Just another trek post

My first blog post was a travelogue – I started writing blogs because there was so little information on the web on these places where I visited. This post is a throwback to those posts.

Anyone who knows me, knows how I love the mountains. And how I like a little physical outdoor activity like trekking. Since our marriage, I have taken Smita to two treks – the first one resulted in us returning in two days from the hills of Dzongri / Goecha la. The second, to Sandakphu and was a grand success. Since then, due to our daughter being very young, we have not planned treks at all, although it was always my wish to do a proper trek alone, since Smita doesn’t really enjoy them. After planning and pondering for over two years, finally booked a trek to Hampta pass, a popular trek near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. The trek takes one from the green Kullu valley to the dry Spiti valley.

Took a flight to Delhi on 15th June and an overnight bus to Manali the same day. Checked in to a backpacker’s hostel (my first time) in Old Manali and roamed around the city a bit. The next morning, started the trek from Prini, a village nearby where we met our fellow trekkers. The first part of the journey was a ride to Jobra from Prini, negotiating 40 odd hairpin bends on the road. From Jobra, the trek to Chikha campsite was an easy one, and covered in about three hours with at least 6 – 7 breaks! The Chikha campsite was in a valley, right next to the Jobri river. The evening was spent roaming around the campsite, crossing over the river for a stroll, and generally getting to know our fellow trekkers better.

Next day was slightly longer with the hike taking us about 6-7 hours. The highlight of the day was crossing of the river near Jwara just before lunch, and the pretty site where we had our packed lunch. The campsite at Balu ka Ghera was once again in a valley and next to the river. The evening was a blast thanks to all the singing and games we played before an early dinner.

Next day we started early as there was a long way to Hampta Pass and cross over to Spiti valley onward to the next camp site at Shea Goru. The trek was slightly tougher than the other days, with a lot of boulders to negotiate. There were few patches of snow which we had to cross too. The final approach up to Hampta Pass was also covered with snow and it slowed the entire group down. Once we reached Hampta Pass, it started to rain with ice crystals. We had our lunch of Veg Biryani in the rain and started the steep descent towards Shea Goru. The first segment was slippery with a lot of mud and slush, and then there was a section where a steep slope full of snow was traversed with sliding on the snow. The last section was a gradual slope down the hill and on to the valley where the camp was set.

Hampta Pass

The next day started with crossing of the river – and this was some cold water. The fingers instantly went numb, and even after several minutes, could not feel the feet. The walk thereafter was through gradual slopes and ridges, and with the sun shining bright, was an easy walk, especially compared to the previous day. We reached the campsite at Chhatru, and soon took the waiting cars for a drive to Chandrataal, a high altitude lake about 50 km away.


Next day, the same cars took us back to Manali via Rohtang Pass. Enjoyed Manali through the day and just roamed about leisurely. The old trees in this city simply makes a great sight and makes one realize how mountains are meant to be. Wrapped the trip by meeting few friends in Delhi, which is always a joy for me.
His Majesty, @Chhatru
Manali (2000m) - Jobra (2707m) - Chikha (3000m) - Balu - Ka - Gheera (3600m) - Hampta Pass (4270m) - Shea Gahru (3700m) - Chatru (3300m) - Chandratal (4250m) - Chatru (3300m) - Manali (2000m)

Hidimba Mandir, Manali

Mission Better Drivers (in India)

Driving in the narrow chaotic roads of Kolkata, there are many situations each day where I get the urge to get off the car and beat the hell out of some drivers. Fortunately, the urge is only for a split second and I continue driving on after a shake of head / a few choice words. My top picks with those situations, and proposed solutions to them:

The "horny" driver: Get a meter attached to the horn and make it mandatory. After a specified amount of honking, measured in minutes, the owner of the car has to purchase additional minutes.

The lane changer: Without indicators in rush traffic that is! Get the surveillance cameras in use, and make it mandatory for the drivers to attend driving lessons. Special classes on lane driving can also be arranged which repeats and reinforces the same concept to the point of death by boredom. Much like the 300 lines of "I will not cause pandemonium in class" that I had to write in std 7.

The line crosser: Same as the lane changer. Particularly annoying, since some of them think that's the right thing to do! On a fine Sunday morning, when the roads were empty, I stopped at a signal. A taxi came in a few seconds later, in a very cool way stopped right before the zebra crossing, and signaled me to come ahead - as if I had done a mistake!!! Fines are apparently not deterring these guys, so, why not ask for their time in terms of attending classes?

The Valentino Rossi: Bikers and their fascination of crossing cars (from both sides) and coming in front of the car! Some with helmets, some with two passengers! In some areas of Kolkata, almost all without helmet and most with one or two passengers, all without helmet! Stop them, thrash them, burn their bikes - I can't think of any other solution!

*Deep breath*
*Peace out*

The last of the ...

