Ranikhet – Of greener grass and apples!

During my conversation with the cab driver on my way back from Ranikhet, I asked him curiously,

‘Isn’t the place and the hills around greener than usual?’ 

‘Yesterday, an old gentleman travelling with me had the same query,’  he replied, agreeing at the same time.  

Now, I’ve been to the mountains in all seasons. Have relished the hills come alive with fresh colours at the onslaught of spring in Kausani, the greens of the monsoon at Valley of Flowers and the various shades of yellow, orange and brown at Deorital. Watch them turn white at Khaliya Top was altogether another elevating experience.

But the valley had turned green now. Greener than anything I had ever seen before. I was surprised at the hues of green, which was surprising.

CHAUBATIA

Chaubatia
Chaubatia

The prime reason Ranikhet had been on my mind for a few years was apples. ‘Yes, years’. Images of apple laden trees ran through my imagination. For some reason or the other, I couldn’t make it in July or August which, as I had read, was the best time to witness fruits on trees. And though I handpicked them fresh from the trees in Manali, watching gardens bloom with fruit was what I wished for.

Though a little late(end of August), I finally made it to Chaubatia. And to my dismay, there weren’t any. None whatsoever. So much for the longing. So much for the reckoning.

It was a quiet morning. The orchard was covered in mist. My guide left after showing me around for a nominal fee. Trees of apple, peach, plum and apricot filled the valley. All fruitless though. A cool breeze blew all my yearnings. Everything seemed perfect.

To amuse myself, I finally bought and did have an apple.

My tryst with apples.
My tryst with apples.

BHALU DAM

Bhalu Dam
Bhalu Dam

Chaubatia is known for its botanical garden and fruit orchard. A further 3 km walk leads you to an artificial yet beautiful lake. And regardless of what guides suggest, one can definitely undertake this hike alone with a little direction.

The rustle of leaves and the chirping around made me pause and turn back time and again. Only to find nobody throughout except when I reached a hut to find a couple of men. In fact, they lived there and their job was to extract tarpin oil from the trees which filled the area. After a little conversation, I continued to the dam where I finally lay down.

KUMAON REGIMENT CENTRE

Kumaon Regiment Centre
Kumaon Regiment Centre

On a rainy morning, I started from the main market towards Chaubatia, which is a 10km walk on a beautiful marked road through the KRC; one of the four cantonment areas in Uttrakhand. The museum, established in the 1970s archives collection from wars fought by the regiment.

One comes across old and colourful bungalows dating back to British times on the Mall road. The area is clean and green and just charming for a morning walk.  It also comprises of a military ground, park and lake along with several short trails to tread on.

Lansdowne: One of the four cantonment areas in Uttarakhand

UPPER GOLF COURSE

Upper golf course
Upper golf course

The golf course is one of the major tourist attractions near the place; without a lot of tourists though. In fact, there aren’t many in the whole town. I hitchhiked my way up to the place which is what I mostly do.

Getting to converse with strangers and being greeted by amused faces is fun and the best form of learning about the place, culture and the place. A DSLR and a travel bag with related attire for sure makes it very easy.

I napped on the green grass until someone woke me up and asked for my whereabouts and pictures of them. I clicked some and spent a quiet evening there which doubtlessly was a fine one.

MAJKHALI

Majhkali
From Majkhali

If Ranikhet was quiet and green, Majkhali was both multiplied. Had I known more about this place before, I would have definitely preferred more of my time(including nights) here. On a clear sunny day, there is a good chance that you get to see some of the snow-clad Himalayan peaks. There is though, surety of the vast and gorgeous hilly landscapes which extend to a great 180 degrees. With several home-stays, this is a good option for a getaway.

Exploring in and around Binsar – Uttarakhand

Tips from the traveller:

  1. Don’t forget to dip in the mesmerizing views of the Kumaon hills from Seven Stones – A few km from Chaubatia. 
  2. Hike up to Jhula Devi temple towards Chaubatia, which is the most you will be allowed to. The region onward is notorious for leopards and you can hitchhike thereon.
  3. Hike to Bhalu dam without a guide.
  4. If silence doesn’t kill you, stay at Majkhali.
  5. Take up short trails from the Mall road.
  6. Best Time: Round the year. June till mid July for apples. Snow at Chubatia forms great visuals.
  7. Duration: 2-3 days. I stayed for 3. 
  8. Stay: Plenty of options at the main market. 
  9. How to reach: Overnight bus to Haldwani and to Ranikhet thereon.
  10. Explore more and let me know if you should share.
The Raw Traveller
The Raw Traveller

 

Majhkali
Majhkali

 

Ranikhet
Corn time.

 

Chaubatia
A rainy day in the hills.

More from Uttarakhand:

Magic in Pithoragarh!

Exploring Rishikesh – Beyond river rafting!

Magic in Pithoragarh !

What do you remember most about a place?

Is it the alluring landscapes of a secluded hill or the architectural marvel of a historic city? Unexpected encounters on the road or friends from a town you may never see again?

Or do you only recall the much-publicized tourist points of interest and cafes and their starry lights?

While we wandered without expectations, what we were fortunate to witness was a stunning sunset; a play of cinematic skies and it’s colourful emotions. A breathtaking evening that will last a lifetime.  

