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the Subcontinent’s 1st adventure travel magazine

Vol I | Issue 1 MAY-June 2012 | `100

Top paragliding moments

FREE 2,400

Adventure Holidays

6 ways to go into

a trance

Journey to Spiti wildlife at Uley Peep into Batalik Rafting in Zanskar Manali-Leh Jeep Safari Camping at Pangong Tso

diving in laksHAdweep | trip to Rimbik | SAILING IN NEW ZEALAND


e d i to r ’ s l e t t e r MAY-JUNE 2012 • VOL I • ISSUE 1

Editor Gaurav Schimar Editorial Abdul Azim Akhtar, Krishna Varma Julliane Foster Design Shalini, Moeen Aijaz Marketing Shobha Kumar, Nupur Kohli Raymond Pinto, Sanjot Singh Circulation Rajeev Nagar, Virendera Negi Advisors Tejbir Singh Anand, President, ATOAI Dinesh Gulati, President, Indian Express Tsering Namgyal, President, ALTOA Leena O’connell Col N.S. Rawat Yusuf uz Zaman Explore Media 5, Jungpura A, Mathura Road New Delhi - 110014 Tel: +91 11 4151 9967 Edited, Printed, Published and Owned by Gaurav Schimar. Published from Explore Media, A-22, Vikaspuri, New Delhi-110018 and Printed at Rakesh Press, A-7, 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.


Adventure – the word connotes different meanings to different people – the common thread being the unsurpassed feeling of being alive. But isn’t adventure associated with facing perils which may be potentially hazardous? Exactly! That’s why one feels ‘alive’ after staring at, and defying, death. These moments may be experienced by some on surreal river bends while rafting, traversing barren landscapes on a jeep safari, flying amidst clouds on a paraglider, diving deep into the ocean to explore its hidden wonders, hiking through thick rainforests or simply plunging free fall into an abyss! Whatever the sport may be, it’s these moments where life momentarily flashes before your eyes, qualify as adventure. That’s exactly what Explore is all about. It gives me immense pleasure to present to you the subcontinent’s first adventure magazine, the realisation of a long cherished dream. At Explore, we aim to bring you the best and most exciting adventure opportunities in the subcontinent, that are guaranteed to bring that zing back into your life. While Nepal is already there on the top of the list of die-hard adventurers, there is no doubt that India is all set to become a hotbed for adventure sports. For Indians, holidays are no longer about lazing around. More and more people are undertaking gruelling road trips, opting for difficult treks or going that extra mile to encounter rare wildlife. Our majestic mountains, dense forests, rocky terrains, gushing rivers, harsh deserts and a long coastline, offer diverse adventure options that suit everyone. The options are endless and opportunities countless... In the launch issue of Explore, we take you straight up to the roof of the world! In the cover story, we present six incredible experiences that any adventure enthusiast can undertake in the trans-Himalaya haven of Ladakh and Lahual and Spiti. Ladakh holds a very special place in my heart, since I first went there many years ago and even after countless trips, I can vouch for the fact that I still have a lot to explore. The feature on Rimbik will be a fine surprise to solitude seekers and nature lovers. The story on paragliding presents a new high, literally! The vivid photo feature on Lakshadweep is bound to leave you gasping for more. There is also an exciting voyage to be undertaken on the pristine waters of New Zealand. We also have a whole lot of exciting, inspiring and expedient features in our regular section, which I hope would prove to be a storehouse of information and help in shaping a ‘perfect’ adventure holiday for you. I hope you will live through all those exhilarating moments that our writers and photographers have captured during their journeys and adventures. On that happy note from Team Explore – Get, Set and Explore!

Hospitality Partner




26 Cover Story 28 Manali-Leh 40 Pangong Set camp on the Jeep Safari banks of the Step onto a high thrill ride to the transHimalaya haven

34 Uley

Adrenalise on a racy jaunt to spot the rare beasts in Sham Valley

mesmerising high-altitude lake

48 Batalik

Explore the newly opened and highly stunning locales of Batalik

54 Zanskar

Give into the rush and raft to the copper canyon of Asia

60 Spiti

Get swept off your feet and give into the visual extravaganza

Features 80 Fly High

Strap on a paraglider for the most stunning experiences of flying around the world

88 Diving in Lakshadweep

Dive to the azure waters of the Arabian Sea for a visual delight

96 Rimbik

Take a breathtaking jaunt in the Bengal Himalaya for an invigorating getaway


102 Sailing in New Zealand

The mammoth coastline of New Zealand makes for a perfect sailing destination


68 A  cclimatisation 72 Reviews Learn the importance and ways to acclimatise

70 Fitness

Train yourself before you ascend to those wobbly heights

A low down of the remarkably wide array of staying options

78 Gear

A checklist of the vital gear for a safe and fulfilling journey


Regulars 05 Editor's Note 10  Contributors 12  Feedback 16  Updates 22 Products 110 Footprints 114  Survive 116  Wildcraft 118  Resort Review 120  Web Review 122 Deals 124 Departures 126 Calender 128  Book Review 129 Contest 130 Ultimate MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED


Explore contributors



Sumer has been an underwater photographer since 2006 and is fast becoming recognised as one of the best underwater photographers in the world. Sumer is based in the beautiful Lakshadweep Islands north of the Maldives, half of the time, and the remaining time shuttles between Andamans and Mumbai. He is Director of Lacadives – a Diving School based in Lakshadweep and Andaman. Sumer is highly qualified in diving, being a CMAS 3 Star Instructor and Course Director, as well as a CMAS Level 2 Underwater Photography Instructor. His work has won awards in several international competitions and his works have been published in various national and international publications.

ANITA MALIK Anita, is an adventure enthusiast since her childhood, all thanks to her Dad’s love for the good things in life. She had been actively trekking in the Sahyadris from her toddler days and travelling the world with her shippy (Merchant Navy) Dad. The travel and adventure bug caught her rather early, so the longing to fly the open skies came pretty naturally. She was among the first few to sign on for a course, when Avi first shifted base from the Himalayas to the Sahyadris. She was so taken by the beauty and simplicity of the sport that she got smitten by the guy who taught her; her Instructor, Avi......and they flew happily ever after! Anita loves flying with friends and going on flying tours with her flying buddies and club pilots. This is her favourite way of holidaying abroad. n

n AVI MALIK Avi is perhaps the most qualified paragliding Instructor in the country today. APPI International’s listed ‘Master Instructor’, Avi is a qualified and Certified Tandem Instructor, XC (Cross Country) Instructor and SIV Instructor. He was in the top three in the NDA entrance, winning the prestigious President’s Gold Medal and being chosen for the IAF as a Fighter Pilot. Flying came so naturally, that it seemed as if he was destined to make the skies his home. His 22 years of intense experience in aviation lends TemplePilots a solid foundation and very high safety standards. He is an EFR (Emergency First Responder) + First Aid Instructor, certified by EFR Australia, a mandatory for any paragliding Instructor.

SANKAR SRIDHAR Author of Ladakh Trance Himalaya, Sankar developed a head for heights as a teenager in Calcutta while climbing stairs, first to peddle pagers and then trousers. A photographer and travel writer, Sankar today specializes in documenting remote regions of the Himalayas by living with the tribes that call these spaces home. Chasing Nyima, Sridhar’s essay on his time with the nomads of Ladakh, found a distinctive place in Penguin’s third edition of First Proof. Sridhar’s photographs have been exhibited in galleries across India and have received awards and honourable mentions at national and international salons and contests.


n MANEESH GOAL Maneesh, a native of Mumbai, is an ambidextrous Piscean who trades financial markets for a living and indulges in various art forms to liven up his life. A Nikonian, he has been a hobbyist photographer and travel blogger for the better part of last decade. Maneesh loves capturing the wildlife, streets and landscapes of India. According to him, India has so much wisdom and diversity to offer that a lifetime may not be enough to experience it. He prays daily for a long life! While he has travelled extensively across the length and breadth of the country, he believes that there is so much still left to be seen and explored.

n saurav schimer Saurav is an aviator by profession but a true adventurer by choice. He has travelled widely across the globe to quench his thirst for exploring the unexplored. He has been actively involved in adventure sports and activities, ranging from sky diving to scuba diving, mountaineering to white water rafting and biking, to just plain ol’ travelling to feel the pulse of the place. A nature enthusiast and wildlife lover, he believes in following the path less trodden. He was part of the hiking club in his college and since then has trekked extensively in the Himalaya. The streak of photography came into his blood stream by the sheer expanse of his travels and the need to capture the memories forever. His motto – live life king size – is at the end of the day, what he lives upto.


Explore letters to the editor Thrilling Adventure Hi , I am new to the world of adventure and I just heard about your magazine. I could not resist going through it and found it very informative. You should have a column, where novices like me get a chance to share views with a large audience. You should have a column from experts as well. I want to learn mountaineering and am not aware of mountaineering schools or institutes. I hope you would help me in finding the best place to learn and address my grey areas. Wish you and your team a great future. ~ Gurpreet Kohli, New Delhi

More Activities

Congratulations! I have been waiting for an adventure magazine, which covers the subcontinent. I am a big adventure enthusiast and have been actively involved in trekking, mountaineering and paragliding. Last year, I scuba dived for the first time. It was an experience of a lifetime and I am waiting for my next experience. I look forward to good content in the magazine, which educates people like us about the adventure scene in our country. Great work!  ~ Raj Sachdeva, Bangalore

Different Strokes I am excited to see Explore – India’s first outdoor magazine. Whatever I have seen, it all looks good. The magazine will be a good addition to know about the adventure scene in India and the subcontinent. I would like to give one feedback. Please keep the magazine coverage diverse and try to accommodate regions, which are not very popular and have not received due attention. There are many regions which are beautiful and can attract

a great number of travellers, but are little known to the world. Such regions should be promoted and you can give them their due share in reporting and coverage. I really hope to share my thoughts and opinion through this column. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Wish you all the success. ~ Nandini Vijaywargiya, Mumbai

We appreciate your efforts in bringing a magazine like Explore to us. You should focus on more and more adventure sports and also tell us about other adventure activities available in the country. We want to pick up some more adventure sports and through your magazine would like to learn about this. We want you to cover all the outdoor activities that happen within the country and if possible support this with illustrations. Good Luck.  ~ Renu Tandon, Hyderabad

Explore more

Great Show!

I love mountains and I am glad to see your magazine. I believe that Explore should have varied content. It should not restrict itself just to any one specific area but should cater to outdoor activities and events like wildlife, camping and photography. It should be different in content and should have a broad horizon, so that all activities get due share. If it has such varied content with a different perspective, it would be a great success and also contribute to the world of adventure. Hope my suggestions are helpful, in getting the reader’s perspective.  ~ Mrinal Mittal, Delhi

The adventure sector is growing, and people like me are looking everyday for more thrills. Explore sounds fantastic and if groomed well could be a boon for adventure lovers. Please try to put in more true stories, of people who have been there and done that. Such real-life experiences and expert advise is inspiring and would encourage us to come forward and take up different activities. I expect a good dose of exciting stories and information from the Explore team. All the best. ~ Shobhit Mal, Chennai


Explore sounds fantastic and if groomed well could be a boon for adventure lovers

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Explore updates

Mess’n Mall The inauguration of the Great Adventure Mall in Noida, U.P. was marked by twin tragedies, when a bungee jumping trainer died and actress Sayali Bhagat was injured. The bungee jumping trainer was performing a stunt while Sayali was participating in a car racing event. The trainer met with a gruesome death, when the rope supporting him snapped near the seventh floor of the Mall. Bhagat sustained a hairline fracture after the jeep she was riding overturned. Bhagat was participating in a jeep racing event at the Mall. AMR the company, which built the Adventure Mall, said there was no “negligence” on part of the management.

Ex-Hubby’s Adventure After his marriage failed, the husband auctioned his belongings on eBay and left on a two-year adventure. Ian Usher made £192,000 by putting his three-bed house in Western Australia and all its contents on sale. His lot on eBay also included a Mazda car, a motorbike, a jet-ski and parachuting equipment. Talking of his “incredible” experiences, he mentioned riding a motorbike on the Wall of Death and running with bulls in Spain. Usher made it to the world headlines after he announced his decision to sell everything he owned, to fund a world tour following his split with his wife, Laura.


Mahindra Sweeps Team Mahindra Adventure won the Dakshin Dare 2012 Rally, and made a sweep of the top titles, in the five-day rally that ended in Bengaluru. The highlight of the victory of Team Mahindra was their determination and the spectacular performance of Mahindra XUV 500. It is the first time in the history of Indian Rallying that a diesel SUV has won in the Extreme category. National Champion Gaurav Gill with co-driver Musa Sheriff and Loitt Urs with co-driver Chipong Chiwan made it to the top spots in the Extreme/Ultimate category. In the Endurance category, Takale/Musthafa and Karthik Murthi/Sankar Anand with Mahindra Scorpios, finished first and second respectively. This was the fourth edition of the rally. Mahindra & Mahindra Sr. Vice President Vivek Nayer, said, “This unprecedented clean sweep by Mahindra vehicles is a testimony to the tough and rugged ‘Mahindra DNA’.

Force India There are more financial woes for Vijay Mallya. Force India F1 racing team, owned by him, has been ordered by a British High Court to pay USD 1 million to rival Formula One team Caterham. The Court ruled against Force India over its legal action against Aerolab and Caterham chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. Force India had accused that the Italian firm had copied significant parts of Force India’s car when designing the Team Lotus T127, which could not be established in the Court. Force India was ordered to pay Italian design company, Aerolab in March 2011 in the same case. The company has been ordered to pay the amount within two weeks.

Tourism Day Nations are gearing up to celebrate the World Tourism Day. The United Nations has highlighted the importance of tourism in generating revenue for countries across the world. And this is more important for developing countries like India, who are struggling to meet UN Millennium Development Goals. Tourism can play a vital role in meeting these goals. The purpose of the day is also celebrating the importance of tourism, and its social, cultural, political and economic value. September 27 is celebrated as World Tourism Day.

Women Vie for Glory

Heritage Expedition The first batch of 50 trekkers has left for the National Heritage Trek Expedition 2012. They were flagged off by President of Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI), M S Pandit, from Udhampur. The trekking expedition is organised by the YHAI in collaboration with Directorate of Education and Tourism, Jammu, and other agencies. Addressing the trekkers, Pandit said, “We in youth hostelling movement believe in ‘wandering we gather honey’ and that is why we are promoting such adventurous activities throughout the world”. He said that youth hostelling promotes the participation of youth belonging to lower middle income group in such activities by providing them facilities on a no profit no loss basis. National Heritage Trek has brought Udhampur on the tourist map of India and is marching ahead to find a place in the international tourist map for adventure related activities, Pandit said.

Two women from Japan, identified as Tame Watanabe, 73, and Eiko Funahashi, 72, are aiming for glory to become the oldest women to reach the Mount Everest summit. These women want to scale Mount Everest, to set a new record. The best weather to launch their attempt is expected around mid-May. Watanabe conquered the peak in 2002 via the normal southeast ridge route, when she was 63. This time she is trying to better her record from the northern route. For Funahashi, this is her third attempt and she has tried unsuccessfully in 2006 and 2010. Their trip is organized by Asian Trekking.

Shay not Shy Actress Shay Mitchell’s mud-covered run in Ireland, has attracted thousands of likes on her official page on Facebook. She ran in the countryside and posted her pictures and stories on the social media site, which became an instant hit with the members. Her pictures and stories received thousands of ‘likes’ and comments from people. It was the first experience for The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), where it has partnered with a tour operator member, a destination member to cover the trip of Shay. MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED


Explore updates Superbikes rule For many Indians, two-wheelers are an affordable mode of transport and for some this is a means for adventure. The growth of the Indian economy has seen a significant rise in sale of premium bikes to motorcycle enthusiasts. Premium bike manufacturers such as Harley Davidson, Ducati, Hyosung, BMW, Triumph and Suzuki have started operations in India and are busy expanding their business in the country through a wide network of dealers. Korean Hyosung which launched its 650cc superbike is about to launch a 250cc model in India. Italian Ducati, which was recently acquired by Audi/ Volkswagen, is also expecting a jump in its sales.

Leadership & Adventure Summit Peaks Foundation is organising the first ever Women’s Leadership and Adventure Summit in Chamonix, France, this June. The summit offers treks across the world that blend challenge, adventure and activism, and target women and girls who seek adventure, achievement, and want to make a difference. The three-day summit will be held beneath Mont Blanc and will bring together women from around the world. The summit is expected to inspire and empower them to reach their highest potential. Attendees will indulge in alpine adventures including ice and rock climbing, glacier walking, and trekking with professional guides.

Dirt Championship Naresh V S won the first round of the Gulf Dirt Track National Championship in Mangalore. He extracted the maximum points to win in the second race of the Indian Expert Class motorcycles 260cc 2 and 4 stroke. The Bengaluru rider was undoubtedly the best in the 14-race event. He faced a stiff challenge from Harith Noah on TVS Apache and S Madhu on Yamaha. The championship was organized by Mumbai’s Sportscraft in association with Mangalore Motor Sports Association.


Top on Top Tom Boonen of Omega PharmaQuickStep rode into the record books with a dominant solo victory at the Paris-Roubaix. With the victory Boonen equals Roger De Vlaeminck’s all-time win record of four victories in the Hell of the North. This is the second time that he has claimed the Tour of Flanders/ Paris-Roubaix double in the same season. The 31-year-old Belgian rode the final 52km alone to win by 1:39, over a five-man chase group led across the finish line in the Roubaix velodrome by Sébastien Turgot (Europcar). Alessandro Ballan (BMC) rounded off the podium for third place in a photo-finish with the Frenchman.

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Explore updates Thomas Cook’s Travel Course Seeing a rise in tourism and travel in India, Thomas Cook has launched a travel professional programme. The four-month undergraduate programme, called ‘My India My Way’, talks of Indian tourist destinations. Students are trained to market places, build operational and selling skills. Smeeta Gulvady, Vice President and Head – Thomas Cook Centre of Learning said, “We offer a wide range of programmes from basic to advanced levels for travel aspirants, students and working executives, ranging from four months to two years in duration.”

WTA Grand Final India will play host to the World Travel Awards (WTA) - considered to be the oscars of the travel industry. The Grand Final Gala Ceremony 2012 will be held at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. It is for the first time that the WTA’s Grand Final will be hosted in Asia, when it will be a boost for the tourism industry in the continent. The WTA organizers have chosen Delhi as the host, due to the city’s continuing evolution as a world-class business and leisure city.

WTTC Awards

Third Time Unlucky Namgya Tshering Sherpa, a Nepali mountaineer died while attempting to scale Mount Everest for the third time. He fell into a deep crevasse while climbing towards Base Camp Two, more than two-thirds of the way up the 29,028 feet peak. Namgya grew up in the shadow of Everest and had conquered the peak in 2010 and 2011. This is the second death this season on the world’s highest peak. Around 300 people have died trying to reach the summit. More than 3,000 people have conquered Everest, since it was first scalled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Every year hundreds more set out in April to attempt the climb. Earlier this week , the son of fabled Everest climber Ang Rita Sherpa was killed by suspected altitude sickness, while attempting to scale the mountain.

Rise in Rafting River rafting is on the rise in the Kullu valley. According to District Tourism Office, Kullu, there are 55 river rafting agencies registered in the area to operate 182 rafts. The department has also approved 179 guides for conducting the adventure activity. In 2011, there were 41 river rafting agencies and 131 rafts. The rise is due to the fact that Himalayan rivers are among the best in the world for rafting.


The World Travel and Tourism Council has chosen three companies and one destination for 2012 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. The winners hail from South America, North America, Europe, and Asia. They were selected from over 150 entries from more than 60 countries. One of the winners is Saunders Hotel Group-USA, which has been a leader in sustainable tourism practices and has converted an old police building into a historic hotel.

Mission Mt. Everest The number of climbers participating in Everest expeditions has increased by around 28 percent this spring, as compared to the same season last year. According to the Tourism Industry Division, 337 climbers from various countries have permission to climb Mt. Everest – the world’s highest peak this spring. The number of climbers in spring 2011 was around 263. The number of expeditions have also grown to 32 this spring as against 26 in 2011 spring. There were altogether 92 expeditions in spring 2011.

Namibia woos Arabs

All-Women Race Preparations have begun for 2013 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, which is believed to be the toughest all-female sporting competition on the planet. The all-female rally raid is held in the deserts of Morocco. Started by French woman Dominique Serra in 1990, the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles brings women from across the globe together to battle the off-road terrain of the Sahara with only a compass, a ruler, and a few outdated maps. No cell phones, no GPS, and no support crews are allowed in the tough competition. The goal is to reach each checkpoint by the shortest distance. The event carries no prize, but there is glory to be achieved.

