Leh Ladakh – A Mountainous Desert

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Day 1

Disclaimer : We went to Leh with the intention of participating in The Half Marathon that happens at 11142 Feet. Read all about the marathon here and check out my experience of the marathon here.

The trip started with a flight from Mumbai to Ladakh with a small layover in Delhi of about 40 minutes.

Take my word for it, do what you have to, but make sure you end up on a window seat. That Himalayan view is something you won’t see anywhere else! Those white clouds like balls of cotton, clean brown mountains with literally no vegetation and then the snow clad mountain ranges.

Pro Tip : When you take a window seat, make sure you don’t take one in the centre of the plane, or else your view will be blocked by the wings or propellers.

 The landing at the Leh airport is also very fascinating. The airport area is a flat plain situated right between a range of mountains tied to each other like the knots in your earphones just after you take them out from your pocket. One thing to note is, photography is not allowed anywhere near the airport! Phones or memory cards can be confiscated or you’ll bee made to delete your photos.

The Ladakh Airport, more like The Ladakh Air Strip.

There are no taxi meters here, prepaid taxis is the only way, but the prices are standard, so no chances of one getting cheated. One has to buy a pass from a ticket window and then head to their respective taxi!

There are two main area for stay:

  1. Somewhere near the Changspa Village
  2. The Leh Market
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We were staying in Evam Chunka, exactly opposite bobs cafe. It’s a good hostel/hotel and very reasonably priced! I personally recommend it cause the caretakers/owners are really nice people who will serve you with mint tea/coffee or normal tea right outside your room.

As far as acclimatisation and care for the first day go, one must just drink plenty of water (4-6 liters) and avoid any kind of physical exertion in the first few hours and neither go to sleep. Avoid sleeping even if you’re tired from your journey or sleep deprived due to an early morning flight. The reason being that the air is too thin and your body hasn’t gotten used to it yet; and sleeping in this situation would mean inadequate oxygen supply which would only cause severe headaches.

The reason behind drinking excessive water is that the body uses the excess water in the system to absorb and make up for the lack of oxygen in the air. In case of a headache, take a crocin (cause we are more accustomed to it) and not diamox (despite it being recommended for acclimatisation at high altitudes, diamox takes a few hours to show results, also, please double your water intake if you’re switching to a diamox routine. I would strongly suggest taking your doctor’s opinion)

While I am not a doctor, I’ve trekked at high altitudes a few times and finished my Leh Marathon without the use of diamox. In my personal opinion, it is not  necessary to take it (unlike a lot of people suggest). Even if you do, start a day before your trip and not after reaching Leh.

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Steps to Shanti Stupa

For lunch, we went to Rice Bowl, a good and peaceful place and one must try the ‘Kashmiri Dum Aloo’ there! As far as mobile networks go, stick to BSNL (surprising, I know!) or Airtel. Cellular data displays 2G, however it is pretty non existent. Most restaurants and cafes have Wi-Fi, with a rotating password that changes everyday.

In the evening, we headed for the stairs of the Shanti Stupa, and marvelled at the shades of sunset. There is also an alternate route to go there via a vehicle, which is towards the other side. The slope is about 1km in length one way, a great place to practice for the marathon.

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View from the top of the steps
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View from the top of Shanti Stupa

We were lucky enough to see a full moon, rise from beyond the mountain, which was magnificent and I was lucky enough to grab that on a time-lapse.

One must be very careful to climb down irrespective of the time of the day, because the steps are uneven and there are no railings whatsoever. It is also a must to carry a powerful torch or use the flash off the phone, for the same.

Reminder : Your phone battery will give up on you a lot faster in cold weather. You won’t realise how it drops from 70% battery to 40% within 30 minutes.

We had dinner at Bob’s, and slept by 9:30 due to excess fatigue and an early running and workout plan the next day.

Day 2

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View from the hill

The next day started at 6am. We freshened up and set out for our morning workout. Through the market, taking the uphill route that goes towards the Khardung La pass, we went up 6kms, rested and did some more light jogging followed by another 6kms downhill on our way back. This was one of the best routes I’ve ever jogged on.

