Archive for the ‘Travelogue’ Category

Great trips start with greater purposes

– Of course it’s me

Day 0 – The Usual

8/11/2017

As usual the best part is the start. To go check in Chennai Central and mention the point of travel. Even though I’m annoyed by the number of times that I’ve to go to Bangalore as a rendezvous just for the sake of catching next bus or train. I can’t help it.

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It was the regular routine. I could copy paste any first paragraphs from my previous visits to Karnataka treks. Only this time it was more of a leisure trek rather than a proper trek. It was with my regular trek mates with Rajesh being the extra man and John from my office. Soma, who was supposed to join had to miss the trek due to some health conditions.

We boarded the 13:30 train. This time the weather was awesome with overcast and drizzles all around. It’s always good to catch up with old school gossips. This time more from Rajesh. Only after talking for a while, got to know that there was some ideology match between both of us. The general discussions on life, money, marriage etc. was the topic of discussion. Then various leelai’s of Seena did he explain. Just before getting down it started to pour. First time I had come without trek bag and rain coat and this happens but thankfully the rains lessened and we got to a restaurant and ordered meals, curd rice and dosa. It was average.

We then hurried to the bus stand and asked Balaji to hurry as well. All hurry burry led to nowhere as the bus took its own sweet time to come. The 22:15 bus came at 00:15. Bad that it didn’t beat the previous record of 00:30.

There were two things I was most expecting out of the trip. It’s not the beach trail. I knew how it was going to be. It was Airavat and Namaste Café. Latter I’ll talk later. Former was a disappointment right from the word go. Airavat was so hyped but it was just another AC semi sleeper bus with no comfort at all. Of Seater, Semi sleeper and Sleeper, Semi sleeper is the worst. It’s neither here, nor there. Every time they put breaks, you dig in some earth and come back. Though it didn’t spoil my sleep, I had to take all different positions to continue it.

Day 1 – Aandavan Irukan

8/12/2017

John who was coming from Alwaye reached our resort at 7 AM, the time we were supposed to reach Gokarna. But we were at Shimoga that time. So once I sent the photo of the hotel voucher, he checked in. It was told in reception that the other rooms would be available only by 1 PM. In a way good that we didn’t reach on time.

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From Shimoga to Gokarna the ride was pleasant with all greeneries and back waters. En route to Gokarna where I got down to loo I saw my friend Smitha’s doppelganger. I almost thought it was her and went to say ‘hi’ but decided against it at the last moment. Just that we wished the journey was not that long. Anyways nothing much to complain. So once we reached Gokarna around noon we took an auto to Namaste Café. It’s a standard rate for each beaches. Kudle – 100 rupees, Om – 150 rupees etc.

We took a couple of autos and John was waiting there at the gate for us. After some formal introduction to rest of the folks we checked in our room. The ambience of the resort was great but the rooms were average, definitely not worth the six thousand rupees we paid. Rooms had two one liter water bottles + towel and soaps. No room service and even for water we had to pay extra. Now, that’s atrocious. Will tell more in coming paragraphs.

We quickly got ready and decided that we’ll have lunch in Gokarna as anyways we’d have in Namaste in the next few days. Lunch at Pai’s restaurant was decent. Meals, Fried Rice, Onion Pakoda, Gobi Manchurian etc. Fried Rice was worst but rest was decent. Coffee was good too. In Gokarna you can see that majority of the places women seem to be working. It was the same in the case of Mizoram too. Don’t know whether its welcome change but something you’d notice immediately if you go to Gokarna. In lieu of that, Pai’s kitchen was totally handled by ladies.

Post lunch we took a long walk to explore places (mostly temples) nearby. We first went to Venkatramana Temple near to the restaurant, a no non sense temple with priests uttering chants. We followed it with Sri Bhadrakali temple, which was my favorite temple of all. The deity looked beautiful. We were the first to visit it in post lunch session.

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While retracing we took few photos and had Gudbud, a Gokarna special local ice cream. A falooda kind of thing, only that it was not a falooda. It was amazing. We then walked through streets which reminded me a lot of Jaisalmer, we went to Kotitheertha, a pond near Mahabaleshwar Temple were many were performing rituals. It was not crowded and the place looked awesome for photography. Also the other major attraction was the fishes there. One was so huge, I had never seen such a big fish in temple pond before.

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After sitting there for a while we went to Sri Maha Ganapathi temple, the distinct feature about the temple is the standing Ganesha which was cute. I find Ganesha to be the naughtiest of all gods, having the typical charm of fat people.

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Finally we went to the much awaited Mahabaleshwar Temple which had a huge queue, all of them admiring the giant cow en route to deity. It was humongous. Seems Mahabaleshwar Temple is the only one with Athmalinga. It had a unique way of worshiping. Each one, during their turn puts the hand in the hole at the centre of the Linga and take the water or whatever material is there inside and put it outside. In one way its great way to clean the idol as well. Throughout the day Abhishekam keeps on happening. And the crowd gets more and more. I found this ritual interesting as well as intelligent.

Inside the Mahabaleshwar temple there is also Tamra Gauri Temple where the style was similar to Bhadrakali temple. To see the deity one has to go inside, take a turn and see. As the idol is facing against the door.

With the temple tour done we set off to beach, sat in wet sand, made our shorts wet, walked to nearby lane and ate everything that we could. Almost everything tasted horrible but nevertheless we wanted to taste everything. In spite of that we wanted to have an official dinner so we had it in another Pai restaurants. Almost all the restaurants in Gokarna are named as Pai, don’t know why. John bought some dress. Even I liked few but wasn’t in a mood. I generally can’t buy before the trek as it’d keep running in my mind.

Post our dinner we took a couple of autos and retired to the room. I went to another room to give instructions were Balaji had told ditto of what I’d be telling. The conversation went like this…

Seena: Cards vilayadlama da? (Shall we play cards?)

Me: Onum Vena (Not needed)

Laughs all round.

Me: Mooditu thoongunga da (Shut the fuck up and sleep.)

Higher laughter.

Seena: Balaji sona moonu vishaythula rendu solitae da. (You told two of the three things that Balaji told you’ll say)

Me: Inonu enadhu? (What’s the other thing?)

Seena: Nalaki kalaila 5 maniku ezunthirikanum. (You’ve to get up at 5 AM tomorrow)

I said the same, asked them to be ready by 6 AM and the day ended with higher laughters. Not before Jana called and invited me for marriage and there was some marriage talks along with that with John.

Even the people who visit holy places wouldn’t have visited so many temples but I somehow get to visit them all before or after the trek and that too with free food.

Day 2 – Beach Please!

8/13/2017

We started the day as planned at 6 AM. I was having mild headache and slight cold. Everyone had gotten ready by 6:40 for so. We started from our café at 7 AM. There was nothing available in the restaurant so we took whatever snacks we had and started walking.

Om Beach

The beach is called so because it’s in the shape of Om. It looked awesome when we started walking down from the stairs. We took some photos, in fact a lot of photos. As the trek was easy I wasn’t forcing the other ones to make haste and as it was the start of the trek, everyone was excitedly clicking.

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It felt like the largest of the beaches. While walking to the end of it we spotted fresh catches. But most of it were small fishes. It was exciting to enter the jungle. Within few minutes there was drizzle and most of them picked their rain coats. I wrapped by camera. But it lasted only for few minutes. It stopped before I got to the Half Moon Beach.

Half Moon Beach

The group which had gone before us were there in the beach. They looked like an elderly group. As soon as we set foot, we tagged the place and uploaded the photos. Apart from us two groups there weren’t anyone in the beach. The beach was small with rocks and all.

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Paradise Beach

Last of the beaches and considered to be the best of the lot, in fact it was the best of the lot. And before the beach we got an awesome spot to take photos. Post that when we walked to Paradise beach there was a group there already pitching tents, smoking up and cooking chicken. I guess that was the group which went in front of us.

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Only after reaching there we understood that they in fact were a hot group. The place looked happening with few paintings, broken walls, chic girls etc. It’d have been nice to stay but many blogs warned of police menace so I didn’t plan for that.

When asked about what’s next place each one said their own story but thankfully a group which were coming from the opposite side gave us a clear picture. We ventured into the jungle again, this time there was no sound of waves so it was even more fun to know whether we’ve gotten lost or not.

Belakan Beach

People don’t go generally beyond Paradise but we did. There was a small water crossing where I had to remove shoes and Balaji fell into it much to the laughter of locals. Again selfies, pictures and tagging. We got water to drink from locals and ate few snacks. We got to know that there is a local bus which comes there.

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There was a beach opposite to our shore. None were there. That reminded me of Heaven’s Mouth from Y Tu Mamá También. It’d have been awesome to have set up a tent with some foreign chick up there. Also we missed the Light House. It was closed alright but locals were saying it’d have been possible to go by bribing at 5 PM which didn’t happen. You’ll know why in the future paragraphs.

There is no pleasure more than going in bus while on trek. It has happened to us almost at all times. This time too we got the bus stop for ourselves. I was telling it to John, and Prasanna stated the same after a while.

Loved the bus journey from Belakan to Gokarna.

Gokarna Beach

We had some tea and Balaji ‘n’ number of ice creams from Gokarna bus stand, my headache was getting worsened. We walked to the beach and started our trek. There was a temple from where the view was amazing but my headache was not letting me enjoy anything. Took few photos and left from that place.

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It was getting humid like hell, we went on wrong route, returned back and took the suggested route. The walk to Kudle through grassland was pretty easy.

Kudle Beach

We had lunch at Café 1987 which was cool and Hippie. Food took a good one hour to come. But parathas were awesome. Not so with respect to rest. Anyways it was a nice experience.

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We set foot on Kudle beach in next few minutes. Now my head was splitting, all I wanted to do was end the trek. It was just a couple of kilometers for Om Beach from there. Others were taking a lot of time to come so I was cruising and as soon as I hit the resort, I took bath and slept.

Post this is a sad story. I developed high fever, not able to sleep, I was struggling to even get up and walk to the café. I didn’t go to cafe all the while thinking that post completion of trek I could drink celebratory beers, overlooking the beach from Café. It had an excellent ambience. But all I ate was plain rice with pickle, just so that I can eat tables. Namaste Café didn’t have room service and neither great rooms. So 6K for all these, better try to avoid.

Worst is when I got to know that they charged even for hot water. They don’t even give plain water in the table. That’s one thing I can’t digest at all.

Rest of the days – Sick of sickness!

8/14/2017

There is no point writing anything post that. It’d just be waking up, eating, taking tablets and in turn getting feared of all the future trips. What would happen if the same happens again? So the sense of insecurities continued. Met an interesting doctor in Gokarna who gave hope, ate somewhere, took train, watched Tamasha, went to Bangalore, kept on eating, all the drinks stacked up there were just a showpiece, ate again, watched GOT in TV, rains, watched videos in OLA cab, ate again, took train, slept, came to office and same old story.

This was the last of the planned Karnataka treks of the year. A lot of permutation, combination happened and four of us got together for trek. Hari – my wingman, Karthi – a regular from my yearly school trekking gang and Siva – friend of Mohan. None knew each other before the trek.

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Day 0 – Guilt, Pleasure and Solace

Half your trips are spoilt by your leads. If you had read my trek to Har Ki Doon, you’d remember how my TL spoilt the mood. It was the same this time too, just that this new person spoilt it a day before. I had to leave early so it felt even more horrible. This feeling of overcoming guilt is such a curious decision. What’s worse is I’ve to decide between working long hours to not feel guilty or be guilty and carry on with what I wanna do. Things would be lot better if I don’t work and not feel guilty. But I belong to the latter case.

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Anways sitting in Paranur station at 10.15 AM and thinking about future, getting sick seeing tons and tons of people going to the office while I’m waiting to get out from there. So similar to my life isn’t it. Every other day I would be one of those people. After the crowd dispersed I was sitting there head down along with my trekking bag, wearing my trekking shoes. Felt so much like M S Dhoni film poster. Sometimes you’d feel like, why not someone shoot my photo in this angle, it’d be epic. It was one such moment.

There were four boys, popcorn sellers, I guess from UP, two of them were fighting with each other, of course for no reason, violence is part of their life. The securities from my office were inquiring about the kids whereabouts and one was telling to each other, “ivangalukellam sapadu kedacha podhumntu irukanga” (they feel that getting food is enough). They were also inquiring, why they haven’t gone to school, why they came out of town etc. The kids didn’t have proper answer, they started playing (fighting) with each other, and they started playing with their own lives too.

A poor lady who came along with her kid in a shabby dress bought a popcorn, he was so happy, his mother was so happy seeing him happy. Later in the day while returning to Central after having lunch, near the subway I saw couple of people keenly looking to buy a small hand stitching sewing machine. I laughed inside, “Inga vanguravanum ezae, vikiravanum ezae, ithula nama kasta padromnu solitu irukom” (it’s the poor who buys, poor who sells, but we complain about our life) Don’t know why such varied thoughts were crossing my mind but it did.

Once I got into the train, in which I settled in a seat where sun wouldn’t beat. There were regular train goers, mostly sad and dejected. Looking at everybody’s face made me even sadder. Chennai being a sultry place, made these people sweat and look even sadder. And of course there were a couple who were getting cozy, not as cozy as go-get-a-room but cozier than aww-they-look-so-cute-together. At that moment I thought how I would have behaved. I think we’d have been the couple where an old lady, if she comes and sits opposite would smile to my girl. Of course I’d have been holding hands but not in a face turning way. Too many thoughts.

As I was reading a lot of Sujatha’s short stories off late. I thought everyone sitting there would have been a protagonist of the story, except for me, I was the only misfit there. I decided that I’m going to write a Tamil short story next, I decided even the title and what I am going to write.

An elderly man, around fifty years of age and who looked older than what he really was came and sat next to me, “Sir konjam time mathi thara mudiyuma? Railway time vaikathaenu ethane vati sonaen kekala” (Sir, could you please change the time, I asked him not to keep railway time but he did in spite). I took his phone, changed the date format to 12 hours from 24 hours. Took the phone again to change the date to that day’s date and PM to AM. When I asked the date, whether it was 2nd, he said, “confirm ah second thaan sir, yenna inaki engaluku strike.” (It definitely is 2nd ,sir, because it’s a strike for us today). I know that if I look at him or nod as an approval I’ll get story but even though I was curious I didn’t do it because of the number of people around me. He started with, “thevdiya pasanga…” but post that I didn’t hear anything and his voice too got lower. Without much drama I got down at Park station and crossed the road to Central.

I thought of having lunch at the same place where my friend and I had last December before the Kumara Paravartha trek. But when I went there, I saw a restaurant in the street next to it. Sat there for meals but when I asked the waiter to bring meals he saw me with an eyes which said, “are you just gonna eat that”. So I changed the order to non-veg meals. It was a simple meals with fish curry and chicken curry apart from rasam and buttermilk. Fish curry was amazing, it had a Kerala style preparation. Sometimes, things sweep you off your feet without your knowledge.

Went back to my second home, central station. That too when the Wi-Fi notification comes, I literally feel it as my second home. So used the Wi-Fi, checked in, sent last few messages to whoever I thought to be important (vice versa might not be true) and boarded the train as soon as Hari came. Karthi came in right at the dot. I changed to a more comfortable dress which I was going to make shabby in the forthcoming days.

Thanks to a talkative Hari, Karthi got comfortable with us. I switched off the net and started with the last couple of stories from Sujatha’s short story collection. It took a long while to read the penultimate story, the time when Karthi was engrossed in his mobile and Hari was busy sleeping. For the record, I didn’t sleep that day and I don’t know how. May be I was so hell bent on finishing the book which I did after talking for some time.

There was a Brahmin lady who was time and again feeding another older Brahmin lady with Degree Coffee, the smell was divine. She seemed to have relatives on almost every stop, one gave them vegetables in one stop, and another lady came and sat with them after a few stops. So much planning. And she welcomed everyone with coffee from flask. She and the grandma took my book and gave it a glance.

Post that I read the last story and then there were some serious discussion about arranged marriage, Hari’s life, cinema, sex etc. etc. and finally reached Bangalore station after an hours delay.

We had meals in the restaurant near subway. It was decent and sambar wasn’t as sweet as we feared. We topped it up with an excellent sweet beeda and walked to Majestic amidst the chaos of weekend trippers and trekkers.

Our bus which was supposed to arrive at 10.30 got there at 12.30 and we used that time to get to know each other. Mostly the other three got to know each other well. In fact so well that I thought they knew each other from their past lives. Siva joined us there and as he was fresh he took the onus of searching for our 10.30 bus.

All the time I was thinking whether to go to Kodachadri or Jog Falls the next day. It was almost decided that it would be Jog Falls but we kept our options open and thought we’d decide depending on the time we reach.

Day 1 – Jogging to the Jog Falls

Yea I couldn’t have come up with a cheesier title. But ever since I wanted to upload an Instagram picture with this title, this one was haunting me. People have their own things that haunt them. White frames, black specs etc.

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We reached Shimoga around 6.30 AM. Inquired about buses to Kollur for Kodachadri and to Sagar for Jog Falls. When they said it’d take around four hours to reach Kollur we decided that we’d go to Jog Falls instead. I was inquiring in Tamil to the timekeeper who couldn’t understand a bit. I was of the opinion that like Coorg people would understand Tamil easily. Only post that I thought, yeah, I could talk in Hindi as well. Post that things were smooth.

We got the bus to Sagar, did cash pooling and got tickets. Within minutes we all slept off and didn’t know how time flew. As soon as we got down we went to a restaurant opposite to private bus stand for breakfast. Had Dosa, Masala Dosa, Idly and coconut filled vada for breakfast along with tea. Food was decent.

We were getting second glance, of course not for the looks but for the big big bags that we were wearing. We crossed the road and asked for bus to Jog Falls. In few minutes we got the bus and again started to sleep. The scenery was superb with lush green blanket everywhere. Ever since I rewatched Stalker, the whole place reminded me of the movie. Just like the movie there were power lines, plastics and power stations. I’ve found the Hydel power plants to be the scariest place on earth. The flow of water, that too with that speed, scares the shit outta me. I realized my aversion to Hydel Power Plants during my Spiti ride, ever since then I’ve been trying to stay away from it.

