Joy is in the small things…. always !

How often have I missed on moments in life that could have been a moment of joy ! When I took up the #100HappyDaysChallenge a while back, I made a conscious effort to look out for the things that brought a smile on my face those days ! And when you pay attention you will realize that it is something small… always ! A message from a loved one… a phone call made to a friend whom you haven’t said hello to in a long time… food that you love [ Oh boy!! I realized at that time that food makes me very happy]… a photo that jumps out of your book maybe… something…just anything!

Its been hard to keep it going after that.At times you just …just don’t make the effort to realize that something made you happy today and that is pretty sad.I don’t know why I am writing this here today… but as I was riding to work this morning I remembered the #100HappyDaysChallenge and looks like it’s been on the back of my mind since then.

So let me see if I can list out all that has made me happy since morning today…

  1. Waking my sleepy-head Steve this morning by pulling out the blanket and putting my ironed top on his face! Yes yes I know a lot of you including him say how can this make me happy… happiness cannot be derived from torture! But you know that moment that makes you burst out laughing… well that was what I had this morning! I love you Steve ….
  2. Eating M&M pretzels when I should have been eating breakfast – the chocolate addict in me is just in hyperactive mode nowadays!
  3. The rains today – well this had to feature hadn’t it? Seeing the dark clouds cast a shadow…seeing it rain down – joy! This means that there are puddles out on the road…a nip in the air…rain washed trees and basically everything nice!
  4. My playlist today has been the happy type! Infact it has some good old Tamil songs that I used to listen a lot to…you know those eternal favourites from Minsara Kanavu, Alaipayuthey etc etc to some of the newer ones. Happy me…
  5. And then there was that phone call from the bestie… the joker in my life! She will never fail to leave me in splits with her antics… her exaggerated reactions and her rumblings! Manju, you are my laughter dose I tell you 🙂
  6. Seeing my Vidya Akka’s enthusiasm to blog more actively – looks like its infectious akka. Atleast it has got me to open a blank page and start this post 🙂 I should say thank you !
  7. And as I sign out of work now I am most probably headed to meet some friends who have moved into Bangalore last week… so that’s ending the day on a happy note !

Come to think of it….nothing that has given me happiness today is something that is a “big ticket item” or anything that costs a lot! It is and always will be the small things that matter…next time you catch yourself smiling think back about what made it happen ! I am so thankful to have a life that gives me all these reasons and more ! 🙂

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inspirational-images.tumblr.com

Riding Pillion To The Top Of The World – THE LAST LEG

So I have been on a break of sorts. Quit my job in December with the idea of chilling out for a while. December flew by with family visits and Christmas… January with some nothingness and a long trip home. February saw me nursing a bad bad back injury that kept me in bed most of the time. March was for goodbyes as our cousins Anant and Divya moved out from Bangalore and here we are in April. In these four months did I not find time to get back to blogging ? Nah… if there was one thing that I had lots of.. it was time ! Then why no posts here… I always told myself that my blog is dying because I had no time to spend with it… I have realised that I am PLAIN LAZY and this is an attitude problem ! Terrible !! Ashamed !!

This travelogue is three years in the making.. by now people would have gone back to Ladakh at least once more and even probably published a book on their experiences ! I owe this a finish.. to this blog and to my loving friends and family who have always appreciated my writing ! Here it comes…Part VI

Leh to Tso Moriri

Looking back at the pictures, I realised that this stretch was perhaps the most dry one that we had done in days. Rocky mountains, the sun on you and a gurgling stream by the side, we rode towards Tso Moriri. I remember our stop here for breakfast… the aunty at this small eatery was almost like super woman ! She dished out Rotis and Omlette at top speed…. using just a two burner stove. And it wasn’t just the rotis… there was maggi and much more !

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As we rode out..

On the ride to Tso Moriri, we reached a small little village called Sumdo. If you stop at Sumdo and look around you, you will think you are in a ghost town. We took one of roads leading to God knows where ! You see deserted homes… something that looks like a deserted school maybe… just some buildings or let me say the remainder of what were once buildings. And then… we saw these two men…riding towards us on horses ! Full Cowboy Style ! It was just like a scene out of a movie…. Anyway, we decided to head back and take another road that would lead us to our destination. We made a quick stop for something to eat and drink and soaked in the surroundings.

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All deserted !

If I thought that Pangong Tso was a beauty I was unprepared for, then Tso Moriri puts every such thought to shame ! Totally ! From afar we got the first glimpse of a beautiful shade of blue… oh there it is I said ! Steve said, no… that is not Tso Moriri. We still have some distance to go ! I thought to myself… this blue that I see is so beautiful already ! Ride on !