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Runner’s High + The View = Literal Heaven Feels
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A Seat with a view
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During the whole journey, we made sure we hydrated adequately. It is also recommended to buy a cotton mask here, due to a lot of dust. It is available in most stores in the market, and barely costs 50 rupees. However, it is quite uncomfortable especially if you wear specs, since mouth breathing causes it to condense on your glasses (super annoying).

Once back at our hotel, we freshened up and then set out to collect our race bibs. Later we enquired about hiring a car and bikes and headed for lunch.

Important : It is important to note that a permit is required if you’re stepping outside Leh, which includes Pangong Lake, any of the high altitude motorable passes, etc.  which can be done at any travel shop in the market.

Later around 4, we hired 4 Royal Enfields (commonly known as bullets) and set out to the magnetic hill! The route is beautiful, unlike something I’ve ever seen! And the journey takes anywhere between 60-90 minutes. Also worth noting is that the rental companies mess with the ignition so that the bike is unable to go too fast, so if you really want to enjoy your bullet or speed up, figure that out beforehand.

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The magnetic hill and phenomenon is very real and works on a vehicle as big as an army truck! Just 5kms ahead of that, is a sangam of two rivers, also where they take you if you want to do some rafting.

While going to the magnetic hill, one will come across the Patthar Saheb Gurudwara. It has a very interesting story behind it. This place is solely managed by the Army and has the best masala tea in Ladakh. A heaven for tea lovers, who don’t get decent tea in the city!

Day 3

Today early morning, we set out towards the Pangong Lake. We hired a car the previous day, and left Leh at around 8:30am. The distance to the lake is not more than 150kms, however it takes 5-7 hours or sometimes more due to bad roads and depending on traffic(usually an army convoy or too many vehicles on a narrow road) and the climate.

It is totally okay to skip breakfast and leave early, since there is a small strip before the first checking, where one can have breakfast. These places serve delicious Aloo/Cheese/Paneer Parathas with Rajma (Beans) and curd. We could not enjoy as much as we would’ve liked, because the weather switched to extreme cold and snowfall while driving up the hill towards the Changla Pass.

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At Chang La Pass

It is the second highest motorable road, after Khardung La at 17688ft. The air up here is extremely thin and oxygen scarce. So it is advisable to just get down, freshen up, click some photos and leave and not overexert physically.

Ps. Me and a friend went and played with ice for not more than 5 mins and felt nauseous with a head splitting headache right after we got back in the car.

NOTE : IT IS ADVISABLE TO STOP FOR PHOTOS ONLY ON YOUR RETURN JOURNEY BACK FROM PANGONG LAKE, SO THAT YOU CAN REACH THERE ON TIME DURING DAYLIGHT!

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The cold weather continued, and it was super windy at the lake. Usually, it is cold all through the summer months too, however not too windy! After clicking photos at the start of the lake, we headed forward to the Shooting Point as the locals call it (the place where the final scene of 3 idiots was shot) which is a better place to click photos, and then head ahead towards the tents!

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Pangong Lake Shenanigans.

One has three options while coming here :

  1. Leave early morning, visit the lake and come back.
  2. Spend the night at the lake and see the sunrise the next day.
  3. Spend more than one night here.

Note – Last I heard, staying at the Pangong Lake has been discontinued due to the Indo-China Border disputes. I am not certain and would ask you to do your due research beforehand.

If you’re going for option 2, it is advisable to stay in a tent which is about 5-7 kms away from the start of the lake. It is quite economical and one can select a tent based on the luxuries they need.

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That is how option 2 looks.
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Option 2 from the other side.

And if you’re going for option 3, one can opt for proper wooden cabins, that offer a great view of the lake.

It should be noted that the lake area gets colder than Leh city, and hence proper winter wear (preferably snow wear in case of extreme weather) is advised.

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A choice of soup, fried rice and some eggs is all you’ll get near the camp site! One has to drive all the way to the start of the lake for better food! The organizers usually have a campfire at 9:30!

There is nothing else much to do here!

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Pangong Lake – Sunrise Time Lapse (Video)

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We woke up at 4:30am, just to see the sunrise and catch this view!