We reached Jog Falls in about an hour. Near the ticket counter there were taxi walas who were willing to show certain points around jog falls for some fare. We went past them and got tickets. The ticket checker cum watchman made us hurry to the point where people were clicking pictures. That’s the view point of Jog Falls. We went there, took our time to freshen up and take pictures. Only after fixing my zoom lens I got to know why the watchman made us hurry. By the time I fixed the gadget it was full mist. We waited for a long time but it didn’t get cleared so with disappointment, kept the luggage in cloak room and started walking with only the camera and water bottle.

In our descent to 1400 odd steps we clicked a few photos. At each juncture one person. Hari was explaining about his experience when he visited the Jog Falls last time. That got me curious. I think it got the rest of the people too curious. While we were almost at the bottom we could see a huge fence being erected and people were not allowed beyond that. So the thought of taking bath in the falls vanished. We went down and tried few photos and there was a big rock below which a group was passing time. Once they left I tried few silhouette photos for the first time which I think, came out reasonably well. Post that we started our walk back to top.

That’s when the water came in real handy as we were getting exhausted. The weather too changed and it got sunny. While climbing down there was a security to check about plastics. We enquired the same person after our visit about the taxis to visit the nearby places which includes Raja falls, Rani falls, Power Station and Boating. Maximum we were willing to spend was a thousand rupees but we couldn’t get it below 1200. An additional fee for boating made us all cringe and we unanimously decided not to go.

We came out, took our bags from the cloak room where a photographer was photoshoping one person with Aishwarya Rai with Jog Falls background and also blackening all his hairs, desperate fellow. While waiting for bus Hari and Siva were talking about another guy Mohan’s antics. Everyone were sharing their own story as it took a while for the bus to come.

Once the bus came we luckily got seats. We somehow placed the luggage in space we had. A horrible K S Ravikumar film, Mudinja Ivana Pudi. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It would have been fun if we all had got seat together. We’d have enjoyed even more. But the actual horror story was post that. There was a stop were college students were waiting for the bus. Around 50 people were waiting. Already the bus had standees, still almost everyone who were waiting got into the bus. I was sitting in half seat, in twenty degree angle. It was even tough to breath. Somehow I managed to survive without oxygen mask and reached back to Sagar.

I started searching for restaurants to have lunch. We intentionally didn’t go to the restaurant we had breakfast in the morning. On our search to have lunch in a new restaurant we went to few hideous places. One turned out to be bar so we went to the restaurant opposite to it, which was mentioned as ‘Family Restaurant’ and I also saw a lady getting so went inside to see but that one had dingy cabins closed by a curtain and with zero watts bulb. Looked like an execution room from Subramaniapuram. We immediately ran out of the place. We again came back to main road and went to the restaurant adjacent to the street.

Our standard four meals arrived. Food was better than what we thought. Sambar wasn’t as sweet as it used to be before. But we had trouble in getting the side dishes again as people weren’t understanding anything but Kannada.

We thought we couldn’t do more than Jog falls that day but as we came back by afternoon we were thinking of seeing one more place. As per the advice of the security there in Jog falls we chose Sigandar. We thought it to be an island, so we decided, what if we missed boating in the morning, we’d do it in Sigandar. The fact that Sigandur is en route to Kollur made us take our decision easily.

We took the bus to Sigandur which was again super crowded. The lady sitting in the front row was making fun of Hari. We both were laughing, neither of us knowing why. After a long time we got seats and within minutes we reached Sigandur. The much coveted island was nothing but a water body which we had to cross by the help of launch. As the bus was up to Kollur, we thought we could to Kollur directly but as there was a temple in Sigandur we decided to go there.

Our bus went to the gates of the temple only for us four to get down. Chowdeshwari Temple was pretty empty. We took turns and went inside the temple. Once out of the temple we got to know that there were no direct bus to Kollur so took a bus to Nittur. A lady said it was just 2, 3 stops from there but Nittur came after one hour of sleep. Good that I didn’t keep awake believing the lady’s words.

Nittur bus stop was the best. There was absolutely nothing except for a petty shop where we had desi cool drinks, one of the two flavors we had was awesome. Bus came after half an hour but this time we didn’t sleep. We reached Kollur in about half an hour and got a decent room in one of the lodges attached to temple.

After quickly freshening up and getting to know that the Kollur Mookambika temple would be open till 9.30 PM we decided to go the temple. It was not in my list. Thanks to ODC, phoneless life and less internet access, my means of research is getting weaker and weaker.

It felt really good taking a bath after couple of days. Temple too was really nice. Siva and I joined the queue. Hari and Karthi stood out. It started to pour and we were the last person to enter the deity. After we came out we bought a Laddu for fifty rupees and here comes the best part. Karthi told that there was free dinner being served. That got everyone of us excited.

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We went and joined the queue. After getting a place, it took a lot of time for them to serve food. That was one of the toughest wait. First rice, sambar, again rice, again sambar and buttermilk on top of it was very different experience. The food wasn’t as filling as we expected.

We came out to see that our slippers were missing. The chappal stand people seem to have taken it and kept it near the cabin. We had to shell out Rs. 5 for each pair of slippers. We came out and had dinner, banana and tea. Tea wasn’t as good as we expected.

We inquired about the next day’s travel to Kodachadri. We got to know that the first bus was around 6’o clock in the morning. We went to our room, kept our alarm at 5 AM and slept after sleep talking for a few minutes.

Day 2 – Leeches, On the Rocks!

As usual after all the four alarms started blazing I got up first and woke up the rest of the group. We got ready within minutes, had not so good tea and took bus. I hurried with my tea as I didn’t want to repeat the Tadiandamol experience.

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The bus stopped for few minutes near the temple. Karthi reminded us about the Chickmangalur experience where we got into the bus, slept for an hour, ate breakfast, then slept for an hour and bus still hadn’t started but luckily it wasn’t a repeat of Chickmangalur experience.

We were dropped at Karikatta from where we started the trek. Our idea was to go through Santhosh Hotel route and return via Hidlumane Falls. But even after we started our trek we were not sure whether we were taking the right route. There was one solo trekker who was with us in the bus and took the same route.

When I said that he should always be under our vicinity, Hari told, “he’s the guy alone, he should think that way.” So true. The next 1 to 1.5 hour was through leech palace, literally. In all the treks I’ve been, I’m the one who would be getting least to zero leech bites but this time within a couple of steeps there was a leech on top of my shoes. I tried to remove it but it was playing around. For the next one hour, till the check post there was no shortage of leech bites. At least for me it climbed only on legs and hands but for others it entered inside the t shirt too. The worst problem was, if we stand to remove the leeches from body, more and more leeches would stick on us so we were dancing while removing the leeches. While typing this, I’m still having the itching from these leech bites.

After crossing the leech palace we were asked to provide our contact information and sign in the register. He asked us to sign the register again while coming back, but we said we’d be returning via Hidlumane falls, then he agreed to it. When we asked whether it was the Santhosh Hotel route, he showed us which was Santosh Hotel.

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The small hut post the forest check post was the much coveted Santhosh Hotel. We met the solo trekker inside and a negative person inside. There would always be this kind of person wherever you go, who tells you that it is impossible. He first told us that there would be lot of leeches in the path that follows, he also told us with shoes it would not be comfortable to climb and when we told him that we were planning to return via Hidlumane Falls he told us that it would be impossible as even they miss the route a number of times. Needless to say we disproved him in every aspect.

As soon as we ordered Dosa and Omelet, our first task was to remove our shoes and socks to check whether there were any hidden leeches. Luckily there weren’t any. Only one leech was sticking to my shoe which we killed mercilessly. The negative person asked us not to spread the leeches there. Our breakfast arrived, a double omelet instead of single omelet and set dosa with sambar. Every single thing tastes divine in a trek. That too tasted the same.

We carried on with the next part of the trek inside the forest area, we moved swiftly with good pace, the area was moist and it was evident that there would be lot of leeches. Except for one path where we went in wrong direction, we did fairly well. Good thing about taking the wrong path was, I went first and beyond a point I could see a lot of cob webs and cob webs touched my face too. I decided that cob web couldn’t be in the regular trail as people would have crossed it. It wouldn’t be possible for cob web to appear all of a sudden. That was useful in the later part. Of course there were leeches but only one tenth of what we encountered in the first part. We reached the place where jeeps were there i.e. the PWD quarters. From there the temple was just 1.5 km away. We were so happy to have not taken the jeep. It wouldn’t have been a trek at all if we had taken the jeep. People in formal attire, fancy shoes, selfie stick etc. were coming by jeep. We felt good to be different from them with blood stained socks and sweat stained t-shirts.

While taking what we thought to be the last route we met the solo trekker again and that was the first time he seemed to be interested to talk to us. He asked us where we are from and whether were planning to stay. We told about our whereabouts and mentioned that as camping was not allowed we’d be leaving back. He told that he wouldn’t be camping but stay just like that. Now we knew that he was a serious trekker. Prodding more about his history we got to know that he’s a freelance mountaineer and Kodachadri was his first trek in 2003 and he does it every time he visits Shimoga. All this while there was a leech which had got its feel and was making me bleed profusely. That didn’t sting but what he told did. Not only for me but for Hari too. He was the first one to open the topic. “Intha mari evanayavathu patha than da depress ayidudhu” (only when we see people like this the depression starts) That led us to talk about society, how we have to falsely make our claim for social acceptance and how we were far better than people who were not even aware of what they are missing. But as he said we were depressed seeing a person doing what he wants to do.

After climbing for some time there was a lime juice/tea shop near where a small cave was there in which there was a small boy sitting and doing prayers. People said there was a falls there but we couldn’t find any.

We reached the peak in sometime which had a temple. We saw the guy going past the temple to a point where blogs mentioned that Arabian Sea would be visible. But we lost the sight of him and returned back to the temple point and had our lunch. The usual bread and cheese along with Tea, as there was a tea shop there.

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When we were about to get down I asked whether there is a point from where we could see Arabian Sea. The Tea Shop owner asked a person there, who was about to take a couple of women to that point, to tag us along too. We went along with them in the same path we took before. After the point from where I returned, we had to walk for around thirty minutes more to reach the point from where Arabian Sea would be visible but as the whole place was mist covered, we couldn’t see anything. It was not the actual end of the road, there was a small path post that too, which when we prodded, we got to know that a Babaji lives there.

There was an excellent nature made shed between the rocks where there were already a couple of people residing. One among them was the mountaineer and the other guy who came down while we reached that point asked us what we were doing in Tamil. We told that we are from Infosys and he told he was an ex infoscion who was co-director of Jigarthanda, Theeya Vela Seyanum Kumaru etc. He told that Nalan Kumarasamy had just went and we would have passed by him. They seem to be on a big road trip about 3000 km in Karnataka. He also told how beautiful the view would be from that place and it would be great to capture it in telephoto lens. He also told how he was a photographer and his short movie was selected as one of the top films by Anurag Kashyap and co. We also talked about few film making techniques and in general about cinema and scripts. He was there with us till the temple point. Hari came back and the same dialogue after we met the mountaineer got repeated. Our depression touched a new level.

We touched the PWD quarters again in no time. There were lot more people climbing at that time. People who’d have come after nice leisurely breakfast and bath. There were a couple of bikers who had walked because their bike had broken down. One among them where asking how to go down, which route to take etc. when the other guy told him to ask us. He told, “they are trekkers, they’ll tell everything as easy path, better not to ask them” Another proud moment. Thus the pride and depression fluctuated.

It was around 1.30 PM. We had targeted 1 PM to be at the top at least. But we went to top, even post that a couple of times and returned to PWD by 1.30 PM. All thanks to the co trekkers who didn’t slow down or waste time at any point of time. We asked the route to Hidlumane falls, which they said, we had to take jeep road for some time, one said 2 km, one said 5 km etc. and then get into the forest. We followed the orders and walked on the road. Nice leisurely stroll with mist and slight drizzle. Took few photos too. None were photo crazy, so that too was a time saver. In fact we didn’t open the camera till then. Thanks to leeches, rains and time constraint.

At a juncture I got doubt, not knowing where to go, there was a big open path and two roads. Intuition said it must be this left which everyone was pointing about but we were not sure whether they meant the left on road or the left into the forest. We decided that we’d proceed only after asking someone about the route. I thought I’ll proceed till some point inside the forest until I have the vicinity of my friends. Luckily for us, we saw a couple of foreigners and two more people coming with a guide. We asked them about the route to falls and he said we were taking the right route.

I called out for my friends and they came down, I clicked few pictures. We proceeded in the same direction and there was a brilliant place from where we could see the much sought after Arabian Sea. A small piece of flat land where none except us where there. We sat there sometime for chitchatting and finishing the rusk packet and rest of the cheese. That was the best point of the trek.

There was a huge descent post that which I crossed in a hurry and entered the forest area. I lost sight of them but I decided to go to falls and wait. There were a big group of foreigners and NRIs huffing and puffing to get on top. The route closer to Hidlumane Falls was actually wet and tough. Good that we didn’t take our bag. It would have slowed down our progress. As soon as I crossed them I could see the falls. The falls is a perfect place to take bath, shallow water, not so deep and not so force. After checking for leeches I placed by bag, removed my shoes and got ready for a dip. My friends came after some time which I used to click pictures of falls but I couldn’t use the classic slow shutter pictures as I thought it wouldn’t look proper, once they came I took few decent pictures of them and we all got into the water.

Another big gang from Mysore Infosys had come, most probably trainees or freshers. Karthi who was last to come out of the falls told that a snake had passed by, that made everyone jump out from water. We asked an elderly man there, route to hit the road, he asked us to follow stream. We did the same, got all our shoes wet (the most annoying feeling), used the cob web technique to find the right path and almost got on the path. In addition to the cob web technique, there was also the plastic paper technique, where we follow a certain path and if we don’t see any plastics we get to know that humans hadn’t traversed that path. The same had happened when we took a wrong left near the fields. But it took us a lot of time to know that it was a wrong path and I had got enough scratches in my legs and cob webs on my face by that time.

The elderly person asked us to come up and follow him. We did and reached the house where a couple of jeeps were there who asked us whether we would want a ride. When we asked them how long it’d take to reach the road they said its 5 km but the road was never ending. We walked for 100 minutes to hit the Nittur road. I walked first for some time, missed the free jeep ride because of that, walked along with other people for some time, was offered and politely rejected coffee/tea by a stranger, finished all the snacks.

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We sat at the junction, got the net connection and Karthi checked in his phone and what we saw was a miracle 38000 steps and 31 km we had walked in one day. Now that was satisfaction. We missed the bus which crossed us, he didn’t stop, and generally all buses stop whenever they see people standing for them but that didn’t. There could be some reason but for the next one hour we didn’t get the bus. Karthi who was so disappointed that he couldn’t use the torch light that he had bought for the trek was happy that it could come to use now. I was not getting net connection in bus stop. We had various time pass games like star gazing, dog chasing, mime making and few censored games too. Siva was the target in the last part but it was fun. Like Mani said it previous trek, bus stops are always fun.

We got the last bus at 7.30 PM from there which stopped at a point where we had tea, we continued the censored games but as Hari started to vomit we didn’t have a proper quiz master. When we reached near Kollur we checked whether there was any direct bus to Bangalore. There was one at 8.15 which was standing near the temple. I asked Karthi and Siva to stop the bus but they seem to have said that they wouldn’t wait for fifteen minutes.

We took our luggage from the lodge, got back our hundred rupees and asked a couple of people how to go to Bangalore that night. He asked us to take bus to some place which would come near the temple and from there many buses would ply to Bangalore. As soon as we reached the temple we got the bus and went into immediate slumber after buying the tickets. One hour’s sleep went just like that. Once we got down in somewhat a scary highway we got a sleeper bus to Bangalore for Rs. 600 which looked like cheating to me as the ticket collector was talking some secret in conductor’s ears. I took the upper berth along with along with Karthi, I could tell how stinking my clothes were but we managed to sleep, thanks to the tiredness.

Day 3 – Better not to read

You’re done with our information gathering, getting envied or getting irritated session. Last day always is reserved for drinks and that’s what we did here too. So you can drop off here if you wish.

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We reached Bangalore with bursting bladders at 6 AM. After answering the nature’s call I asked them whether we could have tea. Everyone said ‘yes’ and Hari told the exact words I use, “Tea kudikalam, apo than clarity kedaikum.” (Let’s have tea, only then we’ll get clarity) Every guy needs a wingman. Period! We missed going to treks right from the first, thanks to our common friend, a reason behind us not becoming friends from the first.

At last we had good tea, after searching for a couple of lodges we got an average room for a day. Siva told that he’d go to his friends room and meet us in the train (We smelled something fishy there) Finished our morning ablutions, took bath, took our all our wet clothes to dry and made our room as stinky as possible. With our hunger pangs increasing we went on a restaurant search. I searched for Mudde Madappa Restaurant but that building was being demolished so that was closed and so was MTR. We finally went into a restaurant which we saw first. Annapurna. Upma, dosa, vada, rice bath, sweet bath etc. everything was fabulous. And for the first time in life I had a repeat order of coffee. After having our fill we watched TV and slept again.

For lunch we decided to go to a pub SodaBottleOpenerWala, looked like a fancy pub with good variety of drinks and food. It was also highly rated. We called and enquired whether there was any dress code, luckily for us it didn’t have. We went there had a couple of drinks and some great food, played caroms, sat in park bench for some time and came back.

We were dead tired. We watched TV for some time and went for dinner, again our first choice, another Telugu Annapurna restaurant was closed so went to a restaurant next to our room. Food was fabulous and thanks to Hari, curd rice with Brain Masala was out of the world. We went back to room again and packed our bags for station. It was a long walk from there. I don’t know why I don’t remember that part exactly.

