At Home With Buddy

 

 

 

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It has been a 100 days since Buddy came home.

Personally it has been a huge challenge for me to get over my immense fear of dogs and become a pet parent.

It has indeed been a wonderful journey.

 

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From a timid but playful 6 week old, we have watched him grow into a confident little boy

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20180613_121828In the early days Buddy used to sit under the kitchen cupboards or the sofa. I have often wondered how difficult it must have been for that baby to get used to an alien home. Today he knows it is his home and is all over the place.

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My young boys have been true to their word. They have taken complete responsibility for Buddy. The three of them take turns to walk him, to sleep with him and manage all the work related to Buddy.  In the early days they did everything they could to make Buddy feel at home.

To my surprise, none of them shied away from cleaning after Buddy. The youngest one proudly says that it  feels wonderful to be a ‘big brother’!

I now realise that children are extremely sensitive to animals. While they may be careless with toys and other belongings, a pet becomes yet another sibling, one more to the gang!

Diet and travel with the pet were two more areas that were a cause for concern.

Buddy quickly adapted to the households typical “Tambhram” diet and loves his curd rice. We have been conscious to provide him a healthy vegetarian diet but the task is not as difficult as I assumed it would be.

In summer we travelled with Buddy to Wayanad. We fed him an hour or so before the car ride and that made him extremely uncomfortable. For the first two hours he insisted on sitting on my lap and wanted to be hugged. Gradually he grew comfortable and learnt to sleep during long ride. We too learnt that it was not a good idea to feed him before a car drive.

Once again I was surprised and touched to note that he clung to me when he was feeling uncomfortable. I had assumed that he was more comfortable with my husband and kids.

edwayanad2018-947Buddy enjoyed the vacation and we did a short trek with him.

Post vaccination, Buddy has enjoyed playing with the many lovely pets in our commuimg-20180527-wa0065nity.  He goes out to play twice every day and comes home completely exhausted. One of his best friends happens to live next door. The minute our door opens, he rushes to her house.

Toilet training Buddy has been a crazy experience. The first month he peed and pooped all over the house.  This did change once we started taking him for walks. However there are times we are unable to take him out. The boys have trained him to use either the balcony or the toilet. Well Buddy understands the concept. He make it a point to rush to the toilet or balcony, sticks his head out and pees in the hall itself!

Buddy comes with his set of idiosyncrasies and is a bundle of joy. Bringing a pet home is like bringing a baby home. 

 While I realise that dogs mean no harm, I continue to be petrified of them. Hope to overcome this fear someday. However I am completely at home with Buddy.

 

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Buddy was one of the ‘Miracle pups’ rescued by Kam Raghavan nearly 50 hours after his mother was run over by a speeding vehicle. The pups were around 2 weeks old when they lost their mother. Kam fostered them for four weeks before putting them up for adoption.

 

Thank You Kam for bringing Buddy into our world.

 

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A Ride to Remember


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A cycling trip with my teenaged son was something I had never envisioned.

I was curious about cycling but not confident. When a friend who conducts cycling tours spoke about a week long trip to Srilanka, I was fascinated.

My 14 year old son, who in recent times, seems to feel that amma and her friends are quite ‘cool’ said he would like to join me. I mentioned this to my friend and on 1st of February , we, 3 moms and our teenaged children left for Colombo.

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3 others joined the following day and we went on to do 200 kms along the west coast of Srilanka from Colombo to Matara.

As a novice cyclist, I expected this trip to be a lifetime experience for me and hopefully the beginning of a new adventure for my teenaged son.

This first morning was a relaxed one. Colombo, to me, looked like any other south Indian city eager to shed its old world charm to embrace rapid urbanisation.

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We drove around Colombo and made the touristy stops at ‘Barefoot’ and ‘Odel’ . On our way back , the 3 moms decided to get off the vehicle and explore the city. The children and a member of our group drove back to the hotel.

We walked down a street close to the National Museum where artists had displayed their paintings. We were amazed by the quality of their work and spent a while there.

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We then got into a tuk-tuk and the enthusiastic driver took us to a shop selling gems mined in Srilanka. The collection of gemstones was nice but as none of us were jewellery enthusiasts we spent more time talking to the sales people there. They were happy to hear us speak in Tamil and one of them, a Srilankan Tamil from Mannar told me ‘we in Srilanka take pride in speaking in Tamil.’

Most signboards in Srilanka feature Sinhala, Tamil and English and locals seemed comfortable in all 3 languages. The sales people were impressed that we were cycling right upto Matara.

We then went ‘tea tasting ‘ at a quaint beachside cafe in Colombo. We were fascinated to see a train track right next to the sea.

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We decided that we must travel by the local train on our last day in Colombo.

That evening we went to pick up our cycles. The ride back to our hotel was exciting. Cycling at night was a new experience for the children and me. We followed our support vehicle efficiently managed by Rizan, our driver, as we navigated the city traffic to cover the distance of 14 kilometres.

