under relatively fair weather conditions, was the terrain so dangerous. We did, however, encounter mild snowfall at night camps, which created a squishier trail! Most of the trail had embedded rocks around which was one gooey mess of wet mud mixed with horse and

Herders looked at us in amusement and with a searching look that said – “So, you think you can do the Snowman Trek, crossing 11 passes and walking 360 km over 24 days?” yak dung and urine. I could not take my eyes off it as I had to hop with precision on top of these rocks to avoid this slush. It was exhausting, but I soon got used to it. My staff would gracefully glide over all this muck like birds, with their pants and shoes looking absolutely dry and clean. A relatively better route was always on the edges of the main trail where the roots of the trees or bushes made the ground a little firmer. When that option was not possible because of the steep gradient, we would climb

IN HIGHLANDS (L to R): Prayer flags fluttering atop Jhomolhari Pass; ruined Dzong at Jangothang with the face of Jhomolhari visible behind

on to the narrow paths that ran above the main trail on the hill side. I soon discovered that the pack animals too preferred this cleaner route! I was trying to imagine how beautiful this route would have looked in summer with different coloured rhododendrons lining the path, giving it a perfect fairy tale setting. Not that autumn was bad. We witnessed a kaleidoscope of colours too. The maple and birch trees with their brilliant yellow and red fall colours

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snowman

cover story COSTS & lOGISTICS Costs The only huge ‘Himalayan’ barrier is the trekking tariff of 200-250 US dollars per day per person imposed on tourists in order to restrict the number of people stomping through its ecologically sensitive regions. Although this fee does not apply to Indians, the discounted fee is still a steep amount and that is probably why there are very few Indians trekking in Bhutan. According to the Government of Bhutan’s

policy, your trek has to be arranged through a registered trekking agency. It is not possible to trek alone in Bhutan with local porters/guides and if you are caught you will be sent back.

Logistics Some of the unique features of trekking here include the complete absence of porters except on a couple of trails. All the gear is carried by pack animals, mainly

horses or yaks. LPG cylinders are used as fuel for cooking and use of firewood is not permitted. Thirdly, lunch is cooked and packed in a ‘hot case’ right in the morning, which saves precious time during the trek. All the food, trek and inland travel logistics and gear, other than your personal clothing and sleeping bag are arranged by the trekking agency. A guide is with you the minute you enter the country and until you leave it. All one has to do is, umm ….trek!

contrasted sharply with the deep green of the rhododendron. In between, the rest of the foliage contributed to a wide spectrum of colours. Soon, we got used to the daily routine that comprised of tea/coffee served to us in our tents by 6.30 am followed by us packing our bags. After breakfast, we would set off by about 8 am with our guide. The cook and his help would get lunch ready and pack all the gear, clean the camp and leave along with the herders and pack animals a couple of hours after us and yet manage to catch up with us by lunch time. The staple fare was red rice and a semi dry vegetable curry cooked with cheese sauce. At Jangothang, at 13000 ft, we came upon the ruins of a crumbling fort festooned with prayer flags close to which was the Jhomolhari Base Camp, comprising of an extensive, flat camping ground in the midst of which was a

postcard moment that was! Sunrise on a mountain and sunset at sea captured from time immemorial on print, eulogised in songs and words, frozen in our memories, but each time one saw it, it was a new experience.

The Linshi - Laya Segment

large permanent stone trekking shed. We were here the next day too as part of our acclimatisation and took a hike to Tsophu Lake a couple of hours away. When I crawled out of the tent early the next morning, there were stars in the blue black sky and Jhomolhari 1 and 2 towered large and clear right above the campsite in her full glory with every feature exposed. We waited with bated breath till the first rays of the sun touched her peak and bathed her in a golden hue. What a perfect picture

THE RUGGED Yaks are used to carry luggage in treks across Bhutan

Seen from the Gangla Karchung La were a spectacular panorama of peaks with Kang Bum in the west and the Tsenda Kang, Teri Gang and the triple headed Jejekangphu Gang in the north 56 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | JULY-AUGUST 2012

Our second set of pack animals, comprising 11 yaks, arrived with two young herders. Over the next 6 days, our next leg of the Snowman Trek, also known as the Lingshi- Laya Trek, began. We crossed 4 passes, namely Nyile, Gombu, Jare and Sinche, as we climbed in and out of valleys that housed the villages of Lingshi, Goyul, Chebisa, Chobiso and Laya. Our campsites on the meadows Shomuthang, Robluthang and Limithang were magical. The morning views of Gangchenta, the Tiger Mountain that rose above Limithang, were breathtaking. We also had good views of the peaks Jichu Drakye, Tserim Kang, Tseja Gang and Masang Gang. On approaching Lingshi, in the distance, standing isolated on a ridge with waves of purple hued ranges in the background was the match box like 17th century Lingshi Dzong (fort) with its whitewashed walls that appeared like a doorway to Heaven. What a soul stirring view this was just after a broad flat meadow, Shakshepasa, which also served as a


snowman

cover story

helipad for emergency evacuation, was a notable stretch of trail, deep in the forest that we had to descend steeply. The dark forest floor consisted of a peaty mixture of leaf detritus, mud, stones, twigs and a host of other things and was semi dry.

THE MAGNIFICENT Glacial lakes below Rinchen Zoela; a monastery perched inside a rock face

After 8 days into the trek, both of us were coping well with the constant ascents and descents of river valleys. Limithang was to be the last night that my companion and I spent together as she had decided to turn back. As we headed to Laya, the trail got crowded with many pack animals and locals who are known as Layaps. We stopped at a nice looking house that belonged to a lady called Chimi and this was to be our lodging for the next two days. I made up my mind to continue with the trek. A decision I would never regret.

The First Leg of the Lunana Segment The new set of yaks for my journey had arrived and they would be with us for the first leg of the Lunana section comprising 6 days going past

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the main villages of Lhedi, Woche, Thega, Chozo and the twin hamlets of Thanza and Toencha. As we set out, I was confronted with a 2000 ft steep ascent through a dark, dense slushy forest, as if forewarning me of the days ahead. For each step forward, I slid back two. My guide raced ahead, as usual. I plodded along and wished I could vent out my curses loudly. In very bad weather, we climbed steeply along a cascading stream, through Tsemola and arrived at the desolate

meadow Narethang. I could see nothing beyond a hundred feet. The horizon was a misty haze. At times, I could get a faint glimpse of the Gangla Karchung Peak towering over us, with its huge U-shaped glaciers at almost touching distance. After basking in the sun at Laya, this sudden deportation to a rainy and cold camp site at 16000 ft seemed too punishing. By evening, there was still no improvement of the bad weather. Next day, I hauled my backpack onto my shoulders and followed my guide on a slippery, but gentle ascent lasting about an hour to Pass # 6 Gangla Karchungla (16793 ft). Snow hung over the prayer flags strung from a prominent column shaped boulder. With a heavy heart, I slowly glanced down the valley. There she was - tragedy in the form of a white veil. It was a complete white out. I kept consoling myself that if ever I undertake this trek again, I would wait at Narethang till the weather cleared! A slight deviation from the main rock strewn path led to the edge of a cliff. That spot was supposed to be the best


cover story vantage point for viewing the Tarina Valley. As I walked towards some cairns that marked it and looked down and around, I could see the outlines of two glacial lakes below and the edge of the glacier that came down from the Gangla Karchung peak, all in shades of white, grey and a dull brown. Seen from the Gangla Karchungla were a spectacular panorama of peaks with Kang Bum in the west and the trio of Tsenda Kang, Teri Gang and the triple headed Jejekangphu Gang in the north amid many other smaller ones. Enormous glaciers descended from these peaks to form three small glacial lakes. Over the next three days, over relatively easy, but terribly boggy terrain, we switch backed through valleys and the Lunana villages of Woche, Thega, Lhedi and Chozo crossing just one pass, Khechela. The weather had cleared considerably. At Woche, we

were roasted by the blazing sun and the camp soon looked like a dhobhi ghat. The warmth of the afternoon sun inside a tent at 12,000 odd feet after many days of dampness was sheer bliss. However, as we were nearing Kechela, the weather turned bad depriving me of a great view of the triple headed Jejekangphu Gang. The main valley of Lunana, the Pho Chhu, that comes into view after the village Thega, was one sprawling mess of boulders, a result of the aftermath of a massive flood in 1994, that was caused by the bursting of the moraine walls of a glacial lake, Lugge Tso beyond Thanza. It was amazing to set foot on muddy earth again at the village Chozo whose striking feature was an ancient Dzong and the massive Table Mountain that towered high above it. After Chozo, the terrain changed and it almost felt like I was walking on the white sandy beaches of Lakshwadweep. Fine, white glacial sand

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was everywhere and the fierce wind was blowing it into my face, shoes and camera. The trail gently ascended out of this sand bank, past a small blue crystal clear pond in which yaks were blissfully soaking themselves, just like buffaloes do in pools of water in the plains of India.

The Second Leg of the Lunana Segment Over the next 6 days, we covered the last leg of the Snowman Trek crossing 4 passes – the Jaze, Loju, Rinchen Zoe and Tempe. There were no villages en route and we were in total wilderness until Maurothang. The ascent to Jazela was spectacular over large slabs of rock, although a long one with many false summits. When I finally reached the prayer flags at Jaze La, there was the dazzling Kangri Peak at almost touching distance. In the east, were fairly good views of the


snowman

Table Mountain with a hat of clouds. All the exhaustion of the long day was forgotten. We camped on the banks of Tso Chena, the most beautiful in the string of emerald lakes that emerged. From Tso Chena, the trail ascended steeply to a ‘false pass’ piled with some cairns, from where I saw a cloudless view of the Table Mountain. Behind the Kangri peak rose the fluted western flanks of Gangkar Puensum. Just west of the Table Mountain was the distant view of Kangphu Gang in its full glory. Beyond this viewpoint, was a massive wild glacial valley with strings of lakes and a profusion of rocky peaks. A gap in one of them was the easy to miss, Loju La. Right from Toencha till Jichu Dramo, it was hard to imagine that we were in lush green Bhutan, as the vast barrenness of a stony white and grey terrain stared back at us from

all directions. The Rinchen Zoe Pass, the highest of all passes at 14,500 ft, was extremely picturesque with spectacular views and with a massive glacier and two small lakes below its snout, which turned different shades of blue and green as the sun and clouds shifted their positions. Yearning to see trees again, we descended in a near whiteout to the Thampe Chhu Valley. As the sun rose, a dazzling spectacle unfolded. The Thampe Chhu valley turned magical in a riot of blinding fluorescent red and yellow autumn colours. It was as if, every animate and inanimate thing out there, were playing ‘Holi’. The most striking of them all were the varieties of moss with their phosphorescent yellowish-green and red hues that adhered to the rocks, like a furry second skin. A very steep ascent from here brought us to an eerie looking lake, Thampe Tso, enclosed in a ring of hills.

Over the next two days began the grueling descent of over 7000 ft crossing the last pass, Thampela. Om Tso, which was the most beautiful among all the lakes on the trek, was also considered the sacred one. We reached Maurothang in the Nikka Chhu valley. We changed our yaks for horses here. There was no let up on the slushy trail even on the last day. Isolated houses and bamboo corrals slowly heralded civilisation. We finally came to a large clearing from where we could see the houses at Sephu. I turned back and took one long last look at the forests that had been my home all these days. I had survived 23 days without a bath and the difference between being dusty and being dirty just got a little clearer! The natural elements had been kind to me most of the time and I was grateful for that. It had been such a perfect trek. I would do this trek a dozen times over, if given a chance!

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cover story

Jewel of the

West

Hop on for a hiadrenaline jaunt in the Sahyadris to let the misty mountains take you to a new high, with Divyesh Muni

It had all started in the second week of January – 26th to 29th January 2012, to be precise. It was a long weekend with ideal temperatures, and, filled with the fragrance of drying soil after the

monsoon, was the perfect choice for a long trek in the Sahyadri. E-mails exchanged, confirmations made, five of us comprising Ameya Chandawarkar, Anju Panniculam, Aditi Gadgil, Sameera Kelkar (the novice in the group) and I hit the road from Mumbai to Itagpuri and onwards to Bhandardara Reservoir. Our main objective was to climb Ajoba, the ‘Grandfather’ of the range, and Ratangad, the ‘Jewel Fort’. Bhairavgad, a small fort en route to Ajoba, also made it to our wish list. All three formed a part of the rugged range of mountains, rich in forests, adorned

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with spectacular landscapes, called the Sahyadri, that stretch from Karnataka to Gujarat.

Day 1 0530 hrs: To beat the traffic, we set off early for a fun filled drive on the Mumbai-Nasik Highway. We managed to squeeze our rations, stoves, utensils, sleeping bags, clothes, a first aid kit and climbing rope into Ameya’s Tuscon. At Ghoti, just after Igatpuri, we turned off. After driving a few kms on the four lane highway to Shirdi, we once again turned off into a narrower two lane road to Bhandardara. We soon reached Kasne, which was our

Photographs: divyesh muni

I sit inside a dark damp cave at Ratangad, laughing and joking with friends, recollecting our experiences of the past three days. The vast expanse of the Bhandardara lake in front, the crisp winter air and the orange glow of the sunrise that reflected off our faces made for the perfect ending to our exhilarating trip. We were to return home late that evening.