Siva who had told that he’d be coming to KR Puram station was already in Bangalore Central. Contrary to what I expected, the train was not crowded. We talked for few minutes, settled our accounts and slept off. One of the most satisfying treks and might be the last short trek of the year.

It was a long impending wait, this long drive. At last the dream came true. Avenger, you beauty, thank you very much for staying steady and steadfast all along. Oh! How I loved all those longing glances trying to look who’s behind the helmet that is cruising past them.

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The preparation

First things first. The preparation. This 400 km drive itself is a preparation for something big which I’m trying to attempt later but for this first drive as usual there were lot of hiccups. I luckily got a 3 day holiday and my hometown is luckily a drivable distance for a first timer and even more luckily there is a hill station nearby. Everything got together very well. But the placement of holidays was what a bother, at least for the outer world. I’m supposed to be tired after a two week trip to Delhi-Himalayas. I’m dead tired and add to it as usual office pressure. The first week of this New Year was the worst since I joined this job. But let’s leave aside the gloomy things and look at the brighter side of life.I don’t know whether I’d have attempted this if I had been happy with my work. My frustration is what is pushing me to do ‘something different.’ So here I am.

Chennai (Chengalpatu) to Madurai

After a lot of cajoling I finally set off to Madurai. The day started with me riding for the first time to office. A 50km stretch from my home. At morning 6.30 with pleasant weather (chilly by Chennai standards) I started off. The ride was average, nothing extraordinary. I wasn’t very interested as the destination is a dungeon. I went to office by around 7.45. An hour drive. Was constantly checking the petrol. I didn’t want to fill it before reaching office as I had a BP bunk near my office. After 4 hours of bench warming I started off to Madurai telling a lot of lies. I’ll just tell the major one. I’m supposed to get the best trekker award by YHAI at 2’o clock. So I started from office at 1’o clock. With a single major lie a lot of lies evolves. So when my TL asked what’s the criterion of this award I again instantly lied that it is given to the one who reaches the base camp first on all days. So that’s how I got this award. I’m quite like Thillu Mullu Rajnikanth in office. They never let me talk truth.

I escaped from my office at 1PM. To my shock I didn’t have Speed Petrol in the BP bunk near my office. I’ve fed my baby only with Speed till then. I had to compromise as I didn’t have a drop of petrol left. After noting down the kilometers and liters of petrol I started from the bunk. I cruised, literally, with my cruiser. I’d have driven at 90Km/hr on an average with a maximum of 115km/hr. Boy o boy speed does thrill and my beauty made me realize that she was a beast too. My first stop was to have a cone ice from a young passerby. He charged me 20 bucks. Too much for that silly piece of shit. Nevertheless I didn’t mind. A road trip is not complete without a lick of an ice cream. I had driven around 150 Km by then. I didn’t feel even a bit tired.

As and when I started from there I decided that my next stop will be Trichy. It was about 120 Km from there. I drove fast and steady. The roads being a four way lane was pleasing to drive but I would not say it was an all in all smooth affair. I had my heart in my mouth for a couple of situations. The scariest one was when a share auto in spite of knowing me coming at around a 100 km/hr turned suddenly. It was purely intentional. That son of a bitch!

Apart from that there were a lot of stray dogs and cows trying to creep to the middle. I carefully overcame all those hindrance thanks to my friend Pandi who already had the experience of hitting a cow with a 100km/hr Avenger. His bad was my benefit otherwise surely I would have gone through that situation.

I stopped about 10km after Trichy for a break. It was a compulsory break. I didn’t feel like taking one but I did. The sensible part in me took advantage of my heart there. Then I started off for what was supposed to be the last lap. Trichy to Madurai. 110km flat.

The weather after reaching Trichy was awesome, the twilight, cold breeze, mountain back drop. The setting was just perfect. I felt like driving in Lonavala again but with a better bike. Just when everything seemed to be working in favor of me my bike stopped all of a sudden. I parked my vehicle in one corner and looked at with starry eyes. I don’t have any idea of what is what when it comes to engine. I tried to switch off and on a couple of times but the starter didn’t work. Being an IT guy switching on and off was the best solution I could think of. But my machine was as averse to computer as me.

Without knowing what to do I called a trespasser and asked whether there is any mechanic shop nearby. Being a nice fellow that guy suggested he’d go tell the mechanic that my bike is down. It’s so good to see people with heart. When you get down to south people give you a lot of respect. After some time I tried honking and then starting. A trick which generally works with Scooty. But sadly mine is not a Scooty. I then tried starting the bike after applying the clutch. The bike started. I don’t want to exaggerate by saying that I was jumping with joy. I was happy but, yes. I wasn’t terrified at first place when the bike stopped midway. I knew I could manage. I’m someone who is confident on all aspects of life other than work.

The bike started to play tricks with me from then. After a few minutes it again stopped. And another gentleman, this time a lorry driver came to my rescue. It started of immediately but I gathered knowledge of some few quick fix tips. He asked me whether petrol is flowing in the tube. I stared at him like I do during Reverse KT.  He kept his mouth in the petrol tank and blew. He said that if petrol is not flowing through the tube this remedy will help. He wished me all the best for my journey to Madurai. It was still 60 Km more. Then as soon as I saw petrol bunk, this time a HP, again a first time HP petrol for my bike. I filled it till brim and drove.

Initially I thought that engine was getting switched off during high speeds so drove only till 80 Km/hr after filling the petrol. This time engine was smooth. I gradually picked up speed. Finally came to know that the petrol had totally dried off. My fuel indicator was disturbed due to the heat I guess for it didn’t show that the tank was empty. Anyways I’m not complaining.

As the lights started to dim I switched on my head lights. This attracted a lot of insects. One getting into my gloves, one in my left ear and one in my right eye. I had to constantly wipe the glass of my helmet which made it dirty and severely spoilt the visibility. For the last fifty Kilometer I had to drive with utmost concentration. After a long drive through a straight road I took right to get into Madurai city. Liked the way a restaurant had used the nick name ‘Temple City’ to open its highway branch.

Once in the city I had to bring down my speed. The most critical and tough thing to do. I inquired a share auto driver as to how to go to my destination. First him, then a youngster, then a kid helped me in finding the destination address. Absolutely no hassles. I reached my destination with élan. Loved the innocence of these fellows and the way they called me ‘annae’ instead of the regular ‘na’ heard in Chennai.

There were a couple of bright moments during the journey which made me smile. The first one was when 3 or 4 vehicles with the name CAPTAIN written in nameplate came in the opposite direction. The second was when I was in Anna Nagar junction in Madurai and asked a fellow commuter in Signal as to how to reach Mel Annupanadi. His reply was, “athu rumba thoorumachungalae, oru nalanchi kilometer ponum.’ (It’s far off sir, might be around 4 to 5 kilometres) My reply to him through my mind voice was, “Dei naan 400 km thandi vanthurukaen da…”(Dude I’ve just driven 400 Km) in “naan 4 varusama suthiturukaen da” (I’ve been following her for 4 years, a Tamil comedy) tone from Polladhavan.

Madurai to Kodaikanal to Madurai

It was the second day. Everything was pre planned. It’s a pleasurable feel when things go according to your plan. It was one such day. Got up at 5.30 sharp, my regular getting up time nowadays. But for a change it was not irritating to get up at that time. Travellers’ thirst I guess. After a regular round of yoga and exercise for 15 minutes I freshened up and started in half an hour. At about 6.30 I and my cousin started in my bike. As we went through market the area was crowded. Thanks to the upcoming Pongal. It was irritating because I was wearing a leather jacket and it was sweating like hell. Once we crossed that point it was smooth sailing. We cruised in about 90 km/hr. Great road till a left we had to take to go to Bathalakundu.

Once I took the left and crossed the railway crossing we had breakfast in a local restaurant. Nothing to boast about. And filled the petrol to the brim as usual. Once again we started to cruise. But as there was construction work going on we had quite a few road blocks. Add to the horror we crossed the point where we had to take a right to climb the hills. There was no signboard there whatsoever. As we saw the signboard that Theni is only 30 Km away we asked an elderly person about the route to Kodaikanal. He annoyed us through his reply, “Athu intha pakam illiyae thambi antha pakkam oru 17 Km ponum.” (It’s not this way; you should go the other way, about 17 km.)

I failed to mention that the trip from railway gate to Bathalakundu was similar to the road we took during Nagala trek. Just while I was recollecting those moments what happened there happened here too. We missed the route. The annoyance with which Balaji took a U-turn and applied his gear, with the same annoyance even I turned my bike. How irritating a feel that is!

I cruised even faster then and reached the base point of the mountain. A couple of police officials stopped us and asked for papers. I showed my license and they let me off noting my bike number and name. The initial road to the start of the climb was amazing, as if mountains were coming closer to me. Then it was a regular hill station ride with my left hand writhing in pain by applying clutch. We stopped at a couple of points for photography and stopped quite a few monkeys. Nothing much interesting. Bike trip from Pune to Lonavala was better. In fact it was amazing, the scenery. This time the bike was amazing and the rest wasn’t.

Once we reached the top by paying a fee of rupees 10 for bike we strolled around The Lake, had pizza in Dominos and started from there in an hour. I was there just six months before and nothing had changed since then so I wasn’t interested to look around things. I wasn’t interested about the place at first place it was only about the ride. While returning it was fun to switch off the engine and proceed. We covered almost half the distance with this technique. While I was thinking that I was clever almost everyone were following the same technique. After all humans are humans.

Once we got to the bottom of the hill where the police checked my papers. I hit the gas. From there we literally flew to Madurai. It’d have been an average 100 km/hr ride. My cousin lost his earphones, cap etc thanks to my riding. Though the trip wasn’t as much exciting as I thought eventually it gave me a satisfying feel.

Madurai to Chennai

After a terrible night’s sleep, thanks to the mozzies playing spoilsport I got up had nice juicy pongal. For the first time sweet pongal was really sweet. Just after few gulps my eyelids started to get heavy. Even alcohol comes second to pongal when it comes to sleep inducing ingredients. I packed a couple of apples for my journey and few snacks to be brought home. My relatives can’t suppress their love so always add weight to our luggage with the available in Madurai only stuff. Duh!

The return journey as expected wasn’t as exciting as the first because it’s the same path I had to take. Things are interesting only when you don’t know and explore. On a well trodden path I came at a constant 100 km/hr taking a couple of intentional brakes to have apple and water. The first rest place was an amazing one. Shadow beneath the tree with corns field in the background. For a moment it felt like Australia. There were no passerby’s. Only vehicles zipping past. I took a nice 10 minute break there and updated my family and relatives about my whereabouts.

I filled petrol twice. For the first time rode my vehicle in reserve as petrol got over. Ever since I turned to reserve my eyes were eagerly searching for petrol bunk. Two naïve kids were touching my bike and exclaiming how smooth it was. I felt as if I’m SRK riding through the village in Swades. Lol.

Once the apples got over and there was still 160 km left I started off my bike and thought I’d stop only when I go home. But after 90 Km I had to stop as my neck was paining rather badly because of the helmet I was wearing. Since heavy winds gushed past me I had to crane my neck forward to keep helmet intact which made my neck sear with pain.  Good that I had snacks. I took a kuchi mitai (stick chocolate, sorry I know only the literal translation) and ate it. After 20 km I crossed by my office and the last 50 km was the most boring as it’s the daily route that I take and switching from highway to city mode was tough. I had to apply brake suddenly and came very close to a couple of vehicles.

I was given a hero’s welcome once a reached home, a regular ritual by my dad, my mom was teasing him that he was blabbering all the time about me and once I returned he became super enthusiastic. Dads are dads.

On the whole it was one hell of a journey. One thing in my list that I could strike off first up. I and my bike stayed super strong all the while. The purpose of buying a bike got resolved. And as I’m typing this I still feel the reverberation in my ass.

 

 

Any place where a girl who is hotter than the hottest North Indian girl in Chennai comes and asks you, “Hotel Oh Delhi kahan hae?” must be a great place. OH DELHI! It took me couple of moments to realize that she indeed was asking the question to me. Only when she asked the question for the second time I could hear more than ‘Oh Delhi’ because it was the only two words which were reverberating in my ears till then.

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Our much awaited event of last year was sandwiched between our stay in Delhi. I remember the first time I went to Delhi. Bread omelet in the morning and curd rice in the noon. As a person who loves travelling and journey equally I was much looking forward to two day train travel to Delhi. We started on a Monday morning, the day before Christmas, the bus travel from my house to station took just half an hour, the roads were empty, bus was empty etc. According to the bus drivers the emptiness were attributed to the crowd who had already used the two holidays before that, thus making it a four day holiday. A fact. But the scene in Central was no different than the ordinary days.

Balaji, Karthik, Prasanna, Seena and I were sent off by parents and siblings of the trio Karthik, Prasanna and Seena. It just took ten minutes for us to get into the monotony of laughter. However monotonous it might me it never ceases to amaze me. Seena and Balaji form a terrific combo backed by Karthik and Prasanna. I’m the loner of the five here but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally teasing one or the other. It was equally enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to my magnanimity and of course because of the 10 year break I wasn’t as close to them as they were with each other. But this is just for the writing. Otherwise we were equally enjoying.

Karthik was in 3/4th and everyone were teasing him that he has not got outside Arakonam but seems he is the only guy who has gone to Delhi before out of them four. The first night in train was cold but was bearable. I purposefully didn’t take out by blanket as I wanted to get acclimatized to the cold. Winds were oozing into the compartment, thanks to the invisible holes. Though I felt cold I somehow managed and came through the night. The next day’s journey went in style, thanks to the playing cards. After rounds and rounds of Bluff, Ace etc we settled for the night’s sleep. In between cards we got down in most of the stations and had everything that was available. As I haven’t travelled long distance in a while barring Pune I didn’t know that the food quality in train had deteriorated so much. The food was plain yucky, worse than the meals they show in Anniyan. So we had to settle for the food in station. It’s not that what we got in station was sumptuous but was way better than the stuff we got in train. It was costly as well as uneatable.

The highlight of all the food that we got outside was the Orange juice in Nagpur. While Karthik and Balaji had gone there before me to the juice shop and were making faces while drinking the juice. I went there and had the same juice in a gulp in spite of their warning. To their surprise I loved it. They didn’t like because they had added chat masala in the juice. What they were calling as ajinamoto. Poda naangalam peruchaliyayae thooki potu thooru varavanga, ithu enna jujube. Once I had the juice I packed three for the friends who were lazy to move their asses and come outside. I asked for few more masala and took it in a cup. Being an over enthusiastic person I mixed the juice with the masala without knowing that the juice already had enough masala in it. If not for me the rest of the guys would have spitted the juice. They all combined and had one cup and I had the rest. In addition to it we had a duplicate cool drink which gave a rotten smile. God!

Once we got on the second day morning we were eagerly awaiting for Delhi station, only to be disappointed of the four hour delay. Through the window all we could see was mist. “Enna orae pani mootama iruku” was our general feeling. Karthik received a scathing look from Seena when he said “enne da nama ooru margali masam mathiri thana iruku.” Then Seena almost fainted when he saw someone bathing in cold water in a hand pump in that weather.

After all the eventful happenings we reached Delhi and went to my relatives place. A small apartment in the second floor. We badly wanted to go by metro but were advised by them not to as it’d be very crowded. The auto driver took 80 rupees per auto for our journey from station to Karol Bagh. I thought it was a steal as the place was very nearby. Autowallas are autowallas no matter what. We were welcomed by hot idli and red chatni. It felt amazing. I gulped around 8 idlis and then my most unfavorite part, shopping, was in the agenda of the remaining lot. Balaji was the most enthusiastic out of the lot. I was barely interested. I was looking for various things to eat.

After shopping, their shopping, we reached home and refreshed. Without knowing the water scarcity in their home we all took bath and the rest started their photo session in the terrace. We started from there well before time, this time in a single auto after lessening our luggage. The ride in auto was nothing short of spectacle, he whizzed past all the traffic in a jiffy and reached the station in half an hour in spite of full traffic. When asked, “aap aise hi chalathe hae kya” he replied, “aisa hi chalana padtha hae.”

Our first witness of Old Delhi happened then. It was a wonderful site to see everything I craved for in the streets of Old Delhi. The place was shabby yes but that’s I loved about it, especially the hanging chicken. The station too was dull and shabby but had McDonalds much to the happiness of Balaji. We had French fries there and boarded our train to Pathankot. The train even though smaller than Tamil Nadu express was better and clean than the former. Added to it we had a couple of chicks in the next couple and one directly opposite to us whom Seena made eye contact throughout the night. She too reciprocated but it stopped without any further improvement.

Then after our lovely Himalayas trek our return journey from Pathakot to Delhi was annoying thanks to the cold we had to bear while waiting in the station. I was sad too as the trek had got over but everything stayed only till the next day morning. Once we reached our hotel in Delhi we were more than warm. We had a nice room with cozy bed, good water heater facility at a walk able distance from Metro station.

We reached the hotel by taking Metro. Our first glimpse of metro was amazing. I loved the Delhi crowd, not only the ladies. In spite of us having huge bags and shoving them with it and not knowing the language they didn’t make any face instead were commenting happily. Our first metro experience was awesome. I decided that we had to go in Metro from then on to whichever place we go.

We spotted Om Saravana Bhavan hotel (not to be confused with Hotel Saravana Bhavan) on the way to our hotel. Everyone unanimously decided to have breakfast there. The roundabouts were we stayed had Tamil hotels in predominance. We went there and had mini tiffin for 100 rupees. Seena was the happiest of the lot. After rounds and rounds of chapatti which he didn’t enjoy at all he was very satisfied with Pongal and Coffee and Vada and what not. We got a dizzy feel which could be attributed only to south Indian foods. And boy how we loved it!

Once we got ready we took the luggage from my relatives place and started to Akshardam. It was a beautiful place but was heavily commercialized. What I like about temples is their sculptures but the temple hardly had any. With mosaic flooring and flood lights the place looked more a museum than temple to me.