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All Set for our First Ride

The next morning 7 of us set out for Wadduwa, a seaside town about 35kms from Colombo. We left early and after 2 stops, the first for coffee and the next for breakfast we reached Wadduwa by 9.30. The two other riders who had landed just that morning started later and met us for lunch at Wadduwa.

Barely 2 kilometres into our ride we had to climb a flyover. For some strange reason I was extremely thrilled to cycle over a flyover.

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After an hour of cycling we saw a group of young cyclist zoom past us. For the first time it occurred to me that we were cycling at a very relaxed pace.

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Most of the ride was on the highway and there were some stretches where we rode past pristine beaches.

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Post lunch, my friend and I headed to the Kalutaria Bodhiya. The Bodhi tree in this temple is believed to have grown a sapling of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura which itself is a sapling from the original Bodhi tree at Gaya.

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The Bodhi Tree at Kalutaria

The police near the temple seemed a little amazed to see two women come to the temple on cycle. He asked us where we were from. We gave him the details but he found it strange that we chose to leave our husbands behind in India to cycle in Srilanka.

Situated next to the beautiful Kalu river, the temple is now flanked by the Colombo – Galle Road on one side and a railway line on the other.

We sat at the temple for a while and then headed to the riverside.

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The ride to the temple and riverside exposed us to another side of Srilanka. There were catcalls, whistles and attempts by young men on the roads to catch our attention. “It is extremely annoying but should we be feeling flattered?” wondered my friend. After all those boys were not much older than my sons.

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The Beach at Wadduwa

The next morning post a sumptuous breakfast we set out for Bentota.

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We decided to stop by the Kalutariya Bodhiya temple again. As mandated by the temple authorities, all the riders wearing shorts had to wear a sarong. We spent some more time inside the beautiful temple.

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Lighting Diyas at the Temple

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The Riders in Sarongs

The mornings ride was a fast paced one and we covered the distance of 26kms in just over an hour. As our rooms in Bentota were not ready, we decided to ride a little further.

The sun was out and I found this second ride exhausting. As I struggled to keep pace, 4 of us decided to ride slower at a rate more comfortable for me. Through the ride I complained endlessly to my friend.

At one point we saw a a huge tree completely covered with bats. It was a wonderful sight.

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Bats on the Tree

We went a little further and saw 2 of our group members waiting for us.

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We turned back to return to our resort. On our way back we again stopped by the tree with bats.

We went a little and stopped by the beach to have some refreshing coconut water. The weather cooled down and there was a drizzle. We were happy to ride in the rain. We soon reached the Turtle hatchery and spent some time there with the extremely cute 2 day old turtles.

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2 Day Old Turtle

We then went to our resort for lunch.

I was happy that I completed my first ever 50kms that day. We had done a total of 52 kms that morning.

The lady managing the resort recommended that we go to the beach. “It is a clean beach, not like those in your country!” she told us. We rushed to explain that our country had many beautiful beaches.

Just behind the rooms was a railway track. We had to cross the railway line to go to the beach.

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Post lunch we walked 5 kms along the beautiful Bentota beach looking for the lighthouse. We finally spotted it and got back to the resort for tea.

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Dinner in Bentota was at an Indian ‘Dhaba’ that we had spotted during our morning ride.

The next day was the longest ride of our trip. We expected to cover a distance of about 60kms from Bentota to Galle. We stopped for breakfast at a joint facing the Madu river. The place was extremely scenic.

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Madu River

We then stopped at the Bamiyan Buddha next to the Peraliya Turtle Farm.

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A replica of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Budhas, this was built as a memorial for victims of the Tsunami that struck the land in 2004.

We later passed by the stunningly beautiful Hikkaduwa beach.

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As we rode I also saw that many high rise apartment complexes and 5 Star resorts were under construction along this scenic route.

As we reached Galle, I was shocked to see the crowds in the marketplace. We struggled through the traffic and reached our villa. Post lunch we headed to the Galle fort. We passed by the Galle Cricket stadium.

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The beautifully maintained Galle Fort retains an old world charm. After some time admiring the sea from the fort we decided to walk around the streets.

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It was interesting to see lovely homes tucked between boutique stores and elegant cafes.

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We had dinner in one such café and then we headed back to our room.

The next morning we set out on the last leg of our ride to Matara. We were all happy that our ride until then had been comfortable and incident free. The first 15 kilometres was very comfortable. We stopped for refreshments at a small shop near Unawatana beach.

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View from shop near Unawatana Beach

As we rode further, I heard a sound from my cycle. I had a flat tyre. The 45minutes we struggled with damaged tubes and managed to fix the tyre.

We continued our ride and when we were about 7 kms from Matara, one of the children found the ride getting tough and her knees started to hurt. We had yet another flat tyre. The cycle was loaded into our support vehicle and we rode our villa at Matara.

We had completed 200kms on cycle.