The growing Middle East tourism market is the focus of Namibia. The African country is facing tough competition from its neighbours, as it woos the Arabs to boost its tourism industry. The African market has relied on the west for survival. With the global crisis affecting the income of many European and American households, the African Tourism is looking for new potential markets. Namibia Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga said, “Our hope is to tap the Arabian market, as so far Namibia has only had traditional markets such as Europe. We want to add to that so that, we do not put all our eggs in one basket.” The Namibia Tourism Board participated in the Dubai Annual Investment Meeting at Dubai.

Asia’s busiest Airport Beijing, is Asia’s busiest Airport, according to the Airport Council International (ACI) world traffic report. The Chinese city is second in the world, behind Atlanta, and following behind are Tokyo, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Dubai airport. The Asia Pacific region has recorded a positive 5.7 percent growth year on year in passenger traffic in 2011. The report found that the Middle East area also recorded a 84 percent increase, year on year. The total freight traffic in the Asia Pacific and Middle East area is 41 percent of the world’s total freight, recorded by the ACI. MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED


Explore products






A sneak preview of the latest gear to equip your outdoor kit 1. Regatta Survivor

2. Swiss Champ Red

3. Kombi Ryde GTX

4. MapMyIndia

5. Bleiler Signature Series

This new 85 litre capacity ruck sack is specially designed for the rough outdoors. It is made of Hardwearing 600D polyester and polyester diamond ripstop. The bag has a survivor air mesh back construction to allow ventilated airflow. There is a flip lid with ‘quick release’ cord fastening and also adjustable comfort fit padded air mesh hip belt. There are side pockets with drainage holes and a front bungee storage system. A must have for any outdoor enthusiast. Cost: ` 2,800

The Victorinox Swiss beauty is part of the original swiss army knives collection. The knife comes with an array of features which are essential and at times life saving in the outdoors, like – large and small blade, corkscrew, can opener with small screwdriver, cap lifter with screwdriver, wire stripper, reamer, punch, key ring, tweezers, toothpick, scissors, multi-purpose hook, wood saw, fish scaler with hook disgorger and ruler besides a dozen other tools! Cost: ` 4500

The Kombi Ryde GTX Gloves have an amazing construction, incorporating Gore-Tex waterproofing to the outer shell and AccuDri moisture wicking management to the inner for warmth and dryness. These men’s ski gloves have an elasticated panel with touch and close strap for a secure fit, and a large logo at the back and Kombi motif complete the look. The gloves are ideal for cold and rugged mountain driving and provide loads of comfort and protection. Cost: ` 2,900

MapMyIndia has recently announced coverage of maps of 174 cities covering every street. It also has coverage of smaller cities where a GPS could prove very useful. Map My India also shows various points of interest like ATM, restaurants and hotels. MapMyIndia, offers two GPS devices with loads of features. In India MapMyIndia currently is the only provider of GPS to have made a mark. The GPS also offers a five day trial of the mobile GPS. Cost: ` 1,190 to 3,490.

The new range of goggles from Oakley are feminine and beautiful, fearless and hardworking, the GB Signature A-Frames reflects Gretchen Bleiler’s spirit. In addition to this performance goggle, the Oakley Stockholm™ snow goggle is available in a Gretchen Bleiler special edition. The goggles are fitted with anti-fog treated ballistic lens and come with plutonite® lens for optical clarity and has high mass and high velocity impact. The goggles offer 100% protection against UV A, B and harmful blue. Cost: On request


Explore products







6. Serengeti Larino

7. Mcmurdo II

8. Yale XTC

9. PRG-250T

10. Bering RG 55

The Larino range from Serengeti comes in crystal brown and black frames with Polar PhD Drivers lenses. Larino’s contours provide character, while advanced photochromic Polar PhD technology offers a fantastic view. They come with photochromic and antiblue light and spectral control technology, improving contrast and colours. The glasses come with polarized filter absorbing 100% of reflected light. Cost: ` 9,900

Inspired by groundbreaking Antarctic explorations, this waterproof, insulated boot enables you to walk mile after snowy mile in -40°F conditions, similar to those found on this sub-zero continent. Waterproof nubuck leather upper combines with a shell at forefoot to provide resilient protection, crucial for wintry conditions. Ample PrimaLoft® Eco insulation provides ample warmth for sub-zero conditions. Cost: ` 8,000

XTC 16-strand is one of the brightest arborist ropes you’ll ever see. Reviews of this rope from tree climbers are great, it handles well, is firm, and very easy to spot in dense foliage. This line is specifically designed for the demanding needs of arborists, embodying the same characteristics of XTC ropes Yale has made for the last two decades. They come in a full splash of colours for high visibility and with average breaking strength of 6,200 pounds! Cost: On request

The new offer from Protrek is a high-performance outdoor watch for various environments, including mountain and ocean. This watch not only offers the compass bearing and altitude features necessary for mountain climbing, but also strong water-resistance for river climbing and river rafting, where the user may encounter strong water pressure, as well as convenient tide information for sea kayaking and fishing. Cost: ` 15,000

The new RG-55 is a night vision adventure gear. By utilizing their high magnification, excellent optical systems and advanced Gen 1 image intensifier tube, the RG-55-2 will bring you quite bright and sharp images. The durable, rubber armour housing is perfectly fit for harsh field conditions and some outdoor activities for civilian and military use. In one word, RG-55 are fantastic night vision units. Cost: On request




Manali-Leh Jeep Safari

Exploring new limits at Batalik

Snow leopard spotting at Uley

Zanskar River rafting expedition

Camping at Pangong Tso

Incredible journey to Spiti



The best way to start discovering the transHimalaya is by undertaking the highly exhilarating Manali-Leh Jeep Safari, says Radhika Exploring the scenic Western Himalayas on a Jeep had been one of my long cherished dreams. When I was recently invited by my Ladakhi friend Rigzin, to undertake the safari, there was nothing more I could ask for. I was going to travel from the scenic Manali town to Leh, which takes one through one of the most breathtaking mountain terrain, exotic places, as diverse as ancient monasteries and temples, hi-altitude deserts and isolated lakes, albeit through challenging mountain roads. People from all over the world come to experience the highs offered by this jeep safari. Manali in Himachal Pradesh is the gateway to the trans-Himalaya highway for the near-legendary twoday journey to Ladakh’s capital, Leh.

Before the opening of this route, the only route to Leh was through Zojila pass via Srinagar. After opening of this route, access to Leh is now shorter and gives one the prospect to get engulfed by the stunning landscape the journey offers. The mountains of Manali in winters are snow clad and transform into perfect skiing slopes. In summers now, they were flush with apples, giving the landscape hues of green and red. Ideally one should embark on the safari just when the passes open, as you pass through ‘snow walls’ on numerous passes. My journey started with an early morning 51 km ascent to Rohtang Pass in the mighty Pir Panjal range. With a massive landslide causing a long traffic snarl, which took six hours to clear up, we finally managed to


jeep safari


ALMOST HEAVEN: The winding road leading to Baralachala – the twelvehorned pass at 16,050 ft

Ideally one should embark on the safari just when the passes open, as you pass through ‘snow walls’ on numerous passes MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED


Rohtangtunnel Due to the military significance of the Manali-Leh highway, and the need to keep it open the entire year, the government began building the $320 million, 8.5 km long Rohtang Tunnel in 2010, to bypass Rohtang pass, for creating a much safer and faster yearround link to Keylong, Lahaul and Spiti and Leh. The tunnel will also shorten the distance by about 50 km and reduce the travel time between the southern and northern faces of Rohtang pass by five hours. While it now takes 4 to 6 hours to ascend, negotiate and descend the Rohtang pass, it will take only about 30 minutes to travel through the Rohtang tunnel. But will the mighty Border Roads Organization be able to keep the road open throughout the year, is a big question.

reach Rohtang at a height of 13,055 ft, late in the afternoon. With the ascent, the drop in temperature was sudden and the ferocious chilly winds were trying to push me out of my skin! I realised why Rohtang, which literally means ‘a pile of dead bodies’, has been named so. Many travellers have been caught stranded here due to ruthless weather. The unaccustomed ones feel their first symptoms of high altitude sickness at the pass. Here I was immersed in the majesty of the mountains in all its splendour. The snow glistened as I looked down over herringboned ridges into the Lahaul Valley. I also spotted the beautiful Doshohar Lake left of the pass, where pilgrims go every year on the auspicious day of 20th Bhadon. We

UP AND AWAY (top): Travellers pose for a photo op at Baralachala; (left) a jeep slushes through a rivulet at Moray Plains

by the landslide. This is a common phenomenon, he clarified.

were greeted by a number of glaciers across the pass, one of them being the Beas glacier, which is the source of the revered Beas River. The descent from Rohtang to the floor of the Chandra Valley affords alluring glimpses of the valley below. After a couple of hours of drive we arrived at Gramphoo in the Lahaul valley. Gramphoo was dotted by a few shacks where most of us enjoyed momos and thukpa, which we washed down with cups of hot black tea. At Gramphoo, I witnessed the most colourful sunset ever and did my best to capture it on film. As we resumed our journey, Rigzin informed us that we will be spending the night at Jispa, instead of the planned stay at Sarchu, due to the delay caused


We drove along the Chandra River, while the moon was out in its full glory. I can never forget the incredible magic spell cast on me by the moon, which illuminated the shimmering river and the mountains surrounding it. I thanked the mountain Gods, as I would have missed this spectacle but for the landslide in the morning.

Drivingtips • Start early and avoid driving in the night • Carry a shovel as the vehicle may get stuck at more than one place • Carry ample amount of energy bars and water • Do not stop at passes for more than a few minutes, to avoid falling prey to AMS • If faced with AMS, the only cure is to descend

jeep safari

Though I tried my best to capture the scene on camera, one has to be there to experience the etherealness of the moment. We arrived at the only hotel in Jispa, where we had a sumptuous meal and soon were off to bed, as we had to start the next day very early, to make up for the lost time that day. I could hardly get any sleep as the crisp and unalloyed mountain air was beckoning me for more action. I got up before anyone else and armed myself with my cameras, lenses and tripod and took a walk to the quaint village of Jispa with the river flowing through it. I met a few curious locals who offered me a room to stay, mistaking me probably for a foreigner

I realised why Rohtang, which literally means ‘a pile of dead bodies’, has been named so who had lost her way. They told me that the river was shallow near the village and plenty of trout fish can be caught during summers and is in fact an angler’s delight. I enjoyed some really delicious local tea prepared by them. I shared my chocolates with the children, who in turn took me to the village museum which housed the arts and crafts of the region. I met a few bikers on their Bullets, amongst them were two lady bikers as well. They were from Germany and

were planning to bike all the way to Khardungla. By the time I got back to the hotel, Rigzin was frantically searching for me. He told me that I was going to miss my breakfast at the hotel but the same had been packed to be had on the Jeep. Back on the road, across the slopes of the valley, I saw many a towering peaks and hanging glaciers. We took a sharp descent to the base of the sacred Rangcha Mountain



Next, we approached Baralachala which simply bowled me out of my senses. Baralacha or the twelvehorned pass forms the head of three valleys, the Bhaga, the Chandra and the Yunan. We subsequently crossed Sarchu which was dotted by many tents and shacks by the banks of the Bhaga River.

Phototips • There are photo ops at every bend of the road, so take into account the extra stoppages • Use UV filter to avoid damage to the eyes through the harmful UV rays which become more acute in the high altitude environment • Prayer flags, ancient prayer stones, chortens, snow peaks, streams… these are just some of the photo subjects • The best time for photography in the mountains is till ten in the morning and before sunset

POWDER ALL AROUND: Snow covered vista at Tanglangla

Next we were taken in by the Gata Loops – a series of 22 hairpin bends that take you to Lachungla – the 17,000 ft pass into Ladakh. It was getting too cold now, even as the mid day sun was out in full. From the pass we descended to Pang, at almost 15000 ft. Just three km from Pang is the astonishing Moray Plains, a 45 km long plateau encircled, by rolling hills and brilliant white Himalayan peaks. Pang has the makings of a typical cowboy movie with rugged rocks and strange rock formations, coming

out of every creek in the mountain. I marvelled at Mother Nature at its architectural best. Now the road started its ascent from Dibring Camp to Tanglangla at 17,476 ft, the second highest pass in the world. By the time we reached there, a couple of fellow travellers threw up and many of us suffered from slight nose bleeding, a symptom of high altitude sickness. The flip side to the delayed start from there, gave me ample opportunity to absorb the beauty of the majestic peaks and in fact I went on a shooting frenzy. I had to be literally pulled away from my camera to get back into the Jeep. The Karakoram ranges were clearly visible from there, which Rigzin told me, served as a sign for the ancient travellers on this route that they were approaching Ladakh. Now the road was winding up along the Indus valley. Indus is the river which was the lifeline of India for thousands of years. It gave rise to the one of the oldest civilizations of the


jeep safari

world – the Indus Valley Civilization. I was overwhelmed at the sight of the great river and felt I was amongst the pages of a history book. I could see posters and banners hung outside the many shops run by Tibetans along the road, with slogans of ‘Free Tibet’. As we had a late meal at one of the joints, one particular poster caught my attention which read, ‘Game Over, Go Back’ with the Olympics symbol broken from between. The sentiments of the Tibetans cannot be described in a better fashion. As we reached Upshi, the final frontier to Leh, I read another interesting slogan on a ‘Himank’ signboard, ‘Contact Himank for a road to the moon’! The formidable task that Himank undertakes of building and maintaining these high altitude roads is heroic indeed. Leh was just 40 km from Upshi. The road was marked by high peaks on the horizon and the villages boasted of many whitewashed chortans, which were built in ancient times to wash

Pang has the makings of a typical cowboy movie with rugged rocks and strange rock formations coming out of every creek away ones sins. As I marvelled at a huge chortan, I was informed that, the bigger the sin the bigger the chortan one had to build! Before long I could see towering monasteries along the road, a sign that we were finally almost in Leh. As the city finally unfolded in front, I could see the numerous prayer wheels dotting many corners of the streets. We stopped at the gigantic gate at the entry point in the city, which resembles the entry into a monastery with two dragons carved out on top of it. We parked our Jeep and walked to the prayer wheels, which Rigzin

told me was to thank the Gods for the safe journey we’d had. As I was turning the prayer wheels, I could see Leh town spread across the desert with green patches in between and the many red and white peaks towering and protecting the town. Though the sun was setting in the horizon, my heart was beating faster as I knew that this was just the beginning of the many adventures I was going to have, at the roof of the world.



Don that trekking gear and get on a high adrenaline jaunt to Uley in Sham Valley, live in the enigmatic land and experience the magic of its wonderful people and majestic beasts, says Gaurav Schimar



“Sir jee! Look! Ureals!” With these words of Tashi, the jeep stopped to a screeching halt and I landed on the snow covered tarmac and yanked out the camera from its case, just to realize that the zoom lens was not in place. By the time I was able to fix the zoom the ureals had already climbed higher up the mountain. Tashi, comforted me by telling me that I can come and track ureals anytime as they lived in the mountains not very far off from Leh. Tashi, my companion and guide had happily agreed to track the snow leopard in the Sham Valley of Ladakh and advised we set up camp at Uley, the last village in the region.


After an early start we stopped enroute at Nimoo for breakfast and after criss-crossing the precarious mountain road for about an hour, we made a pit stop to catch our breath, when some footprints caught my attention. The footprints were running across the road from the valley below and were leading up the mountain top. I called Tashi over, who at the first glance declared that they were fresh snow leopard pugmarks! We spent about half an hour scanning the snow covered mountainscape following the pugmarks. But they led us to a sheer cliff which we could not have climbed even if we were skilled mountaineers. Another hour of driving saw us arrive at Yanthang. We had to set out on foot from here. As Tashi and I started the trek to Uley, our way was blocked by a stream which was partially covered in snow. “No sweat”, declared Tashi, “We will cross over the river where it has a thick ice cover.” We were safely across the river, at least for the first time. As the river stood in our way again for the second time, I again followed Tashi’s lead, just to find the ice cracking under my weight and

We spent about half an hour scanning the snow covered mountainscape following the pugmarks. But they led us to a sheer cliff which we could not have climbed even if we were mountaineers

THE MAJESTIC: The snow leopard spotted at Uley

that of my heavy ruck sack! Plonk! I found myself submerged, luckily till the waist, as Tashi caught my flagging hands. As he pulled me to the bank, he asked me to immediately remove my shoes, socks and jeans. I could see the tension in the creases of his face. The water was at least minus 15 degrees and a minute in those icy waters is all that it takes for frostbite to strike. I yanked off my wet clothes and put on fresh layers of clothing on my lower body. Tashi ordered me to take a swig of brandy to get the blood circulating again. He did not let me rest for long and ordered I march

on and I obeyed, as I realized that the uphill climb would be good to generate some body heat. But the uphill climb to Uley was quite a task, as the yak tracks we were following were at least at a gradient of 80 if not 90 degrees. We stopped every now and then, I to catch my breath and Tashi to scan the ridges with his binoculars. All around us were sheer cliffs and a stone covered ridge with monolithic like structures. It reminded me of the Stonehenge. When we finally reached Uley, a smile swept over my entire being. The




The Snow Leopard known as shan in Ladakh, once was found throughout the Himalaya, Tibet, and as far as the Sayan mountains on the Mongolian-Russian border. They are extremely shy and hard to spot, and as such not well known. It is believed there are about 200 in Ladakh. While tourists are unlikely to see the leopards themselves, during winter the footprints and other marks are not uncommon. Snow leopards show several adaptations for living in a cold mountainous environment. Their bodies are stocky and fur is thick to minimize heat loss. A highly endangered species, the snow leopard has finally won the battle for survival in at least Ladakh, as its population has increased to a record 400. The success behind this, can be attributed to the Himalayan Homestay Program. Earlier when the snow leopard hunted livestock, the villagers used to poison their food. But with an insurance program in place under the Homestay aegis, where every livestock lost was compensated, it stopped the mindless killing of the majestic beast. Then by training locals to invite tourists into their homes, the villagers realised the importance of snow leopard and other wildlife as a source to generate additional income.

small village was just the way I had imagined it to be. A few mud houses sprawled amidst snow covered fields, with thangkas fluttering all around and yaks and sheep and the odd dog barking at a distance. The icy evening breeze made the scene all too surreal. Nurboo, our host welcomed us with freshly baked Ladakhi bread which we washed down with some butter tea. “There are some English biscuits also, if you would like,” he said. I was happy with the thick bread. I bombarded Nurboo with question about the snow leopard and ibex and other wildlife of the region. He said that this year there have been many sightings of the Ghost Who Walks Ladakh (as Tashi has named the snow leopard) and the last one he saw was about a week ago. He also disclosed that ibex sightings were common around Uley, at any given point of time.


After many a false alarm I just lazed around to enjoy the sheer bliss that nature had bestowed the place with ZOOMING IN: Peering through the binoculor for signs of wildlife atop the ridge at Uley

After an animated discussion in the warm kitchen, Tashi and Nurboo informed, the tracks we saw while driving up were of two leopards, a male and a female. The chances were they have gone to the remotest region of Sham to mate! Mate! No one has ever documented snow leopards mating in the wild and my chances of doing so were equally remote, given the sheer terrain the leopards’ inhabit. But then, I am a dreamer and I slept fantasising about snow leopards.


It was a bright morning the next day which found Tashi already perched on the rooftop peering through a mammoth telescope. “Good morning sir jee,” he shouted, “No luck so far. Let us have breakfast and go chase some animals.” I took cue that it would be another laborious trek and filled myself to the brim with skew – a nooodle dish with vegetables thrown in to get the required energy. The next hour saw us making our way down to the valley floor where the river greeted us again. There were a number of yaks drinking from the freezing river. They posed graciously for the camera and we started the ascent to the best

vantage point in the region according to Tashi. We lunged at regular intervals to peer into the sheer cliffs and the distant glacier to spot any signs of life. After many a false alarms, I finally just lazed around to enjoy the sheer bliss that nature had bestowed the place with. I must’ve been day dreaming when suddenly I started hearing sounds of TASHI! TASHI! TASHI! echoeing the valley. It was Nurboo calling out to Tashi and we assumed that he may have spotted something on the other face of the mountain. We hurried on our way back along with yaks and

likirgompa The Likir Monastery of Leh Ladakh was founded in the later half of the 11th century, around the year 1605. The name Likir means “The Naga – Encircled”. The reason behind this naming of Likir Gompa of Ladakh is because it is believed that it stands surrounded by the bodies of the two great serpent spirits, the Naga-rajas – Nanda and Taksako. The Lama, a great champion of meditation, blessed the site offered to him, after which the construction on the monastery was undertaken.