Ajoba-RatangaD

Route map: Ajoba-ratangad Ratanwadi Day 4

Ghatghar

Bhandardara Samrad Bhandardara Lake

Khuta Day 3 Ratnagad Ford

Pabargad

Katrabai Dehene

Day 2 Aajoba

Shirpunje Ghanchakkar DAY 1

Kumshet

first stopover for breakfast. By 1030, we had covered a distance of 180 km reaching the small township of Bhandardara. The interiors of Maharashtra have an excellent network of roads. They have spawned ingenious local transport in the form of taxis that pack villagers like sardines spilling over on to the roof and bonnet of the vehicle. But we lacked courage for such a ‘per seat’ adventure and struck a deal with a taxi operator to drive us to our destination. En route, he would wait at Shirpunje Village while we climbed Bhairavgad Fort. Having

agreed, we parked our vehicle at the home of the taxi driver’s friend and, taking our backpacks, got into a much abused taxi and rattled our way down a rough road. Nature compensated us with a fabulous view of water cascading down the Bhandardara Dam. Our driver, who was new to this route, was nervous since the vehicle was in questionable condition and a couple of its tyres were bald. Surprisingly, he managed to cover the 40 km distance in reasonable time. Although it was afternoon by the time we began walking, we enjoyed the one and a half hour

GOING UP: Sameera, Anju, Aditi and Ameya climbing up the gully of Ajoba

Guhire

Bhairavgad

Fastfacts Getting There Bhandardara is well connected by road to Mumbai, approx 180 km away, and Pune, which is about 190 km away. The nearest airport is Mumbai. Igatpuri is the nearest railhead about 45 kms away.

Best Season November to February is the best season for this trek. It is not advisable to attempt the trek during monsoon, since the rocks get covered in moss and can be dangerous. The summer months are extremely hot and water can be a major problem.

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cover story We witnessed the most beautiful sunset from Ratangad. The orange glow lit up Katrabai and Ajoba and the entire Konkan plains below start it, for its return journey. We then settled down in the veranda of the village school for our night stay. While Aditi sorted out the rations, Ameya and I walked over to the village’s water point, which was a good fifteen minutes away. A crude well had been dug into the streambed and the water was cloudy besides having a muddy taste. As we walked back with the 10 litre water bag, we wondered how the whole village survived on such poor quality water. While I gathered information from the villagers and signed up a guide for the next day’s trek, Aditi cooked up a full course meal… soup, masala rice, papad with pickle, topped up with home cooked sweets. What a treat! The villagers had gathered around a

winding trail, which led to the pass and then further up the rocky steps to Bhairavgad. Bhairavgad Fort itself was fascinating with caves, water cisterns and a rock-cut temple. The pass, besides providing breathtaking views, gave us a general idea of all that we would be encountering over the next few days. Having got back into the taxi by 4 pm, we bounced and rattled on for the next two hours. At Kumshet, the taxi stalled and we had to push

aroundmountains Mt Kalsubai Mount Kalsubai, at 5,400 ft, is the highest peak of the Sahyadri range. The peak served as a tower to watch the enemies during the Maratha rule. A small temple with an old well in its backyard, can be seen at the top. According to legend, the water level of the well never drops below 3 feet. From the top of Mount

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Kalsubai, one can get great views of the Bhandardara Lake and Wilson Dam. Immediately after the rainy season, the place is covered with a variety of flowers. During October to November, people of the neighbouring region organise a religious fair at this place.

Bhandardara Bhandardara sits by the Pravara River and is full of

attractions – from Wilson Dam to Arthur Lake. From Bhandardara, you can climb up to see the Ratangad and Harishchandragad forts. Or you can follow the trails that lead to Ajoba and Ghanchakkar peaks. Also if you are up for a challenge, the highest peak in Maharashtra, Mount Kalsubai (5,400 ft), stands tall, for you to conquer.


Ajoba-Ratangad

bonfire some feet away from us. The temperatures had dropped and we thanked our good fortune of having sleeping bags. The beautiful night stars shone above us, as we exchanged stories of our adventures late into the night.

Day 2 It was an early start next morning. After tea and breakfast, we left the village by 7 am. The guide, a talkative chap, kept us entertained for the next two days. Being pretty opinionated and vocal, he freely voiced his assessment of each of our abilities.

We walked through fields, scattered forests and bushes till we crossed the dry river bed just below the start of the climb at Ajoba. Here, our guide led us to a perennial water hole, where we refilled our bags with crystal clear water, after discarding the existing cloudy water it held. After a short break, we started climbing the rock gully up the side of Ajoba. We could not have found our way without our guide. The gully became steeper and we had to negotiate steep rocky sections. Despite being new to this, Sameera put up a brave face. At one point, we had to

TREKKING BEAUTY (L to R): The climb to Bhairavgad; the surreal sunrise as viewed from Ratangad

traverse a rock slab. This was the crux of the entire climb. The exposure was tremendous and one had to maintain good balance to step across. Everyone’s focus was at the peak and adrenaline was racing. We finally made it to a rocky ledge that runs along the side of the mountain, traversing it for about 1,700 ft to exit to the higher plateau. This traverse was fun. High on exposure, but safe! We walked up the high plateau to the western edge of the mountain, overlooking the drop down to the Konkan. The view was grand. We lost our sense

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cover story of time as we peered over the edge and excitedly tried identifying the various peaks surrounding us. As the top of Ajoba was still higher up, we continued on much to our guide’s disbelief! “You want to go to the top?.... No one goes all the way… It’s very difficult… Enjoy the view from here…” he went on, until he realised we were firm. His approach changed. “Ok…. Only for you, I will go up…. You people are good walkers… … Don’t worry, I am around!” The final climb was truly painful, with a thick undergrowth of prickly plants that we had to bush-whack our way through. We called them the acupuncture bushes. We made it to the top at around 1 pm. The amazing view definitely made up for the tireless effort we had put in. We could identify so many of the mountains we had climbed over the years from this point. It was now time to start preserving the excitement and pride of our achievement through photographs, while we guzzled on energy drinks. After all, we had to go back all the way down. Gravity definitely helps… but it is also scary. We made good progress, except for some inevitable delay around the rocky patches. Soon, we found ourselves at the water hole where we had a refreshing wash, refilled our bottles and happily made our way back to Kumshet. Our wily guide sold a chicken to Ameya with a promise to cook it, as per Ameya’s choice and he also tried selling a hot bath to Sameera! He was a natural. Although Ameya and Sameera had to really search for the pieces of chicken in the bowl of gravy, we

had a superb meal cooked by Aditi. The 12 hour return trip to Ajoba definitely got us to sleep like logs that night.

Day 3 After breakfast, we started our trek to Ratangad with full packs. The guide led the way, chattering on about himself, his two wives and six children! The trek from Kumshet village to Ratangad is one of the most beautiful treks I have done. A walk along the fields led to the base of Katrabai Mountain, from where it was a steep climb to the Katrabai Pass through thick forest. We had a short break at the stream on the way, for some fruits and a refill of water. A diversion to the Katrabai Temple was worth the view of the

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entire Bhandardara Lake and the mountains around. The guide happily learnt to give a high-five from Sameera, who matched all his talk with enough chatter of her own! The climb down from the pass was through a thick forest. I called it the ‘canopy walk’ with the trees providing a thick canopy over the trail all the way to the start of the Ratangad climb. We bid our guide a fond farewell and traversed the enchanting forest to meet the trail from Ratanwadi to Ratangad. The climb to Ratangad was a consistent steep path winding its way to the base of the iron ladder, which was fixed by the villagers


Ajoba-Ratangad

We finally made it to a rocky ledge that runs along the side of the mountain, traversing it for about 1700 ft to exit to the higher plateau

to make it easier for climbers to negotiate the rocky sections, where the steps had been blown off. The rickety ladder ended in a flight of rock steps that lead straight to the caves of Ratangad. A prominent rock archway marks the entrance to this fort. The caves and temple here are cut deep into the mountain. Here we met a large group of senior citizens from Mumbai. I was happy to learn that they regularly trekked to the forts of Maharashtra. Enthusiastically, they prepared themselves for the night in the cave. Fortunately, the five of us had a small but exclusive cave to ourselves. To break the routine, Ameya and Sameera offered to cook for the night. We witnessed

ALL FOR A VIEW (L to R): Views of Kartrabai Mountain from Ratangad; traversing the Ajoba Wall

the most beautiful sunset from Ratangad. The orange glow lit up Katrabai and Ajoba and the entire Konkan plains below.

Day 4 I woke up with the glow of sunrise on my face. What a location! The Bhandardara Lake lay spread out with Kalsubai and other peaks rising above. We were not keen to go down the same route that we had taken while climbing up. I led the group to the second route that is used by trekkers to climb up Ratangad from the West. The walk along the edge of the fort was fun and exciting. We explored a massive rock archway that must have, at some point of time, led to a route. But it was now completely blown off. This was one more route for our bucket list‌ some day we would definitely try and climb

this. Our route down started at a massive rock archway called the Trimbak Darwaja, an ideal place for a juice break and a photo session. A steep flight of steps, about four to five feet wide and a foot and a half high, led down the next few hundred feet. The steps are thrilling to walk down, exposed but very safe. A traverse on a rocky ledge led to the north end of the fort, from which a trail, going further north initially, wound its way through the forest down to Ratanwadi on the banks of the Bhandardara Lake. At Ratanwadi, the Amruteshwar Temple is a major tourist attraction. Since we had missed the ferry across the lake to Bhandardara, we had to wait for transport. In the meantime, we enjoyed some lipsmacking lunch. Then it was a short ride to Bhandardara and back to our vehicle.

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cover story

Peaking

Glory

Thirty three climbs and 21 first time ascents and leader of several expeditions. It does not get bigger than Harish Kapadia in the world of trekking and climbing, says Gaurav Schimar Harish Kapadia’s first trip to the mountains was when he was still in school. It all started for him in the Sahyadris. As a young boy, he took to trekking with his young friends who were fond of climbing, though there was no one in his family who even knew anything about the mountains. For him, the tryst with the mountains was something new and invigorating. His first proper trek was when he was 14 in 1963, when he went to Pindari Glacier with two of his friends. During that time, there were no roads or guest houses, so they arranged everything on their own. He fondly recalls, “There was a porter who we took on the trek and who has stuck with me till today. In fact, his son and people from his village now regularly go on treks with us. Without them, I probably would have not done so much.” Ask him if it was the first trek which made him take up the obsession

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PROFILE of trekking, he replies, “It is not about any one particular trek. I liked it so I went again and then again. That’s how I fell in love with the mountains. Slowly, but surely.” But in between those treks, he did his basic and advanced rock climbing and mountaineering courses. Though he has a degree in law and management, he has always been in love with the mountains.

Peaks climbed: 33, First Ascents*: 21 Peak 

All of 66 years, he is trekking more than ever, as much as seven months a year! He retired from his business in 2003, but then he does always come back to ‘Mumbai meri jaan’! He had injured himself on more than one occasion. In 1974, he dislocated

He made himself fit again and went for a 400 km trek in the Sikkim mountains after recovering from the injury

Patron’s Medal by the Royal Geographic Society The world renowned Royal Geographical Society bestowed the award to Harish Kapadia for his contributions to geographical discovery and mountaineering in the Himalayas’ in 2003. Harish Kapadia dedicated the medal to his son Lt. Nawang Kapadia, a Gorkha officer of the 4th battalion of the 3rd Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army, who made the supreme sacrifice while defending Indian areas from terrorists in Kashmir.

Height (ft)

Jatropani  13,356 Ikulari  19,880 Bethartoli Himal South  20,0728 Shiti Dhar  17,355 Devtoli*  22,270 Kalabaland Dhura*  20,030 Koteshwar II* 18,668 Yada  13,500 Jalsu  14,101 Lagma*  18,900 Zumto*  19,029 Tserip*  19,620 Kawu*  19,390 Kalanag20,955 Bandarpunch West*  20,020 Parilungbi  20,230 Runse*  20,260

his hip, scaling the Devtoli Peak in the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and had to spend two years walking on crutches. But that did not stop him from going back to the mountains. He says that it was his strong will to go back to the mountains that he made himself fit again and went for a 400 km trek in the Sikkim mountains after recovering from his injury. Out of the many treks he has undertaken, the one really close to his heart is Panchachuli, a group of five snow-capped Himalayan peaks lying at the end of the eastern Kumaon region, in which he was a joint leader in an Indo-British expedition. On the changes that he has experienced in the mountains over the years, he says, “The outlook is still the same and people are still helpful. Now roads have gone deep inside the mountains allowing people to trek over shorter durations. Ecologically, things have changed, but it has not yet degraded so much. Infrastructurally, there is much more. Porters are available easily. Guest houses are there all over.” Though he has fulfilled almost all his dream treks, he wants to explore remote Arunachal and go for some bagpipe

Peak 

Height

Gyadung* 20,210 Geling*  20,013 Lama Kyent*  19,816 Labrang*  19,357 Nandi*  19,012 Laknis*  20,456 Chogam  20,505 Skyang  18,930 Panchali Chuli*  17,126 Draupadi*  17,224 Khamengar 18,898 Mangla* 19,029 Kunda* 17,192 Lungser Kangri* 21,870 Chhamser Kangri 21,726 Bhagat Peak* 18,536 – From 1966 to 2002

trips. He says that the Alpine Club of London has helped him a lot, right from providing him a scanner for his pictures to putting up the same on the internet and providing a separate section to him in their archives. He says that some of his pictures of the 1960’s of various glaciers have been picked up by several scientists to study glacial changes. He has published twelve books. His Trek the Sahyadris has now become a standard reference for all trekkers in the Western Ghats. His other books, Exploring the Hidden Himalaya (with Soli Mehta) and High Himalaya Unknown Valleys and Meeting The Mountains, cover his various trips to the Himalaya, while Spiti Adventures in the Trans-Himalaya, cover climbing and trekking in that region. He is the editor of the prestigious Himalayan Journal for the past 28 years, bringing the journal to international standards. For beginners to the world of trekking, he has some real advice. “Go slow. Enjoy. Read a lot of literature. For serious trekking, build your fitness and team up with trekking groups. One should not be bogged down by government apathy and permissions. If the mountains cannot stop you, who is the government to do so?” he quips.