Khaliya Top: Magic of first snowfall

PITHORAGARH

Pithoragarh town

On our way to Munsiyari, we decided to stay at Pithoragarh for a couple of days. It was only after browsing the map(one of my favourite hobbies) of north India that I came across this place. It is less touristy and I had never heard of it before. I liked the sound of it though. These were enough reasons for me to want to be here.

A district in the east Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the town is a couple of hours from the Nepal border. Though located in the extreme east of the state and lesser-known, travellers en route Munsiyari and Darma valley stop by, who surprisingly aren’t a lot, given the fact that people do not want to be on the roads for a long time or visit unpopular destinations. Chaukori(3hr from Pithoragarh) is again a gorgeous hamlet where one could get a panoramic view of the Himalayas, most notably the Panchachuli peaks.

Gorkha Fort and Chandak hills are the most notable viewpoints apart from the terraced fields, the town’s setting and temples of course.

Kasar Devi – Exploring lesser-known places in Uttarakhand

THE SUNSET

  • The golden ray of hope?

It is said that magic happens when you least expect it.

After an exhausting 15hr journey and motion sickness to my friend, all wasn’t good. The crowd of the main town didn’t please us either. After adequate rest, we walked the town and explored nearby areas the next day.  And while we already had the grand view of the town from the Pithoragarh fort early in the morning, it didn’t stop us to want to just sit and watch the sun go down. Built by the Gorkhas in the 18th century, the fort provides a great view of the main town.

It was late evening and we were startled by the act of the skies enhanced by changing colours in the backdrop. A golden ray cut the sky and the towering mountains added drama to an unpredictable story. It seemed like a path customed for a UFO; the kind shown in the sci-fi movies. I had seen innumerable sunsets but this was an occurrence. A ‘once in a blue moon’ happening. Gradually the tale unfolded shades of orange, red and pink before it mingled with the Earth as the city lights came into action.

A fitting climax.

OTHER INFO

How: Delhi >>Haldwani >> Pithoragarh. Early morning buses and shared jeeps/cars are your best option.

When: Winters.

What else: Munsiyari, Darma Valley(via Dharchula) and Chaukori. Away from tourism and a lot to offer.

 

Take a U-turn for Pithoragarh.
Some great posing.
An evening to remember.

Exploring Rishikesh: A exhaustive guide to Rishikesh beyond river rafting

India has a lot to offer. Don’t just follow the trend. Explore.

Stay raw!

Exploring Rishikesh: Beyond river rafting!

Considered to be the yoga capital of the world and one of the holiest places to the Hindus; Rishikesh has been the abode to spiritual gurus and teachers transmitting ancient knowledge of spirituality, meditation, yoga and Indian mythology.

Located at the foothills of Himalayas, the town derives it’s significance and lifeline from the mighty Ganges that originates from Gangotri glacier in the upper Himalayas and flows through the town before running down the plains.

What amazes me though is that there is something here for everybody. From seekers in their quest for higher knowledge to adventurers who need their timely dose of adrenalin rush. For the young and the old. For the body, mind and soul, there is a little for every sphere of human life.

EXPLORING RISHIKESH

THE TOWN

  • A walk on the Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula – Surprisingly, the bridge in the name of the younger brother is more popular since Laxman is believed to have crossed the river on jute ropes. Though closed for 2 wheelers now amid safety concerns, pedestrians are allowed in limited numbers. Not far, is the Ram Jhula which is equally iconic.
Ram Jhula
Early morning sunshine on the iconic Ram Jhula.
  • Attend the aarti at Triveni Ghat. You don’t have to be religious to experience certain aspects of various religions which can evoke any kind of emotion or awaken a few sensory organs in you. The aarti(hymn to Lord) in perfect rhythm accompanied by fire brought a sense of calmness. A stillness that can only be felt if you are completely in the moment, without any prejudice.
Triveni ghat- Rishikesh.
Mesmerizing aarti at Triveni Ghat.
  • Explore the narrow lanes of the town and know more about the historic place.
  • Take a minimum of half a day to immerse in the vibes of the place where the Beatles once stayed – the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram now popularly known as the ‘Beatles Ashram’.
Beatles Ashram
Beatles Ashram

THE HERITAGE

  • Visit and experience the vibe of the quiet and heavenly ashrams. You could stay and enroll yourself in one of the meditation and yoga programs.  There are several yoga classes daily too. People around the world come to learn and imbibe it in their lifestyle which natives run away from.
Parmarth ashram- Rishikesh.
A breathtaking view from Parmarth ashram.
  • Attend the daily Ganga aarti at the banks of the river just opposite to Parmarth ashram. Listen to the chants and the tinkle of bells.
  • Visit a few of the innumerous temples. Most noticeable for it’s architecture is the 13 storied Trayambakeshwar temple.

Know more about Pushkar and ‘the grand mela’!

LEISURE TIME

  • Sleep on the white sand beaches of the river. There are various spots on both sides of the river. You should find your favourite one.
White sand beach - Rishikesh.
Take a break. Leisure time at the white sand beach.
  • Watch the rafts go by. It is just pleasing to watch colourful rafts sail through the current of the river one after one, the whole day.
  • Explore cafes with a view. One of the easiest and most pleasurable things is to find some herbal tea and relish the sheer beauty of the aqua blue Ganges and the green hills around. Rishikesh is full of them – without burning a hole in your pocket.