We partied that night with me having a couple of tequila shots and rest their own favorites. Nothing much to boast off. We settled in our home late night and got ready for our Agra trip the next day. I had a severe headache when I got up. I somehow managed and reached the bus just on time. All were old people from Tamil Nadu in the bus so we didn’t have much fun. Good for me as I slept the whole journey. They had played Ek Tha Tiger in bus it seems, the rest of the guys were discussing how comic it was and teasing Balaji for wanting the coat which Salman was wearing.

We had breakfast in a 3 or 5 star restaurant in the morning. Was decent enough, not of the standards on Om Saravana Bhavan but costed the same. We went to Mathura temple first where we had a guide whom no one could understand. His English was like Hindi and Hindi like English so we were flummoxed. Again I settled for an hours sleep and went to Agra fort. This time we had an awesome guide who looked awesome and also had an amazing knowledge about the place. Agra fort was decent. The first hazy glimpse of Taj Mahal from there was bewildering. Other than that and few clicks there was nothing much to look around.

We went to a handicraft shop from there; again I wasn’t much interested of it. Balaji bought a Taj Mahal for around 1000 rupees there I guess and we had terrible yet costly lunch at a nearby 3 star hotel. The old man who sat next to Karthik seemed to have had parotta for 35 rupees in a road side shop it seems. We were craving for it.

Our next stop was Taj Mahal. The one place we were eagerly looking forward too. Once we went inside the red building entrance and saw Taj Mahal it was a feeling that couldn’t be described in words. We took a lot of time there by clicking pictures at every juncture as we neared the place. But once we went into the Taj Mahal to see Noor Jahans crematory we got dejected. We expected much more, don’t know how to say but we expected something more spectacular. Then we took the bus and returned home. It was darn cold outside. My back bone got rigid because of the temperature difference as soon as I got down from the bus. We decided not to party and settled for a fast food restaurant on the way to our hotel. We had terrible fried rice and Seekh Kabab there and went for rest.

The third and final day in Delhi was the most amazing one. After a good night’s sleep we went to Kareems near Jama Masjid along with aunty. I bet no one can make better Tandoori chicken than them. Along with it Seekh kabab and Mutton Bura too were amazing. Briyani didn’t satisfy our taste though. That one lunch was enough for us to have only two meals for the next two days. Of which one is orange juice from Nagpur.

We roamed in Red fort, it was bigger and boring that Agra fort. Gladly enough we got a taxi for rupees 150 to go to station. We waited there and was so damn irritating to see guys flirting with an attu piece, Tamilians of course. At that time the temperature was 8 degree but we were not feeling cold at all. Seena and Prasanna went outside the station and had Kothu parotta along with Balaji while Karthik and I were safeguarding the luggage.

The return train journey again was similar to our onward train journey with cards and kalais. We were welcomed by nice coovam smell and humidity once we entered Chennai border. On top of it Balaji lost his shoe. So it was not such a great end to our journey but no regrets as what happened towards the end was barely negligible.

 

I have to write isn’t it? As a siesta who smells for the slightest glimpse of hope to put words into paper this Himalayas trek is like a juicy bone given to a hungry dog. No bitch please, please.

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This is going to be detailed, as usual, hugely perspective, as usual and quite fun, not as usual. Generally it’s the aftermath of a brilliant moment which brings out the best in one. If I had started this post a bit earlier may be it’d have been even more energetic but writing something just before sleeping when the brain doesn’t want to work bring the most candid moments out.

It all started almost half a year ago when I was in bench. After a trek to Nagala, quite overwhelming at that time, the urge to do something better provoked me in gathering information for this trek. Balaji, who was the sole accompanier for my Nagala trek kept on saying that after Himalayas no trek is substantially satisfying. I was pondering over his words for some time. Thanks to his advice I made up my mind for this trek. Oh what all I had to do to convince my parents.

December in Himalayas would make a great status message, but how feasible (sorry I’m an IT professional, you have to bear with my IT jargons, for the ones on my side, your mind would have automatically processed the word, carry on…) it was. I wasn’t sure. As a frustrated, hopeless soul I prepared my mind to go for the trek anyhow. Then began the search to find people who would fit in this devious act of a dispassionate sole. The search started with my best friends, then office mates, then school mates and finally ended with my Primary school buddies Balaji, Prasanna, Seena and Karthik (quite unknown to me before the trek) joined. The next four months with rounds and rounds of discussions online, offline was pure fun. I still maintain the mail thread that we used guys. Our purchase for the trek didn’t stop till the last day. Thanks to Balaji.

Then started our trek. Decemeber 24th to be precise. But that date is just for the papers. We were mentally offline long before. The first night in train was joyous, a bit nostalgic, remembering the past or mostly these people updating me what’s what. It all started from the second night when the chill started to climb our spine. The blankets, gloves, mufflers, balaclava, everything was out and how! On 26th when we got up at 9’o clock, much late than our foresaid destination time we could see nothing but mist. Enna orae pani mootama iruku! (People who don’t know Tamil don’t mind translating, literal translation won’t get you anywhere, it’s an inside joke) was our general feeling.

We stepped down in Delhi, guys did rounds of shopping and we started off to Old Delhi to catch our train to Pathankot. Old Delhi and New Delhi were quite contrasting in styled. Loved those chickens hanging in stores. Our stomachs were craving to try them out but resisted our temptation as we didn’t want to be bed ridden before even reaching base camp. The train from Old Delhi to Pathankot was, hmm, well…. Cold is an understatement. But that chill paved the way for from Kangal irandal romance between Seena and some silly looking girl. If you are waiting for a climax, well nothing happened. We got down and got into the bus to Banikhet, our base camp.

There was a lady voice calling out. Are you guys too going to youth hostel? Every one of us shifted a row in front to hear the voice and welcome some estrogen compounds in an otherwise testosterone filled surrounding. For starters the lady was none other than Pooja. The Aloo paratha at the break point was amazing. We reached Banikhet in no time. That’s how excited we were. We got our room, she got hers. And as a usual self boasting, effy pround individual I started narrating my awesome 4,5 Km one day treks to Nagala and Tada to Pooja and said about difficulties. Only to be nose cut by her. She seemed to have done treks in Rajasthan, Goa and Sar Pass. I felt very small before her and escaped from there. Thanks to her we went to a useless Tibetian market where we could neither see Tibets nor the markets. The only respite was breezer which too was nothing but our two and a half rupee rasna.

Day One: Banikhet Base Camp

Enough said, we assembled for our camp fire on Day one. There was couple of guys who didn’t seem to understand the meaning of applause. They kept on singing and singing and the applause grew but they never ceased to stop. As someone who has decent Hindi knowledge I couldn’t even get one single song they sang. Thank you fellas. We retired in our sleeping bags after a cup of bournivta.

Day Two: Banikhet to Dalhousie

It was a 3 ½ to 4 km trek from Banikhet to Dalhousie. At least that’s what was said by the Camp leader. It wasn’t much difficult. The surface was plain but somewhat steep. We got enough time to rest and rejuvenate. Got to know Karthik, Arun, Priyanka, Aunty and Mahesh during the course. We got to Dalhousie by noon. The place was paradise. Nice soothing beds, great camp leader, mild trek, good noon’s nap. Add to it Indo-Pak match with Yuvraj going great guns. It was heaven. I thought I didn’t deserve this much royalty. The camp fire was slightly sad affair with a group claiming that that day will be their last day. Priyanka and co were the ones. We bid adieu to them in the evening and got prepared to trek what is going to be coldest place in the whole trek.

Day Three: Dalhousie to Kalatop

I was trekking with our group after a comfortable sleep in our dorm. After pacing a few yards I could see someone in red flashy pants. She looked familiar. It was dues ex machina. The group that claimed to leave the previous day didn’t actually leave. All natak. They all were there trekking before us much more enthusiastically than before. I trekked with them almost the whole day. It was a nice trek with ice covered roads. Both scenic and serene. The night was horrid in Kalatop. That was the first time I skipped dinner, thanks to the freezing temperate outside my legs got numb, and fingers were burning. But still we managed to play cards with two more new people, Ankush and Ganesh. I had a terrible night. I would give it to Seena who braved the chill and went for his morning duties in an open field. *A huge round of applause* You are the man, man!

Day Four: Kalatop to Khajjiar

There was no respite even in the morning. Camp leader jokes were doing rounds in our room with the background whistle score by camp leader himself. I skipped breakfast too. I had to skip much more but due to the Censor board cutting those down. That days trek was the real one. Half way downwards and half way upwards was as arduous as it could get. We could feel every joint in our legs writhing with pain. All to see that one shabby piece of grassland which was claimed as Mini Switzerland. The hanuman statue from our balcony was much better sight than that sloppy grass field. The camp fire was cut that day but we had a good round of discussion with woman of the day Aunty Ji. Every time we faced a hurdle we could never stop thinking about Aunty. “If she could do it why can’t we” was our mantra. She was a true inspiration for the whole group or at least for us five. While we were getting loose and started with Dumb C the camp leader announced for dinner and the group disintegrated. It was a great evening though.

Day Five: Khajjiar to Mangla

The shabby mass of grassland the previous day was wholly covered by ice. It was great site. We started our day by clicking lots of pictures. The whole route from Khajjiar to Mangla was lensman’s paradise. We clicked lots and lots of picture. The majestic Shiva statue on top of the peak looked terrific. I couldn’t stop admiring the beauty. It was the second most difficult day in the course of six days but being the last days trek and last day of the year we were quite enthusiastic about completing it. The sense of satisfaction we got after reaching Mangla base camp couldn’t be said in words. We were a happy lot. That being New Year’s night many retired for partying. Thanks to the stringent rules of YHAI the group got dissolved. We couldn’t get in touch with much of them as they themselves were a huge group.  The sightseeing in Mangla wasn’t a grand affair but street foods were amazing for our taste buds which grew stale after rounds and rounds of chapatti.

Day Six: Mangla to Banikhet

After customary group pictures in front of the base camp we settled in bus. The scenery was again great but after the break point I was much more involved in all time favorite anthakshari than once in a life time opportunity to admire the beauty of Chamba River. I was glad of my stronghold in lyrics. Both in Tamil and Hindi (Yea that’s a usual self boasting me if you haven’t yet found out.) To be honest I was sad as the trek got over. I’m mostly a loner who keeps to myself, being with a lot of people, listening out to new perspectives was lot of fun. It took me a whole 10 minutes to understand what Professional Artist meant. Then the two strangers whom I shared my room with too were quite different.  Al together it’s a trek to remember.

Though our trip extended for 3 more days I don’t want to include it here and burden you more. Hoping to keep in touch with everyone of you.

Yours sincere soul,
Vikram M N

It all started with a restless me desperately attempting to get into wilderness or rather get away from my routine life. After numerous calls to my friend a soon-to-be America mappilai (or is it Canada, because for us foreign, on site and everything else is America) nothing really did materialize. Things went to extreme and the desperation for getting more people on board increased as to avoid the increasing share of already increased fuel cost. Thanks to Balaji who said that he wouldn’t come by bike *straight face* But at last none of our friends, acquaintances or colleagues joined us. Even the highly enthusiastic unknown mystery lady too didn’t join us citing “my relatives are coming home” as reason.

After a long time I was given some work on Friday and the meeting was scheduled at 2PM. And what did I do? I said that I can’t stay for the whole meeting and came home by 3’o clock bus. After checking for my car, the wiper and numerous calls to our prospective trek friends nothing really got materialized. At night 9 it was decided. It’s going to be just two of us. Balaji said that he’d take his mom for the trek. Now can you believe that?

The next day morning I woke up at 5AM, filled by bike fuel tank to the brim (still in hope of going to the trek in my bike) but every hope was dashed when Balaji opened the covers of his Alto. We started at Sharp 6 and in just ten minutes from his place at CMBT Balaji was like. Do you know the route? And that’s how the adventure started.

It was the search that enchanted the total experience. We knew nothing that was in store for us. To our surprise (read as horror) every single thing that you could imagine was in store for us. The first search was for Panimalar college, once we got there it was Thiruvallur then it was Uthukottai where we had sumptuous breakfast. Dude what was the name of the restaurant? The taste of the sambar there was next only to the mighty Saravana Bhavan. We gulped 6 pooris and 4 idlys and packed 6 idlys and 4 pooris with a total bill coming to a mysterious number. 203. We still couldn’t figure what’s the cost of one idly and one poori. One of the many unanswered questions in our journey.

What we thought is going to take only half an hour journey took us 1 hour. Thanks to the extra 20Km we travelled due to our negligence or due to our eagerness in enjoying such a beautiful ride. We finally reached the place that we wanted to scale. The mighty peak that was in front of eyes was so beautiful with green cover all over it. Once we parked and emptied our bladder we looked at the peak which evaded us for so long. Nagala.

It was a 15 to 20 minutes walk in the plain which very much resembled the dry deserts of Mexico. Thanks to the roundabout way in which we walked. Then it was a very narrow path where I led. There were invisible spider webs all around.  I joked saying that I’ll be returning back as Spiderman. Then after a 10 minute walk in another narrow path. There were bees. A whole lot of it. That’s when I first became genuinely afraid. Because it was in this place a couple of weeks before someone had died due to bee stings.

After all the walking in those narrow trails it was time for us to trek. After walking for about half an hour we still couldn’t see any sign of pool. We were all alone in a desolate mountain. I was ready to walk further but Balaji thought it wasn’t a great idea. He somehow sensed that the path that we were taking was wrong. This guy has some knack of correcting the mistake once he’s done with it. From there he started to lead. So we descended in the path that we came and found out the stream which we followed through rocks and boulders for half an hour. Balaji said we’re on right track when he heard the sound of water getting stronger and stronger. We first spotted species of our kind enjoying there. Some eight people were there before us, probably knowing the route and not had to trek the extra mile that we did. The pool was inviting with clear shallow water. No marks for guesses, we jumped right into it as soon as we saw it.

After swimming for about half an hour where a wannabe photographer lost his mobile, thanks to the eagerness to shoot the numerous small fishes that were swimming around, we set out for the second pool. It was a cakewalk. It took us just 15 minutes to reach it. It was better than the first one with even clear waters and even more fishes which were so eager to bite my palms. We swam there for half an hour and set out to reach the third pool.

It was no easy task that. We climbed and climed for next half an hour. We slowly came out of all the vegetation and the stream sound. We couldn’t spot any trail around us. All we could see was dry leaves and loose branches which eluded us from any sort of safety. We slipped the most during this journey from second to third pool. We didn’t know that so many perils were there before us. And that’s when we took an oath that we would eat only if we reach the third pool and otherwise not. Time went by but we couldn’t see any hint of the pool.  I asked Balaji to look at the red rock which was 10 meters away from us. He kept his bag and went to check that. Once he reached there he turned back and said that it’s a cliff and we’ve reached the top of mountain. All we could do was laugh. So we again trekked back (this time it was even tougher) the second pool and followed the stream. We laughed at our ignorance to have missed the trail which was very near to the second pool. After an arduous hour everything looked easy. We reached the mighty third pool finally.

Balaji straight away launched into it. A 10 feet dive in a 40 feet deep pool. I loathed myself for not knowing swimming properly and because of that I settled for a nature made pedicure bed where fishes were so eager to massage me off. It was the best experience of the whole journey. After having free pedicure for half an hour we came out of the water to have our lunch. We kept to our promise. Once the lunch was over we stayed there in the silence once likes after coming out of water for a good 20 minutes. It was like meditation to enjoy the beautiful scenery, those brilliant fishes and sound of water rumbling through leaves.

Once our clothes got dried the drizzle started so we started from that place. It took a good one and a half hour to reach our car. On the way to car we filled our water bottles with fresh stream water which came in really handy because we again lost our way while coming back and that’s when we thought two is a company and three is a crowd.

 

 

After a well thought of depressing status update in FB, I started off my journey to Mizoram utilizing Deepavali long weekend.

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This trek has an interesting background story. I was planning for this for a long while as it would help me complete my travel circle in covering all directions. But I didn’t really think it’d happen in 2016. Initially tried to get tickets to Madurai because there is nothing better than Madurai during Diwali. Experienced it last year. Fortunately or unfortunately it didn’t happen. And I thought I’d end up staying home for Diwali. But the thought of staying home wasn’t really depressing. Deepavali is the one holiday I mostly stay home.

After a while, while being asked for holiday plans and some mishaps in office, I immediately jumped into this Mizoram plan. Peter joined along with me, who accompanied me for Har Ki Dun earlier this year, which too wasn’t planned as early as I generally do. We got tickets, booked for trek and everything was set within a week.

Before we proceed further here’s the list of names which I thought I’ll use to refer my trek mates. Thanks to the pronunciation of Mizo guides and Peter (who doesn’t want to disclose his name), this idea came to my mind.

Trusha Kolke – Jr. Colgate

Sunita Kolke – Sr. Colgate

Anand Haladi – Holiday

Venkatraman – Darwin Uncle

Ramlal – Mr. Delhi

Debottam – The Bottom

Prabhakar – ISRO

Ajith – Lok Sabha

Ranga Sai – Ranga Sai (I can’t change his name, you’ll get to know the reason why below.)

And then there were guides who I’ll refer with the names they introduced themselves with.

P.S: Each one has at least four names to themselves.

Day 1 – The Start

If it was about how I was irresponsible with work last time before Har Ki Dun trek, it was about how I was responsible but have to be more responsible this time during the appraisal discussion. That spoilt my mood and a good one and half hours of last minute packing.

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It was Egmore this time so had to get ready at least half an hour before my usual time because of less frequency of bus. I love the bus journeys to train before a trip. There was lot of traffic when I came home from office, I was afraid, that was going to be the state while going to station but it wasn’t, all the traffic was on the outer part. There was no traffic inside the city. I reached station well before time and settled on stairs.