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cover story Trekking is perhaps the most wonderful way to explore the great outdoors. Trekking not only gives you the chance to explore places, which are unapproachable by roads, but allows you to experience the land and its people, at a leisurely pace. Trekking is, in fact, the best way to discover and to get in touch with the rich culture of the mountains and your own self. But the freedom that one experiences while trekking, to take any trail that one may fathom, makes the sport a pursuit of choice of a true explorer. When in the mountains, any trail leading to the wild qualifies as a trek, but the treks that span across several days makes for the real outdoor experience and are termed trekking expeditions. The most important point when going in for extensive treks is to have a basic level of physical fitness. One has to prepare

Trekking

Essentials While trekking is a highly satisfying sport for nature lovers, it requires a lot of planning and preparation to enjoy those stunning locales in a safe manner, says Col H.S. Chauhan

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weeks or months in advance before embarking on a challenging trek. Start preparing physically for the trek weeks in advance. Do a good amount of walking and load carrying. Don't depend on only gym workouts for the preparation. One should also have an aptitude for the outdoors, have the ability to read signs presented by nature and follow one's instincts. Before embarking on rough trails, one should have a fair amount of experience of smaller and easier treks. Trekking in the right season in different locations is the pre-requisite for trekking. You should ideally arrive at the location in advance before the trek, and acquaint yourself with the terrain, difficulty level and area of the trek. This fact holds special importance for high altitude treks, which require a longer acclimatisation period. Investing in good and comfortable gear for the trek is vital for your success on the trails. It is imperative that you take tried and tested


BASICS

minded as the trek starts or even before that, so that you achieve a cohesive environment. An often ignored detail is to fill and keep a detailed medical form with medical history and family contact numbers, which is handy in case of emergencies. Try to ensure that no one with any illness or any serious medical history is part of the trek. Also be aware of the nearest hospitals around the trail you are taking and keep their contact information with you at all times. Preferably a doctor or at least a pharmacist should be a part of your group with all the necessary medicines and first aid.

clothing and shoes with you and not brand new material. The wrong kind of socks or shoes can cause havoc on the trek. A back pack not tried before can be a cause of avoidable malady. Be sure to try everything out before going on the actual treks. Most experienced trekkers can be seen sporting ‘worn’ gear, as they are most comfortable in the same. There is some vital gear that you should carry on any treks. Compass, Swiss knife, sturdy backpack, alpine tent, mat and a whole lot of other gear is mandatory. Trekking becomes a much more pleasurable activity when you are part of a group. The group of people for the trek should be known to you directly or indirectly and ideally you should trek with people with whom you share synergies with. But, in case you are part of an unknown trekking group, try and identify others who are like

Must do • Always carry a windsheeter or a raincoat to avoid extreme climatic conditions • Carry a few plastic bags on your trip, these will come handy to protect items like mathboxes, socks or that expensive camera • Always carry a small hunting knife or an army knife, this will come handy on several occasions • To prevent insects and mosquito bites, always wear long trek pants and full sleeves T-shirts • Carry a long trekking rope with you to forge through those steep ascents • Carry a topographical compass and map for trekking in higher altitudes • Remember to carry carbohydrate rich food products to get instant energy • Always prepare a first-aid box for yourself and your team • If you are planning to trek on a snowy terrain, don't forget to carry an ice axe • Always carry enough match boxes in water resistant bags (zip lock) • Most important tip to remember is that you should save your environment by leaving no trace of garbage or trash, except your footprints in nature.

An often debated question is to whether take a guide or not. It is strongly advised to take an experienced guide with you on an extensive trek. A guide will not only act as a leader on a trek but will also be very helpful with your communication with the locals. Besides the benefits of knowing the trail, assisting with lodging and helping hire porters, it's also a great way to support the local economy. Make sure you have local guides with you who know the terrain and route extremely well. On unexplored trails, you should have a cushion in terms of the duration of the trek as bad weather and other elements can delay the completion of the trek. Don't have any sharp deadlines. Always keep a couple of days of buffer to avoid unnecessary situations like missing flights! Also keep your plans flexible to cater for someone dropping out, before or during the trek. Last, but not the least, to enjoy the trek, one has to be honest with oneself and endeavour to be a good team member. Remember that challenging treks will take a lot of time and require loads of hard effort on your end, but the experience and memoirs that you will get to gather in your trip will be well worth your effort and time. Happy Trekking!

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iF t

cover story

for

g n i k k re

While ing is a trekk ulfillingy f very it, you ma n pursu ourself o f o y find ong side u r the w ail if yo r the t prepare n t do no elf well i yours ce before advan king on embar jaunts, a those isha Varm N says

Push Ups

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Single Leg Squat

Backpacking through the wilderness requires multiple skills and a high level of fitness. The terrain itself is challenging and, at times, the climate unfriendly. Lack of oxygen during high altitude trekking is a real risk and the body has to be well prepared to handle all kinds of tasks. Prepare your body well in advance and give yourself at least six months before you take on the trek. The different aspects you need to focus on are endurance (aerobic), strength (anerobic) and functional and core training.

Endurance Training The primary focus is, of course, on endurance training. Long walks or walk/jog intervals are a good challenge. This should be done at least four times a week for 10 to 12 km each time. Remember to stretch the sore muscles after exercise. Look for a different terrain each time and also try and carry a backpack to increase the challenge and stimulate the functional aspect of the exercise. Your backpack should have at least 8 to 10 kgs in terms of weight. One day a week, you may switch the mode of training to something different like cycling using a heavy resistance mode. This will work the muscles and joints in a different way. For all endurance activities in the preparatory stage, a longer duration


FITNESS

(upto 2 hours) workout is preferred. Some fitness centres now offer altitude training. So if you have one in your city, do try it. Break in your trekking shoes while walking.

Strength and core

Model: Vandana juneja

Keep the reps at 10 and do three to four sets of moderate weights. Strength training has to include whole body workout with special focus on the legs, ankles and feet, back and core muscles. For the lower body, squats/single leg squats, lunges, step downs, straight leg dead lifts and calf raises are ideal. These exercises use one’s own body weight and can be made more challenging by holding external resistance like dumbbells in hand while doing the Upper Body squats and lunges. Remember to Strength execute each move through a full range of movements and with correct posture. traps. Exercises like the shoulder press, shoulder shrugs and upright rows are Ankles and feet do benefit from great. Pushups are a full body workout, balance training, specially one legged which will work all the major muscles stance on unstable surface like the in the upper body. Reebok core board, the Bosu or the Crossfit balance board. Imparts not only physical but also For the core, you need to build strength mental and social wellbeing. It is a constantly varied, high intensity, in the midriff area, which includes the muscles in the abs and back. Pilates has functional workout designed to suit the elite athlete as well as the non athlete. a full series of these exercises, which It works more towards functional can give the required core strength. For the upper body, one needs to work fitness where the participant is working on a different programme each day on shoulders, chest, upper back and

Abdominals

Stretch

and in each workout. It strengthens your core and the extremities and helps in developing a well balanced physique prepared for the challenges of sporting activities and activities of daily living. The training involves training styles from several fields like gymnastics, weightlifting, Kettle bells, running, rowing, boxing, swimming, etc. It is a workout, which is designed to suit the elite athlete as well as a novice. This workout can be done outdoors or indoors and shows results very fast. Finally, a word on nutrition and hydration. Have adequate water before, during and after workouts. Hydrate well. Eat a balance of proteins, carbs and fats. All macronutrients have their role to play and deprivation of any one will lead to poor health and energy levels during the trek. JULY-AUGUST 2012 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED |

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Poles: Trekking poles can be used in two ways. First, with poles you take strain off the knees and ankles and give yourself more balance. Second, you work the upper body to burn more calories per mile, while actually feeling like you are exerting yourself less. Like shoes, which pole is best can be left to individual choice. Top Brands: Leki, Black Diamond and REI

Rucksack: A good rucksack carries the kit that’s essential to your safety and comfort while constantly trying to pretend it isn’t there. You should use your backpack before taking it on a trek. In case it is a new one, load the pack and twist from side to side, forwards and backwards to check if the pack is stable and comfortable. Top Brands: Lafuma, North Face & Regatta

Follow this checklist of the essential gear that you need in place for a successful journey

Paraphernalia

Trekking

cover story

Watch: The GPS watches are expensive and it is not mandatory to have one on a trek. But if you are planning to go further and further off the map then maybe it is a good idea to get one. Just a watch with a compass and an altimeter will be fine. If it has a barometer then you will be looking even better. Top Brands: ProTrek, Tissot & Sunnto

Warm Layers: When it comes to warm trekking clothes, don’t just think about daytime trekking in sunshine and warm weather. You also need to think about night-time at high altitude, when you are sitting and lying still and it is most cold. If it’s your first time in the Himalayas, remember that the higher the altitude, the colder it gets.

GEAR


Tent: You can get closer to the outdoors than ever before in a tent, and with today’s strong, lightweight and spacious designs, the endurance-to-enjoyment ratio is more favourable than ever before. Top Brands: Lafuma, North Face & Marmot

Sleeping Bag: You can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep! You’ll be kicking yourself for skimping out and shivering the whole night. A good sleeping bag will keep you warm, comfortable and safe. Top Brand: Snugpak, Hibernate & Grizzly

OTHER GEAR

Shoes: Whether you’re taking a day hike on wellgroomed trails or trekking into the deep woods over rough terrain, a good pair of boots will provide support for your adventure. In fact, the first thing to ask yourself when buying hiking boots is where and how often you will hit the trail. Top Brands: Treksta, Vasque Breeze & Asolo Stynger

Socks: A walking sock does three main things: provides cushioning, increases insulation and helps to wick moisture away from the skin. Various types and thicknesses of fabric achieve this, in designs ranging from the stretch paneltastic X-socks to more traditional tubes with heel and toe cushioning. There is a wide range to choose from. Top Brands: 1000 mile, Thorlos & SmartWool

Pants: The best trekking pants will depend on the type of trekking you plan to undrtake. You will need to consider the conditions in which you are likely to trek, as well as the general temperature of the region or regions through which you will trek. In just about all cases, you will want to choose trekking pants that are waterproof or water-resistant and breathable to allow sweat to escape. Top Brands: North Face, Mountain Hardwear & Marmot

Camping Stove: Bringing your own little camping stove is a great way to trek more independently, to stay and eat wherever you want, and to go exploring the more remote parts where few others go. Top Brand: Trangia, MSR & Coleman

Survival Knife: In the wilderness, one of the most useful tools you can have on hand is a trusty survival knife. Knowing what some knives are designed for and the tools they might come with can be a time saver. Top Brand: Ka-Bar, Gerber & Bowie

Sleeping Pad: Sleeping pad is an optional item to carry to use with a sleeping bag. Its purpose is to provide padding and thermal insulation. All types currently available use air as their primary form of insulation. Top Brand: Back Country, Big Agnes & Therm-a-Rest

Rope: A trekking rope can be a lifesaver at times, specially if you are going to harsh terrain. The standard trekking rope is 50 m and can be used for a variety of purposes, then just for climbing. Top Brands: Millet, Glider & Unity

Dressing and wound care: Bandaids, cotton buds, gauze, adhesive tape, bandage & steristrips Antibiotics: Ciprofloxacillin 500 mg, Norfloxacin 400 mg & tinidazole 400mg (20)tabs Antiseptic (Disinfectant): Betadine & Dettol Diarrhea: Immodium or Lomotil Eye and Ear Infection: Genticin Fungal Infection: Miconazole or Fore Nausea and Vomiting: Maxolon or Stemetil Analgesics: Paracetamol Rehydration Solution: Jeevan Jal or Electral Respiratory Problems: Phenylephrine or Pseudoephedrine