ADVENTURE

  • Start your day with bungee jumping at India’s highest point by Jumpin’ Heights. The thrill doesn’t get any better than this. Yes, I’ve jumped and it was the only time an adventure activity terrified me.
  •  There are short treks around but if you go higher up the hills from Rishikesh, there is a whole mountain to climb depending upon your appetite. Beginners can start with Chandrashila, VoF or Kuari Pass. The route to these treks is via Rishikesh.
  • Camp near the river(or streams now since riverside camping is no longer allowed) and take a dip in the river.
  • And of course, go river rafting. Not adventurous enough? Learn kayaking. Yes, there are professional courses on offer too.
Dip in the holy river.
Dip in the holy river.

AROUND RISHIKESH

  • Explore the Vashisht caves, 25 km from Rishikesh. I was greeted with cool air, the fragrance of holy incense sticks and a few sadhus and foreigners meditating in peace.  I rested for a few minutes too.
  • 5 km from Laxman Jhula is the picturesque Neer Garh waterfall.  Thankfully, it is relatively lesser-known and still clean. If you do visit, please let it be.
Neer Garh waterfall.
Pristine Neer Garh waterfall. This was some sight.
  • Visit the historic city of Haridwar. An hour from Rishikesh, one can treat upon some mouth-watering street food and witness the amusing crowd and religious ceremonies at the filthy ghats. And yes, you can totally avoid the much-hyped and commercialized aarti at Har ki Pauri.
Haridwar
Haridwar – Contaminating Ganga – In the name of the Lord, Mother and the Holy Spirit.

The Ganges is a sacred river and is revered as ‘Mother Ganga’ and rightly so. Anything that is infinite and a life-giver is worshipped by the mortals. The saddening part though is that the same river is abused and infected with unwanted substances and taken for granted in the name of worship and honour.

WHAT ELSE?

  • Well, it depends on you. How much do you want to explore? What are you seeking?
  • I met folks from around the world. Tony and the sailor from South Africa(below) among the ones I can fondly remember.
Cafe View- Rishikesh
Solo travellers. In the frame from South Africa. Behind the lens from India.
  • Befriend a doggo.
Chill time with my friend at the beach.
Chill time with my friend at the beach.

OTHER INFO:

Travel: Overnight buses from Delhi. Prefer late night ones.

Time: 5-6 hours.

Best Time/Season: October-March.

Stay: Budget hostels.

Duration: 3 days, 3 months or 3 years. Up to you. I’ve been here half a dozen times. My last stay was for 3 days.

Go solo. If you never go, you will never know.

Exploring the historic city of Amritsar

Sadhus and Ashrams.
Sadhus and Ashrams.

 

Street food- Haridwar
Trying a hand at the street food in Haridwar.

 

Yoga time
Yoga time

HAR HAR GANGE!

More in Uttarakhand: The tranquillity of Kasar Devi 

Rohtang Pass – A picturesque road trip !

While Manali was sleeping, I woke up to the burble of the gushing river and though, lazy as I am, some comforts have to be sacrificed to experience the wonders of this beautiful world.

ABOUT THE PASS

At a height of 13,058 feet, Rohtang Pass connects the Kully valley to the Lahaul and Spiti valleys and the highway to Ladakh. Notorious for it’s treacherous roads and erratic weather, every turn on the ascent is but a frame worth absorbing; reminding of the paradise of our dreams.

Also read: To the temples below water

MY RIDE

It was one of my most adventurous rides. It was rainy and I was riding through the clouds. The roads were broken and weren’t visible for more than 10 metres. Even less sometimes. The slope was steep and the rush high. I happened to skip the yellow stone landmark until I finally discovered the change in tilt after a few kilometres. And there I was at 0800 hours, all alone taking in as much as I could. Sighing with delight and amazement.

More of biking:  Riding through the wildlife sanctuary and the most haunted fort

I might as well let the pictures do the talking.

Curvy roads. Aligned buses.

 

Traffic one wouldn’t mind.

 

Kursi ki peti baandh le. Mausam bigadne wala hai !
The wait to Ladakh..

 

To seek and not to yield.

 

Cloudy day that.

 

Timer shot.

 

Prayer flags at the pass.

 

Corn at 13,000ft anyone?

 

Biker gang.

 

Time to stand and stare.

 

Magar ye raasta.

 

The customary wave. 🙂

 

The yellow stone landmark.

 

DETAILS 

  1. Where: 52 km from Manali.
  2. How: Best mode would be a motorcycle. Even better, cycle if you can. Yes, a few daring souls do take that adventure. I wouldn’t recommend a car/taxi until and unless you are with your kids. Or maybe if you do not know how to ride a motorbike. Maybe not even in that case. You got to learn to ride one.
  3. Height: 13,058feet.
  4. Permit: Required. Even for visiting Rohtang and coming back the same day would need one. Check the link Rohtang permits
  5. Weather: Erratic. Clouds accompanied me to the pass while raindrops gave me an affectionate send-off.
  6. Scenery: If your eyes can see what mine did, words would never be enough.
  7. Roads: Broken, slippery, risky ascent, zigzag at intervals. Take your own time. Do not rush. I took n number of breaks to get absolutely blown away by the valley. Each frame after the hairpin-bend better than the other.
  8. Best time: The pass opens around late May till late September or early October depending on the weather. The web would suggest May-June as the best time. So it would have been if not for queues, long enough that you can comfortably stare at the traffic and prepare a cup of tea and fry some triangles to go with.