This is The Pangong Tso or Pangong Lake, an endorheic lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet situated at an elevation of 4,225 m (13,862 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and divided into five sublakes, called Pangong TsoTso NyakRum Tso (twin lakes) and Nyak Tso. Approximately 50% of the length of the overall lake lies within Tibet, 40% in Ladakh and the rest is disputed but controlled by China. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It has a land-locked basin separated from the Indus River basin by a small elevated ridge, but is believed to have been part of the latter in prehistoric times. (Source : Wikipedia)

Check out our entire experience from our trip to Leh Ladakh, India.

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and Youtube.

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Deorital-Chandrashila Trek – With India Hikes

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There are a lot go reasons why one should experience trekking and this trek especially – the forests, the birds, the fabulous mountain views, the experience of living in a tent at 0 Celcius, Overall adventure, etc. For three days, you trek through dense rhododendron, maple and oak forests. On the fourth day, you trek with the most astounding views of the Garhwal peaks. Atop the peak, on a clear day, you can get a 360 degree view of peaks like Nanda Devi, Chaukhambha and Trishul.

Another highlight of the trek is the chance to climb up to the world’s highest Shiva (also known as ‘Mahadeva’, one of the principal deities of Hinduism) Temple. Tungnath is a thousand-year-old temple and is one of the five Panch Kedar, the holiest of Shiva Temples.  The sunrise (we managed to capture 2 time lapses do check it out towards the end!) from the Chandrashila summit wraps up the trek with strong emotions and memories to take back home.

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Day 1: Getting to the base camp – Sari

  • Altitude: 6,601 feet

On the first day of the trek, the journey began with a drive from Haridwar to Sari village. The journey was picturesque the confluence of Rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi to form River Ganga. The entire journey traverses the mountain side, with the river flowing below you. 

Quick tip: Pick the window seat on the right to enjoy the views!

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This is the actual initiation of the biggest river in India, River Ganga. This is the point where Rivers Bhaghirath and Alakananda meet. It is the River Bhaghirath that has its source in The Gangotri Glaciers.
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The view of the mountains from our car enroute Sari Base Camp.

We reached Sari by 6 pm. Sari is a small village with around 100 houses. If you reach Sari when the sun is still out, go down to the village and walk around. There is a small school amongst the fields. This school was built in 1947 and is the only school at Sari. The views around the village are gorgeous!

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The Sari Village, Uttarakhand

Day 2: Sari to Deoriatal

  • Altitude: 6,601 feet to 7,841 feet
  • Distance: 3 km
  • Time taken: 1 hour

The adventure starts from Sari. There is a sign-board indicating the trek route to Deoriatal in the heart of the small market in Sari. The sign board says Devariya Tal, which is an alternative name for the lake. It’s called so because it’s believed that devis (Goddesses) once came to the lake to take a dip.

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A well-defined rocky trail is laid here. This trail begins with a gradual climb up the mountain. After approximately 15 minutes, we came across village houses and an old local temple.

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Ten minutes into the hike, the trail starts to become steeper and steeper. The forests have been cleared here, so one will get a good view all around. At the valley-facing end, one can see the summit of Chandrashila and below it, the holy Tungnath temple. The trail is well-defined all the way to Deoriatal. After a steady uphill trek for about 20-30 minutes, we reached the first view-point. The Forest Department has constructed a hawa ghar for the travellers here. This spot is ideally located to relax and feast your eyes with a grand view of the mountains and the valley.

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The walk towards Deorital.

After a steady hike of ten minutes, we reached the second view-point. Now, at 7,434 feet, Sari was no longer visible.

With only a kilometre left, we found ourselves at the backside of the mountain and got a view of the Ukhimath side of the valley, though only for a while. Another 20 minutes later, we found a dhaba.

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Deoriatal is just two minutes away from here. After a very short downhill trek, the surroundings opened up to a grand view of Deoriatal, with Mt. Chaukhambha looming in the background.

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Our Campsite in Deorital
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There’s nothing much to do here as you reach, you can go around the campsite and explore the trails around. The forests around here are lovely. An enthusiast can be able to see and hear several rare Himalayan birds. There’s a watch tower close to the lake that gives you grand views of the surrounding mountains.