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Explore destination

Monsoon Magic and More Witnessing the onset of monsoon over the backwaters of Kerala is an unparalleled experience. And if you’re there on D day, with a bottle of toddy in tow, the experience of a lifetime awaits you, promises Gaurav Schimar


kumarakom

Photographs: gaurav schimar

It was all over the news - the monsoons were to hit Kerala on June 1st, that year. The timing couldn’t have been better. Here I was mulling around, wondering where my next adventure would take me and lo behold! the answer lay in front of my eyes. Kerala it was. After a few calls to Kochi, I was convinced that Kumarakom was the place to be in to capture the breaking monsoon. I booked tickets booked for Radhika and me. At Kumarakom, we were to stay at Waterscapes. I had always dreamt of travelling to Kerala and exploring the backwaters, which I had seen splashed across numerous coffee table books. As the plane was descending at Kochi, I was overwhelmed by the vast expanse of greenery below. It actually seemed to be ‘God’s Own Country’. A cab was waiting for us and we wasted no time in driving to Kumarakom, as we had a grace period of just about 12 hours before the monsoon broke over Vembanad. The drive was spectacularly scenic. After a couple of stops for some light snacks, we decided to drive right through. The multi-lane highway gave way to the state highway, which further dwindled to the less travelled country road. We arrived just in time for dinner at Waterscapes. The manager received us and showed us our cottage, the best in the property, overlooking the swimming pool beyond which spread out a vast expanse of water, the Vembanad Lake. I thanked the manager and KTDC for their special gesture. We quickly freshened up and had an interesting meal in the sprawling restaurant situated at the fringes of the lake. Here is an interesting trivia about Kumarakom. This hamlet in ‘God’s Own Country’ is actually created by man. Carved out of the backwaters,


Explore destination

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Fireworks appeared in the sky, accompanied by supersonic blasts – thunder and lightning! The monsoon had arrived! The almost clear sky gave way to giant black clouds, which threatened to swallow everything around us LOCAL COLOURS (Clockwise L to R): A fisherman starts his day at Kumarakom; the young and the old; a fisherman heads back home with his catch

Enjoy the rich flavours of indigenous Maori food on starry evenings while skippers enthrall you with stories

way back in the 19th century by a British missionary, George Baker, Kumarakom is a cluster of islands huddled together on the banks of the Vembanad Lake. The story goes that Baker decided to settle down here and cleared the marshy mangrove forests around the backwaters to plant some coconut trees and, thus, Kumarakom was born. Today, Baker’s bungalow is a five star resort in this idyllic destination. As we were walking around the swimming pool, fireworks appeared in the sky, accompanied by supersonic blasts – thunder and lightning! The monsoon had arrived! The almost clear sky gave way to giant black clouds, which threatened to swallow everything around us. Neither of us spoke a word as we saw the magic unfolding in front of our eyes. We both sat under an umbrella by the pool, camera in hand and waited for the first drops of rain to fall from heaven. By now there was an enormous, almost intimidating gale that managed to rip our umbrella apart. That’s when it happened. Everything went silent for a moment and the first drops fell on us, which within seconds turned into a torrent. My beloved camera went into a poly-bag and the monsoon magic took over. After a while, we were chilled to the bone and were forced to retreat to the more hospitable (to my protest)

climes of the cottage, where a warm bath was waiting. The rest of the night was spent sitting out on the verandah mesmerised by the Rain Gods. The weather next morning pretty much remained the same. The sun, however, was nowhere to be seen and the sky appeared like a giant grey blanket with streaks of silk woven in. We went for a refreshing walk around the sprawling resort, which I found to be a bird-lover’s haven – with several species of water birds flitting about for their morning feast. We followed suit and dug into a lavish breakfast. But what intrigued me most was the paper table mat. It gave information about Vembanad and the adventures it had to offer. I carried the mat with me during the rest of the stay in Kumarakom, and have it preserved till date with a degree of fondness. Vembanad Lake headed our list of places to be explored. It is a vast network of rivers and canals, emptying into the great expanse of backwater loosely termed as the lake. It provides boating, fishing and sightseeing experiences that are exhilarating. Stretching out for 110 km across three districts, Vembanad Lake is at its widest point at Kumarakom. The serene lake comes alive during Onam with a spectacular regatta – the world renowned Nehru Trophy snake boat race.

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Explore destination By Road

By Train

From Kochi International Airport Kumarakom is an 85 km delightful drive. From Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, it is a 175 km drive and from Kozhikode International Airport a 180 km drive. These drives are some of the most scenic ones you will encounter in the country

We hired a houseboat, locally known as Kettuvallams, to go around the lake for the day. We set sail with our able captain – Shaukat – at the helm. He navigated the houseboat around every attraction and even gave us a chance to captain the ‘ship’, which was a great experience. We crossed a row of gigantic Chinese fishing nets, which are fixed land installations for an unusual form of fishing — shore operated lift nets. Lunch was arranged on the banks of a village. After serving us food, the boat crew excused themselves and at a distance, could be seen sipping a white coloured drink. After they came aboard, I recognised the distinct smell they emanated which I had by now encountered in quite a few locals. I enquired and was told about the white liquid, which was apparently toddy wine – distilled from the bark of the coconut tree. I asked for some to try it out myself, but they said that they had finished what they were carrying. They graciously asked me not to worry and suggested a place where I could go and get some in the evening. The setting sun peeped through the clouds and the sheer collage of colours mesmerised us – a mosaic of blues, greens, yellows and browns that merged into a beautiful pattern. Evening again witnessed a mighty

From Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore, you can take a train to Kerala. The best place to alight is either Kochi or Kottayam (the nearest railhead is 16 km away by road). From Kochi, you could also take a south bound train via the Alleppey route. Enjoy picturesque scenery as the route is flanked by the backwaters and the sea

downpour. Radhika was found engrossed in one of her books, and I decided to brave the downpour to go to the toddy bar nearby. Umbrella and bag in tow, I finally found the ‘bar’. I purchased a litre of the white wine, which was poured into an empty mineral water bottle for me to carry. En route, I found the lid slightly loose and promptly screwed it on tight. On reaching the cottage, I set myself for a drink to find that the bottle was full of fizz, which took half an hour to mellow down. No wonder, the bar guys had kept the lid loose. I finally sipped the toddy to find the taste quite refreshing. After finishing half the bottle, it seemed I was on fire. Toddy is ‘heaty’, I was later told by the locals. I tried to cool myself in the rain and when I stepped back inside the cottage, I was shoved outside as I ‘stank’, or so I was told by Radhika. I did not mind it outside, as I still had half my bottle of toddy with me and a hammock and pouring rain to help me see the night through. Next morning, we enjoyed a quaint boat ride through the backwaters crossing numerous villages. We spotted several birds hanging around dainty water lilies and water hyacinths that floated around. The green fabric of paddy fields lay submerged in water. I was clued in for more and decided to go for a speed boat ride to Pathiramanal, a small island in the

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kumarakom

By Water

Around

From Thiruvananthapuram Airport, drive to Kollam from where you can take the regular ferry service to Alleppey – a long and delightful ride on Kerala’s backwaters. From Alleppey, it’s just a short ride to Kumarakom. You can also take a boat from Kochi through the backwaters to Alleppey.

Once at Vembanad, the best way to travel is on water. Hire a small boat for a ride through the backwaters, amidst paddy fields and mangroves. Also experience the thrill of a speed boat ride to Pathiramanal Island. And do not forget sailing and staying overnight on a houseboat!

The setting sun peeped through the clouds and the sheer collage of colours mesmerised us

FLITTING ABOUT (Clockwise L to R): A kite goes about its daily business; a houseboat on the Vembanad Lake; a waterbird having a whale of a time

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Water Sports

Onam

Bay Island Driftwood Museum

The Rama Varma Union Club Water Sports Complex at Kumarakom, offers visitors the chance to pursue almost every kind of water sport conceivable with the list including popular ones like speed boating, water-skiing, surfing, sailing, swimming and kayaking. Both members and guests are permitted to use the facilities of this reputable private club.

This museum features the artistic works of Raji Punnoose, a retired teacher from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The museum’s collection features interesting pieces of wood that have been twisted and shaped naturally by water and then further sculpted at the hands of Punnoose, creating finished works that display a mix of natural and man-made influences.

LAKE WONDERS (Clockwise L to R): On the houseboat trip; a family enjoys a boat ride in the lake; swimming pool at Waterscapes, overlooking the lake

Onam, or the harvest festival in AugustSeptember is Kerala’s biggest annual affair and sees Kumarakom host some of the largest, traditional snake-boat races. You can see about 100 oarsmen sitting in two rows in boats as long as 136 ft. The first ever steel made snake-boat ‘Aries Chundan’ found a place as the largest canoe crew in the Guinness Book of World Records.

lake which is a haven for hundreds of rare birds migrating from different parts of the world. I was surprised to see some construction activity going on inside the island, which I discovered was a resort being built by a private developer, mindless of the sensitive ecology of the island. After returning to the ‘main land’ and lunch, we went to the Bay Driftwood Museum, where we found a large collection of driftwood articles of very high artistic value, crafted using a rare and innovative modern artistic approach. We spent some time in the

nearby villages, where we picked up a number of showpieces (house boats and snake boats) and then retired early for the night. I was up before dawn on our last day of the trip and headed to the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, which is an ornithologist’s paradise and a favourite haunt of migratory birds. June to August is the breeding season of resident wetland birds like siberian stork, cormorants, white ibis, egret, darter, heron and teal. Between November and May, one can spot migratory birds like pin-tailed duck, garganey teal, marsh harrier and steppe eagle. The bird sanctuary was well within reach of Waterscapes and a well marked trail led me to the core area of the sanctuary. I was surprised to not come across a single soul inside the sanctuary, save the lone guard at the sanctuary’s gate. I spent some peaceful moments in the sanctuary and made friends with a couple of herons, who shared the watch tower with me for a few moments and even posed graciously for my camera. Finally, it was time to head back to catch the afternoon flight. As I reached the resort, through incessant rain of course, I found Radhika waiting with a frown. Before I could say what she knew I was about to (to extend our stay), she spoke up and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon!”

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Explore Unexplored

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jaunsar-bawar

A Tale Of Two

rivers And Five

Husbands

Photographs: gaurav schimar

Take a trip to the alluring and elusive Jaunsar-Bawar, home to the Pandavas during their exile. Run into the restless and belligerent Yamuna, as she rushes downhill to meet the Tons, says Gaurav Schimar “They are the descendants of the Pandavas and if what I hear is true, they still maintain the tradition of sharing wives!” - were Rahul’s words as he attempted yet again, to coax me into visiting the remote and mountainous region of Jaunsar-Bawar. “If for nothing else, let’s go and catch the captivating landscape in the rains,” he bantered on. Now, Rahul knew that I am a sucker for any place that towers above sea level, so he’d played his cards well. Next morning saw bleary eyed me set off on my wheels, with Rahul

riding pillion. Our first pit stop was at ‘Cheetal Grand’, Khatauli, to fill our tummies with the next stop being at early noon in Dehradun, to fill up my bike’s belly, since we weren’t sure about petrol pumps further up in the hills. We took the Dehradun-Chakrata road and just made a couple of ‘clickstops’ at the Forest Research Institute (FRI) and the Indian Military Academy (IMA). We took a detour towards Kalsi from Vikas Nagar. As we drove on, Rahul suddenly erupted, “Look, a sparkling river!” I screeched to a halt and told

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him that this was the Yamuna, which of course, he didn’t believe, not only because it was nothing close to the muck that passes for the river in Delhi, but also because he wasn’t sure about my geographical skills. We parked our bike at a small temple and went on foot to take some photographs. Rahul wanted to hang out here for some time but was soon eager to go on, after he learnt that Kalsi is where Tons meets the Yamuna and that there was a possibility that we could go right up to the confluence. Kalsi, we discovered, was a small town.