I rode at dawn in mid-September and believe that there absolutely cannot be a better time than when you own the roads to yourself and do not have to listen to honks of cars filled with the city crowd.

Note: Monsoons are a risky affair and the hills are prone to landslides. 

Only a biker knows why a dog sticks his head out of a car window.

Read and know more about my ROAD TRIPS

MY TREKS AND EXPERIENCES

Travel raw. 🙂

 

 

Beatles Ashram – Where the rock band stayed, meditated and composed!

Be it selling hippie culture in the name of Marley, cafes with posters of Morrison or baked food as German when there is no possible connection with Deutsch, Indians possess the unique ability to even sell water to fish.

So be it with Chaurasi Kutia, except the fact that the Beatles did stay here. 

MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI ASHRAM

Beatles ashram
Transcendental meditation – A meditation technique made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

A 15-minute walk from Ram Jhula, it is located within the Rajaji National Park, overlooking the town of Rishikesh. It was a centre for students of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s and 70’s to learn transcendental meditation.

Chaurasi Kutia
Chaurasi Kutia

The place comprises of a huge hall, a kitchen and a few abandoned buildings that are in a dilapidated state. The most noteworthy thing about the ashram is the cottages known as Chaurasi Kutia (’84 huts’). These are numbered huts in the shape of dome, meant for the stay of guests for the meditation programs run by the ashram.

The place now also boasts of a small café, lots of spider-webs and decay.

Beatles ashram
Just let it be.

Know more about – The largest ‘Camel fair’ of the world

THE BEATLES CONNECTION

Beatles ashram

One of the most popular bands in the 1960s,  The Beatles visited the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968 to learn meditation. It is said that they wrote more than 40 songs during their stay, including some that were later featured on “The White Album” and “Abbey Road.”

Their visit gained worldwide media attention and Rishikesh- tourists, yoga and peace seekers from all over the world.  The ashram remained closed after the lease expired and turned into ruin before finally opening up to the public in 2015. The iconic band’s reference has since drawn lots of interested international tourists/band’s followers while others followed suit.

Beatles ashram
Band members with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Furthermore, what also makes it appealing now is the various graffiti which have been worked on by talented artists both from India and abroad.

Read: Mysterious temples under water for 9 months

ABOUT TONY

Beatles ashram
Tony Ricucci- Young as ever.

I met Tony on the way to the ashram and we hit it off straight away. As we explored the ashram, I got to know about his love for music festivals and other global and exotic events (Burning Man for one) and how he had been travelling solo to attend some of the most popular ones around the globe. A resident of San Francisco, he considers Bali to be his second home. A retired attorney, he is now also actively involved in various volunteering programs. It wasn’t surprising when he told me that he had actually witnessed the Beatles live in action in his younger days.

Beatles ashram
Rishikesh as seen from the ashram.

Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled.

And this young gentleman definitely had lots of stories to narrate. There is so much to learn from people of such kind. Enthusiasm, Passion and Liberation amongst others.

GRAFFITI FROM THE ASHRAM

Beatles ashram
The source of life.

 

Beatles ashram
Holy cow!

 

Beatles ashram
The Maestro. Pandit Ravi Shankar

 

Beatles ashram
Imagine. Create. Is it so difficult ?

Next time you visit Rishikesh, you might well want to explore this place too.

DETAILS

Where: Rishikesh. A 15-20 min walk from Ram Jhula.

Why: To feel the vibe, realizing the ‘productive period’ and stay of one of the most iconic bands of the world. Rest, the place greets you with fresh air and cool graffiti.

What else: Absorb nature. Listen to birds chirping. Meditate.

Timings: 9 am to 5 pm

Read: Explore the historic city of gold

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.

Stay raw.

Camping at Khaliya Top – The longest night of our lives !

After what we thought was a decent sleep of around 5-6 hours, we woke up to the rustle of wind against our tent. It was dark and still snowing. ‘Should be another couple of hours to dawn’, I thought. 

At -15 degrees, we were now uneasy and fidgeting, desperately waiting for the first signs of the sun. Rahul, on his first ever trek, was clearly not at ease, when he asked for the time. I looked for my torch, which lit up my watch only to my dismay. The hour’s hand was only hovering around 11. I was appalled. 

‘2 am it is’, I lied in fright.     

I knew it was going to be a very long night… 

Also read: The night when I slept in a cave

THE STORY BEFORE

Fairyland.
Fairyland.

An upward hike led us to the KMVN guest house under 3 hours. Three young, amicable and enthusiastic photographers joined us which made the experience all the more amusing. The plan was to camp nearby due to access to the food and water at the restaurant. Khaliya top is less than an hour’s trek from here.

FIRST SNOWFALL

Before we even had our first sip of tea, the clouds introduced themselves and the heavens opened up. Little white balls of cotton came flying down over the valley. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had waited a lifetime for this. The weather gods made sure that the reward was nothing less than miraculous. And it just kept on snowing for hours, turning the place into a white wonderland.

Our excitement and energy levels knew no bounds.  We performed our snow rituals, had some snacks and quickly pitched our tent. It was getting dark and a lot colder than I had expected.

Also read: Camping with the locals

Our first experience of snowfall.
Our first experience of snowfall. Bliss.