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What I first thought was Tso Moriri

And then we saw her….. from far still but what a beauty ! I had never seen a blue so deep..so rich… so majestic ! We reached a beautiful stretch of road, the kind of road that makes you want to just ride on. We kept going ahead, until someone stopped us and said that if we continue we will be nearing the border to China and if we ride on… we will just ride away ! We turned back and after a while made a stop.

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And this is Tso Moriri !

We were trying to figure how we could reach the banks of the lake and get to the village. We could either try to ride back and find the route or ride down the sandy path and get to the banks. Some of them decided to ride down to check if it was doable on bikes while Steve , Anant, Sellu and I waited on top. One by one they all went down…. it was quite a slope and after a while we needed to use our camera lenses to zoom in and try to spot them. The bikes were struggling in the sand. Pretty soon we lost sight of them !

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And there they are… maximum zoom photo !

The four of us waited on top, thinking they will return in a while. We sat talking, taking some pictures…. and just generally waiting.After quite some time we began to get worried. It was obvious that there was no phone network and we could’t spot a soul around anywhere. We decided to make our way to the village and get some help. We reached the camp-site and were wondering what to do.Luckily for us, a group of retired Army officers, also on a trip to the area, came by to the same camp. They were doing the trip in their Fortuner. We told them what had happened. One of them took us towards the bank and started scanning the area with this binoculars. He asked us to look as well to see if we could spot our friends. Those binoculars were mighty powerful… we could see the banks so clearly…but no sign of our friends.

Helpful people that they were, these officers offered to take us in their vehicle to the spot where we were earlier and look for them. Anant left with them while we stayed back. A little later, a couple on a bike came riding to the same place and said that our friends passed on a message to say that they were fine. We had met this couple over breakfast just that morning.The Fortuner returned and soon after that our friends. We were so happy to see them.

Since the bikes got stuck in the deep sand when they rode on towards the banks, some army officers had helped them get to their base. They were moving their base spot that time and were wrapping up with some food and chai. They helped our friends load the bikes into the army truck and asked them to join in and eat. They would bring them back to the road later.

Our friends came back loaded with chocolates and biscuits and so much more. While they were all in a joyful mood, we were miffed as we had no clue where they had vanished and we were getting really worried here with the sun slowly setting and no sign of them. An argument ensued… the ONLY part of this epic holiday that I remember with sadness ! We could have done without this … but it happened !

By now it was night-time. Tso Moriri can get really really cold.. so cold that at the camp they give you hot water bags to hug and sleep at night. We all went to bed… not much was spoken.

The next morning, we woke up to the beautiful view of the lake. Everyone going to Ladakh, you MUST MUST have Tso Moriri in your itinerary. It is the largest of the high altitude lakes entirely within India and entirely within Ladakh [ this is what Wikipedia says] but what I want to say is…. it is the most beautiful lake ever. Not that I have seen many other picturesque lakes elsewhere but I know… this is the most beautiful 🙂 . With snow-clad mountains as the backdrop and this beautiful blue water body before you, you can just stand and stare. It is said that when this lake freezes in winter, the Army plays cricket and hockey on the ice !

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Before we headed out from here, we came together and sorted the differences from the night before. What happened was unfortunate but what was important was that we be done with it and not let it spoil the rest of the time that lay ahead. That done… we all hugged.. heaved a sigh of relief and rode out ! And until we had the last glimpse of Tso Moriri in sight… we stared !

TsoMoriri to Sarchu

We headed back towards Sumdo Village and stopped to take a break. We made friends with not just the people there, but some dogs and a baby goat too. Prashanti had begun giving all animals on our journey names.. sadly I don’t remember them anymore !

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I think this one was called Moon Face !

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Or wait… is he Moon Face ?

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Riding on, we encountered a crazy stretch of bad roads… completely rocky  and an uphill climb. And if you stop and look around, between all those rocks will be herds and herds of sheep ! We then crossed a lake which had a lot of sulphur deposits. We did not make a stop here as Anant has a dangerous allergy to sulphur ! We rode on and stopped at TsoKar a little later.After this the good roads were back ..leading us to the More plains and then to Pang.

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If you look closely you will spot Anant and Sellu !

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Our faithful ride !

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Oh.. and these are the many many many sheep ! 🙂

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This is not a clear picture… but I somehow like the wilderness it depicts

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Taking a breather .. them all !

The More Plains were an experience too. Having heard about Steve and Philip’s experience from their first trip I was waiting to see what exactly were the More Plains. I don’t remember a road as such… just a lot of gravel and mud and mountains on either side. In fact I remember at one point asking Steve how much longer to More Plains and he laughed and said we are riding on the More Plains ! Sheesh !