We couldn’t help being lured by the fragrance of fresh food, cooking at a quaint little dhaba. The eatery was managed by a confident young woman, who wasn’t really surprised to see two city boys on a mammoth bike. Incidentally, Kalsi is the gateway to Jaunsar-Bawar and the women here are known to dominate the men. As we were enjoying freshly cooked dal, sabzi and rotis, the local kids took a fancy to our bike and inspected it closely with great interest. We enquired of the young woman, about places of interest we could see and

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she told us to skip the regular route to Chakrata, go back a little and take the dirt track behind an ashram there, to Kata Pathar. I purchased some kerosene for our stove, thanked the woman for the delicious food and drove towards Kata Pathar. As we approached the ashram, I asked Rahul to hold on tight as I veered the bike straight towards the confluence of the mighty Yamuna and Tons. Though it was quite marshy, we managed to reach the riverbank in one piece. A humongous old


jaunsar-bawar

MEN ON A MISSION (Clockwise from L): Camping at Juido, next to the gushing Yamuna; Tomar Singh tries to fish in a belligerent Yamuna; Rahul capturing the YamunaTons confluence on film

and abandoned brick bridge that we assumed must’ve been the only means to cross the river in earlier times, overpowered everything else in sight. With wonderment we soaked in the sight of the hills standing mute witness, as the two rivers embraced each other under a thick cloak of white and grey clouds suspended in mid air, after a turbulent journey. It was late noon when we finally hit the dirt track to Kala Pathar, which took us through mangroves and a thick forest. We stopped at a gurgling

brook on the way, to catch the charming sight of a herd of nilgais quenching their thirst. While Rahul hoped not to cross the path of any large wild animal, I was secretly praying for a brief glimpse of the majestic leopard. As the dirt track gave way to cobbled road and the first signs of settlement came into view, we stopped to ask for directions to Kata Pathar. The locals told us that we had left Kata Pathar far behind. We enquired about scenic places that lay ahead and were informed that the road led to Juido, where the Yamuna flowed right next to the road. Another half hour of riding saw us across an iron bridge over the Yamuna

and a milestone declaring that we were in Juido. I pointed to an open green patch of land visible from the bridge and told Rahul that this was where we would be camping for the night. Rahul, though apprehensive at the thought of camping in the wild, was too excited at the prospect of the experience and gave in. We rode all the way to the proposed campsite and parked our bike to the warm welcome of a Jaunsari – Tomar Singh – who was fishing in the river. Rahul immediately started bombarding him with questions about whether it was safe to camp here at night, whether there were any wild animals in the vicinity, and the chances that

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the river would overflow and drown us! I left Rahul to his devices and started pitching tent, as it was already getting dark. When everything was finally in place, I went to check on Rahul whom I found sitting with Tomar Singh, trying to catch fish. “We shall have fish for dinner tonight!”, he yelled over the thundering Yamuna. I sat alongside the duo and threw my questions at Tomar Singh. “Is it true that Jaunsaris are the descendants

of the Pandavas and polyandry is still practiced here?” Tomar Singh explained with a smile, “If my forefathers are to be believed, I am a direct descendent of Yudhishtir! But that may be hearsay. What is true, however, is the fact that during their exile, the Pandavas lived in JaunsarBawar and it was here that they started a family life. If you have the time, you can even go and look at the site where Duryodhana built the legendary Lakha Ghar, the Palace of

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Lac for the Pandavas, with the sole intention of burning them alive while they slept in it. As far as the question of sharing our wives is concerned, the society here is very liberal and both polygamy and polyandry are still practiced in a few remote villages.” Ending the conversation, Tomar Singh gathered his fishing apparatus and told Rahul that the river was too turbulent for fishing. I told Rahul not to be depressed, since good old Maggi always came to our rescue. Soon after I gave Rahul lessons on lighting a kerosene stove, we had a cup of tea with Tomar Singh, who after inspecting our camping gear remarked that we were braver than the Jaunsari women folk. His parting words were


jaunsar-bawar

lakhmandal Lakhmandal is a small and sleepy village situated at 4000 ft on a rugged mountain spur left of the Yamuna river, in the Jaunsar-Bawar region. Though the predominant population is that of Khasia people who are in the process of imbibing Brahamanised Hinduism; they have largely lost their original moorings. Lakhmandal had been on the ancient trunk route from the mainland to Yamunotri and further trans-Himalayan region and it was for this reason, combined with the fact that it overlooks a beautiful valley, that it became a favoured halt for travellers and pilgrims to rejuvenate for the demanding Himalayan odyssey ahead. The presence of ruins in the village bear testimony to the fact that this was the centre of mercantile and religious activity. But that changed when a regular motorable road was made to Yamunotri on the opposite bank of the river and Lakhmandal was left high and dry.

RAINY DELIGHTS (Clockwise from L): Riding into a mighty waterfall; Yamuna flows amidst lush environs; a brook near Kalsi; heavenly magic over Bawar hills

reassuring to Rahul as he said, “This is a safe place to be in.” But he added with a smirk, “Leopards sometimes do come for a drink of water, right at this very spot!” Rahul growled at me and I got up with a laugh to make dinner. We washed up in the foaming river before retiring for the night. Rahul had difficulty sleeping amidst

the thundering noise of the river. We found ourselves enveloped in thick mist in the morning and everything appeared to be dreamlike. While Rahul slept, I went on a shutter releasing frenzy and later went to a tiny shop up the road to get milk, bread and butter for breakfast. I served Rahul bed-tea and after breakfast, gave him lessons in breaking camp and packing everything. It started raining heavily when we hit the road to Chakrata, but that only added to the natural drama unfolding in the mountains. All possible hues of green and blue could be seen in the surrounding mountains and valleys. We came across a number of waterfalls, that fell right on the road

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Explore Unexplored getting there There are several routes to Jaunsar-Bawar. One is to go till Mussoorie and then north-west to cross the Aglar river and Yamuna Pul, which will lead you to the road towards Yamunotri. The area on your left, across the Yamuna, is Jaunsar and roughly extends till a little short of Naugaon. After that, the area on your left is Bawar. The driving time from Mussoorie to the Yamuna Bridge is about 1 hour, and Mussoorie to Naugaon is 5 hours. Mussoorie to Netwar, in the heart of Bawar, is 7 hours. Another route is to go west from Dehradun to Vikas Nagar and take the detour to Kalsi. One can even drive from Himachal via Purola to Jaunsar-Bawar.

on the road from overhead crevices. However, when we came across the mother of all waterfalls, which had literally turned the road into a riverbed, Rahul yelled at me to stop the bike and jumped off, saying that it was too dangerous to even think of crossing. I handed over the camera and asked him to take pictures as I crossed the site. The water came up to my knees and carried a strong current. I had to jam the throttle to cross over, to avoid being washed away. It was a consolation that we were wearing raincoats and all our gear was wrapped in waterproof bags. Though I’ve ridden over wooden bridges and marshy areas several times during my trips, this one topped the scale on the adventure quotient.

MOUNTAIN BEAUTY (Clockwise): A shepherd with his herd at a village in Jaunsar; Rahul posing at the old brick bridge at Kalsi; horses on the high road to Chakrata

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about a girl Unlike the India we know, the birth of a baby girl is greeted with joy in Jaunsar-Bawar. When she grows up and is deemed fit by the village elders to marry, there is no burdensome dowry to be given to the bridegroom or his family. Instead, it is the boy’s family, which pays an agreed for, tenaciously negotiated ‘bride price’ to the girl’s family. The bride is carried to her new village on the shoulders of the bridegroom! The ‘bride price’ can range anywhere between ten thousand to a lakh of rupees – depending on the economic status of the families concerned. The logic behind this custom, as explained by the Jaunsaris, is simple! From the moment a girl is born, till the time she gets married, it is the girl’s family that bears the expenses of feeding and clothing her, paying for her schooling and upbringing. For the groom, the girl is an asset to help him with in the kitchen and fields, look after younger siblings, tend to the cattle and look after his household. Therefore, when a boy wants to marry and take away an ‘asset’, he and his family must pay and compensate the family which has invested in her.

The Yamuna and Tons were taking turns to greet us at every other road bend. But it was at Nagthat, where the Yamuna wound around a hill just like a snake coils around its prey that made for the most spectacular sight we came across on this trip. It is these rewarding moments that make taking the road less travelled, worthwhile. Mesmerizing birds flitting around on treetops, graceful mountain horses, sheep and tenacious Gaddi dogs were just some of the other wonders we chanced upon on this trip.

We came across the mother of all waterfalls, which had literally turned the road into a riverbed Late in the morning, we entered an army base at Chakrata and stopped for a treat of hot, stuffed aloo paranthas. Chakrata is the permanent garrison of the secretive and elite Special Frontier Force, also known as Establishment 22, the only ethnic Tibetan unit of the Indian Army that was raised after the

Indo-China War of 1962. A couple of army jawans came up to us to find out who we were and what we were up to. But that’s regulation in Chakrata, where no foreigners are allowed. As we strolled around the marketplace to enquire about a decent place to stay for the night, Rahul pulled me aside and said, “Listen, let’s go ahead of Chakrata to a remote locale and explore the wild!”. This was all the encouragement I needed. So off we went to pick up supplies and travel further into the enigma that is Jaunsar-Bawar. But that’s another story for another time.

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Explore destination

blue waters White sands and

One of Southern Thailand’s hidden jewel is the magnificent Krabi with gorgeous beaches, sheer limestone cliffs and enough options for rock climbing to lure the adventurer in you, says Arathi Ramani Sen

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Photographs: nirmalya sen

krabi

As I browsed through possible new destinations to visit and new experiences to enrich myself with, I came across the name Krabi. I wondered for a moment at this not so happy name. All the same, I decided to find out more. And I am glad I did. For, Krabi is definitely one amazing destination that no adventure lover should ever miss. Located in Southern Thailand, Krabi is one of the most soothing places in the world. It is a province with 160 km long coastline along the

Andaman Sea. The white-sand beaches, towering limestone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, exotic wildlife and stunning scenery make this place nothing less than a paradise. It is home to the most extraordinary natural wonders of the world. Krabi is less crowded than Phuket, more laid back than Koh Samui and is just an hour away by air from Bangkok. Its attraction is born from the beauty of its natural surroundings combined with the amazing hospitality of its charming people. Ao Nang is the ideal base to have to explore the

place. A 45-minute ride away from the airport, the road along Ao Nang beach is home to some of the best beach resorts in Krabi. The streets are lined with restaurants and shops that sell curios and local handicrafts. The beach at Ao Nang is not the cleanest around, but is still a great place for a swim.

ON A RENDEVOUZ Snorklers make way towards Maya Bay for a coral date

Each resort offers you a spectrum of ‘Island Tours’ to choose from. Tour operators, who arrange to pick up tourists from across these resorts to take them to a pier from where they set off on their island adventures,

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Explore destination BEAUTY ABOUND (L to R): A boat wades towards Phi Phi Island; an old man shredding bamboo leaves at Phi Phi; tourist having fun at a beach in Krabi

When you arrive at Maya Bay, you get dropped off on the far end of the island and have to go on a mini adventure of crawling through narrow caves and rock faces, over steps and ropes and through patches of greenery to get to a small pathway that leads you to the famous and beautiful bay. As you step on to the beach, the breathtaking beauty of Maya Bay strikes you. The sea is beautiful and it is well worth the hike.

Ton Sai Beach Ton Sai Beach is a hidden gem on Phi Phi. Not that many people really see it, as it’s a walk away from town and at first the path doesn’t seem to go anywhere. But if you follow the path past the Cabana Hotel and behind the hospital, you will find yourself in the local village area. During daytime the village is bustling, as many of the day trips from Phuket stop here for a few hours of swimming and eating. run these tours. The highlight of my exploration in Krabi was the trip to Phi Phi Island, and the areas that surround it. Here are a few places that remain etched in memory.

They offload hundreds of people, so try to get away from the jetty as soon as possible. If you have time and can walk, you will find pristine, clean, soft white sand beaches.

Bamboo Island

You have to wade through some waist high water but it is worth it. The water is warm and clear and snorkeling can be fun.

There are no words that can describe the beauty of this beach. The water is crystal clear and the white sand heavenly. You can get there by joining a speedboat tour booked through your hotel. A speedboat is the best way to get around Phi Phi and Bamboo islands, as the bigger ferries cannot dock close to the beach. There’s not much on this beach, but sun, sand and beautiful water. You will be disappointed if you expected shops and restaurants, but that is also the reason why this island is so popular and, at times, can get a little crowded. The tour boats from Krabi and Phi Phi arrive between 9 to 10 in the morning, 1 to 2 and then at 3:30 in the noon.

Maya Bay Travel catalogues describe this beautiful destination as “the world famous Maya Bay, location of the film, The Beach, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, located in Phi Phi Ley, with white sandy beach, surrounded by gigantic limestone cliffs and coral reefs.” Travel to Maya Bay on a day trip from Phi Phi Island and you will end up in some absolutely amazing places. The scenery is breathtaking as you weave around the towering rock and cliffs to get to the real places around.

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krabi

After midday, the beaches are clear, the sands are white and the sea is turquoise blue. It’s not unusual to find yourself alone on the beach (which doesn’t happen too often on Phi Phi). If you walk to the end of the beach, you will find a small set of bamboo bungalows available for rent. It is ideal to hire one if you intend on rock-climbing while you are here, as they are just at the base of the enormous cliff face. Bring water and food along, as there are no shops. And please remember to take your rubbish back with you. This beach is way too beautiful to spoil.

Snorkeling at Loh Sama Loh Sama (Sama Bay), located on the south side of the island, is excellent for snorkeling. Here, one can discover beautiful coral and tropical fish. While the boats anchor in shallow waters, swimmers get to feed the fish and snorkel. The most interesting way to

get here from Maya Bay is in low tide, via a small hole through a cliff about one metre high! Phi Phi Islands is also an amazing snorkeling destination. It houses an incredible variety of bright coral and tropical fish. Closer to Phuket

are the Coral, Racha, and Khai Nok islands. All these islands feature clear waters and abundant marine life just offshore. A little away are the scintillating Similan Islands, world famous for diving. But its pristine marine wonderland is a fine experience too.