THE NEVER ENDING NIGHT

Waiting for dawn.
Waiting for dawn

...I sat back and tried to calm myself. Sleeping bags and all our woolen and jackets weren’t enough for the enormous cold that the Earth emitted. I had spent quite a few nights(even alone) at sub-zero temperatures, but this was something else. The night didn’t seem to end. A quarter turned into an hour.

I turned, twisted and changed postures every couple of minutes but slumber was nowhere to be found. I breathed deep and tried to talk Rahul through the night; comforting myself at the same time. Chatter from our neighbors was now distinct too. And for what could only be worse, it started snowing heavily again.  

I realized that this was only a trailer of the mega adventures I wanted in life. Maybe a sign. Nothing worth having comes easy.

The unbearably slow passage of time made me check all the trivial activities possible in a 6*4 feet tent. Little naps in between helped. By 5, we started prepping for the trek to the peak and were out of our tent to the harsh cold and quiet dark valley.

UNFORGETTABLE SUNRISE

Summit. Serene and Spellbinding.
Summit. Serene and Spellbinding.

The track was slippery and dark. Head-torches and a little shine from the half-moon came to the rescue. An upward cautious trek was definitely better than shivering in our sleeping bags.

The horizon changed colors and I believe there is absolutely nothing prettier and awe-inspiring than this sight at dawn. Silence and expansive nothingness stood out. And then there were the 5 Panchachuli Peaks, the tallest of them, which looked at you right into your eyes. The Majestic and the Invincibles. The first rays of the sun hit the snow to pay their daily homage to the mighty.

Nature’s artistry and romantic sublime; conditioned men of the cities will never know.   

Also read: Summit with 360 degrees view of the Himalayas

A sunrise to remember.
Soaking in the first rays. A sunrise to remember.

It is said that the best view comes after the hardest climb. In our case, it was after the longest night.

 

Mountains. Majestic. Mesmerizing.
Mountains. Majestic. Mesmerizing.

DETAILS

Height : 11,500 ft.

Where: The trek starts 8kms from Munsiyari. Ask anybody in the town. It is the most popular place there.

How to reach Munsiyari : Delhi >> Haldwani>> Munsiyari

*There are only one or two vehicles that make the long journey early morning from Haldwani. So plan accordingly.

How: Buses and shared jeeps run every day to the starting point to Khaliya Top trek.

Time: Around 4-5 hours to the top.

Camping and gear: There are a few shops at the Munsiyari bus stop which provides all kinds of camping gear at very reasonable prices. Tents, sleeping bags, sticks, etc.

Best Time: April-June and Oct-Dec for snow.

Read all my treks here – MY TREKS

 

Rebel. Radical. Raw.
Rebel. Radical. Raw.

The whole point of our lives is meaningless if not lived with passion.

Stay Raw!

Connect with me on Instagram and Facebook. Happy to help and inspire!

To Bhrigu Lake – A 3 day trek near Manali !

Another one of my solo treks.

And with every trek, I am only realizing how much I love my company, the need to spend more time with myself, undertake more challenging treks, get fitter, inspire, experience the new and fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.

A trip to Manali is incomplete if you haven’t trekked to Bhrigu lake. And the sad part is that most people don’t.

About the trek

Camps at Gulaba.
Camps at Gulaba.

If you are not taking a guide along, it is important that you take the right trail. It can be via Kothi or 22nd mod(turn) after Gulaba as some blogs or websites refer.

But the best and the most trod one is the 14th mod after the Gulaba check point.  The 6km trail would take you to one of the most beautiful campsites in a charming meadow within 3-4 hours. Now identifying the starting point of the trail near the 14th mod may not be the easiest thing (it should be under 100 metres from the hair-pin bend).

I waited until I met a shepherd who directed me. Shepherds remind me of Santiago. I must have read it a dozen times. Still remains one of my favorites. Quoting from The Alchemist:

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

And mine is only to travel to unknown territories.

Read: All my treks here !

Of Camping and Trekking

  • Rola Khuli - One of the most beautiful campsites.

These beautiful camps in yellow(in the picture above) at Rola Kholi belong to Indiahikes; one of the popular trekking communities in India. 

No I do not trek with them nor do I have any intention to. These communities provide proper guidance, delicious food at 15,000ft and all sorts of facilities and back up. A 2 day trek gets converted into a 4 day one and becomes doable for beginners and the fearsome.

That has never been my idea of trekking. I love uncertainty, the anxiety, fear and the rush that comes along while climbing mysterious mountains and taking up unfamiliar trails. Too much comfort beats the whole idea of hiking. Also I do not have a lot of people to talk to, which is a bonus. Conversing with nature and oneself gets easy.

FYI: I spent 1,200 bucks(Manali to Manali) for an otherwise 10k one. That includes overeating and my raw adventure.

For beginners :  Weekend treks near Delhi !

My stay and experiences

  • The Uncle and the nephew.

I reached the campsite only to find out there were no tents on hire (another adventure I thought). The only shop providing food and camping facilities had their tents all eaten up by the grazing cattle along with grass.
I took off my shoes, talked to the owner and headed straight into the shop with my backpack and lay down without asking too many questions. I knew this was going to be my home.
An Uncle and nephew run the shed, which remains open from May to around mid September depending on the weather.

Little did I know that my short stay(2 full days) here would turn into one of my most cherished experiences. Since it was raining incessantly, I spent most of my time inside – binge eating, drinking all kinds of tea and sharing experiences with the congenial duo.