That status message worked and my next two hours flew by, as well as my mood got changed. In a crowded station, the train was at a safe uncrowded platform far away from the entrance. I switched off the phone and entered the train, what would be my home for the next two days. The faces in coupe weren’t really encouraging, we thought it was going to be another don’t-get-off-the-window-seat family but luckily for the next two days we had one window seat to ourselves.

Day 2 – First Day in Train

Had Kagida Malargal to accompany me, a good 300+ pager which I was sure of lasting for two days at the least and so it did. The whole day went on and off eating Podi Idly, reading half of the novel and sleeping. This monotony doesn’t really affect me. What affects me is getting up and going to office at 6 AM daily. Well, even that doesn’t affect me really nowadays.

Day 3 – Second Day in Train

Sorry couldn’t think of a better title. With the remaining half of the book to go and no more packed food, that day too went fine. Just that we had to struggle to choose food. Most of it had mustard oil as we were around West Bengal region, which wasn’t to my taste. I had the satisfaction of completing a great book. It also gave an idea which I could execute in one of my books in future.

Also that was the day I got to know that there were one billion methods to choose paan. It looked tougher than customizing your sub in Subway. My co passenger looked to be a master of it.

Day 4 – Guwhati

We didn’t reach Guwhati on time but on an apt time, just before sunrise. As soon as we got out, there were various van operators shouting out for Shillong which got Peter interested. I misinterpreted Shillong to be in Sikkim, don’t know why that confusion happened, but happened.

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We searched for few rooms and got a bad room with water stagnating toilet, yellow bulb and not so good ventilation on the fourth floor.

As almost everyone suggested, after taking bath we set off to Kamakhya. Meanwhile enquiring about ILP with YHAI guys, they said they’d take care of it. So our major problem was solved. Kamakhya was amazing, for the first time we saw Buffalo slaughtering, reminded me of Apocalypse now. Thanks to my previous temple outings to the northern states I was aware of the priests ‘Pranam Karo’, so I stayed a good ten feet away from any deity. Kamakhya took a good three to four hours of our time. It was humid like hell, we visited another small temple around there but missed a temple which was around one km from there. I think Bhuvaneswari temple. Actually Kamahya is the main temple in a complex of individual temples dedicated to the ten Mahavidyas: Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala. Among these, Tripurasundari, Matangi and Kamala reside inside the main temple whereas the other seven reside in individual temples. The history of this place is interesting, you can Google to find out more.

From there we came out to Uma Nanda Temple, which had heights of cheaters leading to it. These people were looting a huge sum to take people to temple through boat. I had read various posts where it was mentioned, it’s just ten to fifteen rupees for a boat ride to Uma Nanda Temple. Shame was that the whole area was cheating saying that it was the only mode of transport to the temple. Thank god, another person like me who said that he would never step foot on those cheaters boat lead us the actual spot where government ferry’s start. Here the ticket price was nominal. Temple wasn’t anything great but the boat ride felt good. We also had a bad tender coconut water at that place.

While asking for locals about any other places to visit, they suggested Planetarium¸ I wasn’t having any great inclination to go there but that was the only option, all places close by 5 to 6 there. We had a couple of sugarcane juice, a much sought after affair and entered Planetarium. I had never been to planetarium before and it had AC. So I thought at least the money was worth it for AC. I was in for a surprise, the visuals, the voiceover, the script and the more than it, the positivity of the script attracted me a lot. When the whole world was fretting about how we are going towards an eternal end. Here was a script that said, “Mankind evolved from destruction, who knows, something better can happen with another destruction”.

Our itinerary for the day was pretty much over, we had a chai and asked them, if there is anything we could do for the rest of the day. There was a very good War Memorial cum park near that area. We spent a good twenty minutes and made our way back to room, in turn booking our bus tickets to Aizawl. The festive mood had set off and the whole city was very colorful. I had Pani Poori and followed it by dinner at Royal Naga, a pork feast. Every time I read the word Naga, it got me reminded of Secret of Nagas, don’t know why.

Day 5 – Bus to Aizawl

Shifted to YHAI in the morning as the Hotelier said that he couldn’t let us for more than 24 hours. It felt as if I finally was at home. After freshening up we went to Kalakshetra, nothing great, add to it, it was sultry, the only good part was museum, that too because of the AC. We got thirsty like hell by the time we reached Balaji Mandir, which is nothing but Guwhati Thirupathi. That placed was far better than other temples. Don’t know what the problem was but there was a couple, out of which a girl was crying quite heavily. That scene got made my heart heavy.

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Once outside the temple we again got our Sugarcane fix and boarded bus to Paltan Bazaar. We had lunch at Sagar restaurant which was nice and got into a mini bus first which took us to ISBT. It was very interesting to see two mute boys speaking with each other in bus.

I was having some irritation in my throat. I thought I had got cold but later Peter too confirmed that he too had similar problem. Then we understood why so many people were wearing masks. But till now I’m not sure whether it was because of Guwhati pollution or Diwali pollution.

I liked the initial phase of bus journey. Was little skeptical about dinner but nevertheless had veg Chow Mein without any veggies in it. Praying that I shouldn’t get stomach upset, I got on the bus and went to sleep.

Day 6 – Reach Aizawl

The bus ride felt like it would never end. It was bumpy like hell. The bus didn’t have shock absorber at all. When I thought that we would reach Aizawl as soon as we crossed the border. Little did we know that we were still a long way to go.

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Near the border we were asked for our ILP which we didn’t have. Peter talked with the police personnel there about our trek and only then he let us free. The previous day he had talked to the secretary and got confirmation about the same. He also gave us the number in the ILP list that we had to tell but we didn’t require that.

The bus stopped for breakfast but I didn’t risk having and so did Peter. I at least had a good night’s sleep, one great power of mine, I can sleep anywhere in any situation, literally, so somehow completed morning ablutions and went for sleep again.

After a long time we reached Aizawl. I read somewhere that Aizawl has the second most traffic, next to Mumbai but good thing about Aizawl is, just like Mumbai even here the traffic is organized, I didn’t hear a single vehicle honk while being in a jam.

Once we reached Aizawl we called the secretary and asked him how to reach the camp. We were asked to come to Luangmual. We took a cab for 300 rupees and went there. Price seemed quite steep but I wasn’t in great mood to argue. The city was dusty like hell. Not how I thought it to be.

Once we reached YHAI we were given Kings Welcome with photographs, firm handshakes and pleasant smiles. YHAI felt like heaven, it always does. That too, out of the various YHAI camps I’ve been, Mizoram base camp felt like the best. Dalhousie was warm and cozy but Mizoram was big and neat. Bathrooms were very neat so within a while, I sorted out the luggage, took bath and freshened up. Mr. Holiday was the first person we got introduced to. A Mumbai based advertisement manager who knew Tamil and could talk on a variety of topics. He was our only roommate in such a big room. Roommate amaivadhelam iraivan kodutha varam. He was a great roommate, of course he snored but sleeping for me is never a problem so it was fine.

Through him I got introduced to Miss. Colgate and Mrs. Colgate. When I was talking to Colgate Junior and Senior Colgate came, he immediately asked me not to go by looks and she is her mother. Guess he knew that otherwise this guy would be up to something.

We then went to a small church/cemetery nearby which was closed and we got the first glimpse of how day ends by 5 PM there. It gets pitch dark by 6 PM. We got introduced to rest of the folks, had an amazing dinner and went for a good night’s sleep.

Day 7 – Aizawl Sightseeing

Morning felt great after a good night’s sleep. Like we discussed the previous day. I, Peter, Holiday and two Colgates were waiting for Scorpio. Unfortunately for us, the Scorpio which had come for us took the other group. Colgates dropped from the plan and we got another driver, Franics, a fine chap.

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We went to Solomon’s Temple first, a church which was being in construction for a while, built only by some select family members. The Wikipedia link says something different but, what I said is what I heard from the locals.

From there we went to Mizoram State Museum in Aizawl, nothing great, just another museum. Watching the kids was more fun than watching the artifacts in there. Once I should do just a museum tour. Art, painting etc. with lots of time and nothing else to do.

From there we went to Handicraft Shop which had a variety of stuff made of Bamboo, I bought an earring and lots of small eats from Burma, and they were awesome.

Here comes the best part. Our next venture was to have lunch at ZoFood, a restaurant which everyone named, when asked for authentic Mizo food. And you know what, we had dog meat there and that got me excited. In fact, nothing was to my taste but Uisa Hmar Bai is not something which people usually wouldn’t have had. The whole setting was amazing, with cabins, banana leaves, laid back setting etc.

From there we went to Aizawl Tajmahal, a building in Reiek Village which a person had built for his wife who died in an accident. Nothing great but we went at a great time, got great photos during sunset.

Theosophical Society was the last place we went, again for sunset but it had already got dark by then. In fact the female security was more beautiful than the sunset. Francis agreed to that too.

Once we reached the camp again, we freshened up and attended the meeting. I don’t exactly remember in which order we got introduced but remember how super enthusiastic Mr. Delhi was, and how easily we could make him camp leader.

Another good night’s sleep.

Day 8 – Aizawl to Vaipuanpho

We were informed that the first part of travel would be through bus. As everything happens at leisurely pace in Mizoram, even the bus came late. We had a round of interview, photographs, another briefing by guide before we were flagged off.

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Once we settled in the bus, Holiday remembered that he forgot his camera/charger in the room. Good that he remembered immediately. Otherwise it’d have become tough. He was consistently taking pictures as if documenting for a film but it was good in a way as it would capture all the moments.

Bus journey was quite long and boring but it was a different experience to see the bus squeeze into such narrow streets. After about two to three hours we reached the point where we were supposed to start our trek. That seemed to be a party place. There were lot of folks with fancy bikes, babes and music hanging around there.

The bridge was quite a spot to take photos. We introduced The Bottom to the Burmese bitter sweet dishes we had. He too liked it. Chai and other stuff in that store were the cheapest till that date. Once we had our fill, we walked to the next camp. That was a piece of cake. No hassles at all. The whole walk was through the road. It’d have been better if we had done the entire road but I guess coal factory or something had come in between and permissions couldn’t be granted.

Once we reached there we had welcome drink, lunch at stream and few of us went to Green House place where they had a nursery, we saw flowers, I was able to take a couple of good photos. The place was relaxing, more than the beauty, that’s what appealed to me.

Once back we again had tea and in sometime dinner. We arranged our stuff in the tent. Chatted for a while. There were lots of mosquitos, so all of us applied Odomos, Holiday went for his music fix with the Mizo guys, Peter too went and by the time he called me, I was half asleep. As I was saying to Senior Colgate, only in treks I get to sleep continuous 8 to 10 hours. She also belonged to the same category.

Day 9 – Vaipuanpho to Ailawng

The best day of the trek. Every time there would be one point where your ego would be crushed and you start accepting that you are part of the environment, rather than wanting to conquer it.

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This time that incident happened while climbing the watery slope. I slipped in the very first step and wet my pants. Such a slap on the face. Lost all my confidence post that and took every step very carefully. No slips post that but the moment after climbing that part, I didn’t feel ecstatic. Darwin Uncle fell down and hurt his face, The Bottom removed his shoes and walked with élan, Junior Colgate said, “that guy is amazing”. Moment of envy for me. When I was saying to Peter that in spite of being a Biology student The Bottom wasn’t interested in flowers and was concentrating just on trek, Peter told, “just like you.” Yes just like me. He’d be the best company to go on a trek. He means business.

Post that there were leeches and it took toll on few people. Kodachadri taught me that one thing. Never stop to take out the leeches. It was fun to see Junior Colgate screeching but that gave her and her mother so much energy that they came out of the forest area first. Earlier when Junior Colgate was falling in water, senior was taking video, it was so much fun to watch.

Peter and I walked that stretch together. We used to think that the forest stretch is over but when we hear Junior Colgate screech we get to know we still have to go and depending on the intensity and volume of screech, with SONAR detection, we put a mind map of the future path.

Even though it was drizzling and we didn’t have a place to have lunch, I ate the two oily fluffy pooris along with aloo standing on the road. Never felt anything as tasty as that. We walked for few more KM and reached the destination. The place was lovely and lit superbly.

The fun part was post that. It was the caving day and everyone were excited. We were initially asked to remove shoes but I preferred to wear it. Also warm water bath for rupees fifty was offered which many took. The Bottom and I refused as per trek ethics. A doctor who was the camp leader there was there along with their family. I was almost the last person on caving expedition, only Darwin uncle was behind me. I didn’t have any hassles to cross it. It’d have been nice without the guides. Anyways fun was fun. We all finished the day with a cold water bath.

For dinner we had Mizo food, didn’t really like the taste but Avocado made up to it. As usual Holiday was singing songs with Mizo guys in one tent and rest slept. It was amazing to see Holiday’s enthu, it never drops and such an interesting speaker he is. Could talk on variety of topics.

Day 10 – Ailawng to Hawlhhah

Before going to sleep the previous day, the camp leaders were mentioning that trek to Hawlhhah would be the longest and with incessant rains it would take even more time, thus they were asking us to start early. Peter was mentioning, “First lets pray that there wouldn’t be rain tomorrow,” but then corrected, “You’d be praying that there would be more rain tomorrow, right?” Ha ha so me.

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I didn’t pray but there were more rains the next day and it was nonstop. I wasn’t in a mood to wear raincoat. Another annoying thing which makes no difference and make our clothes wet anyhow. I think only the rains made the day interesting, otherwise it wouldn’t have been this engaging.

If the morning was about Ranga Sai and Y-Hai. Afternoon was about Senior Colgates story. Of all the things, the thing that got registered in my mind was the cozy room in Ladakh. OMG, how awesome it would have been. It’s not getting out of my mind. Junior Colgate was very interested in people saying Y-Hai, instead of Y-H-A-I, they were saying Y-Hai, which we converted like buoy in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. When a kid said Y-hai, Junior Colgate was happier than the kid seeing us, she turned back and said, “see the kid said Y-Hai.” You should have seen the expression on her face.

Post that Ranga Sai got famous. There will always be one innocent fat guy whom everyone would like but poor Junior, only to her Ranga Sai didn’t reply Y-Hai. So bad of you Ranga Sai. I loved the way The Bottom called Ranga Sai. The tone was amazing. I think I’m using the word ‘amazing’ more than I usually do, thanks to Junior.

Everywhere he went and to every person he saw Ranga Sai started saying Y-Hai post that. And the Y-Hai modulation differs depending on how you say Ranga Sai. You should have been there to experience it. I know everyone who listened would get a smile on their face reading this.

We got a thatched roof to stay. There was some fight for hanging clothes with Group Leader occupying one whole arena to himself. Very good Group Leader. The stream near to it was scary as well. I had a constant dream of being swept away by the stream. One of it felt so real. Food was arranged inside the roof and it was great as usual. The Camp Leader was great, very athletic and swift. Arrangements inside the roof were great.

Funny thing was, when everyone were struggling to find a place to dry their dress, Lok Sabha covered himself with a blanket and started Whatsapping, funny fellow.

The younger camp leader informed the Group Leader that the next day’s trek would be cancelled and there were various other stories as well. Our Group Leader was inept and couldn’t make a decision, he was discussing it with ISRO and Holiday. Holiday said that we would wait and decide the next day after discussing with people, rightly so. I was naturally disappointed.

Day 11 – Hawlhhah to Nghalchwam

As soon as we got up, we got to know that a small stream that we needed to cross had swelled up. What I understood was, we would go till the stream and come back to room. Post that we were to return by the same path, reach our previous day’s lunch point and go to Base camp.

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We had great breakfast and chai in Bamboo cups specially made for us, you should have seen the way that guy made cups out of Bamboo, so swift. It beat the lid which our Camp Leader made at Vaipuanpho. Post our breakfast I got into my wet clothes and got ready for walk till stream but only after that got to know that we were not going to do that. I was made fun of. Damn it!

The Bottom was echoing my thoughts of this being the most leisurely trek he ever had. One more thing is, almost every day we got signal. It was also one of the most fun filled treks too. I used the morning time to inquire about the trek to Shiva Lingam on Mt. Kailash. That intrigued me, immediately felt that I should take my family.

We started retracing our paths at 11 AM. It was a nice slow walk. As we were told that we’d get back to Base Camp, I started using my mobile phone. Put it on speaker and started hearing good old soft rock. Nothing like that.

En route to Hotel the guide boys got us fresh Pineapple and we got few more oranges on the way too. Initially as soon as we crossed the small stream, we got gooseberry plus free leeches. Funny thing while eating pineapple was, the way they kept the Banana leaves, they keep it in reverse, opposite to how we do. I initially noted that in restaurant as well but only after the Pineapple incident, it got registered.

After a day of ‘almost there’, when we were almost there near our bus pick up point, we were greeted by a local with tea and sugarless cake, it felt awesome, cake complimented tea really well. Being a master tea dipper, I can say it for sure.

Only after getting into the bus, I got to know that we were to go to Nghalchwam, our secretary who had come there told us that it was the best camp and we can’t afford to miss. Thus we set off to the camp, lots of traffic and early sunset made it worse. As soon as we went there, Holiday, I and Peter got a tent for ourselves and slept well post dinner. In the darkness we couldn’t see the campsite but tents were awesome.

Day 12 – Nghalchwam to Aizawl

As usual I was the last to get up, we had lots of time, they said it was a small trek, went to stream first, got my back sprained while going to restroom and put data pack in my phone. I wasn’t in a great mood as my mom was getting medical attention back home. When I was out, Colgates had already left the camp.

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After about an hour we set off from there. I cruised, it was sunny, sultry, turf was familiar, last day, no distraction, it was as if completing a steep chase and you know that you are gonna win. Ranga Sai and his ‘Khal Ve’s’ also kept happening. At last I reached the destination first.

Holiday and Darwin uncle were left behind so guides went to look after them. At last it was a happy unit. We all got on bus and went back to Base Camp successfully after completing the trek.

Tea and dinner were great, we got lot of other stuffs too and partied to the fullest at night. Everyone had their own plans from the next day. We hadn’t decided. It was the only day where I slept without any plans.