It's been more than four months since the evening a pop up came through the Times of India app on my mobile, informing me that all old 500 and 1000 rupees currency notes are banned. The next couple of days were enough to convert the notes that I had. We could also take out enough cash from Banks / ATMs to suffice our upcoming family travel planned just four days later. During the travel, I did not even try to take out cash, but did not face any crunch whatsoever. The biggest challenge proved to be December, when the ATMs and Banks had limits / long queues / lacked cash to disburse.

Now, all this while, I had an apprehension that I might have kept a note or two somewhere stashed as a rainy day fund - well, not really a raining rainy day, but one of those days when you have ordered for food and you don't have enough cash and feeling too lazy to go out. This is something I keep in all my wallets / passport holders / card holders. Imagine my state of mind when just yesterday, while searching for a passport sized photograph, peeped out a bright and crisp 1000 rupee note!

Wonder if I should go to RBI and get it changed before 31st March 2017 or just keep it as a souvenir.

Happy International Women's Day

I am not a big fan of celebrating these "days"... Mother's Day, Father's Day, Brother's Day... these are relationships which should not need a special day a year to celebrate and rather be celebrated every day. Similarly, on a similar note, Women should not need a "Women's Day" to celebrate in an ideal world.

Having said that, it is not an ideal world, and though we have progressed a lot in terms of gender equality and rights, there is still a lot of progress to be made. So here's to all the wonderful ladies out there, following your dreams, breaking the so called glass barrier, making the world a better place to live in, achieving success.

Here's also to all the struggling ladies, working hard to make ends meet, fighting to earn respect and dignity, and staying strong even after hurdles after hurdles - because this celebration is of you, and to a better future where you don't have to struggle so much, you don't have to think about safety every time you step out, and you get to choose what to wear and what to do

The Che(s) closer home

Every now and then, I come across the rebel minded, wearing t-shirts with the famous photograph of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. I am not sure if the popularity of Che is due to his legendary motorcycle journey (and the book), or is it because of his contribution to the revolution in Cuba. In any case, the fascination of the young with Che even today forces me to think if we tend to forget legends closer home and look for inspiration elsewhere?

I am no expert on this subject but I am listing down a few names I have come across who lead extraordinary lives not too dissimilar to Che's. Some of them, I am sure, you were not aware of!

Sarat Chandra Das (1849 - 1917): This dude was both an explorer and a scholar. He explored Tibet extensively sometimes posing as a Lama, and documented his journeys and the culture of Tibet in his books from late 1800s. He spied for the British and fed them with information on the region. He also published the first Tibetan-English dictionary. If you interested to read more, I have his book "Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet" which I can lend.

Manabendra Nath Roy (1887 - 1954): Trivia question: where was the first Communist Party established outside Russia? Mexico. Who established this? This guy! He plotted armed revolution against the British, escaped from India, and while the British were hunting for him, he managed to travel sometimes with false passport and as stowaway aboard a ship across the world and finally reached USA. After establishing the Communist Party in Mexico, he was invited to Moscow, where he met Lenin and Stalin. On his return to India after 16 years abroad with so many accomplishments, he was immediately arrested and jailed without a proper trial.

Lt. Col. Suresh Biswas (1861 - 1905): Spurred by adventure, he traveled to Britain and worked several jobs including as an animal trainer in a circus. He traveled to Brazil and enlisted in the army there - was later promoted as a Captain in the Brazilian army. His name is referred in one of Satyajit Ray's fiction - "Chinnomastar Abhishap".

I am not mentioning the already well documented extra-ordinary life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on purpose. I am sure there are plenty more who should have been glorified more. I hope we find them and their work and celebrate them as well.

Highlights of 2016

  • Celebrated my daughter’s first birthday. The joy that she brings to our family cannot be explained in words.
  • Bought a bicycle. With gears (which my bicycle from 90s lacked). Biggest apprehension was that it will be relegated to becoming a very expensive clothesline; fortunately that has not happened yet. I manage about 4-5 rides of 10 km average per week. Been to work 12.5 kms away a few times riding on the cycle.
  • Reconciled with a close family member. We didn’t speak for years – this year we both matured and started conversing: this has not only released the tension between us; others around us are also much happy.
  • Took my Mom for a vacation for the first time in 11 years. The long gap is primarily due to the care that my Aunt needs at home – one of us need to be there for her. Fortunately, my niece has grown up and she took care of everything brilliantly allowing my Mom and me to travel without any hassles.
  • Ran a 10K. I am not a runner at all, but still enrolled for the 10K. Despite the lack of practice and stamina, finished in 1 hr 18 minutes.
  • Finally, I am pretending as if I never stopped writing on this blog. I am pretty sure, no one is going to read this, but still felt the urge to write after all these years.

Since gaining those inches...

Worked really crazy at work.
Met old friends - and enjoyed their company immensely.
Went to new places to eat and enjoyed most of them.
Saw wonderful movies - "Julie and Julia" and Harry Potter 7.1 being amongst them.

Oh yes, forgot to mention - though not in record breaking time, but still reduced those inches!