The beauty of the view generally intensifies in the morning, when the clouds have cleared to offer unreal views of the hills. No camera can ever do justice to these scenes.

Although getting ready and packing up at 6am at Zero Degree Celsius can be a big and time consuming task. We had a record of not being on time a single day of our trek. Wrapping the sleeping bags can be tricky too if it’s your first time and one must come to terms with using the portable toilet. Personally, washing dishes or hands in that cold was the most daunting task. Since the temperature falls below zero degrees by 8pm, with winds, the water tends to freeze or is on the verge of it.

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View From The Watchtower

Day 3: Deoriatal to Rohini Bughyal

  • Altitude: 7,841 feet to 8,790 feet
  • Distance: 8 km
  • Time taken: 6 hours

There are no water sources during this trek. The next water source is a small stream towards the end of the trek and otherwise directly at the campsite at Rohini Bugyal. We always carried atleast 2-1 Litre Bottles with us. Carrying a bladder is a good idea, however it’s hard to carry when you already have a trekking bag on your shoulder.

Full of rhododendron and maple trees, this trail was a beautiful one. Every now and then, the Kedar Dome and Chaukhamba peaks peek at you through the trees and don’t stop being mesmerising.

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There is a small clearing as we exited the forest. In front of us, the Chandrashila peak was visible.

Taking the ascending trail ahead of us as we got a much better view of both sides of the valley. The ascent is steep, and one can hire a porter in case picking up their backpack becomes too difficult. However, this has to be decided and told to the trek leader the previous day at the base camp. The fee is about Rs.350/day/bag.

After 15 minutes of climbing the ridge, there is a hill-top with a flag post. This is Jhandi Dhar. In the month of March and April, the trail is blazing with red and pink flowers of rhododendron.

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The forest continues to thicken throughout the trek. We were mistaken to have thought the forests until now were dense. In some areas, we also found snow across the trail. It is important to see whether that snow is fresh or frozen. Fresh snow is never slippery, frozen snow is! One should always watch every step around snow.

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From here, there is a steep descent. The descent is sharp, but pleasant. Further, the trail took an eventful turn as we entered the forest ridge. The flora of the region was stupendous. Every now and then, we came across small shrines with bright yellow flags tied to them. These were all made by tourists and localites. One could use these as landmarks to ensure they’re on the right trail. One should keep an eye out for wild animals here, although they don’t usually show up around groups, especially during the day!

After 20 minutes of gradual ascent, there’s a walk on level land, the trail opens to a small pasture land. We exited the forest even as the view of Chandrashila peak greeted us up front. Just before us, there was a second forest ridge that needed to be traversed. The trail ascended sharply as we re-entered the forest once. This part of the forest had some of the oldest oak, maple and rhododendron trees of the Kedarnath Sanctuary.

By now, we had already trekked approximately 5 km. There were three trails branching out from here. From here, we could see the Kala Parvat, which is a peak located on the right of Chandrashila peak. Below Kala Parvat is a small glacial lake, called Bisuri Tal. As the legend has it, the Pandavas hid their weapons here.

The trail from here was a leisurely walk ahead for about 30 minutes as we passed a small rivulet. The stream was the only source of water and it is advisable to fill your bottles here. Rohini Bugyal is about a 3 minute walk from here.

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Campsite at Rohini Bughyal, with a view during sunset.
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Rohini Bughyal

Day 4: Rohini Bughyal to Chopta

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  • Altitude: 8790 feet to 9100 feet
  • Distance: 6 km
  • Time taken: 5 hours

Rohini Bughyal is a small meadow surrounded by a beautiful rhododendron forest and  view of the Kedar dome and the Kala Parvat peaks. The sunset view from here is incomparable!

This was a short and easy trek that involved traversing the ridge of Rohini Bughyal to enter the meadows of Bhrujgali. From the campsite of Rohini Bughyal, one can observe a tall rhododendron tree, which is just a five minute walk from the camp site.