Matara was a quaint seaside town. We went to a lovely beachside hotel called ,The Doctor’s House’ for lunch.

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Post lunch we rested and clicked some pictures.

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Later in the evening some of the ladies headed out for a Musical Nite at a Beachside resort some 10kms from Matara.

The children, another member of our group and me went for an early dinner at a nearby hotel.

The next morning, 1 member set out at 2.45am to ride back to Colombo. This lone rider made it to Colombo in about 10 hours.

The rest of us drove down to Tangalle for surfing lessons.

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We spent 3 hours at the beach learning to ride the waves.

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It was a wonderful experience.

Post surfing we picked up our luggage from Matara to head for Colombo.

That evening we decided to the train ride. We headed to Welwatte station.

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Our plan was to take the train to Moratuwa. We got the tickets and waited at the platform. The train came and we were stunned to see the crowds. We stood shocked. The crowd was comparable to what one sees in trains in Mumbai. We then saw another train heading in the opposite direction towards Colombo Fort. We climbed on to that train. It was a beautiful ride by the sea.

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View of Sunset from the Train

We got off at Colombo fort and walked around the nearby areas. We saw the Lotus tower. The crowded market place was similar to the ones we have in India.

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We headed back to our rooms in a tuk-tuk.

Next morning it was time to leave.

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We got back home excited with lovely memories of cycling, surfing and a great time spent with some beautiful people.

And above all I will forever cherish the wonderful week spent with my teenaged son.

We too Pay Taxes 

Yes our water bodies are a mess! Haphazard  development and disregard  for basic rules has led to this. While we as citizens have played a role in the degradation  of of city, is it only the fault of us citizens  who live in apartment complexes across the city?

Most of us purchased our dream home from a builder who promised us that the all the concerned  ‘titles’ were clear. To be doubly sure we then verified these documents  with legal experts who affirmed this. Most of us then approached banks  to help fund our homes. Loans for our apartments  have been sanctioned by several leading  banks including nationalised ones. 

As a citizen, I expect that the bank would sanction loans only to properties that were ‘clear’. 

Now we are told that our homes are encroaching  upon lakes, Rajkaluves and other protected areas. We are told that the sewage from our communities  is destroying the water  bodies.

My question to the Government is what is your role here? Why did you approve projects that you now say have encroached upon water bodies? Why did you not stop the builder when you knew he was probably violating all norms ?  Why did you allow banks to fund these projects and give loans to buyers likeep us? Why have you been collecting  taxes from us?

Apartments  residents  across Bangalore  have worked to save lakes and set up efficient  waste management systems.  

Apartment Owners are willing  to follow norms and regulations. But the Government  must be reasonable  and offer viable solutions to manage our infrastructure  related  issues.

You asked us to manage our waste inhouse. Now you want us to use all our treated water. Tomorrow  we could  be asked to generate  our own power or build roads leading to our homes. Where will this end?

 We too pay taxes.

Hampi: A Victim of Tourism?

 

“This is supposed to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site! What have they done to it?” exclaimed my architect husband when we visited Hampi last week.

Hampi was originally not part of our itiniery. As it was just an hour drive from Sandur, we decided to make a quick trip to Hampi and see the Virupaksha temple.

Two decades ago my husband spent 3 days in Hampi. He has many beautiful memories of the place and as I had not seen it, it has been in our ‘place to explore’ list for some time now.

He told our sons and me, “As it is a protected area, vehicles are not allowed in Hampi and we will have to walk a lot. We will not try to do too much, just the Virupaksha Temple and the bazaar area! We will come back later and spend some time here.”

The Manager at our resort recommended a restaurant in Hampi for lunch and my surprised husband asked, “Oh you have a restaurant in Hampi?” He later told us that in protected areas construction activity is controlled and strictly monitored. He felt that the Tourism department must have set up some basic amenities for tourists in Hampi.

Going by his descriptions and the images of Hampi that I had seen, I conjured the image of a desolate rocky town with magnificent ruins.

“Hampi has changed”was his first remark as we turned onto the road which said ‘Virupaksha Temple 4kms.’ I asked him upto what point vehicles were allowed and he had no idea. We drove along the road and we saw a huge traffic jam. We decided to park our car and walk. “Anyways the car will not be allowed near the main protected sites!” he said.

A few moments later he said “They are allowing vehicles here…right next to the monuments!! How is this possible?” He was obviously irritated and upset but this was just the beginning.

Wading our way through the traffic, we reached the Krishna Temple and the path leading to the Krishna Bazaar and Pushkarni.

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Spice Market opposite Krishna Temple

 

 

 

 

We walked up to the Bazaar area. As we were clicking pictures my husband noticed a building and said, “How can such construction be permitted?” The building was certainly an eyesore.

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The Pushkarani (Notice the Building Behind)

Next we spent some time at the magnificent Krishna Temple.