Anyway.. we rode on and headed towards our stop for lunch – Pang. Now as you get closer to Pang, you see these mean, menacing mountains… absolutely rugged all around you. You begin to admire them and by then you find yourself pushed away by strong winds… really strong winds that can really throw you off-balance ! We stopped at Pang for lunch – a lunch that made you wonder – Did we just pay sooooooooooooo much money for some maggi and omlettes ! We were fleeced ! Sigh !

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See the rock formations !

From here we reached the famous Gata Loops – 21 loops that would take you down to Sarchu ! Once down the loops we headed towards the campsite for the night. For some reason this was one long ride… and tiring one too. Oh and before we reached the Gata Loops, Steve and I had a mini adventure of our own. He decided to try a shortcut downhill and it was almost like how we read in the rhyme … and Jill came tumbling after ! Okay.. okay it wasn’t that bad and we went skidding down together. It was a bad decision, one that Steve realised right after he decided to go down that road…oops not a road.. the rubble !

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The Gata Loops !

By the time we reached Sarchu it was nearing night and we were quite beat. The tents at this camp were a bright and cheerful yellow but that night we were just too tired. There was a bit of worry as well and we were low on fuel and we paid quite a bit to arrange for some spare petrol… just in case ! Sarchu was colder than Tso Moriri and no one gave us hot water bags :(. We went to bed in our riding clothes – Cramster Jackets and shoes on ! Yes – we were feeling that cold ! The next morning not all of us were lucky to get some hot water to have bath either !

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The camp at Sarchu

Sarchu to Manali

You begin this leg of the journey and the first stop you make is at BarlachaLa – another pass that can be a little tricky to cross if there is a lot of ice on the road. But we were lucky – the weather was good and it was a smooth ride. Now on this route, you slowly begin to bid the snow-clad mountains good-bye. You see them fading away behind you and patches of green started to appear. Strangely enough for me.. I was not liking the greenery. I wanted the snow-clad mountains back. When we entered Keylong, I was like – Nooooo, I don’t to see these trees !

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Us.. at BarlachaLa

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We bid this goodbye…..

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…as this welcomed us !

After all these days of the cold, the sun was now seeming harsh [ Okay, I admit it.. I have a biased hatred towards the sun ] . I suddenly felt all stuffy and had this urge to take off my Cramster and the muffler – everything warm ! And I did… so for a long time after this I was the only one without my Cramster on and no gloves etc !

We began the climb up to the Rohtang Pass. This I loved – we were back to the snow and the cold was back again ! But this ride was scary as well. It was raining and there was snow and ice and water and slush… everything possible together ! I was so afraid that we would slip that I was praying all through ! This ride I captured on video – coz it is truly worth capturing ! It was the last of the majestic mountains !

Well Rohtang in itself is a disaster – crowded and dirty.. all you want to do is get away from here fast. A popular tourist destination, you will find people all around you, enjoying the snow [dirty snow] and food packets strewn all around ! By the way, Rohtang means Pile of Corpses , just an info that I thought you should know !

We kept riding until from afar we saw the  MOTHER OF ALL TRAFFIC JAMS !

For those familiar with it, the road connecting Manali to Rohtang can be the worst nightmare for anyone. Standing above we could see cars and jeeps and buses in a neat file… like a row of ants until the distance our eyes could cover. It is a narrow winding road that allows two-way traffic – taking turns for each side. We were so happy that we were on bikes and decided to just hit the roads and cover as much distance as was possible. Bikes can make way between all these jammed vehicles you see ! Before I forget, in the midst of all this you will also encounter donkeys making their way home after a day out and also human beings who decide to take a walk bored of sitting in their cars/jeeps etc. At one stretch some of us pillion riders were asked to get off the bikes by the cops and walk to the other side as the slush was so bad and it was best for a rider to cross over single. Somehow we made it past all the madness, on the way crossing people dancing on the road with loud music blasting from their cars – well people had to do something right if they were to remain in that jam for what looked like forever !

The ride into Manali, after this, through meandering roads was a much-needed mood lifter. Cool breeze and lovely roads – we were happy. Like this, we reached Manali at last ! And after us reached our luggage ! [ Guess I forgot to mention that some of us hired a Sumo to dump our luggage in and make the bike lighter for this last leg of the journey since it was not going to be an easy ride and we had seen the bikes struggle ] . Our poor Sumo driver had to experience the traffic jam in its glory !