We entered the forest of upper Rohini Bugyal and reconnected with the trail to Chopta. The trail that ascended gradually all the way to the top of the forested ridge. It took us 30 minutes to reach the ridge top, which was covered in dense forest cover. The locals call this spot as Tikidi Khal.

From here, there are two trails.

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We took the second trail and descended 500 feet to reach the stream crossing. It took us 20-30 minutes to reach the stream. It’s a good idea to refill your water bottles here. There is a small bridge that needs to be crossed. We were lucky to get a lot of snow here, which meant snow fights for an hour.

From here, we took the trail that now ascended gradually with a series of three scissor bends. As we climbed up, the view of the valley got better and better. Around 20 minutes of steady climb took us to a small meadow. There were a series of shepherd huts here made of stones. In summer, one could find locals occupying the huts with their livestock.

As we entered the meadow, a diversion towards the right and around 20 minutes of descent through a jungle trail,we came upon a road ahead. A kilometre walk from here to reach the Chopta campsite. 

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View from the road, enroute Chopta campsite. You can also check it out here!
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The road towards Chopta.
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Campsite at Chopta.

Day 5: Chopta to Chandrashila Peak via Tungnath and back to Chopta

  • Altitude: 8790 feet to 12,083 feet
  • Distance: 8 km trek
  • Time taken: 4 hours

We were ready to leave by 3:30 am, so that we could treat ourselves to a sunrise view from the Tungnath and Chandrashila peak. The trek from Chopta to Tungnath is accessible via a cemented pilgrim trail. It ascends sharply via a series of scissor bends. The walk is pleasant, but is a very steep climb. The trek up to Tungnath temple is approximately 2 km.

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The Tungnath Temple

Chandrashila peak is 1.5 km above the temple . The route to Chandrashila peak is through the backside of the temple. During winter, this trail is completely buried in snow. Those planning to do a winter trek here by themselves, are strongly advised to carry crampons/micro-spikes and an ice-axe. We too went in December, however there was only one occasion of light snowfall and hence no extra equipment was necessary.

The sunrise on summit

The climb from Tungnath to Chandrashila was an ascent of 600 feet and was a very steep climb. After negotiating a series of switchbacks, we reached the upper base of Chandrashila Peak. From here, the summit of Chandrashila is visible. The climb up to the summit takes 30-45 minutes.

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The view of mountains before sunrise
Sunrise Time Lapse on the opposite side of sunrise!
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After sunrise.

Once at the top of the peak, one can get a 360 degree view of the mountains of Garhwal and Kumaon. Walk past a tiny temple and see some great mountains of Uttarakhand, like Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba and more. The sunrise view from this spot is the best I’ve ever seen.

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The route, To and From the Chandrashila peak.

The trek back to Chopta is via the same route taken to reach here. It takes 20-30 minutes to reach Tungnath and another 60 minutes to reach Chopta from Tungnath.

A 360 degree view from the top of the summit!

We chose to head down to Chopta on the same day.

Day 6:  Depart for Haridwar

We Boarded our jeeps from Chopta for a drive back to Haridwar. We reached Haridwar between 6 – 7 PM. It was about a 10 hour car ride, so one must leave accordingly.

It is advised that you keep a buffer day because the weather is unpredictable in the mountains. Rest at Haridwar for the night. You can explore Haridwar the next day and take the Mussoorie Express or Nanda Devi Express to Delhi in the evening.

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Deorital Chandrashila – Chandrashila Peak – Time Lapse (Video)

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This was the view on one of our treks that we did. We started our summit climb at 3am and reached the peak at 6am, just before sunrise. I hope you enjoy this video!

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This was the view on the opposite side of the sun:

Check our experience of the entire trek here!

Note : For more updates and photos, please follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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Eyeing The Storm!

Does travel always have to be about sugar spice and everything nice? About rainbows, sunshine, sand and snow? What lies on the dark side when you flip the coin? Oh no, this isn’t an article about traumatic travel and bad experiences, on the contrary it is about finding your baddest self, pushing boundaries and coming out a survivor.

In the peak of summer vacations (May 2018), trying to get last minute train tickets to North India is an adventure of its own. After 2 weeks and 6,000, I had no tickets in my hand. As postponing the trip was not an option, it was time to find alternative mode of transport and so; 35 hours, 5 states and 4 “cheapest available” buses later, my broke ass was in Delhi. 