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Explore destination Sea Canoeing in Phang Nga Bay

Nest Watching at Viking Cave

The canoes weave their way through a network of brilliant crystalline limestone caves, to reveal the mysterious hidden world of the ‘Hongs’. ‘Hongs’ are actually collapsed cave systems in the interior of each island, only accessed by tough, purpose-designed inflatable canoes through sea-caves at low tide. These areas are filled with jungle flora and fauna and they conceal within them a unique eco-system with monkeys, birds and fishes. Many of the caves contain wonderful crystalline formations, stalagmites and stalactites. A lot of them are believed to be the home of spirits and are steeped in local folklore, containing Buddha images and items of spiritual worship. Many of the caves contain prehistoric paintings, stone tools and pottery shards, giving a clue to Krabi’s rich past. Klong Thom Museum, southeast of Krabi town, has a collection of ceramics, stone tools and bronze implements found at various excavations throughout the area.

To the north of Pi Leh Bay is the Viking Cave where swifts make their nests. The nests are made by the birds using their saliva and are harvested from February to April by locals who use rickety bamboo scaffoldings to access them once the birds have finished nesting. The nests sell for many thousands of dollars per kilo and are used in making the Chinese delicacy Bird’s Nest Soup.

Elephant Trekking An interesting elephant camp is just a 7 km car ride from Ao Nang, where the natural surroundings provide permanent shade and abundant water for the animals all year round. The elephant trek will take you along a river running through the camp and into the forest at the foot of the mountain. You will see the river, the rainforest and, hopefully, monkeys and birds living in their natural habitats.

getting there & around By Plane Direct flights from Bangkok to Krabi Airport are available but schedules are subject to seasonal changes. It is also possible to fly to Suratthani (211 km from Krabi) or Phuket (176 km) and drive along the well-maintained roads to Krabi.

By Road Daily bus services leave from the southern bus terminal in Pen Klao, Bangkok. Tickets are available from almost any travel agent and at hotel tour desks in the city. The journey takes about 13 hours.

By Boat There are no direct regular ferries from Phuket to Krabi although it is possible to charter a speedboat or

similar transportation. Daily ferries operate between Phuket and Krabi via Phi Phi Island.

Around Most of Krabi’s attractions are easily accessed by road and by boat. Long tail boats are readily obtainable from Krabi Town at the Chao Fah Pier and at all major beaches. Tour companies can arrange charter boats, or advise on ferry services between beaches and islands around the area. For those who prefer to go by land, hire a car or motor cycle, or rent a Songtaew (taxi truck) to drive you around for the day. Local buses also shuttle between major areas in the province, from the bus station just outside Krabi Town at Talaat Kao.

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ADVENTURE EVERYWHERE (Clockwise from top): Longtail Boats on a Krabi Beach; Krabi has a teaming coral life; the view of the Andaman Sea from a limestone cave


krabi

KRABI HISTORY

The recent discovery of the remains of one of our humanoid ancestors in a rock shelter in Neua Klong district makes Krabi the place with the longest known history of continuous human settlement in Thailand. Bits of broken pottery, beads and coins from as far afield as the Middle East and China have been found on archaeological digs here, suggesting that the area was once a thriving port of call on the ancient trade routes across Asia. The town of Krabi itself was founded in the 13th century, as a dependency of the powerful city of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Some 200 years ago, the Prince of the city founded an elephant camp in Krabi - they roamed wild in those days and were rounded up and taken to work in Nakhon.

‘Hongs’ are actually collapsed cave systems in the interior of each island, only accessed by canoes through sea-caves at low tide Scuba Diving The remarkable variety of dive sites that are concentrated in such a small area, particularly off Phi Phi Don Island, is what makes this area unique, as do the amazing limestone cliffs that rise dramatically out of the sea and plunge equally dramatically straight down underwater. The opportunity to relax on exquisite beaches, explore the numerous coves and bays, while at the same time

enjoying some colourful and enticing scuba diving or snorkeling, is not one to be missed.

Rock Climbing Krabi’s limestone cliffs are heaven for rock-climbing enthusiasts, who come from all over the globe to take up the challenge of climbing them. Over 650 routes have developed since the late 1980’s when Krabi first witnessed the sight of people scaling

its craggy mountains. Routes follow limestone crags, steep, pocketed walls, overhangs and hanging stalactites. Some are accessed by boat while others are approached via a jungle walk or by abseiling above the sea. Using the French grading system, routes range from beginner 5a’s to classic multipitch 6a’s, right up to the extremes of 8c. There’s enough here to keep any climber busy for years! JULY-AUGUST 2012 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED |

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Photographs: rajeev rastogi

KAZIRANGA

From Guwahati, as one drives through National Highway 37, chains of sprawling tea gardens, bamboo huts and betel nut plants give us a sneak peek into the essence of this part of the country. The rich hues in nature here are a treat to the otherwise greenery starved urban dwellers. Lying partly in Golaghat district and partly in Nagaon district of Assam, Kaziranga National Park is one of the last areas in Eastern India undisturbed by human presence. Covered with tall grass, rugged reeds, marshes and shallow pools, it is designated as a World Heritage Site. The park is a rich natural habitat for the rare one horned rhino. The migrating herds of 200 or more elephants from Mikir Hills to the beels here make for a spectacular view. Left: A young rhino waits to cross the road Below: Tourists on an early morning elephant safari

Home to the big five, Kaziranga is a nature lover’s delight and has all the trappings to turn anyone into an avid photographer. Rajeev Rastogi takes you on one such visual extravaganza JULY-AUGUST 2012 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED

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Explore moments

Right: Locking horns one bright morning Below: A curious hogg dear basks in the early morning sun

Kaziranga has been the theme of several books, songs and documentaries. The park first gained international prominence after Robin Banerjee, a physician turned photographer and filmmaker, produced a documentary titled ‘Kaziranga, which aired on Berlin television in 1961 and became a runaway success. The habitat of the park consists of tall, dense grasslands interspersed with cane growth, open woodlands, interconnecting streams and numerous lakes or beels. Being in the floodplain of the Brahmaputra River, the soil of the park is rich in alluvial

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KAZIRANGA

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Explore MOMENTS

Left: A magical sunset in the forest Below: The exhilirating jeep safari starts at dawn in search of excitement

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KAZIRANGA

deposits. The vegetation comprises of alluvial grasslands, tropical wet,

15 species of India’s threatened mammals. Some of the most notable

semi-evergreen and evergreen forests. The park is divided into four

wildlife here includes the sloth bear, Indian porcupine, Asiatic black bear

ranges. The Agoratoli range covers the eastern part and has woodland

and leopard, besides, of course, the majestic rhino. The reptiles range

interspersed with grassland and water-bodies. The Kohora range is the

from the Bengal cobra to the checkered kulback watersnake to the king

central part and is the most easily accessible from the range office at

cobra, to name a few.

Kohora. The Baguri range comprises the western part of the park and has the highest rhinoceros density. Burhapahar, the fourth range, covers

The preferred way to experience Kaziranga is on an elephant’s back.

the first additional area attached to the Park. Kaziranga shelters about

The safari initially is a bit scary, as the elephant lumbers through the

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Explore moments

puddles before entering the grasslands. However, as one ventures deeper into the tall grass, the cameras pop out, as the scene gets more exciting. One is awestruck at the animals spotted, ranging from wild boars to sambhars to herds of elephants, deer and bands of jumping langurs. The jeep safari, on the other hand, requires one’s senses to be on high alert. Whilst on the jeep, it is the sounds that sometimes aid in the spotting of an animal. Lush greenery, beautiful flowers, hills in the background and the sunlight piercing through the bushes makes Kaziranga an absolute visual treat. Kaziranga boasts of 5000 different species of birds within the sanctuary. Huge numbers of migratory birds descend on the park lake during the winter season. Your date with the wild is finally complete, when you spot the rhino loafing around in the wetlands. And do not miss that shot, when it seems like the rhino is staring straight into your eyes and will soon come charging at you!

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KAZIRANGA

Clockwise from L: Fresh water turtles sun bathing at Kaziranga; a pair of long billed vultures on the lookout for food; a flock of hogg deers frolick amidst a mist covered vista

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Explore footprints love was destined to be the tropics after he visited the Florida Keys and later the Barrier Islands in Virginia. At the young age of 26, Beebe was elected a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In December 1903, he along with his writer wife Mary Blair Rice went to Mexico, which led to his first book titled very appropriately Two Bird Lovers in Mexico. As a young boy, Beebe had the habit of collecting dead animals. But, by 1906, he had undergone a dramatic transformation and was dead against the killing of animals just for the sake of collection. This was very evident in his second book, The Bird, Its Form and Function. He shot animals only for scientific, education and research purposes and never for the sake of collection.

Dive to

glory

An ornithologist, research scientist and writer by profession, William Beebe is famous for exploring the unknown ocean world in the early 20th century, says Mohit Kohli Charles William Beebe born in Brooklyn, New York, had his first article published in the magazine Harper’s Young People, in 1895 while he was still in high school. Beebe studied at Columbia where he made research trips to Nova Scotia. However, the love for ornithology forced him to quit Columbia to join New York Zoological

Park. He worked there as an Assistant Curator of Ornithology. In 1901, Beebe undertook his first expedition for the zoo to Nova Scotia. There, he collected marine animals by scouring the tide pools. In fact, Beebe was so fascinated with Nova Scotia that he went there even for his honeymoon. But that was not to be his final calling. His ultimate

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In 1908, Beebe was promoted for his outstanding research in the field of ornithology, on par with research scientists at the Museum of Natural History. On his first expedition after promotion, he went to Trinidad and Venezuela where he captured 40 live birds belonging to 14 exotic species. Beebe’s writings were so inspirational that the then US president, Theodore Roosevelt, wrote introductions to his book, Tropical Wild Life and Jungle Peace. In 1909, Beebe came out with his acclaimed book Our Search for a Wilderness based on his trip to British Guiana. There, he researched on hoatzin, a bird considered to be an important link in the evolution of birds from reptiles, though he failed to capture one. Beebe was next assigned the task of researching the world’s pheasants, much against his wishes. This task took him to exotic places like Egypt, Sri


william beebe

THE HELMET Prior to 1930, Beebe had discussed at length his fascination with the possibilities of deep-sea diving with his good friend and fellow naturalist Theodore Roosevelt. Both he and Roosevelt were concerned with the persistent problem of water pressure. They knew well that an unprotected diver could be rendered unconscious by the weight of the sea at a depth of just 200 ft. To venture deeper than that without protection would surely result in the diver being crushed to death. Beebe and Roosevelt contemplated the design

of various vessels that might allow for deep-sea exploration. Lacking a keen sense of machinery, Beebe sought advice from various engineers. In 1928, he was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Otis Barton. Barton presented Beebe with a blueprint for a seemingly simple deep-sea-diving vessel. He called it the bathysphere. Barton described it as "... just a hollow steel sphere at the end of a cable." The world called the contraption ‘The Helmet’. So it happened that the duo set a series of world record in deep sea diving in the 1930’s in that helmet.

so much time observing birds, Beebe was now captivated with the diversity of life floating in weeds on the surface of the water. During the return to New York, Beebe continued studying sea life. On his return, he came out with a book Galapagos: World’s End. This book was so well received that it remained on the New York Times Top Ten list for a considerable period of time.

Lanks, Calcutta, Himalaya, Indonesia, Singapore, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, China and Japan. This trip, however, took a toll on his health and he succumbed to depression for a considerable period. Beebe next travelled to Brazil and then British Guiana and, in 1917, came out with his book Tropical Wild Life in British Guiana. He next came out with his masterpiece A Monograph of the Pheasants. In 1923, Beebe sailed on an expedition to the Galapagos Islands on a steam yacht called the Noma. After spending

In 1925, Beebe again set sail for Galapagos to study more of the sea life that he had now become fascinated with. Not many people know that Beebe also studied the ocean currents now known as El Nino off the coast of South America. And, of course, we Indians know the havoc these currents cause because of their effect on the monsoon in the Indian subcontinent! But perhaps Beebe’s ‘dive’ to fame was by becoming the first scientist to descend deep into the abyss, reporting on undersea life humans had never before seen. He was best known for his 1930s explorations using an early bathysphere designed by his colleague, Otis Barton. Circular in shape to better withstand the pressure of deep-sea depths, the 2,300 kg contraption, tethered for oxygen and electricity to

a mother ship at the surface, allowed divers to descend to 3,028 ft beneath the ocean’s surface – this was about six times the recorded depth survived by previous divers. Beebe and Barton starred in a 1938 documentary about their dives, Titans of the Deep, scripted by another famous traveller, Lowell Thomas. While on his Galapagos trip, Beebe also studied volcanic activity on Albemarle Island and how this caused havoc on bird and sea animals because of the lava and noxious gas. On his way back, he studied the sea life near the shore of New York City. Beebe also studied sea life near Haiti, Bermuda and Nonsuch Island before World War II caused him to move out of Nonsuch Island. Beebe next travelled to Venezuela and immersed himself in the study of insect life and bats. He came out with his last book after this expedition known as the High Jungle. Beebe spent the last years of his life in Trinidad where he bought a piece of property and named it Simla after the Indian hill station made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s books. His books continue to be sold and read even today.

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Explore Survive

Leech

attack!