At Manali we were put up at this really beautiful guest house, in an apple orchard. The guest house belonged to a friend of Philip and Steve.The place was new and we were one of the first guests. Chetan joined us back in Manali to complete the rest of the journey with us. We spent a day here… just chilling at the guest house, trying some outdoor cooking which did not work out as it rained and we never got a fire started. We tasted some yummy trout at a quaint little cafe called Cafe 1947 and even had Anant entertain us with his singing !

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The picnic that did not last long !

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Anant singing at Cafe 1947

From here it was a straight ride to Chandigarh and after the halt there for the night it was Destination Delhi. Back at the same place where we started our ride, the best ride of our lives till date !

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Back to where it all began !

The journey was complete and so is this humble attempt of mine to document it !

Thank you Steve, this happened because of you… my biking trips are all because of you ! I look forward to more..with an excited heart and lots of love ! To all my fellow riders and new members who have joined the family – Let’s Go I Say !

PS: Hope this post marks the end of my writers block as well !

Riding pillion to the top of the world: Part V

So I wrote this post in June and did not upload it….did not find the time to sort the pics and share the whole thing together !!! Such is my life right now ….so here goes…keeping it just the way I had written it back then !

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Part V of the blog comes alive on the second anniversary of our ride. At this point in time the only feeling I have is that of SHAME! There is no better word than terrible to describe what a horrible job I am doing with penning down our trip and maintaining this blog!

Nubra to Leh: After the bikers took off early in the morning, Prashanti, Chetan and I waited a while longer at the hotel. After breakfast we got into our Qualis and headed towards Khardungla. As we drove on, there was a long period of silence in the vehicle. A little while later we all spoke out and we had just one thing to say… the thrill of doing this stretch on a bike is truly something! You can never get that feeling in a car. After all that you take in when on the bike, this stretch was almost boring for us. Everything beautiful seemed less beautiful when seeing it from a car. But most definitely what you see around is stunning…[i guess we were just missing being on the bike !]

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Plain stretches lie ahead of you

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You leave the sight of the town behind and then you see meandering water bodies !

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Snow clad mountains and frozen lakes… what you see on your drive up to KhardungLa

However, we had some bit of action after this, action that was not good. A few hours into the car journey, we found Chetan to be extra quiet and in a while we figured that he was beginning to feel real sick. We stopped at the same place at North Pullu thinking that some warm tea might help him, but it did not really work. We somehow got up till Khardungla and made a stop once more. We ordered some hot chai and maggi for Chetan to have, but before even we got our food Chetan’ condition worsened. People there told us to head downwards immediately as Chetan could hardly breathe. We panicked! The other bikers were already headed down and there was no network on any of our phones as well.

By this time Chetan was almost unconscious… he would keep mumbling out in agony and we had no clue what to do. We kept trying to reach the guys on their mobiles. We were heading straight to Leh Hospital as Chetan needed immediate attention. As we got closer to town, we got through the boys and informed them to meet us at the Leh Military Hospital. Once there, the doctors took over! Chetan had had a very bad attack of Acute mountain sickness – the oxygen levels in his blood were far below normal – the cold had affected him!

After spending a few hours here, Chetan was shifted to Sonam Norbu Hospital where he was to spend the night. Anant stayed with Chetan that night while the rest of us returned to our place of stay.

Buffer days in your trip itinerary come useful when you have such unforeseen emergencies.

Day at Leh : The next day Chetan was discharged from the hospital and joined us back at home. While he spent the time regaining some energy the rest of us stepped out to explore more of Leh. Some of us visited the Leh Palace, visited the local markets, finished our souvenir shopping etc. The next day we were off to Pangong Tso.

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View of Leh from the palace

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Leh to Pangong Tso : I first fell in love with the beauty of this lake when Steve and Philip showed me pictures from their first ride to Leh. [Yes, much before it was made famous by 3 Idiots !] I was blown away by what I had seen – a blue that I had never seen before. I was excited! We were doing the journey to Pangong Tso in a Qualis, except for 2 bikes. Philip & Sharon did the journey on their bike and Prajeeth & Sellu joined them as well.

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While driving to Pangong Tso

Our first stop here was Chang la – another ice cold pass. Chang La was unbearably cold this time and the constant drizzle just made the cold worse. While standing under a shelter, you have rain drops, falling on icicles and then falling on you… brrrr! Thanks to the weather we helped ourselves to so much of maggi and soup at the little eatery at Chang La.

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Enroute Pangong Tso is where you will come across the famous Paagal Naala. This is a stream that runs past the road we have to cross. This stream is fed by melting snow from the mountains, which means as the day progresses there is more water flowing down. This happens up till a point when the stream is impossible to cross, when the water is beyond control! Crossing it in the morning is not a problem, but while returning it is important to cross this place early, else a challenge awaits you.