In the next 12 hours I cramped in a cold shower, a nice lunch and one hour of sleep on a bed that wasn’t moving at 60km/hr; before hopping on to bus #5; now accompanied by my friend that finally got us to Mcleod Ganj. In the second that my eyes feel upon the golden snowy peaks at 6am, the past 57 hours just melted away. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!

Excited to start the hike, we dropped our luggage, had a nice breakfast and at 10am began walking on the 9km trail to the famous (and crowded) Triund top. Taking our time, enjoying the views and constantly struggling to find peaceful sweet spots between Bluetooth enabled music warriors, we made it to the top at 2.30pm.

Enjoying the warm sun and cool breeze we stared at the awe inspiring snowcapped mountains, mesmerized and lost. It was all sunshine and sheep (coz their ain’t no daisies up there) till at 5.30pm we suddenly saw darrrkk clouds approaching. Before we knew it, it seemed like the ridge was floating as everything around disappeared. The clouds were moving in so fast that it looked like a time-lapse. Amused by the approaching storm, the pests of Triund started hooting and howling; like rowdy teenagers aboard a train in a tunnel.

Triund was soon hit by a thunderstorm. At 6pm it turned pitch black, with rain accompanied by thunder and lightning coming down hard. People had taken refuge in their tents or the tiny shops on the ridge and were enjoying this weather. My friend and I, sipped hot tea, watching the pouring rain, blissfully unaware of what was in store for us that night.

Soon the rain stopped, AND IT STARTED HAILING!!! We left the overcrowded shop and ran to our tent. As we lay there laughing at people in the neighbouring tents demanding room service, I managed to doze off.

Suddenly, I woke up to the sensation of someone hurling stones at my leg. It took me a while to realize that the wall of the tent was now sticking to my leg and through it the hail was hitting me hard. Before I could gather my thoughts, I felt the tent uproot. It was a tiny tent, and before I knew it a quarter of the tent was already off the ground. We hastily grabbed what we could, put on our shoes and abandoned the tent. The second we stepped out, our tent took flight like an eagle. I held on to it with all my strength but surrounded by tents on all sides there was no way the tent and I could both survive.  Having no intention of Mary Poppins-ing my way down the valley; I sacrificed the ₹3000 tent and ran for my ₹3100 life.

Feeling cramped yet safe in the tiny stone structure, we were unapologetically sipping on hot chai and licking plates of steaming hot Maggie and Rajma Chawal; while a local who had dragged our (surprisingly still intact) tent patiently waited for us to leave. After something close to 2 hours he shoved the still assembled tent into our hand and virtually kicked us out of the shop. (Guys, people in Himachal are the nicest people you will ever meet and it there was really no place for him to keep us).

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We dragged our half drenched asses with the still assembled tent to the shop we had rented from; but there was no shelter for us there either. Like an animal, we inspected various spots and plopped ourselves on the most protected (by few rocks and other tents, also as far from the edge as possible) and least mucky piece of land. The tent owner zipped us in and warned us to not unzip the tent no matter what. There was now a sense of security in knowing that I would drag 20 other tents with me if I took flight again.

Lightning lit up Triund relentlessly while hail persistently tried to rip through our tent. As I lay there drenched, shivering in my sleeping bag next to my snoring friend I wondered if “I’d ever see civilization again?”; “Would I see another sunrise?”; “Was this the end?”, when the winds picked up again and I was pulled out my open-eyed nightmare.

Next thing I know, the entire tent has been pushed down on me. As I lay there flat on my back, suffocating under the tent while the hail stabbed me, I started to laugh. In total acceptance of the dangers around me, there was a weird sense of freedom in that moment. Being on that open ridge, exposed to roaring thunder and lightning, I felt more alive than I ever had. The fleeting nature of our lives; that we live through in such oblivion had never been so clear to me.

The winds slowed, the tent went back to normal and believe it or not I actually managed to sleep through that thunder storm. As soon as dawn broke, the snowcapped peaks glistened gold against the bluest sky I’d ever seen. With a hot cup of chai, I soaked in the chirping birds, grazing sheep and sparkling green grass. Smiling at my new self, ‘the survivor of the storm’.