The elder one was funnier than usual, cracking jokes and taking a dig at every known human being(not even sparing myself). I laughed even if I didn’t fathom all of it. With the usual bidi in his mouth, he would narrate unusual stories of that part of the mountains, mostly in his local pahadi language and accent.

The rains wouldn’t stop and and the night got colder. I was offered lugdi, the local alcohol made of rice. And though I don’t feel the need to intake intoxicating drinks or substances, I couldn’t refuse on this. It was strong and stirring. After much insistence, I gulped down 2 glasses and pretended to feel sleepy. 😛

Read: Another trek, another adventure. My stay in a cave !

Bhrigu Lake

  • Tucked high up at 14,000ft.

Take detailed instructions from locals at the campsite or risk it on your own on a trail that is not clearly defined. I was on the verge of getting nowhere until I found a trekking group and hiked with them.

It takes around 3 hours to reach the lake, which is tucked high up in the mountains at 14,000 ft. Covered in fog, the green lake hid quietly, ascertaining whose presence is difficult otherwise.  Although small, it’s presence is mysterious and captivating at the height it is.

It’s water level has been decreasing, people say. Give that to global warming.

*Have to say that the trek and the campsite are equally dreamy. This should be a must do for everybody.

Details:

Height: 14,100 feet.

Length: 11 kms to the lake. 6 hours.

Best time: Monsoons(June- Sep). Yes this is a monsoon trek.  You would find snow in other months. Needless to say, the trek would get difficult too.

Stay: Advisable to carry your own or risk it like myself. In the latter case, you should be ready for whatever comes your way. The only shop there remains open from May to around mid September.

How to reach: As mentioned above, take the trail from 14th mod after Gulaba checkpoint.

Read: The best monsoon trek in India !

More from the trek..

The genius of George Orwell or the poetry of cumulus clouds ?
Enroute Bhrigu lake.

 

Priceless dawn !

If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, then all possibility of life is destroyed.

Take risks. Challenge the status quo. Question yourself.

Stay raw! 🙂

 

 

 

Kareri Lake Trek- Pristine and less explored !

Hill stations nowadays are no more than crowded towns at high altitudes. Treks to Triund and Kheerganga are getting too popular and as a result are in the process of getting ruined by litter, noise and ignorance of ‘educated’ people from the cities (yes, that is us).

Still pristine and lesser known is this 13 kms long trek that starts from Kareri village. As a beginner with little experience, if you are looking for a trek in the mountains near Delhi and need some fresh air along with some spectacular views, the trek to kareri lake fits the bill perfectly.

Let us have our adventure, but also learn to trek responsibly.

THE WRONG TRAIL 

Kareri Lake

Now, I have done a lot of solo treks and make it a point to read a little bit about the trail and this was no different.

The trail starts from Kareri village and joins a road in 15-20 mins which leads to a bridge from where the main trek begins.   

Having known this, I started with the company of a couple and a few others as well. The trail seemed clear and as an established rule, we kept following it. Gradually the trail started getting narrower and we realized that it was the wrong track; so much for my knowledge of the trail. It was only me and the couple now; the others it seemed had changed their course some time back.

It was 2 hours into the forests; we still decided to go on until we finally caught up with the main trail which guessed, would not have been too far away. The trail had all but ended and we opted for some adventure; ascending the mountains without a trail, fighting the tall bushes, retreating and then again looking for some other way. Another hour passed and we had realized that something was definitely wrong.

It was not just the wrong trail; we were climbing the wrong mountain.

It was decided that we should retreat. It was about 4 in the evening and we were back at the same little cafe treating ourselves to some packaged juice and noodles where we were 5 hours back. I found in myself a case of stupidity and the situation funny.

THE RIGHT ONE 

As mentioned above, the way through villages will ultimately lead to a road which reaches the bridge and this is where the trek to the lake begins. It must be just a little more than half and hour from Kareri. A right turn just before the bridge(picture below) and you are well on your way. No further instructions required as the trail is pretty much clear henceforth.

Kareri Lake- The Raw Traveller

Down with fatigue but refreshed from a break, we started again on the right trail. I decided to stay at Reoti, which was halfway down the trek. I learned that camps would be available there. Every step was getting difficult since I had been carrying a 55 litre backpack too which was filled with unwanted stuff. I had intentionally got it heavier just to get used to it and train my shoulders. It served the purpose more than my imagination, though.

Also read: Solo trek to Deorital lake and Chandrashila summit. You can too.

GUFA CAFE – Story of the cave

Kareri Lake trek

The trek was a decent ascent through forests to mountains and a stream intersected it within the first couple of kms. I kept going. It was 2 and a half hours when i finally caught sight of a tea stall on the rocky mountains where the waterfall flowed through the valley. I threw my bag in relief and sat down. ‘Done for the day’, I told myself.

It was here that I met Bablu, my saviour. He invited me to his little cafe/shop(named Gufa Cafe) and gave me the option of sleeping in a cave, he implicitly owned. The cave could easily accommodate me and he had an extra sleeping bag. I was overwhelmed. I had no second thoughts. This saved me from another 300m tiring climb to Reoti and provided an experience raw enough to remember.

I sipped black tea at the evening twilight as the colors of the skies gradually faded. More trekkers could be seen,tired and eager to reach Reoti. I lay down and counted stars as dinner was underway. Fresh rotis and potatoes were cooked by Bablu at the cave itself.  In no time, I gulped it down and slept on a bed of leaves; smug and carefree.