As we were nearing Pangong Tso, my excitement grew. I was waiting to see those lovely shades of blue I remembered so well from the picture. At a distance I saw something that looked like a lake, but wait it did not look blue! I felt my heart sink a bit, why wasn’t this place looking as stunning as I thought it would?

When we reached I heaved a sigh of relief… it did not look that bad! But…. there were just so many people there… it was crowded! If you wanted to savour the beauty of this magnificent lake, you had to find yourself a spot far far away or else you are going to have noisy tourists all around you! What makes it worse is that all of them seem to refer to the movie 3 Idiots at some point of time … aaargh… these are the bad things that a movie can do!

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Taking a stroll !

We decided to go further inside and get away from the crowd. When you sit by the banks of Pangong Tso and look around, all you can see is water, water and more water… for as long as your eyes can see. And then you see mountain ranges that separate us from China, beyond which lies a larger portion of Pangong Tso.

It was beautiful!

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The mighty Pangong Tso

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I love this picture !

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Prajeeth takes a quick nap !

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After a meal at Pangong Tso, we headed back soon. We had to cross the paagal naala you see! By the time we reached it, it was quite a strong current. Since we were in the Qualis, we crossed the naala easily. We crossed over and waited for the bikes to come. We saw a large number of bikers come by. Some of them crossed the stream with no problem while some of them struggled a bit. If you lose your balance for even a second, you could just be pulled by the water current. One of our bikes struggled a bit but everyone made it across safe!

Back to what was our home no in Leh, we called it a day!

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The last picture taken in Leh.. Shanti Stupa lit up at night !

Riding pillion to the top of the world : part IV

Looks like I write out here only in periods of “a couple of months”! Horrible!!! Between June and now I’ve done another bike trip and how can I write about that without finishing my Leh story. So I start again..

Leh to Khardungla : We set out early in the morning… in the wrong direction initially 😛 We knew this was going to be a hard ride, especially since the bike was not doing as well as Steve thought it would [I am quite illiterate about these matters you see !]. The good part was that we were heading to Nubra for the night so we were sans luggage!

The road to Khardungla began itself as a rubble.. narrow and rocky and it did not promise to get better. But what this route promises is beauty unparalleled… sights that remain forever in your mind… something that I know I will fail to describe in words. As you ascend the mighty mountains where you will find the HIGHEST MOTORABLE ROAD IN THE WORLD, you can feel the temperature dip drastically. You can see the scenes around you change and they change until all you can see is a WHITE BLANKET. For miles and miles, what is before your eyes are mountain ranges covered in layers of snow? I distinctly remember that for a long part of the journey I kept singing only one song… Indescribable…Uncontainable..You are Amazing God!

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The army guys, their dog [who shares his name with his master.. Muthu I think] and us !

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Please note !

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The bike was doing quite fine as we journeyed and we were grateful for that. We made our first stop at the South Pullu Army Post where we had to show our permits. Chetan was feeling a little unwell here, the altitude sickness was beginning to get to him I think. Leh is at an altitude of 11,562 ft and Khardung La at 17, 582 ft which means we were covering an altitude difference of 6020 ft that morning. While speaking to the army officers at South Pullu, they mentioned that when soldiers are posted at Khardung La and beyond they stop at almost every 1500ft to 2000ft so that their bodies can acclimatise quicker and better. And here we were, doing it all in one shot!

After helping ourselves to some yummy hot tea that the army officers served us and taking a few pictures with them [for Facebook they said!] we set out again. The climb was only getting steeper and the beauty even more mesmerizing. While sitting on the bike I don’t think I felt the harsh effects of the altitude too much. It was only at this one particular spot where I had to get off the bike, give it a push and then walk to where Steve had reached that things felt different, By now, I was kinda used to the frequent jumping off and jumping back onto the bike so I did that with ease… but when I began to walk towards him I realized that I was totally out of breath. I knew I was walking forward but Steve did not seem to get any nearer to me 😛 phew…

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Can you see the army trucks ??. far far away…..

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The winding roads to Khardung La

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Imagine… this is what you see ALL the time on the ride !

Back on the bike we rode on… When we reached India Gate [Yes.. there is one up there too].. we stopped to wait for the other bikes. I remember seeing Philip & Steve’s pictures here from their first trip and I too wanted one! Out here it began to snow… and this was my first experience of snowfall… I was excited! Seeing white snowflakes fall on my multi coloured woolen gloves 🙂 Happiness indeed!