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Krishna Temple. There was a huge traffic jam right outside this temple

We then walked to the Kadalekadu Ganesha temple. It seemed to be part of a large complex.

The police showed us the path from the Kadalekadu Ganesha temple to the Virupaksha temple. He also mentioned that we could avoid the traffic if we took this path.

From the Kadalekadu temple, we got the first glimpse of the Virupaksha Temple and surrounding areas.

hampi 149“I don’t want to see anymore of Hampi” said my visibly upset husband. “Look at what they have done to this place? It looks like a slum”, he added.

My younger two boys sat with him at the Kadalekadu temple. My eldest one and I decided to explore the place.

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Virupaksha Temple

We saw a large number of people head towards the Virupaksha temple. “Amma it looks too crowded” he said. So we entered the Hemakuta Temple complex, one of the oldest cluster of shrines in Hampi. It was beautiful and not crowded.

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We spent some time exploring the place.

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When we went back to the Kadalekadu Ganesha temple, I saw my husband and sons busy chatting. My sons were both amused and surprised to see their usually calm and composed father react the way he did

We then decided to go to the Vittala Temple complex. As we headed towards the beautiful Talarigatta Gate, we saw yet another traffic jam.

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Talarigata Gate

“I do not want to get stranded in traffic in Hampi!” said my very disappointed husband as we turned the car to head back to Sandur.

“I thought the idea of protecting a heritage site was to keep it the way it was,”

Hampi is certainly off his ‘places to explore’ list for now

 

3 is Fun!

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“3 kids! That must be fun!” This reaction, we have got from just 3 people till today.

“How on earth do you manage 3 kids?” is the more common reaction. Invariably the next question is, “Do you have a full time maid, nanny, cook?” Well we do not have any of these!

It then gets pretty entertaining with relative strangers feeling sorry for us and say, “It must be so tough..how do you get any time for yourself?”

My husband and I wonder what all this fuss about children is. Children are a lot of fun and time spent with them is always enjoyable. We argue, fight, get angry with each other but we also have a great time doing things together and looking out for each other.

When each of our boys brings home a friend or two, well our house resembles a day care centre. It is quite hilarious to see 10 boys between the ages 8-14 play some of the most inane but entertaining games. And we actually look forward to it. Dinner with the boys is something we try not to miss.

I guess it is a personal choice! Not everyone sees a noisy, chaotic home with things lying all over as fun.

Some people of course are extremely rude. I was with my second son at a friend’s place and a lady who barely knew me went on about how difficult my life must be managing 3 kids.

I was upset but my son’s reaction was amusing.

On our way home he said, “I think that aunty has a problem child…..she seems to think children are difficult to look after…we do not have any such issues in our house!”

Unfortunately I was unable to adopt his practical approach. To date I remain petty and avoid conversation with that lady.

During one of the waste segregation drives, in our complex, we met this lady who said, “I have 2 kids to look after so I cannot segregate waste!” Her logic took us by surprise. A friend later told me, “next time you meet that lady, tell her to have one more child. You have 3 kids and you segregate …problem solved.”

Now I follow that advice. Every time people talk about how difficult it is for them to manage 1 or 2 kids…I tell them, “Have 3 ….it is a lot of fun!”

The Simple Joys of Train Travel: Nostalgia For Us and an Experience for Our Children

 

 

 

A train journey along the Konkan route was something we had been planning for years. When we finally did it October 2016. For a generation used to air travel and train journeys in comfortable air-conditioned coaches, this journey in simple non-ac compartments was  an exotic experience.

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On the other hand, for us it brought back beautiful childhood memories of long distance train travel…time spent observing co-passengers, conversations with strangers,  staring out of the window to see the ‘real India’, besides eating, reading and sleeping.

We continued to be fascinated by the quaint railway stations and the seemingly endless railway tracks.

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The distance we travelled was not much. We took the overnight train from Bangalore city to Udupi, the travel time being about 15 hours. Two days later we took a day train from Udupi to Goa, about 5 hours of travel.  Another two days and we took  the train back to Bangalore from Goa, the travel time here being about 16 hours.

It is amazing how Indian families can make a train their home. We did it too!

 

We boarded the train in Bangalore at about 8pm. The non- ac compartment looked and smelt just as it always does.

The only change we could spot was the provision for charging one’s phone.

My little boy was very excited to see the vendors on the train, a rare sight in the Chennai Shatabdi express we often travel by. He insisted on trying coffee on the train. We asked him why and he said, “uncle keeps saying kaapi kappi…I want to find out what is so special about that kappi!”

Despite having had dinner at home, the older boys decided that they must try the dinner on the train. And yes they enjoyed their ‘train dinner.’ My husband beamed with pride. He felt that his boys had got it right – one must try every food item that is sold in the train!

It was soon bed time and there was this argument about who gets the prized middle berth and who takes the upper berth.

We thought we had settled down in the train when my youngest son suddenly asked, “can I pull that chain…I want to see if the train really stops.”