Day 13 – Aizawl to Silchar

As soon as I got up, Ranga Sai told about his plan to go to Silchar and take passenger train from there. Peter was so sure that he didn’t want that bus journey from Aizawl to Guwhati. I was okay with both. Silchar meant that we’d get one more place to visit, to know. Ideally Peter would have preferred air for everything but I’d like to have the experience more than travel.

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We made the Secretary call for our cab. The first cab we called had only last row seats so we booked another. We went around 3, 4 hours late. Everyone took their own sweet time. Secretary to print Ranga Sai’s certificate for spelling mistake, the driver, traffic etc. There wasn’t one harsh word from travel agent. Also the driver too didn’t wince seeing us this late. I guess that’s their way of life.

The cab couldn’t have looked worse, but it was a new experience. In fact I loved the travel and didn’t feel it as tiring as I expected. Lunch in a local restaurant was awesome but the driver stopped only after begging him to stop for ten times.

Evening snacks near Assam border was awesome, it felt like a mini Bangladesh. Ever since I watched a documentary about ice cream seller in Bangladesh train, I felt like travelling to Bangladesh. That place got me more intrigued.

We reached somewhere near Silchar from where the driver refused to go. Such an asshole. We had to take an auto and go to Silchar station to find room, and it wasn’t easy. It took a long while to get room but finally we got a good room.

For night we had Biryani at restaurant which Pradeep had googled. The taste was different but Ranga Sai didn’t like it. I was tired like hell so gulped something, had Pan and went back to room. That’s when Modi had put a bomb saying 500 and 1000 rupee note can’t be used. That added adventure to our story.

Day 14 – Silchar to Guwhati

We got up and went to station on time, had Poori and Roti there. Didn’t have anything to read so slept for some time but it got boring post that as our entertainment Ranga Sai wasn’t there. He had got AC coach. I got on and off sleep. But unfortunately I didn’t get sleep after the train got free. There was cash crunch so we couldn’t afford to eat much as well. So absolutely no time pass.

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Few minutes that I stayed in AC coach too I was not able to sleep. It would have been good to sleep. This time Guwhati didn’t look like a new place, we went to a hotel which we rejected first as YHAI was not available. We told them that we’d go there the next day.

We ate in a small restaurant named Tibet. Momos and Fried Rice and Thumbs Up felt great. He accepted the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes. That felt even greater. Ranga Sai had train the next day. We had one day gap in between. Peter was saying it’d have been better if we too had had train the next day.

Day 15 – Dysentery Day in Guwhati

Now this is one thing which I’d like to get rid of, this is becoming a habit. I got to know that I wouldn’t be able to move out anywhere due to dysentery and it was as severe as last time, if not more. So shifted to YHAI room, the whole day was lying in bed watching an average 50 Shades of Grey and an awesome The Wolf of the Wall Street, what a film, in Peter’s mobile. At least that was there, otherwise it’d have gotten even worse, as I had finished my book as well.

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Peter was pissed that he couldn’t buy anything in the market. He went for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and then to market. I too felt like buying something but didn’t have the energy to. We had dinner at Sagar. Even though costly, felt great to have Idly and Dosa and Gulab Jamun, what Peter was commenting as My Gulab Jamun for some reason. He thought it’d have been a better idea to have had dinner at Tibet Restaurant instead of this, with me having Momos but I wouldn’t have liked it.

Thanks to Modi Bomb I couldn’t buy Assamese Tea, the only thing I wanted to get it back from my trip.

Day 16 – Guwhati to Chennai Train

Got on train with a heavy feeling, the train was almost empty, got a good sleep as soon as we boarded. The situation was same till afternoon, then people started coming in. We had to be very wise with the money as it was very limited.

Apart from the bachelors there were one Assamese mother/daughter or mother-in-law/daughter-in-law duo. They were funny, they made the coupe their house. Loved their innocence. They weren’t requesting anything, they were just asking us to work for them, took our berth, everything. But good people.

Day 17 – Train Journey

Cash crunch had become food crunch. We could only sit and drool at the food. With only two hundred rupees in hand to go home, we couldn’t afford much. It was fun though. I like crisis situations like this. Feels great once you come out of it. But finally at Vizag, Peter bought three Egg Biryani with old 500 rupees note so all our problems were solved. It’s true that Biryani solves most of the problems.

Day 18 – Reach Home

Morning when we got down from train, the Assamese duo were sitting in train and waiting. When the other guys asked them in a funny tone whether they want to go to Trivandrum, only then they knew that they need to get down. Funny people.

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We got down and early morning at Chennai felt great, it always does. Got a bus immediately. While waiting for my dad to pick up from bus stand. Had a Tea and Vada. No dessert could match this conclusion.

“Kollimalai yenakkuyilaya sellimalai amme

Kolundanaku kannimalai Palanimalai amme

Sellinamgal mulungukotta mailinamgal aadum

Thirukoodamalai yengal sellvamalai amme”

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When I memorized this above Kuttrala Kuravanji verse to get 8 marks in sixth standard memoriter section, little did I know that I’d be visiting this place. I’ve always wondered why people find it so tough to understand a poem. Yes, even I wouldn’t understand it without someone explaining me but after explanation I would be able to link it perfectly which others don’t understand how.

Day 1 – Back to Basics

After not having ventured out at all (not even an hour’s outing) for the past four months post the Har Ki Dun trip, I was itching to make this road trip to Kolli Hills, which was in my agenda for past couple of years. Thought of doing this as a get together ride before Ladakh but that unfortunately didn’t happen.

As I informed people about this only few days prior and as we had to start at noon, most of them weren’t interested. At last only Bhuvanesh was ready for it. Don’t know whether I’d have gone or not if not for him. Luckily for us, we got a room in Nallathambi resort which usually remains full for most of the year. We booked for both the days for Rs. 3100.

We finally started at 12.30 from office. I filled my tank at the petrol bunk near my office. It’s such a pleasant feeling to see a full tank. As soon as we hit the road and went to highways, all the problems, all the inhibitions seem to fly off. See the luck, I’m currently hearing ‘Rasaali’ song and the exact lyrics I was humming, sorry shouting from inside my helmet.

“Munnil Oru Kaatrin Kali Mugathinil

Pinnil Siru Pachaikili Mudhuginil

Vaazhvil Oru Payanam Ithu

Mudinthida Viduveno”

I remembered Narayan commenting on my photo which I had posed along with my bike and guitar, “Pachaikili missing bro…” Funny fellow.

At Chengalpattu toll gate we fixed Tindivanam as our pit stop for lunch and decided we’ll keep a steady 80 km/h. I had forgotten the name of the restaurant which had good reviews in the internet but after crossing Melmaruvathur I could see the hoarding of Haritham Restaurant. That rang a bell and I got to know that’s the restaurant I had read about. That was around 10 – 15 km before Tindivanam. We had a wholesome meal and a lime soda. My travel companion was a lime soda addict. It wasn’t as great like it was raved but wasn’t as bad as other restaurants also.

We started around 2.30 from Haritham. We decided that we’d stop in some tea shop once we get into Ulundurpet. Next one and a half hours was clean riding. We kept 80 km/h pace and reached a Kumbakonam Degree Coffee shop which had shade at 4 PM. Unfortunately it didn’t have tea, we ordered a couple of coffee which was served in brass tumbler and a butter biscuit. Coffee was priced at 20 rupees and one single biscuit was an atrocious 5 rupees.

After analyzing a couple of routes, one which takes the 70 hairpin bends and the other directly to Nallathambi resort, we decided that we would take the latter. We thought we’ll keep up the pace, if not slightly higher so that we could reach our destination at least by 7 PM before nightfall.

Once we turned into Kallakuruchi, I was reminded of Saravanan Meenatchi which my mom religiously used to watch. I was also thinking, how come everything is happening as per plan, “Kolli Malai” has a history of deaths and demons. Before even I could come out of that thought, a dog came in the middle, I dashed it in spite of applying break and fell down from my bike.

Bhuvanesh who was going in front came back running and people gathered around to lift my bike. Had various scratches all around. When asked how it happened I was like, “Nai kuruka vanthuduchu” (Dog came in the middle), and Bhuvanesh was telling how it was off road but the ones who were there hit it with a stone and it came in the middle. Even if it had gone on with the flow I would have escaped but at the last moment it tried to go inside the grass field again, that lead to the fall.

The person who hit the dog with stone felt guilty I guess so whenever people asked, “epdi vizunthinga,” she tried to change the topic and said that she lifted the bike from my leg. Anyways no point in analyzing. Only then I thought what would have happened if this happened in Ladakh where I didn’t have any protective gear. Good that I had helmet so it shielded me from majority of the scratches.

Bhuvanesh took me to the nearby medical shop and they gave me shot of TT, an ORS to drink, applied some iodine solution which stinged like hell, did some basic dressing with some ointment. I got reminded of not taking my first aid box which I usually do. When you get into accident you tend to think of all negative things.

I thought I’d tease someone saying that it’d have been nice if that person also had come as pillion but after the fall I thought, good that person didn’t come. I’d have felt bad if someone else had got hurt because of me.

Bhuvanesh asked whether I need to rest or to go ahead. I decided to go ahead. I thought I’ll manage. The person in front of whose house the accident happened kept on saying, “onnum illa, methuva ponga” (it’s nothing, go slowly) and also boasted saying that a car which had people from Bangalore, got punctured there and they left it in his farm to get to the mechanic. It reminded me of ‘Madras’ scene in front of the wall. “Kolli mela kavu vangiduchu.”

Post that we were extra cautious, whenever we saw animals we shifted to the next lane and kept our speed around 50 km/h in main roads where even TVS 50 overtook us and kept to 30 km/h in the winding roads. We hardly took any break but wound started to sting more and more as evening passed by. I guess it was due to the mist and coldness. But as it had become dark we could hardly see anything.

We went beyond our destination and asked the people there, route to Nallathambi Resort. They said that we had come in wrong way so we again had to detour around 10 km. My bike’s petrol too was going to reserve. I thought about me thinking just a few hours before that no mishap seem to have happened. But then everything had happened. Funny world.

We finally reached the resort at 9 PM and inquiries about my wound started right from there. The room was decent for the cost and resort looked good with good service. We had an out of the world Tea and a decent dinner. The medical shop guy had asked to not take non veg and coconut for a couple of weeks and then laughed saying “neenga porathae athuku thana” (You guys are going only for that reason isn’t it.) I think it was his way of hinting not to have drinks.

I took a couple of tablets prescribed by him, applied ointment and slept off watching TV, thinking how the same programs we watch at home becomes extra special when we watch during vacation.

Day 2 – In and Around with Limping Leg

Lol. Looking at the title makes me feel like a title for Western film. I took a snapshot of the places to cover which was present in the reception. Good that it was almost kept in the order of distance from the resort. We woke up at 8 AM, had Dosa and Idly as breakfast and started with the longest one first itinerary. We unanimously decided that I’m going to sit as pillion in Bhuvanesh’s bike. I didn’t really have a choice.

Arapaleeswarar Temple

It was not as majestic as I expected and there were some construction work going inside the temple and outside was given makeover for a fair as from the next day, the second half of Aadi, the locals said, it would be a grand affair. When I had a fall the previous day, the person who took care of the bike asked us why we had come two days prior. But we were actually relieved that we came before the crowd.

One more point about the temple is that we get Airtel tower right near the entrance. But amongst us only Bhuvanesh got and I didn’t.

Agaya Gangai Waterfalls

The major attraction in Kolli Hills. We got a Rs. 10 ticket to enter into the 1000 stepped waterfalls. At the entrance the security scrutinized and asked what was there in the bag. When Bhuvanesh said, “camera,” he was skeptical to allow it. But there wasn’t any camera fees mentioned at the entrance. When he told that photography was not permitted, which was absolutely illogical, we told that we would not involve in photography.

To walk with broken leg and helmet to the falls was kind of tough. There were couple of caretakers with water cans. They told they’ll take care of the helmet but we didn’t oblige as we would have to end up giving compulsory tips.

All the pain leading to the falls got lost once we saw the majestic waterfalls which was brilliant. By far the best waterfalls I’ve been to. Even the deserted ones during trek wouldn’t be half as good as this one. Unluckily, due to the dressing of wounds we couldn’t get into the water. Otherwise it’d have been even more majestic. But we got some decent clicks. While standing and watching the falls, it felt like the Ravanan scene where Vikram would be standing against the winds with a blanket on.

The steps back to the road was slow and steady as I had to land both the legs in each step to proceed to the next step. Thanks to the drinking water, we could quench our taste. The constant inquiry about my injury started for the day. After a while we came out of the falls and checked where is Siru Aruvi (Small Falls).

Siru Aruvi (Small Falls)

Bhuvanesh saw from the top and said that there weren’t much steps leading to the falls. We took a much needed Tea break. Tea was average.

To be able to see water from the top was such a relief. After about 100 steps max we reached a water body, people were going beyond it to see the top of Agaya Gangai but because of my problem both of us didn’t go. Luckily one guy came and showed us the video he took inside. I consoled myself thinking that it wasn’t a big miss.

We came back again to the same shop and had Muligai Soup made of herbs. One sip and taste was out of the word. I thought of buying the ingredients if available. Coming from me it’s such a big compliment. I never buy stuff when I’m on a trip. But it wasn’t available. The soup tasted like Aatu Kaal (mutton leg) soup.

By this time our dress and shoe had dried a little but still it was not comfortably dry.

Ettukai Amman Temple

Our next destination was this temple which was situated around 5 km from the falls. It again had steps. Bhuvanesh remarked, “intha oorla padiketilatha edamae ilaya” (doesn’t this village have any place without steps).

But the place was beautiful. The deity wasn’t much crowded. The landscape was beautiful with pond and ducks. Bhuvanesh badly missed Wide Angle Lens. Good that I’ve not tried my hands on that. Otherwise even I would have started feeling disappointed.

Post worship, we had amazing Kulipanigaram and Bajji in temple premises.

Namma Aruvi (Our falls)

We asked the jackfruit seller there whether is there any place nearby to see. He said there’s a falls at about a kilometer more. According to the resort itinerary it was mentioned post another temple. Good that we asked. Another example of traveler’s instinct working.

When we reached there, it was getting overcast and that made the falls even more beautiful. It was a small, almost deserted falls with two fellows in jatti taking selfie being the only person present there. Don’t know what they’ll use that photo for or where they’ll put it. To crop them and to take a photo of us with the falls background became a herculean task. Bhuvanesh had to hurt his hand to get a proper photo.

Masi Periyasamy Temple

From there we proceeded to the other end of the world. And had to take the toughest decision of the trip. To walk or not to. After a dilemma for 10 minutes, I decided that I’ll go ahead with it. If so many old people, women and kids could walk the mountain to the temple, it definitely must not be that tough. I thought I’ll return midway if I couldn’t proceed. The dilemma was mainly due to the fact that we were getting intermediate drizzles but luckily it didn’t rain.

I slowly baby stepped to the top of temple. This time without carrying the helmet. That temple looked like a deity which was worshipped as village protector. Bhuvanesh proceeded first and kept on having an eye on me. Only at that time thinking of my fate, I thought, “konja nanjamavada adnae…” Every time I would be the ring master of the trek with constant pushing and shouting but here I was walking than the slowest of the people who had come with me for the treks. But it was good to see a person genuinely empathizing my state. I would have been a sympathizer at max.

While reaching the top we saw a person bringing a headless hen. I got to know that it was a temple were sacrifices were made. It was bloody in most of the places. Because of the Medical Shop guy’s advice I couldn’t have any non-veg food. If not for that, I’m sure that we would have got amazing Padayal’s.

While returning back, we had the amazing herbal soup again in helmet shop. Only after being inquired about the injury. Bhuvanesh started laughing, “solli solli unaku vai valika arambichidum pola irukue da” (you’ll start getting mouth ache by explaining about the injury it seems). The soup seller mentioned that the place would be crowded beyond comparison from the next day. We luckily escaped it.

We were happy that the major task was over and were courageous to complete the list.

Masila Falls

En route to Semmedu we went to Masila Falls. I started getting headache. May be because of fatigue and pain, so had Parotta alone with muligai chalna and Tea in a shop in front of the falls.

This time we didn’t have to walk a lot and it was the worst of the falls. Naturally thus it was crowded. But crowded here means 10 – 15 people and not more than that.

We were happy with covering everything on one side of Semmedu. The things missing weren’t natural beauties so I wasn’t much worried to miss them.

Botanical Garden

It was closed when we went. The authorities cited that it was getting makeover for some function. Guess it was the same the accident place guy was talking about. He recommended us to go the Boat House nearby.

Boat House

The boat house was a nice little place with very few people to enjoy the scenery and have a good time. Thanks to my legs I couldn’t do boating as it was pedal boat. Unfortunately Bhuvanesh too couldn’t go because of that. We got one decent pic and came out.

Sikku Parai Viewpoint

While returning back to the resort we thought why not go to this point as well as only that was missing from the list. So we went there. Nothing great. A crowded view point with one not letting another to see the beauty of the hills. As there were lot of distractions we came back without taking any pictures.

In all it was a satisfying day. Once in resort after having tea I checked for warm water. Like every other hotels they too had an issue with solar heater so didn’t get warm water. We went to the General Hospital to check if anything special had to be done for the next day’s bike ride but the doctor informed to continue with the current medication and change the dressing.

We got back to the resort, had the same fried rice again, and took tablets. Only while going to doctor I got to know that I had not taken the pain killer the previous day. It seemed to have got stuck in the cover.

I slept off quite early at around 8.30 PM due to tiredness and pain but more importantly due to the fact that we had to get up early the next day.

Day 3 – The Return of the Kings

Our plan was to start at get up at 6 AM and start at 7 AM. But Bhuvanesh as usual didn’t wake up to first alarm. I got up at 7 AM and started getting ready. We started by 7. 30 AM. After paying the food bill we took the road which is famous for Kolli Hills. The 70 hairpin bend stretch with mist was as beautiful as it could get. I got a “worth dude” feeling going through it. It took about an hour to come out the winding roads.