It started making its way with unbelievable agility towards the ridge hanging above us and disappeared

MAN AND NATURE (left): A villager at Uley spinning yak wool; (above) a snow covered field at Uley


sheep all around us. A group of Ibex, but at a distance, informed Nurboo. After walking about a km, Tashi set up the telescope and let out a scream the moment he peered into the snow blanketed ridge above us, “Sir jee, most amazing! A dozen of them!” When I got the chance to scan though the lens, I could see ibex of all shapes and sizes. Suddenly the silence was broken by some stones being hurtled downhill, from a distance not very far from us.

Voila! The Ghost Who Walks Ladakh emerged into clear view adjacent to us! The Ghost looked at us with an uninterested yawn and then let out a low throated snarl which I this time did not fail to capture on film! Tashi, signaled me to be quiet and I understood that the Ghost was getting ready for the kill. It started making its way with unbelievable agility towards the ridge hanging above us. He disappeared from view as easily as he had emerged in front of us. All within a matter of seconds. Panicking for the lives of the ibex above, I frantically looked into the telescope to find not a single animal in view. Tashi smiled, “Relax sir jee, the ibex have sprinted away into the vertical ridge the moment the snow leopard emerged and now must be far enough for even a ghost to catch them!”

Could this be

heaven? Pangong Tso is Ladakh’s crowning jewel and its many charms are sure to leave you spellbound, says Kashish Mehra Asia’s largest brackish-water lake, the Pangong Tso, stands evidence to the fact that the roof of the world was once part of the legendary ‘Tethys Sea’. Pangong Tso, where Tso means lake and Pangong means a ‘long, narrow, enchanted lake’ in Tibetan, is situated at a height of 14,500 ft. The blue brackish Pangong which is about 144 km long and 5 km wide at its broadest point, forms the boundary between India and China. More than 50 km of this lake falls in Ladakh on the Indian side, with the remaining in Tibet. Today a major tourist attraction in Ladakh, it was once out of bounds for civilians due to its strategic military importance. Pangong also had an outlet to Shyok River, but this closed off due to natural damming. Now two streams feed the lake from the Indian side, resulting in marshes and wetlands.

The pictures of Pangong I’d seen on postcards, had resulted in my being in Leh, to finally see it in person. I’d also heard that seeing the lake was like getting a glimpse of paradise. Always revered by serious travellers, nature enthusiasts and photographers, Pangong’s recent rise to stardom is all thanks to it being the backdrop for the last scene of the Bollywood film, ‘3 Idiots’. After the huge success of the movie, Pangong has been attracting droves of tourists. However, not many know that Pangong has also previously featured in the Hollywood movie, ‘The Fall’. Early morning saw us en-route to Pangong, along with a troupe organized by Northern Escapes. A sojourn was made at the ManaliLeh highway, after which I found myself entering profound mountains. Green pastures started giving way to


BIRDS IN HEAVEN: (below) Seagulls scurrying for their feed at the lake: (facing page) a girl perched in the lake tries to capture the rising sun

sandy hills and I could see the prayer flags at Changla, the world’s third highest pass, at a height of 17,586 ft. Changla has snow all round the year. While the snow may be about 10 ft or so during winters, in the summers you would see at least an inch of snow around the pass. But beware!



Changla is mischievous. You may experience snowfall at the pass even in the peak of summer! The Indian Army runs a tea counter at the pass where travellers can warm their palms with a cup of warm black tea. The Army also runs a souvenir shop, where you can pick up small mementos for family and friends. A series of stairs lead to the quaint temple of Changla Baba. Our journey resumed after we paid homage at the temple of Changla Baba. On the way down, villages lying just below the pass presented a pretty picture. We halted for lunch at Tsoltak, the summer pasture land of yaks. Ever the enthusiastic

photographer, I found the idling yak very camera friendly. They posed graciously, as I clicked away in a flurry. Amidst the pastures, I spotted beautiful rare wild horses which are local to the region. My guide told me that the horses were very shy, but that did not stop me from inching towards them to get a close shot or two. The more I drew closer to them, the farther they went! After trying to get a perfect shot for several minutes, I gave up. I was taken by surprise by the shy marmots, that look like furry rabbits scurrying from burrow to burrow, in search of God knows what! I was informed by the locals that the marmots sometimes make trenches that run several hundred feet!

We soon crossed Durbuk and Tangtse, the last towns before the lake. A short drive marked by many ravines running along the road finally brought us to the western gateway of the lake. The first view of the lake was simply astounding! The lake suddenly came into view between two mountains. Such were the colours reflected by the placid waters of the lake, that it seemed like a giant blue peacock basking peacefully in the sun. I couldn’t wait another moment to land on the shores of this huge beautiful lake. As the jeep raced towards the azure waters of the lake, my heart started beating wildly in anticipation. When I finally set foot on the lakeshore and splashed




Photo Tips • Sunrise and sunset are the magical times to capture the play of light on the lake. Wake up at least an hour before sunrise to capture the magic of light unfolding behind the mountains • Sit by the shore and you will invariably find a seagull elegantly posing for you. Sometimes they come in droves, providing those postcard-perfect shots • Though it may involve strenuous hikes, look for a vantage spot to capture those surreal moments

WILD BEAUTIES: Horses grazing in the pastures of Tsoltak


the freezing waters on my face; the weariness of the rough five hour ride vanished in an instant. The lake spread through the distant mountains and could only be seen as far as the eyes could see. I couldn’t care for anything else. So, out came camera and tripod, and I was ready to capture the magic being woven by the sunlight dancing on the lake’s surface. I don’t think there was any colour that was missing from an artist’s palette, that I saw before me. It was like some naughty child

had gotten hold of an paint box and had smeared the lake’s canvas with every colour the child could get hold of. The water was unbelievably clear and from a distance all the shades of blue were visible. I knew that even if this beautiful waterscape did get reproduced on film, one had to be here to see and experience the enchantment. As I again let the camera shutter loose, I was politely informed that hot tea, prepared graciously by the defence personnel there, was waiting. Our armed forces guard the Indian side of the lake

dise ra a p l u f e c a e p a in lf e rs u o Find y in the Heaven on Earth


Fort Road, Leh, Ladakh-194101 Mob: +91 9596253464, +91 9622999061 Telefax: +91 1982 252943

Located on the famous Fort Road, just half a km from Leh Market yet away from the bustle of the crowd, Hotel Mandala is dotted by Poplar trees and situated amidst lush green environs. Built in traditional style, Hotel Mandala provides you with an unparalleled stay in Leh.


pick up and drop from airport room for meditation/prayer lLibrary lTravel desk lFree wi-fi, telephone Service lShrine


Hotel Jeep for hire heated rooms lGame room for cards, carrom etc. lRoof-top dining on request at no extra cost lNature walks on request lCentrally




I don’t think there was any colour that was missing from an artist’s palette zealously, after they suffered heavy losses in the Indo-China war. Shortly thereafter, I found myself nestled inside a power boat, courtesy the army, which uses these boats to navigate the lake during summer. The same lake, when it freezes over in winters, becomes motorable terrain. As the boat took off, I knew that this ride was going to be one of the most memorable one’s of my life. The chilling water lapped and splashed all over me as we speed across the lake’s vast expanse. The boat gradually idled to a comfortable speed, which gave me the time to notice my company. A beautiful seagull was flying right above us, competing with the speeding boat. The boat commander pointed to some distant mountains which demarcated the Indo-China border. Even as he pointed them out, I truly understood for the first time, that no one can own the gifts of mother nature and that Pangong Tso, was testimony to this fact. We travelled across the lake, and I left no stone unturned in trying to capture everything that I could on camera. The lake does have some amount of micro-vegetation. Of course, except for small crustaceans, there are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake. However, one can see numerous ducks and gulls skimming the lake’s surface. There are some species of

scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshy areas around the lake. The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of local and migratory birds. During summer, the bar-headed goose and brahmini ducks are commonly seen here. Once I landed back on terra-firma, I set out to explore the land on foot. I came across some bikers who had undertaken the herculean task of biking to Ladakh all the way from Mumbai. Places like Pangong Tso are the legendary places, Ladakh offers, to those who are thirsty for adventure. Till about two years ago, tourists were allowed only up to Lukung, the first village on the Indian side of the lake. But since last year, tourists were allowed to explore almost the entire length of the lake. One can now visit hamlets like Spangmik and Man-Merak, that lie around the inner periphery of the lake.

The Chnagchenmo range is visible from Spangmik and the snow clad peaks along with the beautiful glaciers make the place look etheral. One gets to see such scenery only in movies and postcards. Spangmik has numerous camp sites mushrooming on the lakeshore. In fact the growth of these camp sites is so prolific that, the wildlife department has threatened to put a stop to these very soon. There are several homestays in


AROUND PARADISE (top to bottom): A father and daughter at a BRO road sign near Tsoltak; a girl jumps for that ‘ecstatic’ shot; the serene waters of the lake at sunset

Perfect blend of traditional allure and contemporary conceptualization!



Skara, Leh - Ladakh - 194101, Jammu & Kashmir, India Ph: 01982-252000, Fax: 01982-252001, Mob: 09419177425, 09818281103 MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED 45,

Staying in homestays is ideal, if you want to interact with the locals and get a closer look at their lives both Spangmik and Man-Merak. Not only are these comfortable as lodging options, but are also warmer than tents. Staying in homestays is ideal, if you want to interact with the locals and get a closer look of the struggle these people go through to survive the harshness of the region. Though I would have loved to explore the homestay option, this time I didn’t have a choice. I was checked into a camp where I freshened up and engaged in a conversation with the locals. They told me about the existence of a hill called Garnet Hill near the lake. They said that if I chose to, a not-too-strenuous trek up to the ‘summit’ could yield a

decent handful of rough garnets! Well, that’s all I needed to hear and the next moment saw me on my way to the hilltop, in the company of my camera and a bottle of water. Soon my fellow companions who smelt a rat by now, followed suit and we started searching frantically for the fabled garnets. I felt like an Australian gold digger, transported to the surreal surroundings of Pangong Tso. In a short while, I had a slab of a garnet studded stone in my hand. From a distance, the stone looked quite ordinary. But if one took a closer look, tiny garnet pieces were clearly visible on the stone surface. I spent almost two hours on the hill, salvaging


WANDER TO WANDERLAND (from top): Seagulls take a breather on the icy surface of Pangong; the broadest point of Pangong in india; snow covered Changla pass


Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary falls in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and encompasses Tsomoriri and Pangong Tso. The average altitude in the sanctuary is 16,500 ft, and the landscape comprises of deep

gorges and large plateaus. Besides the two big lakes, there are nine smaller lakes and ten marshes in the sanctuary. The Indus River cuts through the sanctuary dividing it into two parts. The Snow Leopard, perhaps the most rare and majestic animal, is found in this haven. The sanctuary is also home to the Tibetan Wolf and Argali.

There are more than forty species of birds found in the region, including the highly endangered blacknecked crane. The black-necked Crane that is found on the Tibetan Plateau is about 140 cm tall and has a wingspan of 8 ft! They breed in lakeside and riverine marshes. They are revered in Buddhist customs and culturally protected.


whatever I could, long after others had given up and returned dejected. Suddenly I heard my name echoing amidst the mountains. For a moment I thought, my greed had finally brought upon my doom! The devil was finally here, to escort me away for being greedy and pilfering garnets! But then as I regained my senses, I saw my guide waving frantically at me. I guess he was searching for me for a long time! On my way downhill, I was mesmerised by the ballad of colours that the setting rays of the sun were reflecting off the lake’s surface. The shimmering colours of the lake seemed surreal. Everything around me was heavenly.

...I was mesmerised by the ballad of colours that the setting rays of the sun were ref lecting off the lake’s surface By the time I reached the campsite, a bonfire was already lit, to beat the bone chilling full moon night. As snacks and spirits flowed, I found everyone just glad to be there. The moon was out in full glory, which made me go back to the lake to try and capture the spectacular view on film. Only if technology was as

advanced as the human eye! I have never seen such a night sky in my life. It would’ve taken me an entire lifetime to count the zillions of stars that were twinkling in the sky. I could almost make out the outline of the lake amongst them. It was then that I knew, if there was paradise anywhere, it was here at…. Pangong Tso!



Be one of the first to take the high road to the magnificent Batalik sector, in the sensitive Indo-Pak border region, which has seen much action since partition but is one of the most peaceful places, and get arrested by its sundry charms, says Gaurav Schimar




Batalik. Just the name, sets off a chain reaction that ends in an explosion of fond memories in my soul. But to put things in perspective, allow me to take you on a journey, down the alley of years gone by. The strategic importance of Batalik can be understood by anyone, who has seen Bollywood thrillers like Lakshya, that were inspired by the Kargil war. Because of the extreme winters in Kashmir, it was mutually accepted by both, the Indian and Pakistani armies, that forward posts would be abandoned during these cold months and reoccupied in the spring. But in a bid to capture Kashmir, in the spring of 1999, Pakistan reoccupied not only their own but also the Indian forward

SNOWY HEIGHTS: The snow covered approach to Fotula – the highest point at 13,500 ft, on the LehSrinagar highway

posts, far ahead of schedule. Just in the nick of time, acting on a tip off from a local Batalik shepherd, Indian forces set up an ambush to thwart the advancing Pakistani troops. India launched its biggest air strike since the 1971 war, to support its ground troops. It is said that had it not been for the prowess of the Indian Air Force and the swiftness of the ground troops, the geo-political maps of the region would substantially change. Though the Kargil war ended on a victorious note for India, like all wars, it had its long term effects. The Batalik sector, like so many others in Kashmir, was now even more fiercely guarded and closed to the rest of the world. But fortunately,

the scene is changing, as the peace process between the two countries is underway. The news that Batalik along with a few other sectors is being opened for Indian and foreign tourists in the summer of 2010, for the first time since partition, was enough to make any travel buff break into an impromptu jig. I was of course one of them! Many tourists travelling along the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar route every year feel they have seen it all. Don’t mistake me. It’s not that the scenery on this route is not stunning. But during my travels I have learned that, to see the exotic, one must leave behind the familiar. So a January winter, after spending a cozy night



Fastfacts Getting There • The best way to approach Batalik sector is to drive along the Leh-Kargil Highway (NH1D) and take the right turn from Khalsi. The journey from Leh will takes about 8 hours in summers and could take arund 14 hours in winters. • The other, though much longer route is from Srinagar, again on NH1D via Sonmarg, Drass, Kargil and then turning northwards from Namikla. • The nearest airports are Leh (160 km) and Srinagar (300 km). Where to Stay • There are plenty of homestays and guest houses in Batalik region. Northern Escapes ( is the recommended outfitter to take care of all your travel requirements, including stay, transportation and treks in the region.

Other sections of the road however gave me the same feeling that one gets when you’re falling off a cliff - you know the one where your heart does a crazy dance, a flip-flop and then stops? at Khalsi, camped out on the banks of the frozen Indus, I left early morning in a sturdy Maruti 800, to discover where the river, which is said to have given birth to the greatest civilization on earth, would lead me. By the way, I acquired new respect for this tiny little (now out of production) car, as it navigated all sorts of terrain in that weather, with the ease of a mountain goat. And here is my advice to all Maruti 800 mountain travellers. If it gets stuck, get out and push it. If it is rolling down, just put a stone below the tyres. In case you are unable to

Best Time to visit • The region beyond Dha is opened for tourists now and summer is the time when all the passes are open and one can travel comfortably in the region. The days are pleasant and the nights are cool • Winter is the time when the views are at their stunning best. Indus is mostly frozen and provides for those interesting photo ops. But beware - The passes are mostly snowbound and the roads are covered with snow, so take experienced drivers and experienced guides with you.


stop it from going down the mountain side, just take out your belongings and let it go! You will find another inexpensive one soon.

VARIOUS MOODS OF BATALIK : (clockwise from top right) Brothers at Dhomkar; a Brokpa woman at Dharchik; chortens at snow covered Lido Village; pointing to the road to Batalik

So on the road to Batalik, while I was just a few minutes into the journey, I had to step on the brakes to come to a squealing halt, as I passed by a procession of a dozen men, women and children, on their annual pilgrimage to the monastery of Lamayuru. The pilgrimage was not ordinary. It was one of those affairs where for every step taken by the pilgrim, they had to go


TIPS Food • Do not miss out on the local cuisine of Brokpa’s when spending time with them, besides that, other homestays and guest houses prepare good Ladakhi cuisine Shopping • Do not forget to pick up a bottle or so of Apricot oil from the region. It is a good antidote for joint-aches and is good for general massage purposes

Photography • Every bend of the road and every hamlet on the way provides for ample photo opportunity • While the locals will not mind you clicking their pictures, be polite to ask them before you click and they may even pose for you graciously • The coiling Indus and several bridges on it, in the back drop of high mountains, provides for those perfect photo ops

through the arduous drill of touching the ground with their forehead, and going prostrate and all. But what was extraordinary, was the fact that this was Ladakh in the peak of winters, when even breathing gets a tad too difficult. And here were these, dozen brave men, women and children performing acrobatics, right in the middle of the

road. What’s more, the pilgrimage was going to reach its destination covering 60 odd kilometres, in ten days! I finally understood the wisdom of the words ‘faith can move mountains’. Inspired by this sight, I moved on the snowy road ahead. Next was Dhomkar, with its stony mountains that house immaculately preserved marine fossils,

a testimony to the fact, that the region was once under the sea. Travelling west i.e. towards Pakistan, the road along the coiling Indus, was in parts a steep upward climb. Other sections of the road however gave me the same feeling that one gets when you’re falling off a cliff – you know



the one where your heart does a crazy dance, a flip flop and then stops? Partially frozen at most places and completely frozen at many, this great river was my only constant companion throughout the journey. At the slightest opportunity, I would stop to soak in the views and interact with the locals, who invariably offered me steaming butter tea. The Ladakhis are ever smiling, despite the harsh conditions and sub-zero temperatures. The frequent sight of flags fluttering atop snow-covered chortens with snowbound peaks in the background, cheered me on. Motorable bridges and


at times pedestrian ones, adorned with bright and colourful prayer flags gleaming against the pristine snow, allowed me to cross over and capture the soul of the region on my lens, from every conceivable angle. But the most interesting sight was of a bucket suspended with a pulley on a rope, over a semi-frozen stretch of the river, which I had a hard time navigating with my frozen fingers. I risked cutting my finger on the icy rope, but then, it was very much worth it. A mosque at Inamdoh announced my arrival into Muslim dominated

ESSENTIALS • Though the region is open for tourists now, you may still have to take inner line permits which are easily available at the DC’s office at Leh • Though the region is peaceful, but the army presence is still intact. Do not wander where you may find yourself in trouble. Take an experienced guide with you to avoid any untoward situation • Carry packed food with you as beyond Khalsi you will find mostly just good ol’ Maggi


Many quarters of the Indian base still bore the scars of heavy enemy artillery gunf ire. But that was in the past and the only shooting that was going to take place now, was from my camera! GATEWAY TO NEW LANDS : (clockwise from left) Bridge over half frozen Indus River at Wantu; War Memorial at Batalik with Pakistani posts in the background; an interesting road sign on the high road to Batalik

women come to get impregnated with these pure genes! I was invited for a cuppa by the headman of this village and within no time, I was surrounded by many animated Brokpas who were as thrilled to see me, as I was to see them. Though Batalik was just a few kilometres down the road now, the curiosity to learn more about these unusual and fantastic people made me set camp up for the night at Darchik. Next day, I finally left the Indus at Batalik town, where it flowed out of India to continue its journey into Pakistan. This was the last Indian Army base in the region and Pakistani posts were clearly visible, looming over their Indian counterparts. Many quarters of the Indian base still bore the scars of heavy enemy artillery gunfire. But that was in the past and the only shooting that was going to take place now, was from my camera!

area. Everything seemed tranquil, despite the loud rumble of the chain fitted tyres of army trucks that passed by. I stopped at the recently inaugurated Op Vijay Gallery at Biamah, which showcases the history of the Kargil War. The Brokpa dominated village Dha, was the last point accessible to conventional tourists. But on the wings of a prayer and armed with special permissions, I

crossed over into virgin (well almost!) terrain. Just short of Batalik town, is a trek across Indus that takes you to Darchik, one of the biggest villages in Ladakh that boasts of a 100% Brokpa population. Incidentally, the Brokpas are believed to be the purest Aryans in the world. And here is a secret – it is believed that several German

I offered homage at the war memorial and was greeted by a young army officer, who was happy to see a civilian travelling in otherwise forbidden territory. I immediately started bombarding him with a zillion queries. I had in my mind about the land, its men and beasts. There was much to document, many new friends to make, wildlife to be captured on the lens, treks to be undertaken and stories to be heard and written...Just in case you are wondering – you’ve read just one! MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED




Known as the Copper Canyon, Zanskar invites die-hard rafting enthusiats to savour its everlasting engima, says Saurav Schimer A long awaited fantasy was to be a reality soon. This romance has been brewing for years. It’s not just the sheer beauty of her curves but her attitude, aggressive yet demure, uncaring yet embracing, is what made me lust for her for years. The rich blue blood wrapped in sheer white…


A trip rather long planned was seeing the light of the day soon, as I started to receive mails and calls, about my confirmation of the white water rafting expedition to the untamed Zanskar River in Ladakh, one of the few rivers where one doesn’t see many river runners due to the remoteness of the place from where the expedition commences and almost no ground support other than what one carries on the rafts. So it all began with collecting the requisite must carry items for the trip, ranging from water resistant sunscreen to a down feather sleeping bag. The trip was planned with Aquaterra – pioneers of rafting in India. We were a group of 16 rafters, who got to know each other after meeting up in Leh over dinner and bon-fire.