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FAITH at India Gate

A short distance from here is Kahrdung La – we had done it! We had ridden on the world’s highest motorable road… we had done it! It was shouts of joy when we all reached. And once you are there eating the hot momos and maggi at Rinchen Café is a must….after all it is the highest cafeteria in the world! It is recommended that you do not stay longer than 15 to 20 mins here as the thin air might cause you to fall very ill. We ended up staying there for over 45 mins! By the looks of it…. Prashanti and Chetan were worst hit!

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The many faces at Khardung La

From Khardung La we rode down to Nubra Valley. The downhill path to Nubra presented beauty in a totally different form. It was icicles, icicles and more icicles… some massive structures and some tiny intricate ones. I took of my gloves off and reached out to touch them… oh so cold… brrrrr ! Our first stop here I think was North Pullu.. a small little tea shop. After some warm maggi and HOT tea we set out again. By now Chetan was beginning to feel worse… the altitude sickness was hitting him. Nearing Nubra Valley, the glorious sight of the Shyok River greets you. The gurgling water forces you to stop… literally forces you to stop… almost like telling you “How can you just look at me and ride along… come by the banks…listen to me !” We spent some time on the “pebble” banks of this river… just soaking in the bit of the sun shining through the valley 🙂 How relaxing!

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The mighty icicles

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My tired husband on our tired bike

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The banks of the Shyok river

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See the gurgling river

Nubra Valley is a cold desert and sure enough the sand dunes greet you from afar. This is where the beauty of Ladakh actually dawned upon me. God has created this place so wonderfully. You have the snow-capped mountains on one side, the dusty plains in between, a cold desert… all this in one region. WOW! We spent time at the desert, watching the sun go down even as the camels walked back home after giving tourists… even some from our gang a ride 🙂

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The gang at Nubra !

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The double-hump camels

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The Thirumalai’s

Our place of stay at Nubra Valley was simple – comfortable accommodation and yummy food. The food was yummier as we were famished after a long day of riding and the simple dal, roti and subzi felt as good as a 5 star spread. It was here that some of the boys decided that they want to do the ride back to Leh town single… since the bikes were struggling by the end of the journey. The ride back would be uphill and they were worried that the bike would not make it 😦

We hired a car the next morning, loaded all the bags and 3 of us – Prashanti, Chetan and I. The bikers took off early in the morning… we bade them good bye 😦

At this point in time, a little drama unfolds on the journey… keeping it for the next post.

Riding pillion to the top of the world : Part III

Ok, so I’ve done quite a miserable job at penning the biggest adventure of my life. I last wrote on August 16, 2012, completing the journey until Kargil. After that life has been one roller coaster ride and I’ve really struggled to put down my thoughts here and complete the journey… I did attempt it a couple of times but…

So why am I here writing today… because today marks 1 whole year since we left for our ride to Ladakh! Last year, this day the Trippers (our group) had begun the journey to the biggest journey 🙂 So I am here trying to write the next few parts of the epic ride!

Kargil to Leh

After a few days of riding through rain and roads that were really not roads, the weather on this particular day was beautiful. Clear blue skies greeted us as we set out on our journey from Kargil to Leh. This was getting exciting… reaching Leh was going to be like a big milestone for me! It sounded just so exciting to say “I’m going to be in Leh by end of day”!

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Riding out of Kargil

The good weather continued to be our partner in the journey all through the day. We rode through two more passes today; the first one was Namika La. The passes were such pleasant ones to encounter compared to their treacherous “cousin” Zoji La! We made a quick stop for breakfast at this really small and nice place called Dorjay Hotel Chamba. Some parathas and pickles, some interesting conversation and pictures, some bonding with lil Dorjay, and we were off again.

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Dorjay Hotel & Lil Dorjay

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The beauty at Chamba

It was on this leg of the journey that I got to witness my first MAJOR traffic jam.

While riding uphill along a river whose name I cannot recall, we came across this really massive pile up. For miles together, vehicles had stopped moving. At times like this (and many others) you realize the “blessing” it is to be on a two-wheeler. You get to make your way through all the trucks, buses, vans and cars and get to somehow cover a major portion of the jam. This can get a little scary sometimes as the roads you are on are really not defined, one small misjudgment and you could go down the valley!! When we maneuvered through the jam quite a bit we got close enough to see what had caused this whole mess. An oil tanker making its way up the mountain had I think 2 of its wheels, on the right, sink into the soil because the earth had given way while it was moving! I don’t know how better to describe it in words but this was what had happened. The really good part was… the Army and people managed to haul the vehicle back on to the road and there was no loss of life! Thank God!