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Some things never change. This was something I had always wanted to do.

But now, I told him that it was not ok to pull the chain as we could get fined or jailed. He reluctantly agreed.

As in any train journey in India, the TT in his black coat remains the all-powerful and sought after person in the train. Several of our co-passengers had endless discussions with him for changes in seat, reservation, claims of berth and so much more.

The lights were switched off and we soon fell asleep. At about 4.30 in the morning, I felt there was water seeping in through the window. I thought it was rain but it sounded more like water crashing down.

On opening the window, I realized that we were near some small waterfall. However it was dark and I couldn’t make much of it.

Soon it was dawn and we saw that we were in a quaint station that seemed to be the station closest to the popular pilgrim destination of Kukke Subramanya. The journey towards Mangalore was lovely.

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We passed through several tunnels and my boys loved it. My youngest one and I played the long forgotten game of counting the number of seconds the train took to cross the tunnels.

The route was extremely scenic and we went past several popular tourist towns like Honnavar, Gokarna, and Murdeshwar. It was indeed a pleasure to sit by the window and enjoy the view of the Indian countryside.

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At one railway crossing, my youngest son noticed some children waving at the train. He was thrilled that those kids were ‘saying bye’ to him and he started waving back.

We reached Mangalore about 7.30. The train halted there for about 45 minutes. It was time for the boys to explore the station.img_20161013_085500

They spent some time walking on the platform and picked up some amazing chocolate from the Nandini Milk booth there. We had no idea that Nandini made such wonderful chocolates. The boys went back there to pick up more chocolates and it lasted us for a large part of our vacation.

The journey from Mangalore to Udupi was also beautiful. We reached Udupi at about 10.30. We got a taxi to our resort at Malpe beach. The taxi driver told us that malpe beach was very far away but 15 minutes later, we found ourselves at the resort.

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The rest of the day was about boat ride to St.mary’s island followed by dinner at roadside food stall at Malpe beach.

The next morning we visited the Udupi Sri Krishna Templeimg_20161014_121141 and headed to the Woodlands hotel there for a traditional thali. The evening was again spent on the beach.

The next morning we left for Goa.

The Udupi station too has this quaint old world charm about it.img_20161015_095853

The train from Udupi to Goa was quite an experience. We had a non-ac seater this time. The compartment looked really old.

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It was quite empty and the journey was comfortable. We expected to cross the Dudhsagar falls. But later we realized that the falls came on the Hubli route and not the Karwar route.

It was a lazy afternoon for us and we spent time talking, reading , eating all the food items sold on the train and sleeping.

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We reached Goa at about 3. After a quick vegetarian lunch at a hotel near Madgaon station we left for our resort. We spent two days in this quaint beach resort in North goa.

We found a simple vegetarian hotel that served amazing food. img_20161016_133440

And then it was time to leave.

It was a long scenic drive along the river to the station. We found the Goa Delhi train there but there was no train to Bangalore. We then learnt that the last 3 coaches of the train went to Bangalore.

We were extremely unsure and all the passengers who boarded with us at the Vasco station kept rechecking whether the train was indeed going to Bangalore.

A large family happened to be seated near us. I never found out how many members of that family travelled with us that day.

They started with an elaborate lunch. They even had salads and papads packed! And then it was all about every member going to wash, clean plates, take children to the toilets…it just went on.udupi-goa-2016-442

Finally the family decided that they needed privacy and some time for themselves.

In the first part of the journey, we passed several quaint Goan villages.

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It was lovely to see large homes with vast open spaces. We even passed by some beach.

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We learnt from the TT that we would cross the Dudhsagar falls at about 5.30. He told us that we would first be able to see the falls on the right and then the train would turn and the falls would come to the left.

It was another nostalgic moment. I remember pepping out of the train window to get a glimpse of the train every time it turned. The idea still seemed appealing and I even managed to get a picture.udupi-goa-2016-489udupi-goa-2016-492

The train passed through what seemed like dense forest area. Just then I noticed a passenger throw a used diaper out of the window. Shocked, I looked at her. But sadly the compartment had  no dustbin.

The route was beautiful.

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We then got the first view of the magnificent Dudhsagar falls.

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The train turned and went on the bridge right next to the falls. Unfortunately it did not stop there.udupi-Goa 2016 495.JPG

We passed several cliffs and ridges and the train stopped at Castle rock a quaint station where time seemed to have come to a halt.

 

A few minutes there and the train started for Londa. we saw the sun set over the Western Ghats. it was a beautiful sight.

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We reached Londa at about 6. Our coaches were removed from the Delhi train. We waited in Londa for 2 hours and finally the train which was to take us to Bangalore arrived. Our coaches were attached to that train and our journey resumed.

The 2 hour halt and Londa was interesting. It was just 3 coaches standing there. The place had a festive look. Local vendors were busy preparing a range of food items for the passengers. We had an elaborate dinner at Londa station.