TIMELESS: Rafters gaze at the weathered banks of the river Zanskar at Karcha

Day 1: The bus got rolling early morning from Leh to Kargil with all the enthusiastic rafters and crew on board. Our first halt was at the ancient Lamayuru Gompa. Crossing Fotula (13500 ft) took three hours, after which all the enthusiasm of the bus journey died down and all were off to sleep in no time. We were woken up by our guide Rana at Mulbek to see the magnificent 1 AD century nine meter Maitreya Buddha statue carved in rock, probably the only standing Buddha statue after the Taliban destroyed the ones in Afghanistan. We finally arrived at our hotel in Kargil at 2230 hours and all we could see was our bed and thereafter dreamland followed. Day 2: Today was to be the journey through one of the most beautiful valleys in Ladakh – the Suru Valley, which was meandering around the Suru River, originating from the magnificent Nun-Kun peaks, both standing more than 23,622 ft high. Finally we arrived at Rungdum, our night halt at 13500 ft. The group quickly pitched their tents and divided themselves into smaller groups



depending upon their interests. One group headed for a walk on the marshy swamps, the other for a walk towards Rungdum monastery, hopping over small rivulets, while some chose to chill out in the camp itself. This being our first campsite, the atmosphere of the adventures coming up was beginning to unravel. Day 3: We woke up to a chilly morning and I was shocked to see a fellow rafter running up and down the road. I learnt that she had felt really cold at night, hence was running since 0430 hrs to warm up! I had to chat up with her and explain the nuances of high altitude sickness. We resumed our journey which took us through Panzila pass (14,100 ft) and our lunch halt was close to the snout of the awesome DrungDrung Glacier – the second highest glacier in Ladakh – a sight to behold. We finally reached our second campsite – Remala – on the banks of Stod. The tents were up in

no time and the whole campsite was spread with equipment that was to be given to all of us. From wet suits to shoes and helmets and life jackets and dry bags. The guides were busy pumping and inflating the rafts and preparing the catarafts, while a few were preparing the kayaks. It was a busy evening for sure and we all geared up for it. Day 4: We woke up to a nice and bright sunny morning, with the most amazing blue skies, a common sight in Ladakh. After wrapping up our camp we were raring to go with the cold waters calling for us, but not before we were assigned to various rafts as per our shapes and sizes. Our team leader, Rana, briefed us on the safety aspects, various commands to be followed and a demonstration as far as rafting techniques were concerned. This being our first day of the rafting expedition, it was chosen to be a fairly easy going day, on this stretch of the



Chadartrek In winter the Zanskar River freezes over and becomes trekkable. But the world knows nothing about Chadar, other than that it is a high-adrenaline trek. Only a few know that the Chadar was once a part of the silk route between China and the middleeast, as well as an integral part of the spice trade of India. Traders waited for ten months for the ice to form, so that they could traverse the region as Chadar was the only way in and out of Zanskar for over a thousand years, when all other routes closed due to heavy snowfall at high passes. Even today some Zanskaris, like their forefathers, walk this ice sheet in the old-fashioned way.

river. All the briefing in the morning was put into practice and rehearse all the drills which made some of us not so confident, to believe in ourselves and our skills. Lunch break was on a small sandy marooned island. We were in Padum Valley now, which remains cut off from the rest of the world for 6 to 8 months a year. By late afternoon we reached Karcha, our third campsite. The camp that night was lit by a bonfire with singing and dancing going on till late night. This was the last camp till where our vehicles followed us, after this we were totally self-reliant for food and

logistics, with just our rafts and dry bags. Day 5: We were rafting towards the confluence of Sarapchu and Stod River which marked the commencement of Zanskar River. Loud war cries came up and some invented by each of the four rafts that were there on the river, with splashing of water. The amazing view of the weathered rock faces caught our imagination like crazy. By late afternoon we reached our 4th campsite – Honia – a lush green meadow perched on the banks of Zanskar. This is the place upto where

WASHED IN BEAUTY (clockwise from left): Rafters fording the class 4 rapids; the lush green meadows of Suru Valley; the calm waters at Nerak before the rapids for the day commenced

Lunch halt was close to the snout of the awesome DrungDrung - the second highest glacier in Ladakh

the Border Roads Organisation have constructed the road. In the evening a yoga session was planned for the rafters, it was quite a muscle relaxant. Some of us then went for a stroll around and were lucky to see some fresh water river fish. The locals considered them sacred and hence were not caught. Day 6: As usual, the day started off with a bit of loosening exercises before the start of the day. Now onwards we were to be cut off from the rest of the world till our last campsite, as no roads exist and all attempts to construct one was halted. In January 2011, while attempting to build the road further, the entire rock face caved in and a bull dozer along with its operator were buried. This event created a new rapid of class 5. Rana before attempting this rapid decided to recce it, along with the safety kayaks, followed by the



cataraft which I saw flipping over and immediately following it was my raft. Rana yelled at the top of his voice, “Harder, harder, harder!”, to keep the stability of the raft and yes we came out jubilant having done it. One by one all rafts negotiated the class 5 rapid. It took us a while to get things in order and after stock checking we found some of our rations were swept away by the river. We were now passing through what is compared

We were now passing through what is known as the Grand Canyon of Asia to the Grand Canyon of Asia. Lovely narrow and deep gorges. One had to literally strain his or her neck to have a glimpse of the clear blue skies. What a view it was! We then witnessed yet another spectacle, a spring waterfall gushing out from the middle of the

safetytips Before you head off to conquer the rapids, be sure that you have the stamina to endure the long rafting trip and strong currents. Go to the gym and build your upper body strength as rafting will involve constant paddling. n Alcohol can affect your balance, blur your vision and cloud your judgment. n

Falling off the Raft under the influence of alcohol is definitely something you want to avoid. Staying sober is a must. n Although reading up can keep you informed during hazardous circumstances, this alone is not enough. You must take all possible precautions and anticipate all possible


dangers. Invest in safety equipment because it could save your life. n Avoid rafting in the dark. Start early in the morning and end before the sun sets. If you cannot see where you are going, then you must stop and camp by the bank. Anyway, rafting at night defeats its purpose – enjoying the views!

mountain face out of the blue. On the way to Nerak we forded through quite a few class 3-4 rapids which were loads of fun. This was a long day of rafting and all felt their muscles ache. Aptly day 4 was planned to be a day off at Nerak for rest and recoop. After all the sun basking in the evening, instead of pitching a tent I decided to make myself comfortable with an old man Dorje in his hut. He prepared my room with hay as a mattress and what an aroma to sleep with. Day 7: After breakfast, a few rafters set course for the Singela, a pass at 16,570 ft, while most slept it off in the camp. After reaching Nerak, Taashi a local resident offered us butter tea and chang (barley beer) and also offered us the traditional attire for some of us


interested in getting photographed in them. I for some reason was stopped by Taashi and offered a very simple and basic lunch, the offer which I did not refuse. This village was the only one in our expedition, in which the government had installed a satellite phone, so some of us did hike up further for making some important calls. Late evening after our siesta, we saw the villagers walking down towards the camp and to everyone’s surprise, they were all in traditional attire and then what we witnessed was something we never expected. It was all dancing and singing that followed through most of the night, and we eagerly joined. Day 8: The splashing started off way too early. We encountered quite a few class 3+ rapids and a very unusual scene was unfolding as we paddled further. The ‘Constriction’ where the whole of Zanskar River is squeezed into a gorge of just about six meters! What appeared to be calm waters

was actually like a turbine churning oil. The under currents were way too much. The rafts were being sucked in and we saw the other side rising and had it not been for Rana screaming at us to go to the rising side of the raft, we all would have flipped over. The natural rock art on the face of the mountains was quite intriguing, with a wide variety of designs and colours. What really caught our imagination was – Red Hill – a beautiful magnificent peak in the backdrop of the meandering Zanskar River. The 18 Down rapid was yet another exciting one we went through. We camped for the night at Lamaguru at the confluence of Zanskar and the famous Markha River. We were soon out of the lovely gorges that we were paddling in all these days and the valley began to widen. Those who did not pitch up tents and slept in the open, were taken in for a surprise by the weather gods, as it poured like cats and dogs all night along. But everyone enjoyed had a good time.

RIVER AND AROUND (L to R): Camping ground at Rangdum; a safety kayak in action near a rapid

Day 9: The last day on the river was quite nostalgic, with all the bondings and the close associations that were forged. We set course, paddling for the day and some interesting rapids were forded of class 3 and 4 grades. During a calm stretch of the river I decided to take a plunge in the river and the moment I did, my breath froze and I gasped, as the water temperature was below freezing! Taking cue, more decided to take the plunge and got out with the same speed as they got in! Many more interesting rapids were negotiated, including one of the longest. After a few hours the river began to calm down as the confluence where the Zanskar plunges into the Indus at Nimoo was approaching. Everyone at this stage decided to have a race to culminate the trip. I do not know from where all the energy came, but we paddled like there was no tomorrow. Winning or losing hardly mattered. It was the spirit which saw us as a team raft through the most amazing rafting expedition in the world.








Take a deep breath and let go, for a journey through Spiti is not only that sought after breather, but also a journey of introspection, says Maneesh Goal ‘The middle country’ – for that’s what Spiti means, is a land of ragged cliffs, snow-capped mountains reaching out to clear blue skies, and placid, azure blue lakes like Chandra Taal, Nako and Dhankar. Spiti is also a land of three perennial rivers – Spiti, Pin and Chandra – whose gurgling sounds soothe you at night and whose ferocity fills you with a certain reverence during the day. However, trees still find the region’s rather stark moonscape unfriendly. The continuity of the landscape is only broken by numerous waterfalls and glaciers, including one of world’s largest non-polar glaciers – Bara Shigri. The casual observer may also stop to admire beautiful canyons and several unusual clay and rock formations along the river bed. For

the spiritually inclined, Spiti’s thousand year old gompas and Tibetan art vie for attention. And if that doesn’t interest you, the embalmed remains of a monk who attained nirvana while meditating certainly will! The ancient chants of Tibetan Buddhism that resonate through the stillness, lull you into a trance like state. And it was for this wonderful land that our transHimalayan odyssey began, one cool morning from Shimla.

BOUNDLESS BEAUTY: view from Mudh Village in Pin Valley - fields, Pin River and Himalayas

Heavy snow had forced Rohtang – gateway to the Lahaul and Spiti districts – to close. So we decided to drive two full days along the meandering Sutlej, to reach Tabo, our first stop in Spiti. At 10,663 ft, Tabo is an oasis, in this otherwise arid




Tripadvice Having the right guide and the right vehicle for your travels in Spiti is vital for a safe and rewarding trip. I, therefore, suggest that you contact people who are trustworthy and are experienced in providing travel advice for the region. While it is possible to book a cab from the Manali taxi stand, you wouldn’t know beforehand about either the quality of the vehicle, or the driver. I have always planned and booked my own trips. But, as I researched the region, I realised that this one trip had to be done differently. Having availed of their services, I would not hesitate in recommending the guys at Incredible Spiti (www. – customised travel and adventure solutions provider for Spiti. I owe my trip’s success to the meticulous planning by Vishesh Shourie and his team. You can give them the itinerary and budget to design a trip around. Alternatively you ask them for help to do your bookings or just ask them for trip advice.

land. With a population of about 150, Tabo is a quiet village that owes its popularity to the venerable Tabo ChosKhor monastery, founded in the year 996 AD! Having reached Tabo by early evening, we decided to tour the Tabo monastery after a quick cup of tea at the hotel. As the new monastery was shut for the day, we spent time exploring the old one. Built almost entirely from sand and mud, the monastery’s charming structures stand out against the clear blue skies and brown mountains. While the precincts had a uniquely magical feel, once we were inside, the monastery unveiled itself for what it really was – a treasure

trove of millennia old murals, thangka paintings, scriptures and sculptures. I finally realised why the Chos-Khor monastery is popularly referred to as the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’. The following morning saw us at Dhankar Monastery (also called Dhangkar or Dangkhar). At 12,795 ft, this 1,000 year old symbol of Vajrayana Buddhist architecture is one of the 100 most endangered monuments in the world. Its awe-inspiring façade sits atop a 985 ft high rocky ledge near the confluence of Pin and Spiti rivers. An architectural marvel of its time, today, the monastery is in imminent danger


CELESTIAL BEAUTY: Temple of Goddess Kali at Kunzumla at 15,000 ft, where all travellers must stop to pray for a safe journey

of collapsing owing to its old age and the earthquake that struck the region in 1975. A dilapidated fort that once enclosed the entire complex is what lends the place its name, for Dhankar literally means – fort on a cliff. As we hiked through the fort’s once palatial rooms, we discovered remnants of some exquisite murals. Dhankar also has a lake, but the two hour hike to it would have eaten away precious time and delayed us for the next leg of our journey to Kaza. At 12,038 ft, Kaza is Spiti’s administrative hub and our abode for three nights. The largest of all towns in




Spiti with a population of about 1,200, Kaza’s bustling market place has everything from a toothbrush to some really beautiful curios. Needless to say, we couldn’t resist picking up two beautiful thangka paintings here. Kaza also serves as the base for a number of mountaineers and trekkers, who come here from all over the world. Kaza is also known for its colorful festivals and the ancient Sakya Tangyud Monastery located on the edge of a deep canyon. Our first excursion from Kaza was to the fossil capital of India, Langza (13,780 ft). Fossils created after the collision of the Indian sub-continent with the Eurasian subcontinent, 200 million years ago, can be found scattered in the nullahs and valleys of

Langza. While many have disappeared due to illegal sales, the villagers assured me that a keen eye could find one even today. The drive to Langza brought us up against a huge statue of Gautam Buddha on the horizon, with the towering Chau Chau Kang Nilda peak in the backdrop. This statue, which is built on the edge of a hillock and a 500 year old monastery are Langza’s principal attractions. The Langza monastery was a quaint place where an old priest went about his prayers, completely unmindful of the visitors. We quietly lit two lamps and waited to get his consent for some photography. The priest turned out to be quite friendly and even offered us some tea after we finished taking pictures. Leaving the monastery, we

kibberWLS If you are a wildlife enthusiast and have a couple of days to spare while in Kaza, then a trip to Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary is highly recommended. The sanctuary which is 20 km away from Kaza is located on the left bank of the Spiti River and is linked via Lalung and Langcha. One can easily spot herds of blue sheep and ibex at the sanctuary, besides red fox and the majestic snow leopard. Spread across 1400 sq km the sanctuary encompasses the highest peak in Himachal – Gya (22,290 ft) in the north and Kamelong (19,362 ft) in the south. The sanctary also provides panoramic views of Shila Peak and Parangla amongst others.

The drive to Langza brought us up against a huge statue of Gautam Buddha on the horizon




Fastfacts When to Go The best time to visit Lahaul-Spiti is from May to September Getting There One could start either from Shimla or Manali depending upon one’s convenience and the state of the very moody Rohtang Pass. Rohtang is of course open only in summer, whereas one can drive to Spiti from Shimla, Sarahan and Kaza anytime during the year Where to Stay Besides a few guest houses and hotels there are homestays all around Spiti

were surprised to see patches of green in the surrounding landscape. We later discovered that these were pea farms, that villagers cultivated using ingenious ways of irrigation, wherever flat ground could be found. Our next destination was Komic at 14, 025 ft with a population of about 114 souls. Immersed in legend and folklore, the inhabitants of this village are cut off from the rest of Spiti for greater part of the year. Komic is also known for its wildlife sighting and is visited by photographers from across the world. The 900 year old Komic Gompa is situated at about 15,050 ft

and is perhaps the world’s highest monastery. Our entry into the old monastery, which was quite small and non-descript, compared to some of the others we had been to, was greeted by the horrific sight of a stuffed dead snow leopard! After offering our prayers, we quickly made our way to the grand new monastery which looked elegant in its colourful coat of paint and decorated windows. Here too, the resident monks graciously offered us tea and lively conversation. One of them also played the flute for us! As we were leaving Komic, we offered a local, Karam Singh, a ride to Kaza. Karam turned out to be a resident of Hikkim, and insisted that we see the ruins of an abandoned Tangyud monastery at Hikkim before returning to Kaza. So we took a detour and in the bargain also glimpsed at the snow laden Shila Peak (20,i18 ft) popping out its nearly perfect triangular head, from behind the brown arid


BROWNSCAPE: Barren terrain en route Kaza from Nako

mountains. Having reached the now abandoned monastery, we were spellbound by the panoramic views of Kaza village, thousands of feet below on one side and a valley and canyon on the other two sides. The next day saw us en-route to Kye Monastery. Situated at 13,615 ft, Kye is the biggest monastery and Buddhist learning centre in Spiti Valley. The Kye monastery complex is a haphazard growth of box-like structure, overlooking the Spiti River and is often referred to as Little Tibet. Inside the monastery, a monk showed us 800 year old thangka paintings, murals, musical instruments and several carefully preserved manuscripts – many of which were brought centuries ago from Tibet. But what really filled us with amazement, was the panoramic view of the valley from the monastery’s terrace, where colourful lungtas were strung from ornately decorated pillars.


Our last day in Spiti was reserved exclusively for Pin Valley which is connected to Spiti by a solitary bridge (Attargu) across the river Pin. Most of Pin Valley is declared a National Park. Spread south of Dhankar Gompa near the Tibetan border, the park marks the border between the erstwhile districts of Lahaul and Spiti. The park is spread over approximately 675 sq km and is a

natural habitat for several endangered species like the snow leopard, Himalayan ibex, bharal, red fox, snow cock, lammergeier and woolly hare. Since the terrain is mountainous, tracking these creatures is only possible by exploring the vast expanse of the valley on foot under expert guidance. We hoped to spot the elusive snow leopard but were unlucky. I did

We were spellbound by the panoramic views of Kaza thousands of feet below on one side and a valley and canyon on the other two

manage to spot a scrambling red fox, a lammergeier in flight and a few mountain goats though. On our way back to Kaza, a sense of gloom pervaded the group, as we realized that it was time to bid adieu to Spiti and turn our backs to a land like no other. The next day with a heavy heart we bid Spiti goodbye and left for Manali Yes! Rohtang was finally kind enough to be open for visitors! The drive from Kaza to Manali is perhaps one of the most picturesque in the world - but then that is another story, for another time.