We had amazing Dosa for ten rupees each. After a long time I had 3 dosas at a stretch. Not before being asked for my injury. After taking tablets I drove very cautiously. In fact it was scary to drive beyond 60 km/h. I constantly had a feeling that some mishap was going to happen but luckily nothing like that happened. Once we hit the NH we stopped in a Tea shop where I had Maaza and Bhuvanesh had tea. There the server looked at my injury but didn’t ask anything. We decided that we’d stop after a hundred kilometers.

So did us, after reaching Ulundurpet. This time in a coffee shop where Kalakapovathu Yaru finals was being played. Here the people looked at my injury and turned head immediately thinking that it would be indecent to look at some person in that way. Bhuvanesh told that he had seen some big restaurant near Melmaruvathur and definitely wanted to try that. So we fixed that as our next stop.

We reached that restaurant around 2.30 PM I guess. The restaurant’s name I think is Gupta Bhavan. Like he mentioned the restaurant was classy. Looked like Kannum Kannum Nokia location. He ordered meals, lime soda and I ordered fried rice. Food was decent. Ours were the only bikers among a hoard of cars. Here no one noticed by injury and even I forgot that I had an injury.

Look at the transition of people according to environment. Not that I complain but the clichéd saying that farther from the city, more the love kind of holds true.

Our next stop was in the tea shop behind the Mahindra City bus stop and then straight home. Thus a rewarding journey came to an end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Camping is prohibited at Tadiandamol

It’s one plan which had been haunting me since last October. What was supposed to be a huge get together of nine people went down from nine to eight to seven to finally one. And even the last one missed the train by fraction of second. So it was me all alone. I had never done a solo trip. May be I have, for the Goa trip, but that was different case, I was more happy and confident and it was a YHAI trip, also towards the end, my trip mates were to come so that kept me going but this one was different, I went there and couldn’t complete the trek, rain was just an excuse and the solo days in Mysore were as depressing as it could get.

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This time I boarded the same train. There were two new folks to our gang. Mani who is a friend of friend and Vignesh, my school friend from Satya School joined along with Prasanna, a regular. After getting to know each other and some chatting and as per our luck, an elderly aunty who occupied half of three seater and another uncle slept sharp at 9.30 PM, compelling us to get a good night’s sleep.

Day 1 – Get Down and Walk

It was cold and as usual I slept like hell which got both Mani and Vignesh shocked but as Prasanna was used to it, he woke me up when we got to the Mysore station. I was overhearing something or dreaming which Prasanna was telling, “ivan epovum ipdi than thoonguvan” (This is how he sleeps all the time)

Everything was just the same, just like last time, same train, same roads, same auto drivers thronging. Like last time went to the same road and took bus to bus stand. It’s a distinct joy to use public transport when you are travelling to some other place. You feel as if you’ve achieved something.

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We went to Mysore bus stand by 7 and met up with the remaining gang of Mohan and Srikath who had trekked with me to Kumara Paravartha. As soon as we came Mohan hurried us to breakfast, rightly so, I thought of having it in Virajpet but we had in Mysore. Better decision.

There were tons of buses to Virajpet, we got one and settled comfortably in three 3-seaters. I slept throughout the journey. That’s my way of conserving energy, I don’t spend even an iota of energy before the trek.

Our bus reached Virajpet at around 11 AM. We immediately inquired bus to Kakkabe and got to know that only private buses ply there. Last time my only time pass was to walk and have tea at various places. I never miss a chance to have tea whenever I travel, so ordered tea in the shop next to bus stand. To my luck the bus came immediately, everyone except me either had tea or parceled it into the bus. Only me who so wanted to have tea had get into the bus without having it. Damn it. Little did I know that, it’s how the story is gonna be for the next three days.

After getting into the bus and the conductor forcing Mohan to throw the tea cup out of the window. We settled in the seats we got and asked the conductor to drop us near the base of Tadiandamol which was a few stops before Kakkabe.

We got into the bus stop, one good thing about Virajpet was all the bus stops were covered, so it was a good escapade from rains. We used the bus stop as our changing room to get ready for trek. After getting into our trek gears we started our trek, first four km was walk in the roads with rains playing hide and seek.

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Prasanna who smelled Biryani first, along with Mohan, went and asked whether it was available but it wasn’t. It was super foggy at 1 PM and as it was drizzling, it took a long time for us to cross the road or we felt it that way. I guess, we reached the end of road at around 3.30 or 4 PM. Post that there were a couple of detours here and there and finally we got on to the right track. Not before being warned a couple of times to not camp at the peak.

It was around 4.30 PM when we reached the watchmen’s place who was nice and caring and asked us not to camp. We proceeded with the trek and after half an hour reached a point where people were descending. We asked them how long would it take, they said that we had to cross the forest area and walk sometime post that.

People started getting into dilemma then. Prasanna was not able to walk so shifted his bag to Vignesh who was hesitant but took up the bag under compulsion. He who was walking first slowed down post that. As we were about to hit the forest area the winds got heavier and it started to rain. Vignesh and Mani were hesitant to proceed, Mohan too was doubtful but we decided that we’d cross the forest are and then decide.

The forest area was dark and even scarier. Prasanna said that it would be risky to come back during night, so we should tent there. There were lots of things running on my mind. I was definitely not willing to fail for the second time. I just kept on pushing the rest of the people. Decided that around 5 PM we’ll take a call. If it has to fail, it has to fail. There was one last batch crossing us who were so carefree and went up without any inhibitions. That gave me some encouragement. One of them was even wearing formal shoes. Seriously? Post the forest Mohan proceeded at a fast pace followed by Srikanth, I and Prasanna were coming at the last. Prasanna was finding it tougher and tougher as time passed by.

After a point we heard Mohan and Srikanth shouting that they had reached the peak. It was even more pleasurable to see that there were already a couple of tents there. Even though there was less space for us to pitch the tent, we were happy that we were not the only ones up there. After crossing the zero point we could see a couple of foreigners who had pitched tent.

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That place was less windy but definitely didn’t have space enough for two or three tents. After discussing with rest of members Mohan suggested we pitch at the initial place itself. I was suggesting that two tents was enough as it was starting to get cold and rainy but thanks to Mohan’s insistence, we pitched three tents.

Vignesh, Prasanna and I were sitting in my tent. Srikanth and Mohan were in a tent and Mani was sitting in separate tent. As it was raining we all were chit chatting, once it got somewhat less I went and took cheese from Srikanth who had got us for all. After having dinner at 6.15 PM, Prasanna and I settled in one tent, Srikanth and Mohan in one and Mani and Vignesh in one. I slept at 6.50 PM. When Vignesh came to tent to ask something, I woke up with a thud. I thought it had dawned but the time was 9.50 PM. I had 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Post that too I slept considerably well, when compared to rest, till next day morning 6 AM.

Day 2 – Mission Accomplished

It was still raining every now and then in the morning. There were intermittent fears as to what would happen if the rain gets heavier but as we had already got to the top, half our task was already done. I knew that by some means or other we’d get down.

Once the rains got slightly less we started to pack our tents. It was darn cold and misty so was very tough to remove the tents. We took few photos at zero point and started climbing down. We had put most of our wastes in a paper cover which Prasanna had carried for his shoes. We had to take it down.

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As Vignesh and Mani’s phone was charged the previous night with power bank they were clicking nonstop photos. A few good ones too.

I threw the bag in one corner, only to be taken by another camper and taught a lesson on how to not kill nature. My mistake. We reached the big rock in no time and started having snacks. I was damn hungry so ate a lot. Srikanth continued with the previous day’s task of removing leeches from his body.

Actually it was lot of fun to see Srikanth removing leeches while walking as well as sleeping. We would hear screeches every now and then at the night, also the other group kept on singing or laughing depending on the rain. As usual I slept well.

The other group went somewhere near the big rock and we continued with our regular path. But after sometime we could hear a sound of stream so thought what if we go on that path. It was the same place where Srikanth said the previous day that his friend could turn face using Prisma. Mohan and I decided to try the alternate path which the other guys took. When we took the path we noticed a small stream where they were freshening up. We filled our bottles and got back on track.

There was a place post watchmen’s house where there was a board, we thought of taking that path while returning as it would help us avoiding the watchman but right at the junction we were caught by him and got scolded for staying overnight. But like the rest even I was relieved as the scolding stopped after a few minutes.

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We climbed down quite fast and reached Nalknad Palace in no time. The place as such wasn’t big but thanks to the guide who made it interesting by telling the story of the king who used this as his out house, the secret passage, the dark room, old age paintings and the best of the lot, the shooting zone in the bottom, where, as he said, any hole could make us aim at the people coming at the entrance.

We decided about the rest of the plan there. Upon Srikanth’s insistence, Mohan and he decided that they’d be leaving home post the trek. We inquired few people and as per their advice, decided to visit Igguthappa Temple and Chelevara Falls, in the same order. We had buffet breakfast for hundred rupees which consisted of upma and Idly along with Coffee and Tea.

We went to the bus stop where we started the trek the previous day. A lone girl sitting there had to go out of the bus stop seeing us. Within minutes Mohan and Srikanth got the bus to Virajpet, we were relaxing in the bust stop and got bus (the same one we took the previous day to this bus stop) to Kakkabe post that. From there we took an auto, a share auto type of auto for fifty rupees to reach the temple. Everyone there inquired whether we had lunch there but as we had just had breakfast we couldn’t eat there. The temple severely reminded me of Thirunelli Temple in Wayanad, for which we had to take bus like this and have lunch. In fact the whole Coorg trip reminded me of Wayanad. We returned by the same auto to the bus stop where we had to weight about an hour to get bus to Chelevara Falls. These bus stops and public transports are the ones which make the trip interesting. Also loved the location where we were waiting for the bus stop. We even had a local cola but wasn’t cold. It was tempting to take out the camera for such scenic locales, it’d have been a great spot for portrait shoot, but didn’t as it would become a problem if the bus arrives. I settled for a couple of selfies and finally boarded the bus.

Once we got down at the Chelevara falls, we again had to search for an auto and get to the falls, a normally 100 rupees one, we got for 80 rupees. Like Prasanna mentioned he looked like a fellow from Nappathi Moonu gang. We couldn’t agree better. But the falls was a disappointment as it was crowded and not allowed to take bath. It started drizzling again and we got wet in our only dry dress. We called the same auto to return. That’s the concept there, they give their numbers and ask you to call back instead of waiting, for which we have to give extra charge. But the best part was, even for the return he charged the same eighty rupees. We wouldn’t have mind giving hundred rupees too if had been asked for.

Once we returned to the bus stop we went and had tea and puff in the only bakery present in that area, in the process missing the bus to Virajpet. We had to wait another hour to get bus to Virajpet.

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Once we went there, we got to the same Seethalakshmi Lodge where I stayed last time, only difference being, this time with success of having completed the trek. After taking bath in ice cold water, we went to bus stop to inquire buses to Irupu falls and then in search of famous Coorg pork but we couldn’t find it in any restaurant. We had to go to bar to get it. It was quite tasty though. And had Arabian dishes for dinner. What happened during that time was quite heart wrenching. A group of people shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharath mata ki jai’. Only that I couldn’t find the connection between the two. The procession which happened with so much police protection raised the tension in the air and was quite unsettling. That totally spoilt my mood.

Post that incident we crashed in the room by keeping alarm at 5.30 AM the next day morning

Day 3 – Best for the Last

Even though there was satisfaction of completing the trek, the real fun was saved for the last day. We got up at 5.30 AM and Prasanna said that he was feeling tired so wouldn’t like to join. We three went to the bus stand, had Tea and got the bus we inquired about the previous day to Gonikoppal. From there we had to take private bus to Srimangala where we had breakfast of Poori and Pathiri along with Boiled Egg and Masala. The masala was terrific, the best I’ve had yet.

From there we took an auto for Rs. 150 and reached Irupu falls. As we had a lot of time we took a lot of photos, few good ones too and finally reached the falls. As we had camera, mobile and wallets, one had to take care of luggage while the other too took bath. First Vignesh and I went and next I and Mani. Nothing like being in water, especially falls. Those few minutes were the best of the tour.

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The water flow increased and police personnel came and stood at dangerous junctions, also it started to drizzle so we hurriedly went down. We went to the temple there which was beautiful and we were the only ones inside the temple. We called the auto and had sugarcane juice in the meantime. Once the auto came, we got down at Srimangala and took a direct bus to Virajpet, but we were dropped at Gonikoppal and were asked to change bus. In that bus we had to again talk with our broken tongue saying that we already got tickets in previous bus. We got down at Virajpet around 1 PM, packed our bags and went again in search of pork.

We thought, being august 15th pork and liquor shops would be closed, that’s why we hurried for both the previous day but fortunately or unfortunately both were open. We didn’t get pork in the restaurant we were recommended. We settled for meals, fried rice and fish. Fish was best for that rate. River fishes are always good.

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We got on the bus at 3 PM and settled in two three seaters, saying ‘bye bye’ to the mountains and greenery. We reached Mysore by 6 PM. We decided to go have dinner at famous Mylari dosa, we walked till there, settled in a park nearby as if we were in Manhattan. But the quietness at the end of the trip always makes me sad, it happened then too. We had amazing butter Dosa there and walked back to station, almost 4 km but we wanted to kill time so walked to station.

Funny thing was, only our name was in the reservation list, but the coach was fully crowded. We watched the photos that we took and shared them between us. That night’s sleep was interrupted because of all the unreserved people who had got into the coach. I had to constantly keep an eye on luggage but all is well that ends well. It ended well and in fact very well.

 

 

 

 

Note: Before you start reading. If you are planning to do Har Ki Doon on your own, it’s very much doable. It’s just a four day trek, to and fro from Taluka, if you are reasonably fit. If you plan on weekends, chances are there that there might be Dhabas in the middle. At least till Osla, you can be sure of, and for little money you can get their homestay too. If at all you get a guide, try to hire a local or go through some organization. We had a terrible time with our guide, Sachin, a name you should be aware off and should stay away.

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The Beginning

It was never part of the plan, but thanks to my manager who told that I could use the comp offs along with one of my long leaves, I could make it. So special thanks to him.

Once I decided to combine the dates along with Tamil New Year’s long holiday, I started searching for treks around that time. Only Har Ki Doon was available. I wasn’t interested in Har Ki Doon as such as it was considered an easy trek. I wanted to do Roopkund, I wanted to see those bones. As April was not a season for it, I started searching for other treks in Uttrakhand and finalized for Har Ki Doon.

When I checked with my wingman, he immediately said ‘yes’ so we thought of doing it without guide but unfortunately as he had got onsite he couldn’t come. Pradeep my ex-teammate and Lakshmi, his friend joined the trek. Coincidentally we all were from same hell hole, Sairam Engineering College.

Day -2 – Feeling Home in Train

It was a bad day in office, the previous day. I was being said that I’m not responding to pings and not being available for most time. It ended of course with, “other than that, enjoy your trip,” which both the person who said and heard, knew, was just the formality.

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My train was a direct one to Dehradun, it’s the same Split train which I took to Chandigarh, while going to Spiti. I went to station by taking 1A as usual from my place. I was so confident that I gave correct change this time. Conductor said, “anju rooba?” I was like, “naan kuduthaenae” He showed me two rupees and asked, “idhu than unaku anju roobava?” The bond between Conductor and me is made in heaven. I haven’t even got this much scolding from my father.

Apart from trekking stuff I had water bottle and food in separate packet, the usual Podi Idly and Tamarind Rice. I reached the station well on time and started watching latest episodes of Modern Family. Pradeep too reached in time. I didn’t take the cash from ATM, thinking I would take in Dehradun.

Once I got into train, the familiarity was so awe inspiring that I immediately felt at home. Our topics of the day ranged from love marriage to caste abolition to work culture. It started because of the book that he was reading, “Annihilation of the Caste” by Ambedkar and I started with my Ezam Ulagam. Most of the people informed me that the book would be a very tough read owing to its content as well as the language. It indeed was.

As Pradeep had had breakfast he restricted to only two Idlys so I had to gobble up 10 in the morning, not that I complain. I went ahead with my sleep to reading routine, on and off. Pradeep too settled with his kindle on the upper berth. For lunch, by the time I got up, he had finished a Tamarind Rice packet which I had had for him. I had a very late lunch of half packet Tamarind Rice.

As soon as we got out of our place, the i-think Bengali family occupied the window seat. Especially they didn’t move out of the seat in which they’d get more air because the train moved in the opposite direction. Of course it’s their seat but not even moving out for a second, was phenomenal. Even though we too do the same when we go as a family, but this was epicness overloaded.

For dinner we finished the rest of the idly and I had Tamarind Rice. Along with 150 pages of spellbinding Ezam Ulagam

Day -1 – Tadak Tadak, Tadak Tadak

I woke up quite late. I was happy that I had caused some discomfort with the family in my coupe as I was in middle berth. They couldn’t use one side of the coupe. I had the rest of the Tamarind Rice and continued with Ezam Ulagam. I read nonstop and finished the book by afternoon.

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Unluckily for me Nagpur had come at night so I couldn’t have my regular quota of Orange juice. In some station, I think Bhopal, Pradeep got buttermilk and amazing Shrikhand which I tasted for the first time and was spellbound. That was the lunch of the day. I wasn’t willing to risk eating lunch in train or outside but our hunger pangs struck which lead us to buy dry sandwich and puffs for lunch. It was as bad as it could get.

Problem started post lunch. I got free and I got into my regular habit of starting to get worried. I already had in my head that I had to write a review of this amazing book which I had read. I could have typed in phone but more that the pain of typing in phone, I was worried about losing charge. I had it switched off.