This was a night to remember. The gentle rays of the moon kissed the valley and the mountains resonated with the gushing sound of waterfall.

Explore Bir and paragliding: 2 hours from Dharamshala

Kareri lake trek
View from my room at dawn. Priceless!

KAANCHA – The trekker

Kareri Lake trek

I woke up before the sun to the amazing view of the quiet valley and started the trek. Now I was quite sure I would be all by myself before someone started barking at me. I tried to calm him down. He introduced himself as Kaancha, the fittest trekker there was in those mountains who had completed the trek a record 253 times. I told him that that there was really no need to accompany me since the trail was pretty clear. He insisted. I agreed. We made friends and trekked a little more than 2 hours soaking in the first rays of the sun.

Kaancha would now and then, run here and there looking for food in every packet he could find but never went out of sight. He turned back and made sure I was on the right way. He though made it a point to bark at every cow he could spot. It was though just a statement he was trying to make to them; never serious.  I pat him and tried clicking pictures but he didn’t seem too interested. Trekking was fun for him; pictures didn’t matter.

Finally after reaching the lake, I offered him his favourite pack of biscuits(Parle-G) and we bade goodbye to each other. In a nutshell, he reminded me everything about the life of a nomad.

THE TREK

Kareri lake trek

Reoti to Kareri lake is about 6kms. The trail is upward, chasing the waterfall. It is well defined and the whole trek from Kareri village to the lake can be made in 5-6 hours.

Must read: Weekend treks near Delhi for beginners

KARERI LAKE 

Kareri lake

The origin of the waterfall is the Kareri lake. The lake is pristine and you would find horses and cows gazing around the green meadows surrounding the water body. The Dhauladhar mountains cover the other side of the lake. There are also a few shops near the Shiva temple providing food and tents.

I took a stroll around the lake with my camera and in my enthusiasm even tried going to the midst of it until i found myself struggling against the marshy ground that kept pulling me towards it’s swampiness, however hard i tried. I tried recalling Bear Grylls’s strategy and it was definitely not to try hard in such circumstances. 😛
It was an adventure nevertheless and yet another episode of amusement.

Kareri Lake- The Raw Traveller
Warning : Too much enthusiasm and adventure may lead to this.
Kareri lake
The Dhauladhar mountains on the other side of the lake.
Kareri Lake
The Shiva temple and the tents overlooking the lake.

Details:

Height: 9,625 feet.

Length: 13 kms. 5-6 hours.

Best time: March-June and October-December. Avoid monsoons.

Stay: Camps available at Kareri, Reoti(at halfway) and at the lake too. Same goes for food.

How to reach: Dharamshala>> Ghera>> Kareri

Limited buses(2-3 in the whole day) run from Dharamshala to Ghera village(1 hour distance). Please inquire at the Dharamshala bus stand about the timings since it keeps changing. Shared jeeps ply from Ghera to Kareri(half an hour). Needless to say, take an overnight bus from Delhi to Dharamshala.

More from the trek !

Kareri lake - The Raw Traveller
Aunty sahi raasta kaha hai. Bas beta udhar. Udhar kidhar aunty ? Bas wahi par. She tried her best though.
Kareri lake - The Raw Traveller
Apun ko toh bas nap maarna hai !
Kareri lake - The Raw Traveller
Dekho chaand aaya. Chaand nazar aaya.

What you can do nearby..

  1. Explore Dharamshala and Mcleodganj.
  2. Stay at hostels in Dharamkot.
  3. Experience the fascinating ‘temples under water‘.
  4. Paragliding at Bir-Billing– 2 hours from Dharamshala.
  5. Explore the lesser known Naddi – 15 mins from Mcleodganj.

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. 

Read: All my treks here

Stay raw 🙂

 

Bir, Billing, Paragliding and more !

A little adventure for the body and mind blended with some peace for the soul makes a perfect recipe for a great trip. That is why exactly you need to be here. To sense the rush of flying in the skies and to still the mind.

BIR

  • Let silence take over.

Two things particularly stand out in Bir – Monasteries and the Landing site.

It is not enough to just click pictures of the artistically built monasteries. The worship place of Buddhists demands that you spend some time here and connect with silence. Listen to the incredible chants followed by drums and bells. It sends a powerful yet soothing message, deep inside you. A message which can be decoded only in silence.

We sat inside the monastery listening to the shlokas being chanted by hundreds of monks in perfect rhythm and were even offered tea. The vibrations cannot be not felt.

A walk around Bir monastery will bring you to radiant faces of playful young monks, some of whom are studying, performing duties or cracking a joke or two. Simplicity and enthusiasm reflected on their faces.

Evenings can be best spent, admiring the colourful paragliders making their way from the hills, into the skies and landing into the charismatic sunsets at the landing site.

Other Monasteries  Tsering Jong and Choukling.

What else ?

  • Visit the Deer Park Institute; Meditate.
  • Go on nature walks and short treks around. 
  • Long hike – Trek to Rajgundha and camp over night. 
  • Some waterfall – ask the locals; we missed it.(I made it on my second visit-solo. It is a hike that starts from Gunehar)
  • Rent a bike (cycle) and explore.  
  • Try Tibetan food. 
  • Explore cafes. 
  • Connect with nature and yourself- most important. 