Helping you explore the trans-Himalaya kingdom in an environmentally sensitive and responsible way

INDIA NEPAL BHUTAN TIBET Ladakh Office: Raku Complex, Fort Road, Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir 194 101, India Phone: +91 1982 257858 Mobile: +91 9858394400, Telefax: +91 1982 255881, Email:, Web:




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Fit for the

dizzying heights

Travelling to high altitude regions requires a high level of fitness. Prepare yourself in advance, says Nisha Varma Getting Ready

Exercises, in addition to long endurance exercises like running, backpack walking and stair climbing Interval Training: Equipment – Treadmill, cycle, stair climber Frequency: Twice a week • High intensity interval training with short recovery periods are preferred, at least twice a week, during the preparation stage. This should not be done on two consecutive days • Work to rest ratio can be 2:1. You work hard for 20 sec and recover for 10 sec. Knit several of these into your one hour workout, till you reach exhaustion level. This will train your anaerobic energy system as well. You may be able to sustain this interval training for only about 4 to 5 minutes before exhaustion


Lower Body Functional training and core training Walking lunges: Hold external resistance in hands (dumb-bells) and lunge walk Frequency: Atleast thrice a week Duration: Three sets of 16 repetitions • Keep your core muscles engaged and back straight, as you execute the lunge. • Start low on weight as lunges by themselves are difficult. Increase weight as you progress. • T he knee of the forward leg should be in line with the toes. • To increase intensity, lunge over different terrains, over gravel or hill


Upper Body Strength


Model:Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj

Frequency: Atleast thrice a week Duration: Three sets of 25 repetitions • Push-ups are not only a complete upper body workout but they also work as trunk stabilizers – abs and the lower back • Vary the push-ups each time for best results. Use Incline, decline or flat surface to anchor the feet and hands • Engage the core before starting • Focus on execution, where the muscles of the chest, upper back and arms feel the maximum effort • Exhale on exertion and never hold your breath

Core and Lower Back Strengthen the core by doing abdominal exercises regularly ABS: Equipment – mat and stability or ball medicine ball Frequency: Three days week Duration: Three sets of 25 repetitions • Lie supine on a mat • Keep both legs straight up • Hold a stability ball or a medicine with the lower legs • Exhale as you lift your trunk , transfer the ball to your hands and lower the trunk • T he next time you lift up, transfer the ball to your legs

• Hydrate well. Carry plenty of carbohydrate supplements for quick absorbtion and recovery • Diet at high altitude should include more carbohydrates and less of fats and proteins. Whereas, during training consume a more nutritous diet • As there is a lack of oxygen at high altitudes, give yourself time to get acclimatised before travelling around. Reach at least a week in advance to get used to the low oxygen level. DO NOT try and work out in the first few days. Start the workout after two to three days and increase intensity as you get used to the environment. Backpack walking at this stage is recommended • Break-in the trekking gear in the plains itself, specially wearing shoes • Watch out for high altitude sickness. Some of the symptoms are extreme fatigue, pins and needles, disorientation, nose bleed, nausea, dizziness, rapid pulse and lack of appetite • Never neglect a warmup and a cool down • Stretch the muscles after each workout session Nisha Varma is a Reebok Certified Master Trainer working with Reebok and is an ACSM certified Health and Fitness Specialist, ACE certified Personal Trainer, a Yoga and Strength Training expert. Write to her at



On the Hills Goldrop, with its 30 tents, located right on the Manali-Leh highway gives the tourists a tempting option to spend a night The idea of adventure is exciting, and if you are planning to stay in camps during the holiday, the vacation becomes even more adventurous. Goldrop with its 30 tents, traditional setting inspired by the hill culture, offers you an experience of a lifetime. What’s more, it has everything tailormade to suit your requirements. Located at Sarchu on the ManaliLeh highway, Goldrop offers a good location on the boundary between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. It offers excellent surroundings in the lap of the Tsarap Chu River and is situated between Baralachala and Lachulungla passes. For travellers, this is a good spot for an overnight halt. It also helps one to acclimatise to the high altitude conditions before the tough journey ahead. The plush tents adorned with local Himalayan motifs and paintings, gives you a fabulous experience. Here you find a good blend of tradition and

modernity. Each tent has a double bed with warm bedding and carpets. The exterior of the tents gives one a feel of the mountains, while the interior design is derived extensively from local culture and folk art. Once you are inside the camp, it gives you the feel of an enchanting land with an unlimited horizon. The silence and tranquillity of the place is only shattered by the gushing waters of the river flowing nearby. Whether you stay here for a night or more, the staff promises you a very warm hospitality. Usually, people are afraid to live in camps, as one has to plan and carry a lot of gear, but this camp takes care of all the paraphernalia. You do not have to fear for your security, as the setting is secure and the ambience great. The food is served in traditional Himalayan style in the local ambience. Now, do not expect your regular cuisine here


and be ready to have pure Himalayan food, which is ideal in these conditions. You will be served steaming hot momos and other local cuisine, comprising of delicious soups and broths. This way, you not only feel the difference, but you eat different food as well, which is sumptuous and nutritious for your health and will be helpful in these conditions. In addition, you do not have to worry for your basic needs and safaris in the region.

The silence and the tranquility of the place is only shattered by the gushing waters of the river flowing nearby.

FastFacts 30 deluxe-tents, restaurant, adventure activities Booking Karpa Building, Opp. Ram Bagh, The Mall Manali, H.P. 175131 Ph.: +91 1902-251344 Mob.: +91 98162-45280 Email:

where to stay

Inside OUT & Take out time to discover your inner-self at Hotel Namgyal Place This hotel claims to give you a very divine feeling and if this is in your mind while making way to the roof of the world, then you can make way to this palace. Set amidst natural surroundings, it is an ideal location for people looking to connect to nature. It is located in the heart of Leh, and you can keep a track of the market and people and get to see the local culture closely. The advantage of its location makes it easier for local sightseeing. Hotel Namgyal Palace with its blue walls, is an ideal place to spend

FastFacts 26 spacious rooms equipped with modern facilities Booking Old Fort Road, Leh, Ladakh, +91 9906982095

your holidays. The hotel combines contemporary design with classical standards of service and excellence, so you get the pleasure of living in impeccable surroundings. Lie back and be captivated by the timeless beauty of nature around you. The food served here comprises of both local and international cuisine. The staff is very cordial and go out

Inside the Cottage Uley Eco Adventure Resort offers you the ethnic experience Eco. That’s the most appropriate word to describe Uley, besides adventure. Located 70 km west of Leh on the Leh-Srinagar highway, on the banks of Indus, Uley is an enchanting resort located at an altitude of 10,000 ft. Being 1,000 ft lower than Leh and

blessed with warmer weather, Uley also makes for an ideal stopover for acclimatising to Ladakh’s climate and altitude. The location is very scenic and the resort has been created with a lot of passion and thought for travellers to Ladakh.

FastFacts Deluxe and Standard Cottages Booking Uleytokpo, Fort Road, Skara, Leh, J&K +91 9419178088

of their way to please you. Try to get a room on the top floor for a fabulous view. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and are equipped with all modern facilities for your comfort. What’s more, the tariff is not too steep and is good value for money. The hotel arranges local sightseeing on request.

Unlike most hotels in Ladakh which have a number of rooms cramped up in a small space, Uley has only cottages – deluxe and standard. The cottages are spread out over a few acres of the resort and have a verandah to sit out. The cottages transport you to a different world, replete with Ladakhi architecture and motifs. The cottages are sprawled amidst lush apple and apricot trees and organic farms which provide most of the vegetables for the resort kitchen. All activities at the resorts are done in as eco-friendly manner as possible. With clean water lifted by a solar powered pump from a deep drill, guests can opt to avoid using bottled water. Then there is adventure for you! The resort offers several adventure activities – from mountain biking, to rafting, to trekking, to valley crossing and more.



Rooted in tradition The warmth of the place and its people is obvious in Hotel Lha-Ri-Sa As the name suggests, the hotel is named from different Ladakhi words put together. And it is not just a name, it is enshrined in its feel, where you get to experience the local culture, ethos, warmth and hospitality of the people, in a special way. This hotel believes in carrying on tradition with contemporary concept. The setting is intimate and service is good. Just like local people, the hotel combines simplicity with high standards of service to the guests. Whether you are visiting alone, or with family, the place will give you a great feel for times to come. As you enter the resort, you are given a traditional welcome, followed by some tips from the hotel staff.


The owner, Mr. Tashi has put in loads of love, thinking and effort to make the hotel stand out from the rest. Be it the sprawling gardens, or the huge balconies adjoining every room or the empty spaces in the lobby or the terraces or the cute little tree house in the courtyard, all of it just provide the perfect setting for a perfect holiday in Ladakh. The interiors are traditional in style and vibrant colours used in the tapestry, upholstry and walls give you the added energy, that is vital in the region. You can also view the snow-capped Zanskar range from the comfort of your chair or bed. After your local excursions, it will be a real treat to come back to Lha-Ri-Sa

to ensconce yourself in peace and privacy. What’s more, the hotel is well-connected to the airport, Leh bazaar and other attractions that Leh has to offer.

FastFacts Big rooms with huge lobby surrounded by gardens. Booking Skara, Leh - Ladakh Ph.: +91 1982-252000 Mob.: +91 9419177425 www.

where to stay

Worry Not


If you are looking for value for money without compromise, Alpine Villa is the answer There are no dearth of hotels in Ladakh, but if you are looking for, value for money without compromising on the services offered, Alpine Villa is the ideal place. The hotel offers amazing hospitality, good service, and very courteous staff. The rooms are comfortable and clean and each room offers different and great views of surrounding mountains and heritage sites. Some rooms offer a great view of Shanti Stupa, while others offer a view of the snow clad Stok Kangri, while some take you straight up to Kahrdungla. Perhaps the best part about the hotel, are the

FastFacts Accomodation Rooms offer good service Booking Chulung, Leh Ladakh 194101 Mobile: +91 9419219609 / 9906980077

terraces on each floor, where one can just sit and relax. The staff of the hotel, right from the housekeeping to front desk and F&B, have a congenial nature and ensure your visit is memorable. The hotel offers 23 twin-bed rooms, which has all the requisite facilities. The interiors give you the feel of the simple and contemporary. The food is good

IN THE CENTRE You enter Hotel Mandala and forget everything else Mandala means, ‘That which encircles a center’. Thus Mandala is the ideal center to explore Ladakh. You just have to check into the hotel and let Ladakh take over you. To start with the rooms have been recently renovated

complete with floor to floor carpeting and burst of soft lighting to help you relax. Almost all rooms have good views but the ones on the top floor are simply superb. There is a rooftop as well, for you to bask in the sun and the hotel also

FastFacts 35 rooms, library, restaurant & roof top dinning Booking Fort Road, Leh, Ladakh-194101 +91 9596253464 +91 1982252943

and the chef will go out of his way to please your palette. Cuisine of your choice is served from Indian to Chinese to Continental to Gujarati or the good old Ladakhi delicacies. The hotel also organizes cultural shows, on request, for guests in the open. The hotel is centrally located and one can walk to Leh market, in just a few minutes.

arranges for your meals to be served there. Then there is a beautifully manicured garden, which is ideal for you to relax and let your feet down. There is a cute little library also, next to the lobby, which has a good collection of travel books. If you are a foodie, then Mandala is the place to be in, as chef Singge doles out one sumptuous dish after another, which can be enjoyed in the sprawling dining hall. The management takes special care of it’s guests and Karma, the enterprising owner, can be seen working round the clock to ensure all goes smoothly. He is a one stop source for all your travel needs in Ladakh and will go out of his way to help you explore the land. The hotel also throws in a special surprise on your last night in Leh, to make your visit memorable.



where to stay

Feel the


A new world of luxury, comfort, decor and warmth welcomes you to The Grand Dragon­­Ladakh-the region’s top class hotel

The Grand Dragon Ladakh is the ultimate name in luxury in the Ladakh region. You will be in awe of this place, as you enter its sprawling courtyard and get to see the place. Though almost every hotel in Leh boasts of luxury and comfort to attract customers, The Grand Dragon Ladakh is known to deliver what it promises. When you visit Leh and happen to stay here, you need not be reminded about this. The place is simply Grand! The Grand Dragon Ladakh is a superb place to get acquainted with the region in a soothing fashion. Given the fact that it is open throughout the year, adds to the aura of the place. The interiors of the hotel are extremely good and pamper you with its choice of design and architecture. Stately décor and antique furniture placed all around the property, adds

Open your windows and doors, to a whole new world of natural beauty amidst the hills


to the charm of the hotel. The hotel staff is ever ready to address all your queries and are known to summon a cab for you within a minute of you asking for it! The owners who have done up the place with a lot of passion, have also introduced Rabsal tradition of Ladakhi architecture in the hotel. What’s more, if you have time to go beyond the splendid interiors, you should open your windows and doors, to a whole new world of natural beauty amidst the hills. The view from the hotel is amazing and gives you that Titanic kind of a feel. The rooms are comfortable, spacious and clean to start with. The beds are plush and the bathrooms inviting. All rooms have central heating, which is a luxury in Ladakh. In tune with the times, the hotel also boasts of a ‘green’ philosophy and

has 95 solar panels to heat water for the central heating and bathrooms. The service is good. The quality of food is great and probably best in the region. If you are ready to spend that little extra for luxury, The Grand Dragon Ladakh is the place to be in Leh.

FastFacts Suites and rooms with central heating and plush beds Booking: Old Road Sheynam, Leh Ladakh 194101 Ph:+91 1982 257786 / 255866 M:+91 96229 97222 hotel@






High Altitude

Here is a low down on the vital gear you should carry for your trip to the trans-Himalaya 1. Sleeping Bag

2. Jacket

3. Lip Balm

4. Oxygen Cylinder

A sleeping bag is a must carry in any given environment. More often than not, you will find yourself stuck overnight far away from a hotel or place to stay. For those nights, a sleeping bag is vital. A sleeping bag not only protects you against the elements but also provides a comfortable bedding. It also makes for a good head-rest on a long drive. Top Brands: North Face, Marmot and Lafuma

A light jacket in the mountains is a must carry for all travellers. Many travellers from the plains can be seen just sporting a t-shirt at mountain passes and these are the people who succumb to AMS later. Wear a jacket in the transHimalaya region at all times, as it helps in not only fighting the cold but also prevents dehydration and sunburn. Top Brands: Marmot, North Face, Patagonia and Arcteryx

Lip balm works really well for moisturising and protecting the lips. When people go travelling in high altitudes, the winds can get really harsh. The temperature drops drastically, especially at night. In addition, travellers are in direct contact with the sun. These weather conditions can lead to dry, chapped, sunburned lips. Thus a lip balm is a must carry. Top Brands: Lotus, VLCC and Body Shop

Oxygen in Leh is about 25% less than the plains. At high passes, the oxygen levels dips down even further. Ideally you should acclimatise yourself to these low oxygen levels and not resort to an oxygen cylinder the moment you ascend up, but at times it is a life saver. Carry one or two portable ones in your vehicle at all times and the same can prove highly valuable. Top Brands: Oxycare and SmartDose




6 4



5. Sunglasses

6. Sleeping Mat

7. Cap

8. Sunscreen

Good UV-resistant sunglasses is another must carry round the year. The direct sun glare and can damage the eyes. Even a little snow on the ground, increases the amount of reflected light and glare, resulting sometimes in snow blindness. Wearing sunglasses throughout the day is highly recommended. The best sunglasses are either polarized, or reflective. Top Brands: Oakley and Native

A sleeping mat is not an essential part of the equipment, but helps to prevent a sore back. A mat is useful if you have to sleep out in the open – gravel or sand. Besides comfort, its actual objective is to provide thermal insulation and can be a life saver if you have to sleep on snow. While foam mats are popular and there are a inflatable mats too. Top Brands: BackCountry

A wide brimmed cap or hat is a must for all. It not only helps in shading your face from the sun, but also is quite helpful in protecting your head from sudden bursts of hot or cold wind. A good quality cap should be made of cotton and ideally should have an inbuilt bandana to protect your neck from the elements. Top Brands: Camp, Petzl and Black Diamond

At higher altitudes, the sun rays are not filtered as well by the atmosphere, as there is less amount of water vapour. The result is cooler temperatures, combined with increased light intensity. The combination is deceptive, and potentially dangerous. Thus, a good sunscreen is essential to avoid sun burns and harm to your skin. Top Brands: Lotus and Himalaya



80 | EXPLORE the THE unexplored UNEXPLORED | MAY-JUNE may-june 2012 2012

signed for e d is ia d n I pography to e h T . g in paraglid this eally suits id te a m li c e and alayas in th im H e h T t. d spor easter n an e th d n a , e nor th offer a hug ts a h g n r weste ssibilities o p g in y fl f range o France, there are over fifty thousand registered paragliding pilots. It’s not uncommon to see hundreds of hobby pilots floating around in the sky in colourful canopies at popular weekend flying sites.

UP IN THE AIR: (left): Pleasures of paragliding over Pavna lake, Maharashtra. (below): realising one’s dream to fly, just above Pavna lake.

India is designed for paragliding. The topography and climate ideally suits this sport. The Himalaya in the north, the eastern and the western ghats offer a varied range of flying possibilities. The past ten years have seen the sport growing in popularity,


To fly is to feel free. To feel peaceful and to feel powerful… Our dream to fly comes from a deeper urge for freedom, from a deeper need to break any limitations and from a natural movement of evolution to expand our consciousness. Never before in the history of man has flying come, so close, to flying like a bird. It’s a marvel of technology and man’s oldest dream to fly. To be flying is to be in the flow, in the zone, to feel the sense of being intensely alive. Flying gives us the true sense of now, without past or future, beyond earthly worries and mental pettiness. It’s an intoxicating state, a fleeting sense of immortality. As a pilot you sit in a very comfortable harness, and you can soar like a bird above splendid landscapes for hours together using the ascending air. The main reasons for paragliding’s fast growing popularity are it’s ease of learning, ease of portability and it being inexpensive compared to any other form of aviation sport. In a country like



Explore destination particularly in the western part of India and the North. I discovered Kamshet as a potential flying and training site 15 years ago. I am pleasantly surprised that today it has become the hub of paragliding in India and is very well known on the paragliding world map.

ALMOST HEAVEN: A paraglider about to land on a mountain top

Flying does bring out the child in you. After seventeen years of flying, I still am as enthusiastic about my next flight. It is impossible to get bored of flying since it constantly challenges you and there is always more to learn. I have had some of the most amazing moments while flying, I call them the zen moments, flashes of divine glory. These other worldly moments are innumerable and I would like to share a few here.

light of the The golden one on the h s n u s g in a even . Below me s k a e p in ta moun , it seemed id iv v o s w rainbo ght I could u o th I t a th so solid ual ..that spirit .. it r e v o lk wa or th living w s a w t n e mom re life for, my enti Bir, Billing in Himachal Pradesh Bir is a small Tibetan village in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. The Dhauladhars make for an ideal setting for Paragliding, so much so that Bir is rated among the top ten flying destinations in the world. Bir also hosts the International Pre-World Cup Championships every year. I was taking part in one of these PWC Competitions in 2005 when assessing the favourable weather conditions, the task for the day was set over ninety kilometres. I was racing on my way to


Dharamshala, cruising at around ten thousand feet above sea level. The scenery of course was spectacular and clouds had started to develop all around our route. I was flying below a grey cloud when I saw what were snowflakes flying towards me, in a rythmic slow motion. I was dumbstruck by the beauty of the whole scene. Far in the horizon to the north I could see snow clad peaks through the layer of dark clouds. The golden light of the evening sun shone on the peaks like a miracle. Below me a rainbow so vivid, it seemed so solid that I thought I could walk over it. I was in rapture, this was beauty and it’s immensity was simply astounding. I felt my whole life had been worth living just to be part of that one spiritual moment.

Bali, Indonesia To the South East coast of the Island Paradise of Bali, there lies a lesser known flying site called Candidasa. A green cliffy hillside that rises to about eight hundred feet by the seaside. I trekked lugging my glider all the way

to the top of the hill. The take off point is rather small and the inclination of the slope rather steep, making launching pretty challenging. I was off in a jiffy as there was no scope for error there. Once airborne I was in instant bliss. Three fourths of the horizon was the endless sea and what remained of land was idyllic Bali style lush green paddy fields strewn with thousands of palm trees. Simply gorgeous. To my utter surprise the clouds started to build exactly at my altitude. The clouds were forming right in front of my eyes. It was a breathtaking phenomenon as I started playing with them. I dived in and out of the clouds, playing with their soft shapes. The I saw a rainbow and Colorado circles around my shadow on the cloud. I have never felt so blessed in my life. I was singing at the top of my voice with no one to judge me. It was so fulfilling to be up there, playing on the lap of nature. There was happiness and pure deep joy. And it wasn’t just me experiencing it, I could feel it around, vast and limitless.