500 people ran down Triund that day. Every café, street corner, souvenir shop of Mcleod Ganj was abuzz with stories of terrified campers from Triund top. The locals laughed and the tourists swore they would never go back to Triund.

As for me, I cannot wait to go back; and beyond.

Everyone today is a “traveler” and every “traveler” wants to “find themselves”. Often we get on a plane, get off at a tourist spot and see everything around us through the screens of our phones and view-finder’s on our cameras.

Travelling has become more about posting stories, clicking pictures (that you will never see again) or making vlogs. But do we actually try to find ourselves? Do we leave behind the world we come from and try to connect with the world we have come to? To experience it, soak it in, live in it? Or are we just trying to impress the circles on our social media apps? Don’t travel for your phones, “Travel for you Soul”.

That night, a storm hit Triund again. From the safety of the balcony at my hostel I looked at the lightening, the clouds and the rain. Sipping on my chai and smirking at the roaring thunder, hoping this storm too would help calm the storm inside a traveler.

Ps. For more photos follow @travelforyoursoul_ and check highlights on instagram!

Phase 10

Phase 10 is a card game.

I recently read an article in the Bombay Times saying the lockdown has seen a surge in the sale of board games. Big Bazaar reported a record sale of 20,000 Boardgames since the lockdown started. Honestly, I’m not surprised, just happy. Ever since I ventured into the world of board games I always knew it had massive potential, and I’m going to use this platform to spread that which brings me to the review of a famous card game called Phase 10. 

If you’ve grown up in a Gujarati household like me, you’ll relate to my card playing obsession. While the world at large is out there playing Poker we’ve made our peace with Black Queen, Mind Coat and the likes. So this game is going to intrigue you, if you’ve not played it already.

As the name goes, the game is played in 10 Phases and is a modified version of our very own Rummy. You’d be surprised to know that the game was created in 1982, but it became popular only post 2010. Once in the market, the game became Mattel’s most sold card game, only 2nd to UNO.

Phase 10 can be played between 2 to 6 players and an average game takes about 45 mins to 1 hour to wrap. It consists of cards between 1-12 with Skip and Wild cards. The game also comes with an instruction card which tells you the Phase you’re required to make to advance to the next one, as well as the scoring to be followed. The interesting part about this rather simple game is that you can modify the rules and play with different variants. Follow the phases in the sequence given or let the players chose their order after looking at their cards with the condition to eventually complete all 10. This makes the game dynamic and keeps the interest level intact even after multiple plays. If you wish to experiment a little, you could try playing the game with the below phases.

Phase 1: 3 of 1 colour + 1 set of 2 + 4 of one colour

Phase 2: 1 even or odd of 8

Phase 3: 1 set of 4 + 1 run of 4

Phase 4: 2 sets of 3 + 1 run of 3

Phase 5: 1 colour run of 4 plus 2 sets of 2

Phase 6: 1 colour even/odd of 7

Phase 7: 1 set of 4 + 1 run of 5

Phase 8: 1 set of 5 + 1 run of 3

Phase 9: 1 run of 8

Phase 10: 1 colour run of 6

This game is easily available for purchase through various online/offline modes. However, do stop by our Instragram page @Boardgames Hub for discounted rates or contact us on whatsapp directly.

If you liked this post, please also check our review on Azul if you haven’t done that already!

Boardgames Hub rating:

Game: 7.5/10

Difficulty level*: 1.5/10

 (* 1 being the easiest)

Azul

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Board games in India for most of us have been limited to Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, Scrabble and Life. However, there exists a huge selection of games across the world, a lot of which we’ve never heard of! Today, we’re going to review one of these for you- ‘Azul’

Michael Kiesling, a German board game designer created Azul. This game besides being easy and fun to play is also aesthetically very pleasing and very well designed. Besides many other accolades, 2018’s Best Family Game is the most prestigious one.