Planning a trek in rainy season? Don’t let leeches be a dampner on your trip, says Julliane Foster

Rains spell freedom for the adrenaline junkie and no other season is received with so much warmth by them. For trekkers, it is time for a visit to the hills. Monsoon is perhaps the best time for trekking as the earth is greener and the climes simply invigorating. But then rains also mean that it is time for leeches to make an appearance. They will appear out of nowhere and

cling to you at the most unlikely places. There are several measures you can take to prevent leeches from biting you in the first place. These measures take a bit more time and planning than simply peeling the suckers off, after they’ve bitten. Though they cannot be completely avoided, there are some ways you can minimise their presence and prevent them from hampering your meanderings.

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Check your Body The best course of action is to check your body all over whenever you have a rest stop, or at the end of the day. Experienced soldiers on jungle patrol do this when they get back to camp for a shower. They check their buddy and the buddy checks them. It is necessary because the beasties can get attached to moist, warm, blood-filled places. If leeches are not discovered and left


leeches The best course of action is to check your body all over whenever you have a rest stop, or at the end of the day

leeches and their bites What Are Leeches? • Leeches vary in size, depending on the environment. They can be found on land, in fresh water and in salt water. Many leeches found on treks in Asia are around 0.5-3 inches and very thin • Leeches sense heat and motion in their environment. Leeches sometimes fall from trees, but most often attach to their subject from the ground Leech Bites Once a leech bites and begins engorging itself in blood, it’s very difficult to remove them properly. When a leech bites, the subject will feel nothing: no pinch, no pain and no aches. After a bite, the leech will feed off blood until it is full, and then it simply drops off. The tell-tale sign of a leech bite is a large bloody spot on the socks or shoes. Blood will continue to flow from the bite often for hours after the animal drops off because of the anticoagulant they secrete from their mouth. This is why, even after you remove the leech or they drop off, the blood continues to seep out.

undisturbed, they will drink their fill from their host and then drop off.

your blood. This will only make you bleed more.

Get Tobacco Get yourself a small bag of raw tobacco leaves from the market. Soak it in water, transfer it to a small bottle to carry around and spray on your clothes. You can also soak your leech socks in the tobacco water the night before. The smell of the tobacco is able to slow down the suckers and ultimately intoxicate them!

Tuck that Shirt This will prevent the leech from crawling to your belly, armpits and anywhere warm. Cover yourself well but long sleeves are not necessary.

Keep Salt Handy Apply salt onto your hands or any exposed area. If you see leeches sucking your blood, you can wait for it to drink its fill and drop off by itself or apply salt on the leech and it will drop off instantaneously. Do not pull the leech if it is already sucking

How to Remove a Leech Is it generally not advised to attempt removing a leech by burning with a cigarette; applying mosquito repellent or shampoo or pulling at the leech. This can result in the leech regurgitating into the wound and causing infection much worse than the leech bite itself. If you are bitten by a leech and are compelled to remove it before it has had its fill (leeches drop off on their own when they are done feeding), you can do so by following these steps: 1. Identify the anterior (oral) sucker which will be found at the small end of the leech. 2. Put your finger on your skin adjacent to the oral sucker. 3. Gently but firmly slide your finger toward the wound where the leech is feeding. Using your fingernail, push the sucker sideways away from your skin.

Keep Walking Keep walking and do not lean on anything in the rainforest. If you need to take a rest, find a spot with direct sunlight as leeches do not exist in dry and hot places. Typically, you’ll find brown leech on the ground and tiger leech on tree leaves. Anti-Leech Socks Anti-leech socks cover the foot to the upper knee and are worn underneath the boot and over the normal sock. It’s very difficult for leeches to penetrate these socks because they are long. This particular sock brand will set you back by a few hundred rupees, but they are durable and handy.. Use Insecticide Using too much insecticide is not a great idea, but applying some around the ankles, on the socks and on top of the shoes is a good way to ward off leeches.

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Explore web review Browse through some very attractive and distinct adventure and travel sites, says Mohit Kohli Indian Mountaineering Foundation www.indmount.org The re-launched site has a landscape view compared to the portrait like look of the older site. And, it does look much better than its previous avatar. A huge difference at first glance is the breathtaking image slider of the majestic Himalayas and clearly defined user friendly hyperlinks that take you to sub sections and content like ‘Articles & Journal Archive’, ‘Getting Started’ and ‘Peaks & Expeditions’. Whereas the older website was heavy on text, the new site is easy to navigate, even if you are one of those technically challenged intellectuals. For those

who are not into trekking, climbing or skiing, the beautiful pictures and interesting articles transport you to the surreal world and exotic locales like the frozen Zanskar or a journey through the forbidden Himalayas. The link for Journals though is still under the test phase, but once ready will make this website the Bible for

Indian mountaineers and Himalaya enthusiasts. The website has a search box where you can type in the keyword for what you are looking for. There is also a box to list all the articles hosted on the website by various authors who have listed their firsthand accounts.

Helmet Stories www.helmetstories.com If you are a biking enthusiast who wants to explore the Manali, Leh and Ladakh route then look no further. The tour organisers who have hosted this site offer guided tours through less travelled back roads of the Himalayas. They also provide Royal Enfield motorcycles. Even if you don’t own a bike or the gear required, don’t worry because the organisers will take care of everything. The website has spectacular pictures and catchy contact details of Helmet Stories. The site provides you information like how Helmet Stories was formed by two biking enthusiasts who met in Ladakh while being filmed for ‘The Road Trip’ a 10-part television serial. The link for Photography Tours is still under construction. They also offer custom tours, which can be used as offsite activity for team bonding of a management team or executives. On the downside, the dates for tours listed on the website have already lapsed and are for the year 2011. Otherwise, they have given a proper schedule for a 10 day and a 16 day tour for Delhi-Manali-Leh-Delhi. One typo that was kind of funny was for Day 3 of the 16 day tour with the caption ‘MANALI IN NEW DELHI’. I guess everyone in Delhi would love to do that to escape the heat of the summer!

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Cougar Motorsport www.cougarmotorsport.in The first interesting thing that catches your eye in this website is the Contact section where the co-ordinates for the latitude and longitude are given. Navigation is easy as it is a short and sweet site. The left side of the home page features listings of the signature events from 2009 onwards and also the dates for the 2012 events. On the top of the page are three icons for their signature events – The Desert Dash, The Himalayan Dash and The Sanctuary Dash. There are only two events listed for this year, which are The Desert Dash and The Himalayan Dash. They have also published on the website the details of the various events held earlier. They have organised motor sport events for top vehicle manufacturers like Tata, BMW, Audi and Skoda. They also organise customised events for top corporates. The Gallery section contains images for all the events held till date. This, along with About and Contact details, sums up the site. You can navigate any section from any page on the site, which is pretty good. On the whole, the website is good, trendy and modern in outlook and above all, user friendly. The social media icons are easily visible.

Free your mind and body to explore a new world and reach new heights!

Adventure tours in ladakh ●

● Trekking ● Mountaineering ● Cultural Tours ● Rafting Biking ● Jeep Safaris ● Horse Riding ● Hotel Reservation ● Air Ticketing ● Filming ● Conference ● Meditation ● Camping

Explore Himalayas

Chokhang Complex, P.O.Box 45, Opp. SBI, Main Bazaar, Leh, Jammu & Kashmir (India) Phone: +91-1982-252727, 253354 Mobile: +91 9419178416, 9953909089 Email: explorehimalayas@gmail.com, wangchuks@hotmail.com Website: www.ladakhvisit.com


Explore Driving Tips

avoid that

skid Taking that road trip in the rains is fun, but also risky. But a few safety measures can make all the difference, says Mohit Kohli

The rains are a pleasant time to go on a long drive and many take to the wheels for a trip to enjoy the weather. But rain causes scores of accidents every year. Most of these accidents are preventable. Most intrepid drivers don’t realise that fair and foul weather driving is fundamentally different.

little resistance to hydroplaning. When your tyres run over water, the water is displaced and it needs somewhere to go quickly. The best place is between the treads of your tyres. If your tyres are bald, the water has no place to go and you end up riding on a layer of water, like a boat!

Before You Go

After a Dry Spell

Wet-weather driving demands gentle use of all the main controls – steering, clutch, brake and accelerator and a larger allowance for errors and emergencies. When you begin a journey in rain, your shoes will be wet and liable to slip off the pedals. Scuff the soles on the rubber matting or carpeting of the car before you start the engine. All motorists should regularly check that their headlights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals are working properly.

While the first rain drops spell adventure for motorists, you need to exercise extreme caution after a long dry spell. Engine oil and grease build up on the road over time and it literally remains on the road without Mother Nature’s wash. And when that oil and grease is mixed with rain water, the road becomes extremely slick. While the slick will be washed away after continuous rain fall, the first few hours can be the most dangerous.

Check Your Tyres Check your car tyres on a regular basis. Bald tyres significantly reduce your traction on wet roadways and offer

Drive Slow The adage to account for more travel time becomes more relevant when driving in the rain. You should plan to drive at a slower pace than normal

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when the roads are wet. Keep in mind that traffic is likely to be slower as well. There’s also the possibility that your pre-planned route may be flooded or jammed. Whatever the case, rushing equals higher risk.

When oil and grease is mixed with rain water, the road becomes extremely slick

Keep Safe Distance Braking distances increase significantly on a wet road. To account for this change in driving conditions, ensure that you keep a safe distance from the car ahead of you. In heavy traffic conditions, you will rarely go above 20-25 km/hr. In spite of that, do keep a larger gap between the car ahead and yourself than you would have in dry weather conditions. On the highways,


rain

aquaplaning Aquaplaning, though a uncommon phenomenon, can be detrimental in areas where it rains heavily. Aquaplaning happens when the water in front of your tyres builds up faster than your car’s weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tyres and the road. At this point, your car can be completely out of contact with the road, and you are in danger of skidding or drifting out of your lane, or even off the road. To avoid aquaplaning, keep your tyres properly inflated and in proper tread. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tyre tracks left by the cars in front of you. Do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the accelerator until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do so gently with light pumping actions. If your car has ABS, then brake normally; the car’s computer will mimic a pumping action, when necessary.

be especially careful – follow at least the 3-second rule (3-second gap between the car ahead of you and yourself) – and increase it according to road and visibility conditions.

Photograph: gaurav schimar

Correct Braking Brake earlier and with less force than you would normally. Not only does this increase the stopping distance between you and the car in front of you, it also lets the driver behind you know that you’re slowing down. Also, be more meticulous about using turn signals, so that other drivers know your intentions, and take turns and curves with less speed than you would in dry conditions.

Turn On Your Lights Whenever visibility is poor or it rains, headlights are a good way to let other drivers know where you are. It’s both helpful to other travellers and makes you safer. Remember, you are not the only one affected by poor visibility. You may be able to see cars without their headlights on but others may not have vision or windshield wipers as good as yours. In many countries, it is mandatory to keep the headlights turned on when it is raining.

Clear the Fog Fog on the inside can be a terrible pain to counter. If your car has an AC, change the temperature setting to

Be more meticulous about using turn signals, so that other drivers know your intentions

‘warm’, direct the airflow towards the windscreen and change the ventilation setting to allow fresh air into the car. If your car has a defogger, switch it on – a defogger passes current through thin strips installed on the glass and defogs it. If your car does not have an AC, open the windows very slightly, and keep a soft cloth handy to keep cleaning the windscreen. Be careful though, as you don’t want anything distracting your driving. Driving on a wet road demands concentration in huge amounts. It is demanding, and can get tiring pretty quickly. Follow these simple tips, and make your drive enjoyable and safe.

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Explore DEALS

From the lush meadows of Gulmarg to exotic locales of Spiti and Ladakh, to Asia’s longest flying fox, you are spoilt for choice this monsoon

Adeventure Offsites Adventure offsite is the new buzzword doing the rounds of corporate circles. Offsite is no longer about a relaxed and luxurious break from work. More and more organisations want their employees to engage in adventure sports and activities. The same helps in not only getting the employees a much required break but also in team building, leadership and task handling while being close to nature. Gulmarg, which is the hub of nature and adventure lovers, is now all set to host corporate adventure offsites.

The offsites being offered by Northern Escapes in association with IISM, would start by your reception at Srinagar airport and travel to Gulmarg via Baba Rishi en route, to see the famous pilgrimage spot. Check into IISM (Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering) and, after relaxing for a while at the sprawling institute, one will explore the Gulmarg bowl and pine grove forest and other beautiful spots nearby. Early evening, there will be a jungle safari to Butapathri. There will be dinner around a bonfire and music back at the campus.