Explore destination SAFETY, RISK & DANGER Aviation has it’s own risks. Paragliding being both, an adventure sport and a form of aviation also has a degree of risk. The potential risk is minimized by following the discipline that the sport demands, excellent training and proper equipment. Like any other adventure sport, you can make it as safe and as dangerous as you want. There are hundreds of thousands of paragliding pilots across the world, of all age groups from sixteen to sixty, who enjoy flying safely for decades, while there are some who have injured themselves. Safety is paramount in any form of aviation and it boils down to having the right attitude. Safety in paragliding is a direct function of your attitude.

Ways to make it Safe

Cross Country flying in Turkey One of the most fascinating parts of paragliding is to travel around the world and fly in the most exotic of locations. To soar peacefully in the comfort of your seat over changing landscapes of green hills and barren mountains, of forests and fields, of ridges, nivermectin valleys and over a fascinating countryside is an experience that is a privilege of sport pilots alone.

Balancing Act: Kamshet: a paraglider pilot does a balancing act

After a 65 km cross country flying over the exquisite landscapes of Turkey, I landed in a freshly cut field of a huge looking Turkish farmer.


Contrary to my expectations he was extremely friendly. He took me to his house for coffee. He was happy to have a lad from Hindustan, land in his fields from out of the blue. What was the chance of me meeting him and his equally big and giggly women folk on this day. It was fun spending time with this family, who became instant friends and made me feel welcome. Such varied cultures, yet essentially we are all the same people. Paragliding and my passion had given me another beautiful memory to cherish. There was peace in my heart, as I drove off, bidding goodbye to my lovely hosts, maybe never to meet again, but I felt abundant.

It is pretty safe during training as most of the decisions are taken by your Instructors and the risks are minimized to a great extent. It is important to sign up with a certified and registered school with a good safety record. Make sure the instructors are experienced and well qualified. Paragliding is a nature sport. We as pilots are entirely dependent on the weather conditions. There are primarily three variables in the sport. Safety depends on understanding and respecting the limitations of these three: n Your skill and knowledge as a pilot n The quality of your equipment n Understanding the weather As you get more and more experience, your flying envelope expands, as you improve your skills, knowledge and understanding of weather conditions.


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Explore destination Romancing the Sahyadris Paragliding is a sport of decisionmaking and judgement. As you continue to learn and grow as a pilot and continue to take better and safer decisions you improve your safety threshold.

LET’S FLY Paragliding is the simplest and most serene way to fullfil your dream of free flight. You launch from a gentle slope, smoothly transiting from ground to air. There is no jumping or free falling involved in paragliding. Once airborne, you will have the most wonderful of sensations of being in the air. Paragliding is about feel and finesse and not strength and adrenaline. Women often do better than men because they don’t try to muscle the paraglider around.

HOW TO CHOOSE A FLYING SCHOOL 1. Check if the school is certified by an international association and/or registered with a national aviation body. 2. Check the qualifications & experience of the instructors. 3. Check what is the student to instructor ratio. 4. What is the safety record of the school and the instructor team. 5. Does the school have a well- structured and progressive training program. 6. Can the school provide an international license. 7. How many students have received certification and licenses each year. 8. Does the school support a club to cater to all your pilot needs after you leave school. You will need a club environment to further mature as a pilot and make new pilot friends.

Pavana at Kamshet is among the most picturesque of flying sites in the country today. It has a huge water body that surrounds a temple shaped mountain called Tungi. The setting sun behind the temple silhouette and reflecting golden shadows over the shimmering Pavana waters, is a site to behold from the skies. The flying site is surrounded by three forts in this region-The Tikona, Lohegad and Bisapur Forts. The undulating ridges and plateaus and the forts make the skyline most interesting. In one of the cross country flights, I found myself soaring over the Tikona fort. I gained further altitude using the

s e Divine ha th in t s u tr My y manifold, b only grown eauty of his b e th g in e e s at I am sure th d n a n o ti a e cr st love us u m e in iv D the make it so to , ly e s n e imm beautiful. stunningly

currents of uprising air and travelled south east towards Pune. It is here that I got the opportunity to soak in the magnificent views of the Sahyadri ranges, stretching endlessly towards the horizon. There mustn’t be anything quite like this on the planet. The rustic browns of the hills, contrasting with greener valleys, meandering river through the art worked fields of rice and sugar cane. I was enthralled, thinking to myself, that crawling on the ground we never get to know the beauty and grandeur of what surrounds us. It’s only when we fly we realise how truly awesome and beautiful our planet is. My trust in the


Divine has only grown manifold by seeing the beauty of his creation and I am sure that the Divine must love us immensely to make it so stunningly beautiful. All paragliding pilots will tell you such stories and they can go on endlessly about their experiences as they are all unique and all pilots do is talk about flying when they are not flying. They are a special breed, the adventure pilots, and the privilege of their aerial perspectives they share with the birds alone. You don’t feel lonely up there but you feel one with everything and you feel free not from anything but

such high speeds can cause serious airframe damage. However, with paragliding, the birds are my friends again. A bird flying is a happy sign for any paragliding pilot. I’ve had several experiences of flying with the birds. The most glorious of all experiences has been flying with the largest raptor in the Himalaya, the Himalayan Griffon Vulture. It weighs about 10 kilos and has a wingspan easily over three meters. Its speed matches perfectly with that of a paraglider and it loves flying wingtip to wingtip, in thermals and on glides. It’s pretty uncomfortable flying by flapping its wings and usually soars to great heights using thermals, exactly what we do as paragliding pilots.

you feel free with everything. You feel connected somehow to the wide presence, to the immensity of nature and with wind on your face, you feel the touch of God. Everybody wants to fly, but only the rare ones actually fly and touch the sky. The ones that fly, know only too well that flying is good for their soul. It is the heart and not the mind that has wings, Fly: fully liberate yourself

Flying with the Himalayan Griffon Vultures As a fighter pilot, I got conditioned to be scared of birds. Bird hits at

ALMOST THERE: (clockwise): a paraglider passes above the lake; the beauty and joy of flying in Kamshet; bond tohether while flying

Eye to eye contact, an understanding and a harmony sharing the same sky. A connection is naturally built and an intimacy naturally develops as we jump from one invisible thermal to the other. There is such friendliness as we fly and dance in the sky and with equal ease part and go our ways. There’s a purity in these experiences that surpasses all understanding. There is love that beholds all creation.



Explore moments

Into the

blue Lakshadweep invites the ocean lover with its shimmering white sands, meandering coastlines dotted with palm trees and some of the finest opportunities of diving in India, says Sumer Verma


Explore moments

A close up of a carnation tree coral, which survives in low light conditions; (facing page) a diver approaches a green sea turtle over a colony of coral reefs


Powder white sand cocooned by calm, azure waters – take the famous picture-postcard Maldivian scenery, remove the hordes of tourists and motor boats, and you have one of India’s best kept secrets – Lakshadweep. Above the waves, the Lakshadweep islands are a step back in time with sleepy fishing villages nestled among coconut trees. Few tourists make it out to these islands off the coast of Kerala, but those who do, are rewarded with unparalleled serenity and beauty.

Beneath the waves, the waters around these islands offer something for everyone. Beginners get a taste of the weightlessness of scuba in the swimming-pool-like lagoons surrounding the islands. Many of India’s certified divers began their underwater explorations in these shallow, clear waters. Awestruck by the marine life in the sheltered lagoons, it is easy to see why people get hooked on diving.



Explore moments

(Clockwise from top left): The red starfish comes in various shades of red, and has multiple black pores on its surface; gorgonian coral which grows several feet high but only a few inches thick; a ray fish on the ocean bed; yellow clown fish and damselfish in green anemone


At the lagoons, edge the barrier reef surrounding the islands tapers off into deeper water. Coral abound on these seaward slopes and to dive on these reefs is to witness a grand orchestra of colour and form. Coral of all shapes and sizes grow side by side, creating caverns and alleyways that host some of the most beautifully bizarre creatures on the planet. Reef fish of any imaginable hue and pattern jostle for space and food. Tiny, brightly coloured damselfish hover in clouds above their host coral giving the reef an atmosphere of shimmering, multi-coloured stars in the sunlight. Turtles swim lazily along looking for food or sunbathing at the surface, while reef sharks rest on the sandy ocean floor saving their energy for their nocturnal feasts. Stingrays, eagle rays and manta rays are regular visitors to the cleaning stations here. And at the deeper edge of the reef, where blue turns to black, guitar sharks, tuna and other pelagic hunters patrol the edges, waiting for hapless fish that unwittingly stray too far from the shelter of the coral formations.



Explore moments

Diving in Lakshadweep is thrilling, to say the least. And yet, it is one of the easiest and fun diving spots that the country has to offer. The fringing reefs are easy to navigate, currents are mild and predictable, and the astounding clarity of the water puts the more nervous divers’ imaginations to rest. And the best part of it all is that there isn’t another dive boat in sight, and the ocean stretches out undisturbed, as far as the eye can see.


(Clockwise from top left): Coleman shrimp, named after marine naturalist Neville Coleman who first discovered the shrimp; a school of diagonal-banded sweetlips; triggerfish; golden rabbit fish; phrygia brain coral, which actually resembles a brain



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Catch the


Mountain Drift In a world, where everything pops up in Google, Rimbik is the perfect retreat for solitude seekers, says Sankar Sridhar

The thinness of the air is felt only when the eyes come to rest on the signboard at the bus terminus.

ON THE WINGS OF A PRAYER: The sun rises over the mighty Kunchenjunga

A little less oxygen never really hurts anyone – considering that the said person is reasonable enough to go through the drill of resting a day or two and allowing the brain to adjust to the rareness of the air. But here, at Rimbik, even unreasonable people need not fret. The emerald green forests – which has trees that range from rhododendron, magnolia, oak, hemlock and silver fir to juniper, bamboo, buk, kawla, and bhujpatra – that stretch out as far as the eye can see, above the quaint cluster of tinroofed log houses provide the much needed reassurance. The oxygen makers are hard at work. Rimbik, some four hours by jeep and five-six hours by bus from Darjeeling


and seven hours from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station, which again is an overnight journey by train from Calcutta, is a treat for solitude seekers. Not too many, apart from trekkers, visit this place. And that’s not because: a. this place is not beautiful, b. it is not well connected or c. facilities are not conducive to family outings. Rather, this is one of those rare secrets in a world where everything pops up on Google. This little hamlet, a huddle of houses inhabited by friendly farmers and orchard owners, is usually used only by hikers who head out on the Singalila Ridge Trek, or their listless counterparts who have just finished the arduous walk. Both the varieties are benign and use the village little more than only a stopover. This effectively means that they keep mostly to themselves, their cameras, their rucksacks and their rooms. Not





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The best part about Rimbik is that it lends itself to casual exploration, and you don’t have to be a David Livingstone to realise that. Everybody who visits Rimbik will be tempted to walk the mule trail, that leads into the wilds beyond and would suffice to say that even the locals, who are used to their beautiful surroundings, often head out with hamper and family to enjoy a picnic under the canopy of the forest or catch up on some siesta time listening to the chirping of birds. The forest is agog with activity – birds sing, squirrels dart from one tree to the other, pausing ever so often to look at you. Perhaps they wonder how someone who does not store nuts all through the summer manages to survive the cold winter months!


too many getaways offer people keen on some alone-time, the option of finding it without much ado. The outdoors here are completely free for the odd vacationer, who is here not to slog up the mountains but just laze around and saturates himself or herself with the surreal scenes that sunrise and the sunset and the daily lives of villagers have to offer.

ENJOY THE STILLNESS: (above) A red Panda takes a nap at the Singalila National Park; (below) a trekker making way to higher grounds of Sirikhola

But let’s not delve on such profound “squirrel questions” and just move back to the bit about birds as the place is also great for bird watching. Though you won’t find guides who

will identify the species for you; it’s a problem, a good book, good binoculars and some patience can easily solve. So all you need to do is ask the villagers about the area where sightings are good and head in the direction they point their finger. Among the sure-shot sightings are pigeons, doves, sibia, minivet, magpie, cuckoo, hornbills, Kaleej pheasants and a host of other sparrow-sized birds. In fact, the lucky ones can catch a glimpse of the browsing deer (of both the barking and hog variety) and red pandas sunning themselves on branches high up in the trees. That said, it is advisable not to get too engrossed following the chirps, deep into the woods. Villagers, too, will advise you against it and will request you to head back to the safety of your hotel or bungalow before sundown. For these woods are not part of the Singalila National Park for nothing. These forests are full of


wild animals, that include, apart from the oh-so-cuddly teddy-bear type red pandas, to the more dangerous beasts like the leopard and the Himalayan black bear. For those who prefer subjects that don’t lead them into the woods or run away suddenly, can always stick to the woodcutters’ trails and scout the fringes of the woods for orchids and wildflowers that grow in profusion. There are many other ways of keeping yourself busy at Rimbik itself if, that is, the aforementioned ways of killing time does not sound like reason enough to head there. For one, this is the area from where the famed Darjeeling oranges, make their way to markets all over the country, and, are far more tangy when eaten right under the tree from which it is plucked. Most orchard owners are more than willing to let the visitor into their patches to sample and


savour their juicy delights. Having said that, here’s a bit of completely useless trivia. Rimbik means oranges in the local tongue. Though the towering hills that surround Rimbik deny the sloth visitors majestic views of the Himalayas, whose snow laden peaks kiss the blowing winds, to keep the temperatures comfortably low even in the peak of summer. A not-soshort trudge up a not-so-easy slope holds the promise of offering a panorama of peaks that no other hill station can boast of. An almost 130 degree view of the most wellknown of peaks – from the highest,

Mount Everest to the most beautiful Sinol-Chu and the muscular massive Black Peak and many more. Hogging the limelight, of course, is the peak that is considered the most difficult to climb and the one that the local people worship, the Kanchenjunga. One look, and you will be left with no doubt in your mind why the British chose to turn Darjeeling into a summer destination and gave this hill town the sobriquet “Queen of the Hills”. If you disagree with them, it would only be because you would rather that the Englishmen had the sense to name it “Empress” instead of Queen. The uphill slog of around seven

DIVINE CHANTS: Monks praying at Kala Pokhri monastery

kilometers takes anything between three and six hours to complete – depending on your level of fitness. The saving grace is that even single travellers can be assured of the company of Sri Khola, a gurgling stream for company that provides the shortest and surest route to the top of the ridge. Those with larger lungs and spirit of adventure could even head up to Phalut, a denuded peak and the second highest point in West Bengal after Sandakhphu, which is a day’s walk in a slightly different direction, again from Rimbik. Phalut also marks the border between Bengal, Sikkim and Nepal. And the



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triangular border pillar provides for a great photo-op. For most trekkers who pose for a photo there, the preferred stance is: One leg in Nepal, one in Bengal and a hand placed on Sikkim soil. Be warned though, there are no places to stay and, as a corollary, no people at Phalut. So those keen on seeing the barren patch of gnarled tree trunks would do well to take a tent and sleeping bag on hire from Rimbik. Guides who double as porters and cooks are easy to come by and charge around Rs.500 per day – that includes taking you to

Phalut, lugging the tent, sleeping bag and food rations, pitching your tent, cooking and livening up your evenings with some hill songs, friendly banter and legends about the peak. For devotees of bacchus, the roxy, that they drink each evening,will warm the cockles of your heart. The price for the heady feel? Free, except that your breath will smell a mile away, the next morning. Like Rimbik, however, Sandakhu provides all the trappings of a tourist destination – from hotels to suit all budgets and tastes, to a laid back


life. The upside is that the best views of the peaks and the best sunrise and sunsets are offered by Sandakphu. The downside is that you will always be jostling to get a view and a room, with all the trekkers and tourists around. Best, therefore, make a day journey to Sandakphu. Speaking of places to stay, there are a few options. A few hotels, shacks and even a forest bungalow and a youth hostel at Rimbik. There are more cottages than hotels, actually. If you fall in love with a cottage – for instance one of the manicured log huts with a tiny kitchen garden


SingalilaNP Singalila National Park, at an altitude of more than 7000 ft, is home the red panda, barking deer, wild boar, pangolin and the pika. Larger mammals include the Himalayan black bear, leopard and clouded leopard. Not long ago, tigers were found in the park, but thanks to mindless hunting, they are extinct from the region now. The major issues at the park are trash collection on trekking routes and ensuring minimal damage of flora by trekkers, as flora at such high altitudes tend to grow really slowly. Grazing of yak and cattle from neighbouring villages is also a problem.

COME AND ENJOY! (left): A trekker praying at a Buddhist village at the Indo-Nepal border; (below) taking a walk around snow covered Sandakphu

and orchids hanging in little pots from windows and the window itself overlooking the forest — you can feel free to knock on the door and let the owners know how you appreciate the location of their house and their decorative taste, and request them to allow you to stay a few days to soak in, their way of life. The reply is always a smiling “Please be our guest”, unless they have other guests already. The only thing to remember is that hospitable though these people are, they are extremely poor. So please do compensate them for the breakfast, lunch and dinner they serve you. It will be no lavish affair, but tasty nonetheless.

The mercury dips after sundown, no matter what time of the year. But the warmth of hospitality and woolens are enough to prompt even the most lethargic to take a walk through the hamlet in the evening or spend the better part of the night outside the comfort of one’s room. The night sky is several times darker that most of us from the cities are used to. The moon casts sharp shadows and the lack of artificial light allows a stunning view of a night sky packed from end to end with shimmering stars and constellations. Have I mentioned that stargazers are the only variety of tourists other than trekkers who make Rimbik their haunt? And because astronomy is still not a hobby with most, they are predictably keen to add to their numbers by explaining the many mysteries and quirks of the Milky Way to anyone interested, as long as they are approached. If joining the dots in the sky is your idea of a night out, you can always indulge your city sensibilities by joining in one of the several bonfires that are often lit by the locals while they gather for a drink or two and spend the wee hours singing away. Though utensils and hollow bamboo stalks often make up instruments that provide the background score, the tunes are catchy and the lyrics mostly deal with love, and have a happy ending. You couldn’t ask for a better way to end the day. Though the best time to visit Rimbik is October, when clear skies have forced the rains to retreat and winter has still not fastened itself to the land there, any month except July is good enough to head up there. But before you pack your bags, heed this statutory warning: The best way to have that fleeting feeling of bliss linger, is to leave the hamlet before the slow pace of life enters the system and turns you into a misfit in the city.



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Set sail Go... The mammoth coastline of New Zealand, featuring a variety of waves, reefs and marine life, make for a wonderful sailing destination, says Monisha Sikka

These famous words from John Masefield’s poem ‘Sea-Fever’ best encapsulate the emotions when travelling across the approximately 16,000 km coastline of New Zealand (also known as Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud). Unspoiled beaches, pristine harbours, lush rainforests, boiling mud pools, snow-capped mountains, sparkling glaciers, breathtaking national parks, vibrant towns and stately English cities offer myriad journeys into the scenic and the supremely beautiful. Hauled from the sea by Maui, the legendary Polynesian Maori demigod, one can only smile at the Maori chant of welcome ‘Haere mai! Haere mai! Haere mai!’, which resounds here from every shore.

Auckland Auckland, named ‘City of Sail’, is New Zealand’s largest and busiest city in the North Island. Set amongst 48 dormant volcanic cones between two harbours, the sparkling Waitemata and the brooding Manukau, the city has many shades of beauty. Vineyards, volcanoes, sparkling harbours, casinos, gourmet restaurants, shops and surf greet you amongst clear blue skies and sea gulls. Home to many prestigious sailing events, the famous Louis Vuitton Pacific Series brought top yachtsmen to her shores earlier this year. What to do: Along the waterfront, the coast entices one with harbour cruises, surfing ferry trips to the Hauraki Gulf Islands and the opportunity to sail an authentic NZ140 / NZ141 America’s Cup yacht. With a history of sailors coming back home with race



Home to many prestigious sailing events, the famous Louis Vuitton Pacific Series brought top yachtsmen to her shores earlier this year

trophies including the Whitbread Race and the Admiral’s Cup, it is the America’s Cup that makes every Kiwi beam with pride. Home to some of the world’s leading boat builders, famous earlier generation boats built by names like Southern Spars and Cookson Boats can still be seen unfurling their sails across Auckland waters. The Auckland National Maritime Museum speaks of many famous journeys, including the commercial voyage across Cape Horn. It offers Waitemata Harbour cruises aboard heritage sailing scow Ted Ashby and the opportunity to hoist sail on-board square rigged brigantine Breeze 6th. Also catch glimpses of the vibrant ancient Maori cultures and the highly energetic Haka dance at the National Museum or have a ride on New Zealand’s oldest working steam vessel SS Puke (27th). Bungee jump off Auckland’s famous Harbour Bridge or take the plunge from the Sky Tower (192 metres only!). Kite-board at Meola Reef in a three-quarter tide and 30 knot westerly or venture out west to the famous black sand surf beach of Piha. Rugby, wineries, art studios, an eclectic night life and a 360-degree skywalk atop the Sky Tower, all offer fabulous insights into this busy and lively city.