Azul can be played by 2-4 players. The components of the game include 100 tiles , 4 game boards, 9 factory displays, 4 scoring markers, 1 starting player mark and a linen drawstring bag. It is a tile placing game, where you work on your craft on the left side of the board and on completion of the round, move the qualifying tiles to the right. There are 5 different varieties of tiles to be filled into 5 rows. An average 4 player game can be finished in 30 – 45 minutes.  

The image below has 4 tiles placed on each factory outlet. The number of factory displays per game depend on the number of players playing the game. For 2 players 5 displays are used, for 3 players 7 and for 4 players 9. The starting player can pick the tile of his choice from any available displays, and put the remaining tiles in the center. The next player can either pick up a tile from another factory display or the center where remaining tiles are placed. However it is mandatory for each player to pick up all tiles of the same design from the center/factory display that they are picking from. 

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Looking at the next important component , the picture below illustrates a player’s board. Each player has his/her own board. As you can see, the board is divided into 4 parts; the top part with numbers is for score keeping, the bottom left side (working space) and the currently filled right side and the space below it is for extra tiles which results in negative scoring. The black component currently placed on the scoring part is the marker. 

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In order to move a tile from the left side to the right side you need to fill the gaps required in every row.

At a time, only one design tile can be placed in a single row. For example, if I want to place the red tile in the 3rd row I need to place 3 red tiles from the factory display in one round to be able to move the red tile on the right side. The game ends when a player completes any of the row on the right side.

Boargames Hub Ratings:

Game: 8/10

Difficulty level*: 4/10

(* With 1 being the easiest.)

Note : In case you are interested in purchasing this game or have more queries around it, please feel free to contact us on our instagram page – Boardgames Hub. or contact us on whatsapp directly.

The Beautiful Key Monastery, India

I was just going through my albums from my trip to Leh last year, when I Stumbled on this. Amongst my favourite clicks!

This is the key monastery, which sits atop The Spiti Valley. Probably giving the best view of the valley from above!

You can view he article on my Ladakh trip here : https://thetravellothoner.wordpress.com/2018/01/11/leh-ladakh/

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The Ladakh Marathon 2017 – An Overview

I participated in this race during the second week of September. It is quite a genius plan by the organisers, as it ensures more tourists and travellers in September, a period where tourism has started slowing down due to the temperature drop.

This particular race has 3 categories:

  1. The Khardung La Challenge (72km)
  2. The Full Marathon (42.2km)
  3. The Half Marathon (21.1km)

Talking about the half marathon, the following is how I would describe my experience and the route.

The route was spread out with multiple inclines and declines over the landscape, followed by a killer incline of 4kms to the very end, to remind you why The Ladakh Marathon can be accounted for as one of the toughest ones out there. The stretch, a beast in itself, to slay even the most experienced runners.

There are enough water and aid stations all through the race, with a lot of local school kids participating. What makes this a lifelong memorable experience is the challenge this race represents, and the beautiful landscapes that surrounded us.

The main key to this race is practice and pacing. Practice is obviously a prerequisite to any marathon, however practice in Ladakh or at similar altitudes is what I am talking about. Similarly, pacing plays an equally important role while running, however it varies in every marathon based on the route; it is no different in this scenario.

Too fast during the declines or downhill slopes and you might find yourself catching for air, maybe even to an extent where you can go no further. Too slow and you’d have missed the opportunity gravity provides, and spent excessive energy with inadequate returns.

My personal timing here was 2:53hrs. Having spoken to some experienced runners and other fellow participants, I concluded that a timing below 3hrs is pretty good. But there’s always the personal disappointment of not achieving your target. Not that I did not give it my 100%, but it wasn’t exactly satisfactory.

The main thing that held me back apart from my level of fitness, was “FEAR”. A fear of going out of breath too quickly, a fear of being unable to finish, and a fear of after-effects of the run, which all in all created a mental block, making me incapable of pushing myself too much. However, priceless experience earned and valuable lessons learnt, to be totally exploited for the next one.

If interested in putting the Ladakh Marathon on your bucket list, and striking it off, all you need to do is practice running and stay fit. Running a marathon at that altitude is no rocket science; and gaining knowledge or perspective from others always helps.

Until next time,

The Travellothoner.