On the second day, there will be a cable car ride to second stage of Aparwhat. From there, a trek to Alpathar Lake, where there will be team-building exercises. Lunch will be served at second stage of cable car. After returning to the institute and after refreshments, one can engage in hot air ballooning, zorbing and other group activities. In the evening, there will be a game of Tambola followed by a cultural troupe and bonfire dinner. Third day will see a early morning drive to Srinagar and departure. Days: 2N3D Contact: info@northernescapes.in

Thrilogy Combo Extreme Adventure Sports Company, Jumpin Heights, which provides thrills involving bungee jumping and Flying Fox, recently commissioned Giant Swing and has come out with a package offering all its activities at Rishikesh. Operating at Rishikesh since August 2010, the Jumpin Heights staff gives utmost importance to safety measures, with not even its own staff being allowed on the Jump platform without harnesses and permission from Jump masters. Safety standards offered by Jumpin Heights in India are comparable to safety standards and practices followed in Australia and New Zealand. The trained staff looks at safety first with guidance from experienced Jump masters from these countries. Hot Deal: Bungee+Swing+Flying Fox @ `5000 per person Contact: www.jumpinheights.com

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Nature Retreat Botanix Camping Site, is nestled in the foothills of Aravali, just 45 Kms from Delhi, next to Damdama Lake. The 40- acre global green park offers a series of theme gardens which exhibits an exquisite and unique combination of nature’s absolute brilliance to explore adventure activities or just relax, breathe free, de-stress, talk to the trees and even commune with the butterflies. One can experience nirvana in the wonders of Botanix. Time spent at Botanix will not only fill ones senses but also rejuvenate the spirit by participating in nature friendly and adventure activities, which will be entertaining as well as a learning experience. Days: 1N2D Hot Deal: `4,500 for two pax Contact: +91 9811822690, sales.botanix@gmail.com

Spiti Photo Safari Spiti is a photographer’s paradise. This fact is known to all travel photographers. But then, when you have a professional photographer to guide you through those stunning locales, the enigma of the land unfolds with every click of your camera. The photo safari is formulated keeping in mind the special requirements of photographers, which is to capture the essence of the land on film. The safari starts from Delhi and ascends to Shimla, beyond which the real trail starts. The safari takes you to places like Kinnaur, Sangla, Tabo, Kibber and many other exotic locations including the surreal Chandratal. The ten day safari takes you back to Delhi via Rohtang and Manali. Days: 9N10D Hot Deal: `44,000 per person, for a group of 6 persons Contact: info@northernescapes.in

Thrilling Dalhousie This monsoon, action takes you to the pristine locales of Dalhousie at Amod Resort. Amod is an eco-resort that enjoys unparalleled scenic beauty. Each mud cottages enjoys privacy and seamlessly blends with the surrounding silver oak, pine and rhododendron trees. The resort’s recreation centre boasts of a collection of indoor activities and games. The adventure enthusiast can partake in mountain biking, guided nature hikes and camping. Try regional delicacies or enjoy international cuisines at ‘The Colonial’ and don’t forget to visit Sublime - the Spa. This season you can choose from some exciting offers at Amod. Days: 2N3D Hot Deal: `6,000 per person Contact: +91 9218405240, dalhousie@aamod.in

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Explore fifiFixed departures

Ascend the highest mountains and passes or learn photography in a rainforest. Or opt for a luxurious offroad trip. Take your pick! Kalindi Pass Trek

Agumbe Photo Workshop

Kibber-Tso Moriri Trek

Departure Date: July 14 Return Date: July 30 Price: On Request Outfitter: Aquaterra Adventures Email: treks@aquaterra.in Tel: +91 11 29212641 Connecting the two holy shrines of Gangotri and Badrinath, the Kalindi Pass Trek traverses from one glacier to the other to cross the high pass of Kalindi. The enchanting walk is mostly over the moraines and the snow fields with deep crevasses and offers immense opportunities to view the high altitude wildlife and camp by some small glacial lakes. Walking for about 10 days and sleeping at freezing temperatures, this trip is a lot more than a trek and is definitely not for the faint hearted.

Departure Date: July 14 Return Date: July 21 Price: `11,500 Outfitter: Thrillophillia Tel: +91 9686020000 This one is a true Himalayan Adventure Rainforest Photography Workshop, which offers one a great opportunity to photograph many less photographed creatures. Shreeram M V Darter, Photography Expert on this workshop, has visited Agumbe several times in the past and is experienced in photographing the beauty of the rainforest and its denizens. He will guide you on photographing the many forms of life here and wonderful scenes of the rainforest – from the canopy to numerous waterfalls and streams.

Departure Date: Aug 12, Manali Return Date: Aug 26 Price: `60,000 Outfitter: Depi Email: depi@me.com Tel: +91 9811903301 Kibber is one of the highest villages in the Indian Himalayas. You may have to spend a couple of days at Kaza for acclimatisation, before heading out on the trek. Apart from the Kye Monastery, Kibber is famous for high altitude meadows, horses and snow leopards. The trail follows the old trading route between Spiti and Tibet. The scenery changes completely as soon as you cross Parang La and walk towards the Rupshe plains, famous for their kiangs (wild asses). Although a difficult trek, it is well worth the effort.

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Great opportunities to view the high altitude wildlife and camp by some small glacial lakes


Nanda Devi Sanctuary Trek

Lhasa-EBC-Kathmandu Safari

Kailash-Mansarovar Tour

Departure Date: August 17 Return Date: August 27 Price: `38,500 Outfitter: Explore Himalaya Email: info@peakadventuretour.com Tel: +91 9811636814 This is a classic trek that retraces the pioneering steps of Shipton and Tilman through the Garhwal Himalaya. The Nanda Devi basin must surely be one of the most legendary regions in the entire Himalayan chain. The mountain itself, revered since time immemorial by all those who live in its shadow, has long attracted the attention of many pioneering mountaineers and explorers, mystics and spiritualists, writers and everyday travellers who have visited the area. Definitely recommended.

Departure Date: August 11 Return Date: August 10 Cost: USD 1640 Outfitter: Explore Himalaya Email: enquiry@explorehimalaya.com On this Tibet overland tour, after acclimatisation at Lhasa, you drive down Friendship Highway on a luxury 4 WD passing through small Tibetan settlements where you get upfront views right from your vehicle of nomadic herdsmen wandering across the wide arid plains amid a backdrop of awe-inspiring mountain peaks. A special highlight of this trip is the visit to the Everest Base Camp where you will be rewarded with panoramic and breath-taking views of Mount Everest from the north side. This overland tour will be remembered for years to come.

Departure Date: August 1 Return Date: August 15 Price: On request Outfitter: Tashi Delek Expeditions Email: tashidele@wlink.com.np A great mass of black rock soaring to over 22,000 ft, Mt. Kailash has the unique distinction of being the world’s most venerated holy place and, at the same time, the least visited. There are no planes, trains or buses journeys anywhere near the region and even with rugged over-land vehicles the journey still requires weeks of difficult, often dangerous travel. The weather, always cold, can be unexpectedly treacherous and pilgrims must carry all the supplies they need for the entire journey. You will definitely love this pilgrimage cum adventure tour.

Even with rugged overland vehicles the journey still requires weeks of difficult, often dangerous travel

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Explore CalendAr

Ladakh

Kathmandu Delhi

INDIA

Nagaland

West Bengal

Kerala

Sri Lanka

Karzok Gustor date: July 22-23 location: Karzok, Ladakh The Korzok Gustor is an ancient festival of the Buddhists. Held in Korzok Monastery in Ladakh, the Korzok Gustor Festival is famous for its Black Hat Dance. This Monastery belongs to the Yellow Sect and it is situated in Korzok Village; which is located around the splendid Tsomoriri Lake. It is a must visit for travellers in Ladakh during this period.

Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race start date: August 9-11 location: Alleppey, Kerala

Monsoon Festival 7

Jhapan Mela

date: Throughout August location: Delhi

date: Second week of August location: Vishnupur, Bankura

Red Earth’s – The Monsoon Festival – celebrates its 7th The Nehru Trophy snake boat race edition in 2012. A well is undoubtedly the most exciting established cultural festival in boat race of the year in Kerala. Delhi, it aims to celebrate the Held in the memory of Jawaharlal magic of the Indian monsoon Nehru, the race has continued with the old and the new, since it first took place in 1952. reviving forgotten traditional cultural practices and pioneering This year will be its 60th anniversary, with extensive three day contemporary creative celebrations to mark the occasion. expressions.

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Jhapan means a stage set up to exhibit tricks with snakes. And that’s exactly what happens at the Jhapan Mela. Snake charmers, called Jhampanias, bring king cobras and other snakes in cane baskets and perform astonishing acts with them. The festival, which is largely of tribal origin, is celebrated in honour of serpent Goddess Manasa.


Lanka Challenge

Gunla Festival

Metemneo Festival

Splash 2012

date: Aug 31- Sep 11 location: Sri Lanka

date: July-August location: Kathmandu.

date: First Week of August location: Nagaland

date: July 13-15 location:Wayanad, Kerala

The Lanka Challenge is once again all set to captivate the world. In 2012, the tuk tuk adventure in Sri Lanka will take you deeper and deeper into the heart of the country and its people. The Lanka Challenge is by no means an easy affair; contestants will embark on a true test of character, resourcefulness, endurance and navigational stupidity.

Following the arrival of the monsoons and the planting season in the fields, Buddhists in the Kathmandu Valley observe the Gunla festival. Gunla is a time for prayer, fasting, meditation and religious music. Worshippers climb past jungles, stone animals and great statues of Buddha to hilltops to offer prayers.

The five day long festival is celebrated in Nagaland after the harvest of millet crop in the region. Metemneo Festival is mainly celebrated by the Yimchungers tribe of Nagaland with great fun and gaiety. The tribal people of Yimchungers tribe get involved in the merriment with high festive spirits on the occasion.

The Splash Monsoon Carnival is back for the fourth year. It’s a fabulous and fun opportunity to experience Wayanad during the monsoon season, and see the area’s natural green beauty at this time of year. The carnival will consist of three action packed days of both outdoor and indoor events. Enticing accommodation packages are also on offer.


Explore book Review

BENEATH BLOSSOM RAIN

In 2007, Kevin Grange decided to acquaint himself with Bhutan by taking on this notorious trail, the Snowman Trek Kevin Grange was at crossroads in life and decided that the best way to proceed was...up. With an interest in Buddhist monasteries and soaring mountains, Grange went beyond the mapped world into villages and sacred valleys lost in time. In the process, mentioned here with a combination of laugh-out-loud humour, deep insight and acute observation, he tested the limits of physical endurance, met a motley crew of characters and discovered truths about faith, hope and the secret of blossom rain, unknown to most of the people of the so called outside world. Beneath Blossom Rain, is Kevin’s firsthand account of his journey and it packs an adventure story with a romantic twist and a celebration of group travel into a single entertaining book. The result is the high adrenal journey for all armchair travellers, coffee table or otherwise. Along with a high adrenaline trek, it delivers an

interesting overview of Bhutan - the only country in this world that is governed by a policy of Gross National Happiness and that many regard as the ultimate Shangri-La. To understand the book in the right perspective, it is important to know why the Snowman is considered so tough. Not only do trekkers hike nearly 10 miles a day, they trek through 11 high-mountain passes, of which seven are over 16,000 ft. In addition to the risks, which are a part of this trek, there are dangerous trails and uncertain weather. The height of the mountain passes makes altitude sickness a very real and possibly fatal danger. More people consider climbing Mount Everest, than undertaking the Snowman Trek. Less than 120 people a year attempt the trek and eventually less than 60 complete it. As one of Kevin Grange’s fellow trekkers put it in a nutshell, “Everybody cries at some point on the

Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World Kevin Grange Bison Books `972

“The lure of legends and the allure of mountains have possessed the human race for eons. Beneath Blossom Rain merges the myth of the Yeti and the tangible Himalayan mountains into a tension-filled journey through Bhutan.” – Barb Teed 122 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | JULY-AUGUST 2012

Snowman Trek.” Kevin’s firsthand account of this trek, focussing on its hazards, trials and tribulations could easily justify it as an adventure travel tale for those who enjoy such reads. Fortunately, Kevin’s focus and journey were far broader. For the armchair traveller, Kevin does a good job of making readers aware of the nature, history and beautiful locales of Bhutan, as well as taking them through desolate villages and monasteries. Beneath Blossom Rain succeeds in combining the travelogue with Kevin’s thought process, allowing the armchair traveller to experience both the physical and personal journey and walking them through a place.


Explore Contest

Adventure Quiz 7 Who is the first person to successfully attempt Base Jumping in Himalaya? 8 Which is the highest Bungee Jump located in Nepal? 9 Where is Sky Diving offered commercially in India? 10 Where can one ski in Pakistan? Submit your answers to info@exploreadventure.in to win this Ray-Ban Aviator

Think you are an adventure buff? Find out how much you know about the real stuff by taking our adventure quiz 1 Who was the first woman to cross Niagara Falls on a high wire in 1876? 2 Who was the first Indian Man to swim across the English Channel? 3 What is the minimum number of foreigners that must trek together in Sikkim?

4 How many Indians summitted the Everest in 2012? 5 What is the Sanskrit word for Tibet and what does it mean? 6 Who were the team members of the Indian Army that did the 475 day TransHimalaya Expedition in 1981-82?

The winner of May-June 2012 Quiz is Amandeep Chopra from Kolkata

Road Sign photo contest

winner of this issue’s Road Sign contest is Kashish Mehra from New Delhi. Congratulations! The

You have won a

Casio PRW15ooT Pro Trek Sports Watch!

Rush your entries to info@ exploreadventure.in

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Photograph: Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool

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Explore The Unexplored