Hauraki Follow the play of dolphins and spot blue penguins and Orcas in the nearby Hauraki Gulf islands, a few hours’ sail away. Nautical connoisseurs, racing on the myriad criss-crossing water routes, claim that racing around the 100 islands give a high-adrenaline, because it’s MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED


Explore destination not about markers, but actually using the islands, rocks and lighthouses as points. Islands like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier offer refuge for rare and endangered wildlife. Waiheke Island can be quite sociable with art and wine flowing freely. Rangitoto, one of the largest and youngest volcanic peaks (600 years old), can be described as another planet with its alien red rocks and unusual hybrid plants. What to do: The journey across the Hauraki Gulf is best experienced on-board ‘Te Aurere’, a traditional waka hourua (doublehulled Polynesian voyaging canoe) built by master carver Hekenukumai Nga Iwi Busby. Enjoy the rich flavours of indigenous Maori food on starry evenings while skippers enthrall you with stories about the first 1000-year-ago journey from Rarotonga by Polynesian

seafarer Kupe, the start of the Maori settlement and the art of celestial navigation. At the edge of Hauraki Gulf, the Great Barrier Island stands for tranquillity and peace. Its unspoiled golden beaches, crystal-clear waters and sparsely populated vast native forests, ensure nature is king here.

Coromandel Peninsula The Coromandel Peninsula, with its mountainous forest-covered backbone, sheltered bays, coves and stunning coastlines, promise hot springs in the middle of the sand. What to do: Follow Maori legend with a trip to Cape Reinga (on the northernmost tip) and you may just feel the spirits depart on their homeland journey back to Hawaiki. Further south, the Bay of Islands, an idyllic group of 144 ‘winterless’ islands, was dubbed ‘the angler’s El

Visa requirements Any foreign national who wishes to enter New Zealand as a tourist will need to carry return or onward tickets, sufficient funds and necessary documents. Visitors from a select list of countries including US, EU may visit without Visa or with an electronic visa for a maximum period of three months.

Getting there Auckland, Christchurch and Welligton have international airports with daily flights from important cities like London, Los Angeles, Sydney, Singapore and Dubai. Seasonal cruises (September to April) from America, Pacifica and Australia are an interesting alternative. Most cruises have multiple halts in each island including Auckland and Christchurch. Intricate rail and highway systems across the country make for sedate and scenic travel.

Climate Summers are moderate and winters perfect for a good ski run. Temperatures in the South Island fall lower than in the North Island with many storm warnings across the winter months.

Peak season New Zealand can be visited year around. The ecological and geographic diversity ensure something for the visitor all year. Tourist season is traditionally summer in the North Island (October to March) and winter in the South Island (May to August).


Dorado’ by American novelist Zane Grey. Rated as one of the world’s best cruising spots, the Bay draws anglers from all over the world. New Zealand offers the best trout fishing in the world from the volcanic North Islands’ Taupo-Rotorua region to the glacial-formed lakes of West Otago and Fiordland in the South Islands. In fact, anglers can have the entire experience ranging from fishing off wharfs to big game fishing. The Bay of Islands is also home to the annual 120-mile HSBC Coastal Classic yacht race from Auckland to Russell, capital of the Islands. It is best seen

on-board the Tucker Thompson, a vessel so elegant that she may be forgiven for thinking herself above the mundane. A replica of a Halibut Schooner built here by Kiwi hands, Tucker Thompson, epitomises the New Zealand way of creating and living a dream. Named one of the world’s top 10 underwater wonderlands by legendary oceanographer, the late Jacques Cousteau, Poor Knights islands offers an enigmatic mix of tropical and subtropical sea life. Two former New Zealand naval ships, the HMNZS Tui and the HMNZS Waikato, which sank in these waters, offer an interesting

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

adventure to divers.

Wellington On the journey southwards towards Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, highlights include Mount Parahaki - which watches over Whangarei harbour city, Whakatane - home to the spectacular White Island live volcano, Gisborne – the first city in the world to greet the sun every morning, and Kaiti Beach – made famous by Captains Cook’s first landing and meeting with Maori in 1769. Wellington, the last port before departing the North Island,

holds the distinction of being one of the windiest cities in the world, therefore, a sailor’s haven. Wellington sits in a ‘river of wind’, with the Cook Strait between the North and South islands creating a wind corridor. The capital city’s wide and deep harbour enfolds many bays that are perfect for dinghy and board sailing, and is home to 13 yacht clubs. Wellington was a stopover in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet sailed through Cook Strait on its way to the Southern Ocean. Museums, galleries, fine food and great live entertainment make this city a great



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place to visit in any season. Lifetimes have been spent comparing South Island’s majestic beauty to the North Island’s geographical diversity. Whilst there can never be a consensus, it is true that South Island’s (Te Wai Pounamu) maritime reserves are one of the world’s best-kept secrets. The Marlborough Sounds, at the top of the South Island, is a labyrinth of islands, bays, coves and waterways fringed by native forests. A collection of river valleys offer sanctuaries for endangered wildlife like Robins, fur seals, dusky and bottlenose dolphins. The wreckage of the Russian cruise ship, Mikhail Lermontov, is an underwater reef haven for divers. Fiordland, with its deep fiords and glacial lakes, is a unique sailing venue with its inlets from the Tasman Sea, running into unspoilt, primeval forest and lakes gouged out by huge glaciers. Milford Sound, called the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ by Rudyard Kipling, has voluminous mountains rising out of the water. Sails under huge rock overhangs and cascading waterfalls are quite run of the mill here. Doubtful Sound, the

deepest of the fiords (421m), is a refuge for bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and crested penguins. What to do: Sea kayaking in the famous Abel Tasman National Park, rock climbing, white-water rafting or swimming with seals, make the city of Nelson an adrenaline rushing experience. Westport, famous as a gold town in the 1860s and then a coal town, provides a window into the region’s turbulent past. The seal colony nearby, Cape Foulwind, is worth a visit. Punakaiki, the pathway to amazing Pancake Rocks, is a result of limestone layering and weathering. The accompanying blowholes are best visited during high tide. Hokitika, a small friendly town sandwiched between surf and river, is the gateway to the mighty Southern Alps. Its iconic Wildfoods Summer Festival offers gourmet delicacies such as goat testicles, possum pies and hulu grubs. The Haast Pass road follows an ancient trail used by Maori travellers to the West Coast in search of Pounamu (greenstone jade). The


Fiordland, with its deep fiords and glacial lakes, is a unique sailing venue with its inlets from the Tasman Sea running into unspoilt, primeval forest and lakes gouged out by huge glaciers

name for the trail is Tiora-patea, meaning ‘The way is clear’. The road crosses the Clutha River, along the shores of Lake Hawea, once gouged out by glaciers. It enters Mount Aspiring National Park where spectacular waterfalls and ancient rainforest dot the roadside. At the end of the route are the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, mighty rivers of white ice, which carve their way through the forest almost to the sea. Kaikoura is the South’s marine playground. Sightings of Giant Sperm Whales, high spirited Dusky Dolphins, Hectors Dolphins, Fur Seals and sea birds including the Royal Albatross are not uncommon. Virtual tours to the depths of the Kaikoura Canyon, a two kilometre abyss beneath the surface, showcase inspiring insights into deep waters. Christchurch, made famous with the arrival of the first English ships in 1850, has grand heritage style buildings and stately parks. As you bid au revoir, Aotearoa’s enigma will enthrall you. When you pack your bags for the flight back home, John Mansfield’s words will ring in your ears.







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Ibn Battuta set out to travel around 3,000 miles and return home. But destiny took him to 72,000 miles — a distance not matched by any before the Steam Age, says Abdul Azim Akhtar Ibn Battuta.. Bagal mein Joota.. Phurr Phurr.. When above Bollywood lyrics made to the top charts, listeners were happy to hum the song. What they did not realize was the history behind these simple lines and the man whose travel exploits remain an envy of any adventurer. More than 125 years before Columbus and Vasco De Gama, Ibn Battuta was famous as ‘Traveller of the Age’. The estimated distance of around 72,000 miles remained a record until the steam engine was introduced. At a time when horse was the fastest mode of transportation, travelling, 75,000 miles in 30 years was indeed a remarkable feat. Not much is known about the early life of Ibn Battuta. What we know is that he was trained as a qazi (judge), studied in mosques, and memorized the Qur’an. He set out eastward in 1325, the year after Marco Polo died. During his

travels to more than 40 countries, he met some 60 heads of state and also served them in high positions. Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier. He set out as a pilgrim, probably planning to return to Tangier, but along the way he grew into one of the rarest kinds of travellers: one who voyaged for the sake of voyaging. At age 21, Ibn Battuta left his home first time on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He was weary of his journey and wanted to return home. But he was fascinated by the outside world and fell in love with Mecca, which finally also became the turning point in his adventure across the world. In his words, he states: “I set out alone, having neither a fellow-traveller in whose companionship I might find cheer, nor caravan whose party I might join, but swayed by an overmastering impulse within me, and a desire to visit.. Makkah and Madinah. So I braced my resolution to quit all my dear ones...and forsook my home, as birds forsake their nests.”


Being Ibn Batuta: "Never, if possible, cover any road a second time"

He left Tangier to visit the holy places of his faith and found himself curious about the wide world and became keen to learn more about it. From Cairo, Ibn Battuta travelled to Damascus, where he joined a caravan of pilgrims bound for Mecca. He made several journeys to Mecca. In 1332 he returned to Makkah for his third Hajj, and stayed there for three years to study. During his stay in Mecca, he heard stories about the generosity of the Indian King Md. Bin Tughlaq, who was very respectful to Arab scholars. He was offered passage on a ship to India, but declined due to safety reasons. Later on, the ship drowned. His route to India was not the most direct and took him almost two years to reach. He returned to Egypt, and after travelling through Syria, Turkey and Russia took the famous silk route to reach Multan. He has left behind a good account of the silk route and stories related to those cities. He presented himself as an Arab scholar to the local governor, who passed the courier to the Delhi Sultan, Md. Bin Tughlaq.


During that time, it was a tradition of the visiting dignitary to present gifts. Likewise, Ibn Battuta borrowed money from some merchants and prepared his entourage for the presentation before the Delhi Sultan. Talking of his journey to Delhi, Ibn Battuta particulary mentions mileposts:

ARAL SEA Fez Marrakesh



INDUS RIVER Delhi Gambay


Taghaza Timbuktu



Gao Jenne






Mogadishu Mombasa Kilwa

“Dihar/Dhar is 24 days’ journey from Delhi. All along the road are pillars, on which are carved the number of miles from one pillar to the next.” He was received well at the court of Sultan Md. Bin Tughlaq and was appointed Qazi of Delhi, which came as a surprise to the Moorish traveller. Later on, he was also showered with rich gifts and was married in the family of the Sultan. In Delhi, he was in the Sultan’s service for eight years and became quite rich owing to his high salary, gifts and other favours. Ibn Battuta devotes several pages in his travel accounts, talking about the court life of the Delhi Sultan and the people. At many points, his accounts

Information Ibn Battuta first set foot in a boat in 1330. He was 27 years old. The boat was a jalba, one of the notorious Red Sea craft, described more than a millennium earlier in The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, made of planks sewn together with coir and waterproofed with shark oil. On September 12, 1333, after a two-year detour through Iran, Anatolia and Central Asia, Ibn Battuta finally stood on the banks of the Indus River.

"So I braced my resolution to quit all my dear ones, and forsook my home, as birds forsake their nests”

Hangzhou Chittagong

are an important source of history on the reign of Md. Bin Tughlaq and various measures taken by the Sultan. For instance, Battuta describes in detail, about various schemes of Md. Bin Tughlaq, such as transfer of capital and introduction of token currency. There are many anecdotes of the Sultan attributed to Ibn Battuta. He also describes various Yogis and was stunned by their 'miracles' and mystical powers. At one particular time, when Battuta was penniless, one Yogi offerred him money! He was censured by the Sultan for being associated with mendicants. After many years of service, Ibn Battuta became unhappy and dejected and wished to return home. The Sultan advised him to go to China as his goodwill ambassador, knowing the fondness of Ibn Battuta for travel. The trip to China was very fateful. He was kidnapped by robbers but was lucky to escape unhurt. He surrendered to the faith and recalled,

Pasai Melaka SUMATRA


“if God decrees my death, it shall be on the road with my face set towards the land of the Hijaz and Makkah.” He endured many ordeals and after hiding at many places and was finally reunited with his caravan and sailed to China. In China, he was mesmerized by the prosperity and development of the country. He describes: “There is no people in the world, wealthier than the Chinese”. From there, he set on his way his home avoiding Delhi, living by his famouse saying: "Never, if possible, cover any road a second time". He turned homeward and passed once again through Mecca, Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo to reach Tangier in 1349, after a quarter century. After two years, he dictated his memory to a scribe, which was published as 'Rihla', which the west discovered in the 19th century.



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How to avoid

Road Fatigue

Follow these simple tips to fight the greatest enemy of road trips, says Abdul Azim Akhtar

Everyone gets tired, but the reason for this may vary from person to person. So, find out what makes you feel tired and discover the ways to fight the fatigue and re-energise yourself. Below are few steps, which will be useful in preparing your body for a long road journey and avoiding road related fatigue.

training your legs regularly. You will walk better and improve the stability of your body, by strengthening muscles and joints in the legs. Exercise will also optimize the position of your spinal column and will give you more active metabolism. This energy not only helps you through the day, but also helps you have a sound sleep. Do some leg exercises and get rid of tired leg muscles while driving. The training of the lower part of the body also stimulates micro and macrocirculation, which help in fighting that ‘heavy’ legs. Healthy and trained legs provide you with strength and give a solid foundation to your body.

LEGS: This is vital to your journey, and healthy legs will help you in your adventure. You can achieve fitness by

Avoid constipation and acidity: During the journey, you need to be selective about your food.


You should avoid food which may cause constipation and acidity, as this may give you a bad feeling and affect your mobility. You may start your day with low calorie foods and leave high energy foods like broccoli, fruits, nuts and yoghurt for the latter part of the day. These foods help the immune system and help fight fatigue, but should be preferably taken in the afternoon. Take plenty of water: A hydrated body is essential for keeping yourself fit. Water-requirement for every person varies and you may decide on this after taking eight glasses of water. You can maintain a hydrated body by drinking a lot of water all through the day. It helps in keeping the body muscles from


Perhaps, the most common enemy of any road traveller is fatigue. This can dampen the spirits of anyone and may also jeopardise the whole trip. It is important to plan ahead and take note of this problem, when you feel it.

cramping. You may also take tonic water or quinine at night, as it helps in preventing aches and pains. Enough Sleep: It is agreed that eight hours of sleep is essential to keep you refreshed and rejuvenated. And when you are planning for a road journey, it is advisable to follow this like Ten Commandments, because if you do not have enough sleep, you may feel lethargic. You can also reschedule your routine, if need be, to suit the demanding journey ahead. If you are used to taking medicines and suffer from sleep disorder, do not forget to carry the required quota of your medicines. A new study from Washington State University, suggests that having a power nap for at least 15-20 minutes can refresh the body and give the energy needed. Research

also carry Epsom salt, which is known to relieve pain. To ease the pain, soak the legs in warm water containing Epsom salt. Vinegar is also helpful. Apply vinegar on a damp cloth and place it on the painful leg muscles. If possible, you may also carry mustard and coconut oil to massage the aching muscles.

shows that people taking naps regularly for about 20 minutes each day are happier. So, you may also take little breaks in your journey. FIRST AID: You may carry a heating pad to help you relieve the pain. Place a heating pad on the muscles that are painful, to soothe the pain. You can

Usually, we do not take fatigue seriously, but during road journeys, we need to be very careful about this. We have to ensure that we avoid this and if we get it, we have in place a solution to get refreshed and carry on our journey. Remember, fatigue may lead to a problem that may go on for some weeks. So, the best way out is to prevent it, as prevention is better than cure.

Soham’s Chateau De Naggar 100 Meter Before Naggar Castle, Naggar - 175130, Distt. Kullu, Himachal Pradesh (INDIA) Mobile: +91 9805545408, Email:, MAY-JUNE 2012 | EXPLORE | THE UNEXPLORED 115

Explore wild craft

How to create fire! Fire from Ice Fire from ice, isn’t just some dumb cliché used for high school prom themes. You can actually make fire from a piece of ice. All you need to do is form the ice into a lens shape and then use it as you would, when starting a fire with any other lens. This method can be particularly handy for wintertime camping. Get clear water. For this to work, the ice must be clear. If it’s cloudy or has other impurities, it’s not going to work. The best way to get a clear ice block is to fill up a bowl, cup, or a container made out of foil with clear lake or pond water or melted snow. Let it freeze until it forms ice. Your block should be about 2 inches thick for this to work.

To know how to make a fire is one of the most fundamental wilderness skills. Follow these exciting methods to create fire in the wild You can use any lens – be it binoculars or eyeglasses or camera lenses – to create fire

Form your lens. Use your knife to shape the ice into a lens. Remember a lens shape is thicker in the middle and narrower at the edges. Polish your lens. After you get the rough shape of a lens, finish the


shaping of it by polishing it with your hands. The heat from your hands will melt the ice enough so you get a nice smooth surface. Start a fire. Angle your ice lens towards the sun just as you would any other lens. Focus the light on your tinder nest and watch as you make a once stupid cliché come to life.

Fire from Coke Can and Chocolate Bar Yes. You can use that lame coke can and a little bit of chocolate to make fire. Polish the bottom of the soda can with a little bit of chocolate. Purer the chocolate, better it is to polish. Open up your bar of chocolate and start rubbing it on the bottom of the soda can. The chocolate acts as a polish and will make the bottom of the can

shine like a mirror. If you don’t have chocolate with you, toothpaste also works. After polishing the bottom of the can, what you have is essentially a parabolic mirror. Sunlight will reflect off the bottom of the can, forming a single focal point. It’s kind of like how a mirror telescope works. Point the bottom of the can towards the sun. You’ll have created a highly focused ray of light aimed directly at your tinder. Place the tinder about an inch from the reflecting light’s focal point. In a few seconds you should have a flame. Wonder how will you get a coke can in the middle of nowhere? Or do not have snow at your disposal? Well, you can use any lens – be it binoculars or eyeglasses or camera lenses – to create fire.

Explore your world

Explore resort Review

The long Span Pamper yourself with luxury and comfort, without loosing touch with nature and the natural beauty of Manali, says Leena O’connel As you walk, the manicured flower beds welcome you with a smile of nature. The rippling waters of river Beas, cool breeze, walnut trees, chirping birds, fluttering butterflies, and a clear blue sky in the backdrop of snow covered Himalaya provide a spectacular view. Welcome to the Span Resort, Manali.

Built in 1976, Span set amidst the Himalaya ranges, serene landscapes; and vintage architecture gives a period experience. Spread over ten acres, there are 36 cottages with an unhindered view of the river and peaks. There are four categories of cottages: The Premier, The Elite, The Grand Deluxe and Deluxe. Each category has a distinct style and comfort.

As I entered the place, I was reminded of the lines of a poem - ‘Never have I seen, The Earth so green. The bright blue sky, where birds doth fly.’ I was immersed in wilderness surrounded by beauty.

Cottages are very tastefully furnished in the league of a Five Star. From a cozy fireplace to coffee maker, from Italian style bathrooms to wooden floors, the rooms are a blend of classic and modern. Based

Below: The Span swimming pool amidst trees

118 | EXPLORE the THE unexplored UNEXPLORED | MAY-JUNE may-june 2012 2012

on British architecture, the cottages have two exits, one into the flower garden and the other into striking landscapes. As you walk through the manicured hedges and gardens, the warm lobby welcomes you. A wooden reception with a Zen water fall and Piaget wall clock depicts simplicity and sophistication. In the centre of the lobby stands a regal wooden staircase with a signature handmade carpet, that extends an instant invitation to the bar and multi-cuisine dinning. As the first flight of stairs end, you see the bar. Inside, leather chesterfields, high table seating, solid wood walls, floor and tables are spread. You have a variety of drinks to choose from. The cognacs, the single malts, scotches, liquors, wine, gin, vodka, you name it and they have it. More than 30 varieties of exquisite cognacs, more than 80 fine scotches, and in all more than 300 high-end international brands grace the bar. The bar tender took pride in telling me about the rarest collection - Chivas to 35 years Glen Grant! Ladies.