At 6.30 the following morning, we reached Bangalore. A wonderful vacation where we enjoyed the simple pleasure of train travel in India.

Our Himalayan Adventure

We set out on our maiden 4 day trek Himalayan trek to the Indrahar Pass, unaware that we would be pulling up the average age of trekkers in the region besides skewing the gender ratio.

We were busy battling personal demons. Every member of the 5 member all-woman team had her own concerns; for me and one another it was about leaving our children behind for the first time, for another it was about managing her fear of heights while there were 2 who were extremely concerned about their personal fitness levels.

And the one concern we all shared was, “how on earth are we going to carry our 9kg rucksacks and climb the mountains!”

“Let us take it one day at a time and have fun!” was the consensus and indeed what a laugh riot the 5 day trip was.

We landed at the lovely Kangra airport at 3.20 pm on Friday 16th September. All set for a Himalayan adventure, we were disappointed that there were no snow clad mountains and the temperature was 30 degrees.

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And we came prepared for 5 degrees Celsius! We grinned at each other confident that we had over packed. Most of our conversation on our drive to Mcleodganj was on the need to repack and carry only what was absolutely essential for our trek. The rest we could leave behind at our trek operator’s office.

The drive to Mcleodganj was beautiful. Our first stop was at a roadside dhaba for hot tea and momos.dhaba-1

It was here that we first experienced the warmth and hospitality of the local people. When we asked for the bill, we learnt that our car driver had already paid it.

“Aap hamare mehman ho! Aapse thodi na chai ke paise lenge”, he told us.

We checked into our hotel after what almost felt like a long trek. We needed to climb down nearly 100 steps, again climb up about 20 to get to our rooms. We were panting by the time we got there. “Do you think we can carry our rucksacks and walk?” asked one member. The rest of us stared blankly. We did not have a clue.

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We then went to see the famous Dalai Lama temple which was a mere 500 metres away. We walked past the quaint marketplace admiring the ceramic ware, Kangra Jewelery and handicrafts that were on sale.

The sound of chanting by the monks at the Dalai Lama temple was mesmerizing as was the view from the temple.

An hour at the temple and we walked back to the market place in search of food. We came across a shop selling ‘fruit burfi’ . There were several flavours like apricot, litchi, apple, strawberry and this we thought would be a wonderful gift for our family and friends back home. Having sampled everything available there we picked up several boxes of ‘burfi’ and local squashes and once again started talking about the need to repack!

Walking on the mountain roads, we were famished.  Having survived the day on breakfast and lunch at the airports, we now looked forward to a hearty dinner. We stopped by a small outlet and asked the owner, “Will we get proper food?” Amused he promised us good food and we were served a simple but delicious Himachali Thali.

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Post dinner, it was time to repack. We had this endless discussion about what items in our bag could be left behind. Coming from south India, we were all unsure about managing the cold weather in the higher mountain ranges. Hence we carried almost everything that we had brought with us. However we did repack several times and finally nobody knew what was where!

The next morning was warm. We were awed by the view of the mountains from our rooms.

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Extremely excited, we prepared ourselves to spend the next few days in the wilderness.

Our first stop was the trek operator’s office at the Mcleodganz bus stop. We left behind bags containing the purchases made the previous evening and one or two items that we had carried from home. After finishing a hearty breakfast comprising of aalu parathas, omlette and boiled eggs , we set off on our trek with our 2 guides Ajay and Raju.

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Our destination for the day was Triund. Triund at about 2800 metres is about 11 kilometres from the McLeodganj bus stop.

triundWe started for Triund at about 10. As we walked up the steep path, we met some young men from Punjab who were amazed that we had travelled all the way from Bangalore to do this trek.  Considering that they were much younger and already tired, we were enthused!

Our first stop was at a little café near the Gullu Temple checkpost, about 2 kms from Mcleodganj bus stop. Besides wonderful tea, the owner had a cute collection of books. “Jo chahiye le jayiye madam. Do din bad, jab wapas  aaopge, tab de dena”, he told us.

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He also had this dog which would respond with a “woof woof” every time someone asked his name.

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The weather was warm and it got warmer as we trekked. We paused regularly to catch our breath in the course of the steep climb. There were long stretches I found myself walking alone and it felt just amazing.

We also met and interacted with several other trekkers most of whom were from Delhi or Punjab. It was interesting to meet an all-woman group of travelers, very young women from different parts of the world. The group comprised an Indian, a French Woman, a Spaniard, Japanese and a Korean among others.

It was also amusing to see some young men and women trek in uncomfortable party wear clothes and shoes.

There were quite a few college going students trekking with music blaring from their phones. At one point we told them to reduce the volume and the young boy immediately did. We smiled at each other thinking that we had reached an age when teenagers and twenty somethings listen when we talk. Nobody wanted to pick up an argument with an  ‘aunty’!

When we were about half way through when it started raining. Our guides advised us to continue walking as the weather in the mountains remains unpredictable. We wore our ponchos and continued to walk.