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While waiting for the jam to clear

Now once such a mess gets sorted, what happens after is a bigger mess I feel. Vehicles that have been stuck for hours just want to get away as fast as possible. On such narrow roads, when you have traffic from both sides, with people whose patience has been done to death, you can imagine what a “not nice” combo it can actually be. We somehow made it past all this and once again were on a good ride!

A little ahead we got stuck at another jam, this time caused by a land slide. We had to wait for the BRO workers to clear the debris blocking the road before we could set out again. We rode past Fotu La, the highest point on the Srinagar-Leh road.

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At Fotu La

After days of riding on roads that are only mud and stone, the last leg of our journey to Leh was just SOMETHING! Brilliant tarred roads, just brilliant! It was indeed a party for all of us to get the feel of nicely laid and maintained tar. This stretch or this road is called PURA; roads built to Provide Urban amenities to Rural Areas [PURA]. I don’t think we have seen such a brilliant road anywhere else in the country, at least I have not! I’m sure all of us on the bikes were screaming little shouts of exhilaration! And I’m pretty sure Prashanti was singing  🙂

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This my friends is PURA

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PURA again !

It is on this stretch that you get to see the FAMOUS MAGNETIC HILL. As all vehicles do, we too stopped here and tried to see what exactly was the “magnetic effect”! A brief halt later we set out again, coz we couldn’t contain our excitement.

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Leaving from Magnetic Hill

Ride along on this road and you see the first sign that says WELCOME TO LEH! What joy I say! We just had to stop and spend a while here; it was as exciting or even more than when we saw the sign that said Welcome to J&K! We took loads of pictures here… did some masti on the roads! JUST FULL OF JOY WERE WE!

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WELCOME TO LEH !

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The Thirumalai’s again !

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After a little while we rode out and the first sight that greeted us was a massive army camp, these camps are very impressive I must say. What was even more impressive or rather breathtaking after this was the first sight of the mighty Indus. It is so beautiful that I cannot really describe what I saw. And with the sun’s rays reflecting on the water from afar, I just remember asking Steve to slow down, because I just wanted to soak in all of this beauty!

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The Mighty Indus River

We stopped at a small hotel to grab what was actually our lunch… almost close to evening. Out here we began to get this little stink from Steve’s bike! It smelt more like rotten eggs and in the beginning we thought maybe we rode over some stinky stuff! But after lunch when we rode out again, we realized the stench was getting stronger. I remember Prajeeth even joking that he cannot ride behind Steve’s bike as the smell was too much to take. We wondered what it could be. And for the first time in this holiday I tried to connect to the net on my phone and googled “rotten egg smell from the bike” ha ha! The results showed that it was probably some problem in the battery. We decided we would take the bike to the mechanic first thing tomorrow morning since anyway it was a day off at Leh!

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Making way to Leh !

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And that is the first sight of Leh town

At Leh we first went into town and met Philip’s friend Abid who was helping us with our place of stay. Leh town is quite crowded, full of shops and shoppers! Abid took us to what was going to be our home for the next week.

Our place of stay at Leh was amazing. Amazing not just because it was really really economical but amazing cause it was so homely, served some really delicious food and was just… pretty! We had some nice hot tea and a little something to eat and went to our rooms to just CHILL! At night we decided to explore some eating options in town, not too far from where we were staying. The air had a sharp nip but our man Prajeeth decided to venture out in shorts (something he regretted later)!!!

We enjoyed delicious thukpa, warm soup and a lot more before heading back to the rooms. We were tired! Out here is where Steve’s bike started giving him trouble. We were riding up the road when he told me “I think you need to get down, looks like my engine is going to seize!” Now I am not too knowledgeable about bikes and the mechanics of it all but I do know from past conversations that that was not a good thing. I got off the bike immediately and he along with Anant took a check at the bike and slowly took it back to the hotel. I walked back to the hotel with Sellu and Chetan, all the while just praying fervently that it would not be a major problem.

Steve worked at his bike for a while and came back to the room. He looked dejected…he somehow felt that the engine was facing major issues. He told Philip and a few others that maybe this was the end of the ride for the two of us. He told me after that to prepare my heart for the worst and be ready if we had to end our trip and get the bike back to Delhi if the engine had seized. I said nothing because I knew he was really upset.

I prayed hard, so hard that night asking God to please step in and turn this situation around. That night I had two distinct dreams. One where we had to abandon the ride 😦 and one where we were still a part of it :). I felt God prompting me to trust in Him and not try and take things into our hand and tried to explain this to Steve.