Trust me, there is some jinx in train doors and the gushing on wind. As soon as you stand there, you started imagining yourself as Jeeva, start humming, “paravayae engu parakirai…” and think about your Anandhi. Damn it, when am I ever going to grow up. So that reminiscing the past, present and future went for some time along with an alternate reality where I start imagining Anandhi in every possible circumstances, next to the Bengali family making fun of them, next to me in train door, looking in the eyes, moonlight on top, giving that puny face sleeping in the berth opposite to her and thinking that she’d be looking at me when I had closed my eyes. The list goes on. Thanks to GVM, we are never short of moments.

For night we had puffs, chapatti, mango juice and biscuits which Pradeep had said that it was his favorite during his childhood days. Nizammudin station was as bland as it could get. What were we thinking, a three course meal at the end of the day? Once we had food, we slept peacefully but that night got really cold. I had to ask that never-leaving-the-window uncle to close the window in the morning, which he didn’t and asked me to shift to the upper berth.

Day 0 – A Disastrous Zeroth Day

The train reached about an hour late. So we had missed the 5.30 AM direct bus to Sankri. Our last direct bus was at 7.30 AM. We had fifteen minutes to catch the bus. But Lakshmi who was not with us had to come from hotel to get the bus which looked near impossible but we asked for some waiver with the conductor who didn’t want to miss us, the long tickets. We went to Ghanta Ghar which I got to know is the Hindi name for Clock Tower. We waited there for about ten minutes much to the annoyance of other passengers. Then came the heroine entry, Lakshmi entered the bus and we set off to one long journey.

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Just like my mom said I had missed the cover with water bottles in the tea shop where we were enquiring about our bus tickets to the conductor. I had gone to loo and asked them to wait in bus so that we wouldn’t lose our seats but by the time I came back they were down eating samosas and thus we lost our three seater. Once they came back I had amazing Aloo Parathas, ten rupees each on a road side shop.

We had to sit in uncomfortable two seater for some time but after that we got the three seater and it was quite free. Lakshmi was very excited and thanked me for taking her on this trip. We reached Purola in sometime where we had our lunch. Purola was supposed to be the last point where most buses travel and last point for ATM and cellular network. Don’t know what made me think not to take cash, I didn’t draw cash in Purola too. Epic fail.

What we thought would be just an hours ride from Purola, took us forever to reach Sankri. We reached almost at 6 PM. We thought of calling our guide Sachin but didn’t have any signal. We had fixed Sankri to Sankri trek for Rs. 8500, thinking it would come cheap but the entrance fee to forest department, the hotel fee, dinner and breakfast made us spend almost the same amount as that of going with any organization. We thought of reducing the trek fee to 8000 but when we talked about that to Sachin, his reply was, “I don’t have anything to lose, I will walk away even now.” Also he messed up with sleeping bags which he said that I didn’t inform whereas I had clearly informed that I’m carrying trekking bag and he has to arrange camping and food. Our hatred towards him started on the very first day. If that was not enough the hotel receptionist said that if not interested we could very well go to some other hotel. We didn’t know about the government dormitory that time otherwise we could have used that instead of the rude hotelier.

Then we had to fight for getting hot water. We finally took bath after three days and ended the day by having dinner in the dhaba which he forced us into and also took some crazy selfies. We hit the bed after a horrible zeroth day but Pradeep and Lakshmi were excited. I was still thinking of how to get rid of that asshole.

Day 1 – Sankri to Taluka Jeep, Taluka to Osla Trek

The itineraries mentioned in most of the sites are wrong. Till Taluka it’s a compulsory jeep ride now which takes about an hour. We finished breakfast and reached Taluka about 9 AM. It took a while to load the luggage to pony.

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Sachin had asked for the remaining cash but thanks to my mess up we didn’t have enough money to give him which took us to backseat. We gave him three thousand rupees and agreed to transfer the full amount. Pradeep’s dad did that.

We started our hike along with India Hikes group which to my dismay was much more colorful. Murphys law always applies to me. After a few minutes, Vijaya from Bangalore started a conversation with me but we went back and forth and I couldn’t meet her for the most part.

Lakshmi and Pradeep, being the first timers were worried whether the guide would catch up with us, which he did after an hour. Post that, he went first and we restarted our hike. We couldn’t find our guide anywhere near. That’s when the others too started getting pissed off with the guides’ attitude.

We walked and walked along the stream, stopped a number of times and continued walking. Seeing Lakshmi’s plight with her bag, one mountain girl offered to help with the luggage for fifty rupees. She took the bag with her to the town before Osla, got her Miranda and returned the bag back.

At quite a few distance from there we found an amazing place which had streams and rocks. Shot some good photos and Lakshmi took some great out of focus photos of me. Within minutes from there we reached Ganghat, our campsite, a couple of kilometers before Osla. We were so pissed with the guide that we weren’t ready to hear his explanation. We thought it was better that he didn’t come with us during the trek.

What we missed in the spot before, we compensated there. Took few great photos. Had Maggi, couple of chocolates, orange and rested for the day. In the campsite next to us was Jayasuriya, our mate whom we met during the course of the day, getting royal treatment from his guide. Here we were eating, washing our dishes, making our tents and everything by ourselves. Not that I didn’t want to do it but seeing them being treated royally made us jealous and also made us hate our guide even more.

By night it had got cold. We had our dinner and settled into our tents for a good long sleep.

Day 2 – Ganghat to Kalkatti Dhar

Our horse was in no mood to start, the next day. Even after a lot of cajoling, it didn’t. We started at around 10 AM that day with our supposedly packed lunch of one chocolate, one orange and one Appy. Good that the guide wasn’t with us. After an almost straight path of about two kilometers we crossed a bridge and went towards the left side. After walking for a while, one of the kids announced that we were taking a wrong path. Lakshmi started to fake cry which made a villager laugh. She struck a deal of one fifty rupees with a boy to carry her bag to the next camp site. We got down to the bridge again and went towards the right side.

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Our first half of the trek was decent. We met Trek The Himalayas group near a flat land where kids were playing cricket. There was a big rock which gave an amazing view of Snow Mountain behind for a good photograph. We took few good pictures there.

Seeing us take photos Lakshmi too came there only to get scolding from Pradeep for leaving the luggage haywire. Post that point was what the hectic trek of all. It became hectic not because of the route or elevation. Even though it had impact on us it was the rains which got us scared. It kept on raining till the time we pitched our camps. Only the previous day Sachin had told how there was a lot of snowfall on one of the treks and how they couldn’t proceed further.

Once we reached inside the tent we could hear the quarrel between Sachin and the helper kid (the one who took Lakshmi’s bag, remember?) he had brought. Sachin quite smartly tried to cajole him to do extra work but that kid was smarter. He escaped with 150 of Lakshmi and 300 of Sachin but he had a deal of only 250 with Sachin. Clever fella.

At about 6 PM the skies started getting clear and we could see sunlight. Lakshmi supervised in making sabji for that night which was amazing. I generally don’t complain when it comes to food. But when it’s better than normal I love it. It was darn cold that night and our tents were not pitched properly. Pradeep had a constant illusion that he was going to roll down and go to the bottom. But thanks to all the walking that we had done, we slept peacefully.

Day 3 – Kalkatti Dhar to Har Ki Doon

By far the best day of the trek. The initial ascent was kinda tough but once you climbed that, the breathtaking view was worth every pain. After that initial ascent where one side was like thousands of feet deep, we got to a small waterfall where we filled our water bottles, replenished ourselves and met with the colorful India Hikes gang along with Vijaya. After a customary hi bye we proceeded with our trek.

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Within few stops we reached the peak at around 1 PM. We had our camp pitched in a literally shitty place but the view we got was amazing. Thanks to the sun we were able to dry off our sleeping bag and dresses. Pradeep decided that he’d sunbath for some time.

I went around here and there, took some selfies, kept on staring at the mountain as if looking at a nude woman for the first time and got inside the tent.

The sun was getting too heavy for me. After a short nap of about half an hour we went to a place from where we could see glacier. But we saw Jayasuriya there, again royal treatment. We took a couple of photos and returned back to our campsite.

That night I didn’t want to risk on getting cold. I wore thermals, double socks, gloves, skull cap and everything to keep me warm because the next day we were supposed to get up at five and go to see the glacier. Thanks to all the warm clothing I had a good night’s sleep.

Day 4 – Har Ki Doon to Glacier to Har Ki Doon to Osla

We got up at 5 AM and started our trek to the glacier. Lakshmi decided that she’d not be coming so she safeguarded our tents.

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Because of less luggage I could walk at a brisk pace. Sachin tried to go in front and wait till we come but I hurried along with him. He expected me to stop for a break but even though I was tired I pushed myself just to beat him. He finally had to succumb and rest. It was a nice feeling.

Pradeep who was behind us for most part caught up with us every now and then. I took a small skeleton from there as a remembrance. We reached the tip of glacier but it wasn’t anything stunning like I expected and Sachin wasn’t in a mood to take us further so we had to return from there.

We returned to our campsite around 9 AM. We hiked about ten kilometers in 3 hours which was quite a good pace. It took a couple of hours for the breakfast to get ready and we started from there about 11 AM bidding good bye to Har Ki Doon.

It was a long journey from there. After getting down from that risky descent we thought we had missed the route. We were in doubt for about an hour and started cursing the guide for not being with us. This, missing the route has become kind of routine for me. Happens every time. But luckily for us it was indeed the right route. We found that out when we saw a Dhaba where we rested a couple of days back.

Before reaching Osla we were in a doubt whether to go to the village or the campsite. I opted for the campsite but other two said Village. But we were not sure where Sachin had exactly asked us to come. We got to know that Sachin is indeed in village. We got a home stay for the night which had very low ceiling and extremely small door. I don’t know the logic behind it but.

We saw him making food, rested for a while, got few necessary stuff from him, had dinner and went to sleep. I think because of home stay, it became quite humid inside the sleeping bag and also had few insect bites.

Day 5 – Osla to Sankri

After completing our morning ablutions from the topmost part of the village we started descending for our final days trek. That’s when Lakshmi informed that Sachin had told her that he forgot to ask the jeep fare. What an ass!

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Because he put that thing in our mind. Almost the whole journey we were planning how we would never give that amount. After half the descent my shoulders started to pain because of the weight of the luggage so I too had to take frequent stops and loosen the luggage.

Near Taluka we were able to see few birds, the one with two tail looked beautiful but couldn’t capture it in my camera. Once we reached Taluka, Sachin quietly asked about the vehicle money. He was so pathetic that he couldn’t make eye contact. It was awesome to stare at him and say a straight ‘no’. He said, “Wouldn’t it get tough if we don’t reach Sankri today,” as if like a warning. We were not sure whether he had even called for the vehicle. We were even prepared to stay in Taluka and walk back to Sankri the next day. The shortage of cash became a blessing in disguise.

We reached Sankri about 6 PM and this time decided to stay in the government dormitory for 170 rupees each. It was a lovely feeling 1) to have completed the trek 2) to have seen that look on Sachin. Pradeep wanted to have Chowmein that day so we went to a place that I had spotted on Day 0 while taking a casual walk. That along with Bun Omelet made a fascinating dinner which also lead to a peaceful sleep.

It seems that there is also a lake to the opposite side of glacier, which I was not aware and wasn’t mentioned in any of the itineraries. That was a big miss but. With Sachin this was the most that we could do. Like Naina says, “Jitna bhi try karo, life mein kuch na kuch chhutega hi. Toh jahaan hai, uska maza lete hai na”

Day 6 – Sankri to Dehradun

We took the 5.30 AM bus to Dehradun and guess what, it was the same driver, conductor pair who came with us during our onward trip. As I had packed all my winter clothing inside I had to borrow Pradeep’s shawl in the morning. But that chillness was nice, optimum level which you can enjoy. We had chai and started our bus journey. All three of us sat in separate window seat. Lakshmi taking someone’s bag from a two seater and sitting there, asking him to sit behind.

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First few hours journey was lovely, it was like being in a ship and waving your hat to your wife and kids. No matter whatever emotions you have, you tend to miss the mountains when you return.

In our first stop I had chai again and for the rest of the change, picked up their version of stale French fries. I started sleeping from there on and we had early lunch at 11’o clock in Purola where an elderly gentleman was repeatedly asking us to come to his dhaba. Post Purola the temperature really started to raise and the heat was getting quite over the top. Add to it, the kid in the front row started to cry so the bus driver had to stop in the middle for people to get down quench their thirst, attend nature’s call and mainly change kid’s diapers. It’s amazing how people take care of children, they don’t know anything to say but they have to be taken care.

We reached Dehradun about 5 PM and had sugarcane juice, the first of many which we were going to have in coming days. When asked how to reach railway station, everyone said, “panch number Vikram ko pakadlo,” which we didn’t understand. Vikram here is share auto. We took Vikram and reached railway station and started searching for a while. We finally got a decent room for one thousand rupees per day.

For dinner we went to a restaurant named Rajdhani Chicken which Pradeep informed to be the one which is quite famous. I wanted to go to the corner fast food where fried chicken were kept hanging. Rajdhani Chicken Point was quite fabulous. We had a couple of chicken dishes, the one with butter and white masala was out of the world. It was part of starter but was full of gravy so had to order their Tandoori and Romali Roti which again were amazing. But if you are going to go to this place only once, better stick only to meat.

Problem started that night with repeated visits to restroom and you know why…

Day 7 – Dehradun Sight Seeing

Morning when I woke up I was tired and afraid. Did the grandma’s recipe of coke and milk and skipped breakfast except for ten rupees sugarcane juice. We went to Mindrolling monastery which when now googling seems to be an exact replica of the one which is in Tibet. Its location, Clement Town is a nice little place with Tibetian stuffs and people. It was quite hippie too. We did some shopping, had juice and spent some quality leisure time in monastery. It was pleasant. I personally love monasteries.

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Afternoon when I suggested small glass sugarcane juice near ISBT he asked for fifteen rupees. The only point where it was fifteen rupees was where I suggested. Sweet, isn’t it? My stomach again started to make noise so had to hurry down to the room as I couldn’t risk it but that didn’t stop me from having lunch at Siddhivinayak which was a decent veg restaurant. I opted for a Veg Pulav which looked like largely uncooked and Pradeep and Lakshmi had Paneer Butter Masala and Roti, which was nice.

I preferred to stay indoors that day and guess what, that was the best part of the trip. Sitting in the room, doing nothing and watching random episodes of Friends in comedy central. But to my horror, the episode where Chandler proposes Monica came on air. Needless to say, memories started overflowing.

‘Paravayae engu parakirai…’

Day 8 – Dawn at Doon

I again skipped breakfast and went to just the FRI museum after having chota sugarcane juice for ten rupees. Every sugarcane juice other than the place I suggested had the bloody ten rupees one. Our receptionist told that they’d allow in IRA but they didn’t, we went to FRI museum but much time went in booking Tatkal ticket for me, where I had to stand in an exact spot to get signal. Who could have guessed that my ticket would stop at being waitlist 2. So had to get tickets in Tamil Nadu Express.

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FRI museum too wasn’t exciting as such with broken parks and charts everywhere. The cart ride two and fro was. The sugarcane juice was. Thanks to my problem I had to hurry home and couldn’t go with Pradeep and Lakshmi to Ghanta Ghar. I used that time to finalize on what I was going to do. Checked a dormitory where I could rest.

Once they left I cancelled all the tickets, went to the dormitory and took some rest. There was one old Indo Russian kind of elderly gentleman who was in no mood to strike a conversation. He didn’t have any luggage as such. So he was free to go wherever he wanted but I was constantly worried about leaving my camera and other stuff.

I finally did, went to have Rasamalai in an auto full of women clad in their best attire. Till now Delhi had been my favorite spot when it comes to spotting women. Now Dehradun beat it. Thanks to the number of colleges and colleges which function as colleges unlike schools/jails here, we could see much vibrant youngsters.

Once I came back, I started writing diary, for the days which I had not written I wrote from first to last line and read all the pages. It was nostalgic, sweet, sad and everything. Much of it had a mention about a particular person. Even if it’s like making a note to myself to forget it, it still was at least there in that way. I closed it with a sad smile and went for dinner in the Siddhivinayak restaurant. Fried rice there was decent.

The night bus that I had booked to Delhi was a complete mess but I was too tired to notice. There were no numbers inside. You don’t know the process to confirm your reservation, you don’t know which bus goes where etc. But I got a decent window seat and slept in all that commotion.

Day 9 – Dilli

Having been to Delhi like numerous times, it had kind of become a second home to me. Trying to go from Kashmeri Gate to Karol Bagh I opted for bus as the crowd in metro was too much. Bus was kind of free and as it was early morning there wasn’t much traffic too.

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It was again Comedy Central and Friends plus breakfast and South Indian lunch in my relative’s home. Post that we went to Qutub Minar. Good for us, as it was some archaeological day, entry was free. Qutub Minar wasn’t exciting as such and it wasn’t as good as the Jaipur one too but the metro ride as usual was lovely.

While coming back through Monday market in Karol Bagh, had a golgappae but missed chola bhatura. I somehow miss that every time. Monday market actually seemed to be a good avenue to buy cheap necessary things. But I was in no mood for shopping so didn’t get any.

Night, post dinner took a bus to station and reached the station well in advance. There was never a dearth of having juices. Lime, litchi, ice cream and mixed. It kept going on.

Day 10 – One Final Journey

It was a day I was getting friend up in the train oven. There was never a dearth of Supari clad local men in the compartment.

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I slept in the morning but kept awake post having my favorite double orange juice in Nagpur. After that three people came with tons of Supari who were on a visit to Velankanni. They made train their home. But I was lot more comfortable with them than the Bengali family in my onward journey.

Their Panner Butter Masala was teasing but I rejected their offer to have food. Even though these people, whom you’d not classify as ones with much decency, they were the ones who genuinely wanted to have food, rather than asking just for namesake. If they had asked one more time I’d have been in for a treat.

After having Idly vada in Warangal I went to sleep quite early. Even though this trek wasn’t part of any agenda, it was satisfying to complete it.