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Over 1 hour of walking in the rain and we were all feeling extremely cold. The temperature dropped dramatically and we all pulled out our jackets and gloves during a tea break in a little café on the way to Triund.

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With our jackets on, we felt that the finally looked like ‘Himalayan Trekkers’.

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It gave us an immense sense of satisfaction and we continued. We reached Triund at about 5 in the evening. It was a crowded day with almost 500 trekkers at the camp .

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The view was breath  taking. We could see the mighty Dauladhar ranges and the Indrahar peak which we planned to climb in the coming days.

Our tents were pitched and we were excited about staying in a tent. Soon it was dark. We pulled out our torches and ‘headlights’.

Wearing these ‘headlights’, and tracing our path in the darkness, we were now enjoying our adventure.

We had a ‘torch light’ dinner as there is no electricity in Triund. We spent some time gazing at the stars and told each other about our homes and families.

Back in our tents, we found it difficult to fall asleep.  The excitement of being there and doing a Himalayas trek kept us awake. We were amused about everything and were talking across tents for a very long time.

It was a very cold night and we were all so glad that we had decided to carry all our woolens with us. We were happy about our investments in jackets and thermal wear and talked endlessly about it.

By morning we realized that living in a campsite makes you evaluate your priorities and the very notion of luxury. Two of us set out in search of a tea stall. On our way we crossed another group of trekkers and my friendly excitedly said, “Wow! They have tented toilets!” That was indeed a luxury for us.

Post tea and breakfast, we set out at 10 am for Ilaqa Got which is about 4 kilometers from Triund. It was a narrow steep path and one of our group members found it completely unnerving.

Barely half a kilometer into the trek, she stopped and cried. She was scared and nothing we said could pacify her. She decided to head back to Triund with one guide. Just as she started back, we met the group of ladies from different countries. They were on their way back to Triund after a morning walk. We told them to take our team member with them to Triund and later McLeodganj. One of the girls offered to talk to her. She had also suffered a panic attack on the same spot just an hour ago. After talking to her, our team member agreed to accompany us and we were extremely happy.

The trek to Ilaqa Got was extremely scenic and beautiful. We stopped at Snowline Café at the height of 3200 metres. The place was simple and beautiful. It also serves as a base camp for trekkers to the Indrahar pass. There were 2 sets of trekkers who had camped there that day.img_20160918_133123

 

After some time at snowline, we headed to Ilaqa Got, our base camp almost an hours walk. If it was possible, the scenery and view just got better.

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The view from our base camp at Ilaqa Got was mind blowing. We were given the choice of staying in a natural cave or in tents. The idea of the cave seemed interesting but somehoe we opted for the tents. And we were glad we did. The same night, a bear visited the cave!

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Fresh water from a nearby glacial river was available in the campsite. The air was clean and the water sparkling clear.our-home-at-ilaqa

One of our guides told us “apke sheher mein kuch bhi mil sakta hai, par aisa pani or hawa nahi mil saktha”. We agreed completely.

Though unplanned, it was our good fortune that we happened to camp there on a full moon light. The mountains seemed to come alive in the moonlight.

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So mesmerizing was the place that 2 of our team members decided to stay back and enjoy Ilaqa Got rather than climb the Indrahar mountain the following day.

3 of us set out with 1 guide at 5.30 the following morning.

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The second guide was to join us in a short while with our packed lunch. Totally about 15 trekkers were likely to attempt the climb on that day.

Minutes after we started we heard an animal in the mountains. Our guide told us that it was a bear. We heard  more animal sounds and were told that the bear had hunted some other animal. We continued to hear the sound of the bear for the next few minutes. Post sunrise we thought that we even spotted the bear in the mountains.

The climb to Indrahar was challenging. The terrain was extremely tough with large rocks and boulders along the way. Out first destination was Lahesh caves about 800 metres (distance) from our campsite.Tua camera 083.JPG

 

We reached Lahesh caves in about 2 hours. We continued to climb up the Indrahar mountain. One of our group members had some trouble as her back started hurting. She continued to climb and after 10.30 we had reached a height of 3800 metres. Our guide told us that we were less than 500 metres from the top of the mountain.

We started climbing with renewed energy but the terrain got tougher.

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Another hour of climbing and we found ourselves resting after every 10 steps. When we were about 350 metres from the peak, I felt the first signs of altitude sickness.

img-20160921-wa0058A constant feeling of nausea started bothering me. We climbed for another 20 minutes. As the climb got steeper, I decided to stop and head back. My friend whose back was hurting also decided to return with me. The third member of our group was ahead of us and she was the only one who completed trek reaching the peak at an altitude of 4300 metres.

At an altitude of 4000 metres, we sat amazed at our own ability to make it till there.img_20160919_110541

We sat there for almost half an hour, in awe of the majestic mountain and our own insignificance.