Explore-  ‘Temples under Water’– 2 hours from Dharamshala.

PARAGLIDING – BILLING

  • 0......... Get ready to jump.

This is for everybody. You do not have to be a daredevil for this. More than an adventure, it is just flying in the skies.  A bird’s view is what you get; you become carefree and jubilant on a flight that lasts around 10 minutes. 

Billing is the highest point for paragliding in India and if you want to fly, you should absolutely do it here. Period. After the 2015 Paragliding World cup that was held here, the place has gained immense popularity and remains the best in India.

About 40 minutes from Bir, this is the take-off site where you will find pilots harnessing people, fixing their paragliders, getting ready for the flight and eventually taking off.

So set your fears aside, give up that excuse; I have seen 10 year olds do it.

PALAMPUR

  • Through Palampur.

Palampur is a small town in Himachal known for it’s beautiful tea gardens.  Now that you have reached Bir, there is no point missing Palampur which is within an hour’s distance. We reached Dharamshala and visited Palampur en-route Bir.

Places of interest:  Tea gardens, Saurabh Van Vihar,  Tashi Jong monastery and temple in Baijnath.

Must read: Guide on exploring Amritsar in 3 days

MORE FROM BIR

  • Palampur
    Palampur.

WHY ?

For it’s young and peaceful vibe, and a little adventure.

HOW TO REACH ?

Buses– From Delhi to Baijnath(30 minutes from Bir) or to Dharamshala(2 hours) if you want to visit that too. There are a few direct buses too.

Trains-  Delhi to Pathankot. Bir is 4 hours from here.
I would recommend the first option. 

STAY ?

Hostels for solo travellers, backpackers.
Guest houses available at reasonable prices too.

BEST TIME ?

March-June and October-November. Avoid monsoons.

Also read: What to do at the largest Camel festival in the world !

Pondering will get you nowhere. Leave.
Just leave mate 🙂

Bathu ki Ladi – ‘Temples under water’ !

If you only travel to places everyone else does, you will only have experiences similar to everyone else.

After 2 hours on the powerful Himalayan wheels, under the scorching heat of the fiery sun in the hills, a year-long or rather about 300-day long wait and anticipation but sans expectation turned out to be a dramatic and much-cherished affair.
Two things became clearer to me that day:

  1. To travel without expectations.
  2. Global warming is taking its toll. 
Bathu ki Ladi
Bathu ki Ladi – Mystery temples.

Bathu ki Ladi‘ is a cluster of temples that remain under water for 10 months and are only accessible during the months of May and June when the water level decreases. Built centuries ago, it is a wonder that the temples still stand upright after remaining under water for more than 40 years.

Bathu ki Ladi

I had to wait quite long for this. June end means a 10-month long wait to get a chance to see this hidden gem. I had come across it somewhere on the web and it caught my attention straight away.

It seemed one of a kind.

It was a 2-hour adventurous ride on a motorbike hired from Dharamshala through hills, villages and the dry banks of the reservoir. The unbearable heat invited severe migraine but the unknown and exciting was yet in store.

Biking to Bathu ki Ladi
My first sight of the place. Pure bliss!

I was ecstatic. Overjoyed as a baby, when handed stuffed toys.
This means everything to me.

The sight of vast grasslands brought joy like no huge concrete stuff ever did.  Patience and adventure were rewarded. Refreshingly blue water body and contrasting grasslands opened up to the furthest our eyes could go.
And there stood those temples; out of nowhere. Pure magic.

The place gave vibes of Ladakh’s Pangong lake(except that it was almost deserted- the best part) and was a sight to behold. The setting was unimaginable; the feeling indescribable.
Read: Biking solo to Bhangarh and Sariska

What and Where?

Bathu ki Ladi

Submerged in Maharana Pratap Sagar(a reservoir created by Pong dam in the early 1970s), Bathu ki Ladi is a centuries’ old cluster of temples in Kangra district. They are believed to be built by the Pandavas while some think it was constructed by a local king. The fact though remains unknown.

How to reach?

Biking to Bathu ki Ladi

The temples can be reached via two routes:

  1. Dharamshala-Kangra to Jawali(About 60 km).  Jawali is a small village from where the rough road stretching around 10kms to the temples begin. We hired motorcycles from Dharamshala and followed this route.
  2. The second would be to via Dhameta, a small town in Kangra. A further 3 km from here would take you to the reservoir from where you can reach the temples via boat ride.

Overnight buses run every day from Delhi to Dharamshala.

When?

Bathu ki Ladi

Though visible March onwards, the best time to visit would be in the months of May and June.

*Beware of the blazing sun.

Go to places less travelled to. Explore. Set out on an adventure.
Life is short.

Also read: On the way to Lansdowne

More scenes from Bathu 

The Raw Traveller !
The Raw Traveller!
Adventure is out there. Get out and travel. :)
Adventure is out there. Get out and travel. 🙂
Biking to Bathu ki Ladi
Riding the Himalayan and then this place. Beyond words.

What you can do nearby..

  1. Explore Dharamshala and Mcleodganj.
  2. Stay at hostels in Dharamkot.
  3. Do the trek to ‘Kareri lake‘.
  4. Paragliding at Bir-Billing– 2 hours from Dharamshala.
  5. Explore the lesser-known Naddi – 15 mins from Mcleodganj.

Open to all queries/questions. Type in.

TRAVEL RAW 🙂

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