Do not miss the mango & strawberry margaritas. A few steps above, is the multi-cuisine fine dining with rubina trees, glacial mountain view and lush green gardens. Fresh-water trout is a speciality of Span Resort. Chef Hukum Ram makes sure that the fish melts in your mouth with the precise flavours. There is an assorted platter for vegetarians which will captivate their taste buds. Dal Makhani, Himachali Madira (dal), Himachali Pulao (a local delicacy made with dry fruits, fresh fruits, vegetables and rice), Rajasthani Punchmela and paneer specials are simply delectable. The restaurant caters to 60 covers and has a scrumptious buffet. Coming back to the ground floor, you can see an impressive library lounge. A large diverse collection of books bound in leather, give an intellectual feel. Rich golden brown leather couches, chic seating with well laid chess board, antique maps on the wall, overlooking the turbulent Beas. A hot cup of cappuccino or espresso coffee with inhouse assorted cookies will set you in the mood to pick a book and read. As you come out of the library lounge you see ‘Zensation’ across the lobby. The only authentic oriental fine dining in the area. Guests are welcomed with a signature Jasmine tea. Selection of Chinese, Thai and Burmese cuisine

Himalayan Wonder (clockwise from left): The massage bed to rekindle life; luxurious setting inside the bedroom to make you feel majestic; the resort garden next to the meandering Beas River; the stately settings of the restaurant; the billiards room to give you that royal feel

Natural beauty has to be felt as well, at the renowned T3 Spa in the midst of Olive trees, adjacent to the breathtaking swimming pool and the banks of Beas. The spa has four treatment rooms with

FastFacts Getting to the resort You can drive or fly to Manali Closest airport Kullu (daily flights) Bus There are daily Volvo bus service between Manali and Delhi, which makes for a comfortable journey

attached showers, jacuzzis and saunas. Rejuvenate yourself with body wraps of honey and sesame or soak yourself in aromatic flowers, it’s all possible here. There are healing therapies from abhyangam to European massages, reflexology to deep tissue treatments. I recommend bonding together through R3 signature massage in the couple room, followed by aqua therapy with rose water and rose petals. It is sure to make cupid flutter around. R3 signature facial rejuvinates the city stressed dull skin within sixty minutes and R3 back massage is the easiest conduit for a good night’s sleep.

is impressive. Chef recommends the Burmese Khawose soup, chicken in black or hot bean suace, salt and pepper vegetables and kimchi preparations along with pan fried flat noodles. The Chef has Triyaki chicken to offer to Japanese connoisseurs. Manager Rakesh Negi ensures that all the delicasies are served piping hot and temptingly presented for an instant mouth watering reaction.

Adventure around Manali Rafting on Beas n Trek to Manala Village n Drive to Rohtang Pass Must try at Span n Khawose soup at Zensation n Drinks at the Bar n R3 Signature spa facial n

Cottages are tastefully furnished in the league of a five star, to give you a feel of royalty and experience of a lifetime

Under Ms.Meera the cordial nature and humbleness is felt through out the property. Well groomed staff seem to love their job and they are always seen with a contagious smile. The ambience that the resort emanates connects one to nature. Every dawn here is an invitation to bliss and unravel. Explore Span to connect with nature and serenity of life.



Explore web review

Here is a run down of four different Indian adventure travel sites, reviews Nitin Pasricha Northern Escapes

extremely well thought out. Northern Escapes website is extremely easy to use with a well chalked out menu with the ‘Trips’ link dropping down to show the various regions they offer, which are also present on the homepage with thumbnails and descriptions. The images used are fabulous and make you want to stay on the homepage for much longer and go through all those images. The images are clickable and take you directly to the trip’s page which is excellent. On a particular trip page the header images change to show that particular trip’s images only, which is

The ‘Quick Trip’ finder could’ve been an extremely handy tool, if only the presence of so many options to choose from, were limited to a few options, it would’ve resulted in more results to choose from. The ‘Contact Us’ side button is quite handy and lets you contact them within seconds, without travelling to another page. What I really liked is that they show the trip prices in three different currencies, which will be very useful to viewers outside India. The ‘Trip’ page has a sub menu customised for a particular trip and is quite easy to

use and informative. All the trips look highly attractive. All in all, a very well made website with excellent usability.

Wanderlustindia Camps & Resorts which contain updates from the world Unlike most other travel websites, this site does not use big pictures. Rather one comes across a nice Illustration on the homepage. This gives you a wonderful feeling, and same will be liked by young and old alike. The illustration can be quite inspirational for families to plunge into those ‘bonding’ holidays. The layout, and design of the site is quite simple and to the point. One can easily navigate to the sections of individual interest. The colours used in the site are light and pleasing. The sections of the site presents to you not only various adventure holidays in India but also has sections like news,


of adventure. The user invariably is drawn to the deals section which lists out the current deals of Wanderlust Camps and Resorts. The navigation is aimed at saving the user’s time and to lead him or her to the desired information areas. The left hand menu of the site presents information and photographs of various campsites of Wanderlust. The site has a planner to help you plan your holiday as per your budget and requirements. The site easily pops out on search engines, which means travellers interested in the offerings of Wanderlust, will easily get directed to the website. There is no maze of content, unlike most other travel sites, which is a welcome relief.

Thrillophilia The visuals on the website tells you about the content even before you have gone through the sections mentioned therein. The flashing images of a lion, rafting and trekking, tells you a distinct story of each adventure on offer. The title tag of the website is ‘Adventure Tour India’ and the design of the website is on these lines. The layout is in tune with the theme and highly appealing. Talking of the technical aspects, the site is easy to navigate and use. There is not much difficulty in browsing through the various sections and links provided in the website. Content is the main part for any

website, and this is what sustains the visitors. This website has some quality content and almost all the necessary information is provided on the visible page itself. At the top of the website, there are eight sections devoted to tour plans and various trip options. There is a special adventure package offered for corporates, which is a welcome addition, as nowadays corporates are sending their employees on such tours as part of their ‘Employee First’ promotions. To the top far right, two contact numbers are mentioned, which are quite handy. You can navigate to 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 also easily visible.

Overland Escape The first thing that you come across on the site is the feel of adventure, by the the trips and packages listed out and the photographs displayed. The site builds a rapport with the adventurer from the word go. There is a customised trip section in which travellers can tailor-make their trips and get information and quotes, after submitting the same. To the top far right of the site is a fully integrated e-commerce section, where you can customize your trips and book hotels online, which is pretty handy. You need not go to separate booking sites. You can also book air

and bus tickets, which is a bonus. The social media links keeps you updated on the latest adventure trips. There is a newsletter subscription button, which can be pretty useful for those who want to be in the loop of the latest adventure activities in the country and subcontinent. The various trips listed when clicked, provides you with an overview, the places covered and route taken. The detailed day to day itinerary of each trip gives a complete feel of each trip. There is a photo gallery as well, which takes you on a visual extravaganza. Overall, the site is easy to navigate and all information is easy to find. All pages list out the enquiry phone numbers, which comes handy for a tarveller to make an instant query.



Explore DEALS

From the serene vales of Ladhak to the wilderness of the Deccan Peninsula – Take your pick!

Classic Markha Valley Trek Markha Valley trek is a classic trek passing through Gandala (16,076 ft), small villages, high pasture land of Nimaling and Kongmarula (16,730 ft). After leaving Leh, early in the morning, we drive to Spituk Bridge, behind the Spituk monastery, around 7 km from Leh town. The trek starts from here and goes through flat and desolate plains, at the foot of the Stok Mountain. Gradually, you leave the busy LehSrinagar highway and move towards the wilderness of Ladakh. You then arrive at Zingchen through a gorge,

which gives you a feeling of complete isolation. Spend the night at a camp in Zingchen. After a relaxed breakfast, leave Zingchen for Rumbak along a straight road. You leave the village and enter Hemis National Park, which is home to the snow leopard, baharal and the Tibetan wolf. You then walk through a narrow trail before the valley widens, as you reach Rumbak and camp at Yurutse, below Gandal. From Yurutse, one follows the path along the mountain side, then cross a small valley and follow a zig -zag steep path. Thereafter cross Gandala.

Then starts the long descent towards Shingo to reach Skyu. The next day you arrive at Chaluk. Now you walk along the left bank of the river and after another crossing, climb towards Markha Village, where there is a good camp site, a little beyond the village on the banks of the river. One walks for another two days through Nimaling pass (16,076 ft) and the beautiful village of Shang Sumdo, before ending the trek at Hemis Gompa. Days: 7N8D Hot Deal: Rs.17, 860 Contact:

Adventurous Ladakh Find yourself perched on the banks of Indus, just two hours away from Leh, yet far away from the maddening crowds, for an invigorating holiday at Uley Eco Adventure Resort. Start your day with a mountain bike ride to Mangyu or Alchi Gompa and then have a picnic lunch by the river or perched on a cliff top. Visit the beautiful Lardo village in the afternoon and then have a relaxed night at the resort. The next day engage in some paddling to tame those rapids. Game for more adventure? Try your hand at rock climbing or zip line. In the evening have dinner by a bonfire under the star spangled sky. Days: 2N/3D Hot Deal: Rs.18,000 on AP basis for 2 pax Contact: +91 9419178088


Trans Wonders This one ensures you do not miss any of the sights of Ladakh in a short visit. While you rest during the day at Hotel Mandala, evening involves a trip to catch the sunset from Shanti Stupa followed by a leisurely walk around Leh Bazaar. On day two you visit Shey, Thiksey and Hemis gompa and the Hall of Fame. Day three takes you across mighty Changla to the wondrous Pangong Tso, where you have a picnic lunch on the banks of the lake. You then head back to Leh before sunset. The final day of your trip is reserved for high thrills of rafting on Indus River, with lunch at Nimoo in the rafting camp. You visit Pathar Sahib Gurdwara on your way back. A special bonfire night will be the grand finale to your Ladakh trip. Days: 4N5D Hot Deal: Rs. 25,000 Contact: +91 9596253464,

Grand Ladakh

Step into luxury at the only star hotel of Ladakh – The Grand Dragon Ladakh – which is literally grand. After acclimatisation, you can go to Leh Bazaar. On day two you go for sightseeing to places like Sindhu Ghat, Shey, Thiksey and Stok Palace. On the third day you cross Khardungla – world’s highest motorable pass at 18,380 ft and check into a camp at Hunder, after which you will enjoy a camel safari. Return to Leh the next day via Sumoor. After some more sightseeing around Leh on the fifth day, climb Changla at 17,350 ft on the sixth day and visit the beautiful High Altitude Pangong Lake in a day trip. Last day will be a relaxed one as you can laze in the hotel or go around Leh town to pick up souvenirs. Days: 7N8D Hot Deal: Rs.98,999 for 2 pax and Rs. 1,74,999 for 4 pax Contact:

The best of Southern Wilderness This tour in South India will quench your thirst for wild adventure, by taking you on the most exciting and alluring wildlife journeys. This 7 day wildlife tour is set to take you through picturesque landscape and wildlife journeys. Who knows, you may be lucky to spot a tiger or leopard cross your vehicle. This trip covers destinations like Bandipur, Wayanad, Kabini and Mudumalai. Enjoy activities like coracle ride, jeep safari through dense forest, elephant safari, bird watching, jungle treks and much more. Drinking hot coffee in wild, relaxing in the best of resorts and a stay at a tree house will give you an everlasting experience.Days: 6N7D Hot Deal: Rs.29,000 per person Contact: +91 9686020000,



Explore fifiFixed departures

Tame the Tons River in Uttaranchal or go for a drive in remote North-East or opt for a photo safari. There is more action to choose from Lower Tons River Expedition

Himalaya Intense for kids

Trance-Himalaya Photo Safari

Departure Date: May 25 Return Date: June 01 Price: On Request Outfitter: Aquaterra Email: Tel: +91 11 29212641 Aquaterra Adventures made the first Indian descent on the hardest section in April 2003. We followed it up by running the first fixed departure expedition on the Lower Tons, an exciting 75 km journey down this Class 4 section of the medium volume Lower Tons river. In May 2005, Aquaterra Adventures operated the first rafting descent on the entire Tons River since 1986, almost a first descent, as the river had changed considerably over 19 years. This adventure kicks off from our base camp on the Tons River.

Departure Date: May 27 Arrival Date: June 02 Price: Rs. 10,750/Outfitter: Wildrift Adventures Email: Tel: +91 11 29531036 This one is a true Himalayan adventure which helps children experience real wilderness in a safe and fun filled environment. The Naamik region is approximately 211 km from Kathgodam and 50 km ahead of Bageshwar town in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. The trip offers a great Himalayan experience. A combination of adventure, trekking and cultural interaction along a section of Ramganga River Valley. The highlights are mountain biking, white water kayaking and river adventures.

Departure Date: May 25 Return Date: June 05 Price: On Request Outfitter: Northern Escapes Email:, Tel: +91 11 41519967 Like our other photo safaris, TranceHimalaya Photo Safari is designed to help the photographer in you to capture the essence of the land on film. Special requirements of photographers are kept in mind while designing this safari. The terrain is such that it can turn an amateur into a pro. And what better way than to have a well seasoned photographer to guide you to those stunning locations. So, take this opportunity to discover this passion and hone your photography skills with experts.


What better way than to have a well seasoned photographer to guide you to those locations

Kailash Mansarovar

Rumble on the Hills

Spiti – Kinnaur motor bike tour

Departure Date: June 01 Return Date: June 19 Price: $ 3870 per person Outfitter: Explore Himalaya Email: Tel: +977 1 4418100 This is truly the trip of a lifetime with stunning scenery and cultural highlights. You can join this trip either at Lhasa or Kathmandu. The tour starts with a briefing at Kathmandu, followed by a trans Himalayan flight to Lhasa, that passes over Mt. Everest and many tall peaks of the world. On the journey to Mt. Kailash from Lhasa, you will see cliff-top gompas, hardy and hospitable Tibetans, yak caravans journeying over snowy passes, and the great peaks of the Himalayas and a turquoise lake – Mansarovar.

Start Date: June 01 End Date: June 07 Cost: Rs. 28,000 per person Outfitter: HighOnTravel Contact: +91 9833414486 Travel along amazing landscape and meet interesting people. HighOnTravel brings an exciting adventure, spread over 7 days, through North-East India that will enchant and rejuvenate you. Arrive at Guwahati and hit the hills of Meghalaya, towards Mawlynnlong, a small hamlet on Bangladesh border. On day 02 drive to Shillong and the next day pass Kaziranga on the way to Jorhat. At Jorhat, stay in a tea estate. Ferry to Majuli the next day before driving to Mon in Nagaland. The journey ends at Dimapur where one takes a flight to Kolkata the next day.

Departure Date: June 29 Arrival Date: July 07 Price: On request Outfitter: Overland Escape Email: Tel: +91 1982 257858 A 9 day motor bike tour includes unlimited fun & challenge to one of the remotest regions of Himachal Pradesh, viz Kinnaur & Spiti valley. It involves visiting remote valleys, villages and crossing high mountain passes. Rohtang Pass (1357 ft) & Kunzum Pass (15,000 ft) provide spectacular views of snow capped peaks, rugged terrain and old monasteries. The tour ends at Shimla. Come prepared for unpredictable weather, from scorching sunshine to freezing blizzards, even in summers.

On the journey to Mt. Kailash from Lhasa, you will see cliff-top gompas and hardy Tibetans



Explore Calender

Ladakh Leh




West Bengal


Hyderabad Goa

Hemis Festival date: June 28-July 2012 location: Leh, Ladakh Dressed in colourful, vibrant brocades with brightly decorated and richly adorned paper-mache masks, the monastery lamas perform to a cacophony of drums, cymbals and long horns at the birthday celebrations of Guru Padamasambhava. Come to Leh to discover, Buddhist gompas and monasteries perched on hilltops.

Sindhu Darshan Festival

Ganga Dussehra Festival

start date: June 1-3, 2012 location: Shey, Ladakh The Sindhu Darshan Festival is organised annually on the banks of the River Indus, at Shey Manla near Leh. Celebrated on the full moon night of Guru Poornima in June, the festival is an effort to promote unity and communal harmony in the country. It is also a tribute to our brave soldiers.

date: May 30, 2012 location: Varanasi, U.P. Ganga Dussehra is celebrated on Dashmi Tithi of Shukla Paksha Jeyshta Masa. On this day river Ganga is supposed to have descended to the earth. This year, it will be celebrated on 30th May. When Ganga Dussehra falls on Monday in Hast Nakshatra, it is believed to remove sin.


Jagannath Rathayatra date: June 21, 2012 location: Puri, Odhisa This festival is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and enthusiasm. A procession of Lord Jagannath, Baklabhadra and Subhadra in chariots are taken out in the temple town of Puri. The festival is telecast live on many TV channels. The festival is marked with a number of rituals and customs. The Yatra begins late in the afternoon and thousands of people take part in this festival.


Sao Jao festival date: June 16 location: Goa The Sao Joao Festival is celebrated throughout Goa and is dedicated to St.John, the Baptist. The festival is celebrated with a lot of grandeur and ceremony. One of the interesting aspects is that newlywed sons-in-law celebrate and rejoice at their mothers-inlaw’s homes. The mother gifts her daughter with a basket full of fruits. A colorful procession is carried out by the youth of the village.

Workshop on Digital Photography date: May 26-27 2012 location: Hyderabad A.P. Understand the different controls in your digital camera and make the best use of them. How to use the advanced modes to control the exposure and depth of field to get the best from your subject. Understand the nuances of composition and more in the workshop organised by Pixetra Club.

Jamai Sashti date: June 7, 2012 location: West Bengal There are days reserved for many things. And this day is devoted to the son-in-law. People regard this day as auspicious and most families organize a party for their son-in-law. The in-laws invite their daughters and sons-in-law and the mother-in-law performs rituals. The son-in-law receives gifts and the mother-in-law touches his forehead and blesses him for a long life.

Trek to Sunderdhunga Valley date: June 22-July 3, 2012 location:Uttaranchal Situated to the west of Pindar Valley, Sunderdhunga literally means the ‘valley of beautiful stones’. Breathtaking views of snow-capped Himalayan peaks and lush green forests of oaks and pines make the pristine valley of Sunderdhunga a much sought after trekking destination.



Explore book Review

INTO THE WILD John Krakauer traces the love of McCandless for the wild and seclusion and his tragic end, in the Alaskan wilderness In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of ‘Into the Wild’. Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free

to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild. Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless’s short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

Into the wild: Jon Krakauer Pan Macmillan ` 195

When McCandless’s innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines

He is said to have had a death wish, but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless’s uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows 128 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | MAY-JUNE 2012

and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish, but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless’s uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding - and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing and heartbreaking, ‘Into the Wild’ is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer’s storytelling, blaze through every page.

contest Explore

Adventure Quiz 6 In the 16th century what did scuba divers use, to supply them with air from the surface? 7 What is the most common form of shelter used on a mountain? 8 From where did the two daredevils – Glenn Singleman and Nic Feteris – jump from, to set a world record for BASE jumping? 9 How did Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy cross the 22-mile English Channel to set a world record? 10 What is the estimated number of snow leopards in the wild in India?

Think you are the adventure buff? Find out how much you know about the real stuff by taking our adventure quiz 1 What were Sir Edmund Hillary’s first words after scaling the summit? 2 What was the name given to a transcontinental air race for women pilots?

Submit your answers to to win this Ray-Ban Aviator

3 How does a Spanish Bullfighting conclude? 4 What type of lights are used in caving? 5 What is used to walk through deep snow while approaching a mountain?

Road Sign photo contest

winner of this issue Road Sign contest is Maj. Awasthi The

from Leh, Ladakh.

Congratulations! He has won a

Casio PRW15ooT Pro Trek Sports Watch!

Rush your entries to



Explore ultimate




You dream it, we plan it.  You know it, we show it.

Not everyone holidays for comfort. Not everyone looks for luxurious getaways. There are souls who are unafraid of the unknown....who crave for adventure and embrace their dreams. For these explorers we bring exciting experiences that last a lifetime. 132 | EXPLORE THE UNEXPLORED | MAY-JUNE 2012


Explore The Unexplored  

Explore is an effort by like-minded adventure enthusiasts to bring home the heart of adventure travel in India to the readers.Explore aims a...

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