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As we sat there, we saw a herd of over 600 mountain goats climb down. One of them was a 2 day old goat that so effortlessly negotiated the rocks that we struggled to climb!

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While there we saw a young man climb the mountain with his entire camera kit including a tripod. We stopped him to ask how he managed to do that. He told us that his friends had all complained of altitude sickness and had dropped out over an hour ago. So he was left carrying the equipment. He was extremely glad to meet us and even shot a short video with us which he said he planned to use for his ‘music video’!

Climbing down was as challenging as the trek up. In an effort to keep ourselves hydrated we had finished all the water that we had carried. We now found ourselves without any water. It was only while walking down that we realized how high we had climbed. Now we felt extremely proud of ourselves and marvelled at our skills!trek-to-indrahar

After almost 1 and a half hour of climbing down, we saw 3 young people wave to us. They seemed to need help. Shouting across the mountains, they said that they were looking for Lahesh caves. Our guide communicated to them that the caves were way below.

The young men waited for us. They had been lost for over an hour and were delighted to see us. We realized that they were the friends of the person carrying the tripod. We were amused  to note that despite having stayed at Lahesh caves, these people  had not been able to find their way back.

We dropped them at Lahesh caves and proceeded towards the glacial river for we were extremely thirsty and hungry.

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The guide took us via a shortcut to the glacial river. The shortcut was an extremely steep path and we were glad to get off the mountain. I rushed to the stream. Never have I been so happy to see water.glacial-river

A few minutes later the guide and my friend joined me. The fresh, clean water revived our spirits. We immediately felt better. We sat down by the river for lunch. A relaxed lunch and we were all set to head back to our base camp with was about 45 minutes away.

On crossing the river we could see the camp. We walked towards the camp. When we were about 200 metre from the camp, the guide told us that he would go ahead and prepare tea for us. We agreed.

A few minutes later a thick fog enveloped the place and we could no longer see the camp. We could hear voices though. We waited for a few minutes for the fog to lift and walked towards the camp. It is just so easy to get lost in the mountains. We were no longer amused about those young men losing their way.

A little later, the lone member of our group who had reached summit of the Indrahar mountain joined us. The climb, she said had been daunting but the view simply amazing. The other 2 members had spent a quiet day at the camp enjoying the place and the views. They too had trekked upto Lahesh caves.

We spent that evening talking about various things and had so much more to discuss.

Post dinner,  in the darkness, we  suddenly heard the bear.We whispered that it was perhaps wiser to go to sleep than attract the bear with our constant chatter. 5 minutes later we were all asleep.

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It had been a satisfying day. We now looked forward to heading home the next morning. Our guide told us that we should be able to reach Mcleodganj by 12 the following day.

We started from Ilaqa Got at about 6am.

ilaqa-base-camp It took us over 2 hours to reach Triund. Interestingly one of the mountain dogs which stayed at our campsite decided to accompany us down. Petrified of dogs, I did not look forward to its company. It was amazing to note that the dog accompanied our group member who had been scared of heights. In the narrow pathways, it actually walked close to her as though protecting her from the steep slopes.

The climb down again was more challenging that we had expected it to be. After resting for a while at Triund we started climbing down. At about 10.30, two of us, who were ahead of the group realized that one member was lagging far behind. We called out to another member to ask if everything was ok. We found that the previous day’s back pain was slowing her down and her toe had begun to hurt as well.

We waited for a while and then realized that it was perhaps more sensible to walk down and get some help for her. Another trekker suggested that we get her a pony to come down. We stopped many shepherds to ask if they could help.

“Hamari friend ghayal hai! Kya aap madad kar sakte hain?” was what we asked everyone.

Everyone told us that we would need to get to the checkpost before we could get any help. We continued to walk and somewhere along the way noticed that there was signal in our mobile phones. We immediately called our trek organizer asking if he could help.

15 minutes later, we called him again and found that he was already on his way with help. We were now relieved. Along the way we met him. There was no horse with him. “How will you get her?” we asked him. “Peet mein uthake le ayenge”, he told us.

While we have heard of air-lifting, the concept of ‘peet-lifting’ seemed interesting and amusing!

We were at the trek operator’s office at the McLeodganj bus stop by 12.30. Hot parathas were ready for us there. It was only when we reached there did we realise how much we craved regular food. We were thoroughly sick of the dal chawal , rajma chawal and noodles (without vegetables) served to us over the last 3 days.

The ride to the airport was uneventful. The Kangra airport was so pretty. Post security check, one of us went to grab some food. The vendor said it would take about 10 minutes to get it ready. As we were due to board our flight in 10 minutes, she decided not to buy the food. The vendor told her to wait, peeped out of a window and said, “madam flight nahi aya abhi tak. Aap kha leejiye”.

The simplicity of the place and it people was amazing.

For us, it was a wonderful experience. Our perception of needs and luxury had changed. We are now in complete awe of the mighty Himalayas and are already planning our next trek there!