In the morning he left early to the mechanic along with Philip & Jayesh. I kept praying…. Sharon came and joined me in prayer and we sat quietly waiting to hear from them. I kept trying his number in between but range was really poor and we couldn’t get through. Sometime later he called; but the reception was so poor that I could hear nothing. I ran to the balcony to try and get some clearer reception but it was not helping. He then sent me a text saying… IT WAS A PROBLEM WITH THE BATTERY OVERCHARGING AND IS SORTED! He later explained that the symptoms being displayed by the bike were very close to those experienced during a seizure. All thanks to mechanic Mohan Sharma, who diagnosed the problem correctly :).

I was THRILLED and more than that thankful to God Almighty for hearing our prayers! We were going to complete this ride YAHOOOO! Prashanti, Sharon & I had a relaxed morning after that… breakfast at the hotel, washing some clothes and simply looking around at the beauty around us. The boys returned in time for lunch and we went out into town again.

While riding now our bike began to make some loud noise… Steve and I looked at each other and said… Let it be, we will not get worried about this now. We are trusting in God and He will take care of it all. And He really did!

Since Leh is a tourist destination, you will see a lot of bike and cycle hire places, each of which will have some interesting travel quote staring out at you. This particular one caught our eye. It read “Have faith in how far you can go”. Steve looked at it and then said to me “We should have faith in how far God can take us.” WE JUST NEED TO TRUST! I’d like to mention here that while we were planning the ride, we decided to call our bike Faith. In fact the one and only sticker on the bike read “By Faith Alone”!!

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Can you see.. BY FAITH ALONE !

Another thing about Leh is that you can find food from all over the world here. Chinese, Lebanese, Tibetan, Israeli, Ladakhi and of course, Indian! The German bakery in Leh is one place you must visit. It is called Pumpernickel and it has the most amazing amazing cakes! When in Leh please do grab a bite at Pumpernickel in Leh’s Main Market area 🙂

We returned to the room in the evening and began preparing for the ride next day.

Destination : Khardungla & Nubra Valley

Riding pillion to the top of the world: Part II

Journey: Srinagar to Kargil

Now this is one stretch where I think the reality of this whole bike ride dawned upon us, if not all of us, me for sure! We started out in high spirits but little did we know what lay ahead of us!

The ride out of Srinagar continued to be nothing less than BEAUTIFUL. As we rode out of the city, we got to see the actual size and enormity of the Dale Lake and boy is it worth seeing, that too early in the morning. In the previous leg of the journey I mentioned how the beauty of certain places made you gasp for breath! Well I let out my biggest gasp on this day when we entered Sonamarg! Nothing…nothing… NOTHING at all can capture the beauty of Sonamarg valley. I know no words or phrases that I can pen down here to describe the beauty that lay ahead of my eyes. This was also my first proper glimpse of miles and miles and miles of snow clad mountains. I had never seen anything so breathtaking… and imagine Steve was telling me that this was nothing compared to what more we would see in the days to come. How WOW is that 🙂

Sonamarg !

Passing through Sonamarg we also experienced the first of RAIN! Out came the rain gear and we proceeded forward. Riding in the rain is not easy at all. It can get really cold and as a pillion rider I was feeling it hard so I could only imagine how much more the riders were having a hard time! The “love” relationship with MAGGI Noodles also began out here on this stretch. Trust me.., hot piping maggi seems heavenly in the cold and damp weather!

Anant and Sellu caught in a traffic jam of a different kind

Through such beauty we rode !

So while we continued to ride “smoothly”, soaking in all the splendour of nature we entered into what I would like to call the most “treacherous’ stretch we ever experienced – the ride across the ZOJI LA [‘La’ means pass in several Himalayan languages]. Zoji La sounded so familiar to me, from the good old Geography classes I guess and here I was journeying through my first ever pass… very exciting! Exciting it was… but excitement of a different kind.

It was on this stretch that Steve’s bike began to show some signs of trouble. Steve has 1996 model, 350 cc, cast iron bullet. The reason I am describing this out here is because on this trip I came to understand, at least a little bit, the behaviours and characteristics of the different bullet models riding with us. 3 out of the 5 bikes on this trip were cast iron models and the other two aluminium engines. Now cast iron engines are in a sense “old school” while the other engines are more “modern”.

The road to Zoji La cannot actually be called a road… it is… NOTHING! Just rock, mud, rain water… all of this together! And the incline… steep! As we began riding up the pass the 3 cast iron bikes began to struggle. It couldn’t pull through the climbs easily… in certain stretches it couldn’t pull forward at all. Things got more difficult for us as we needed to get past this stretch before the army convoy would pass or else it meant getting stuck for hours together.

The army convoy trickles in !

I really freaked out on this leg of the journey cause, sitting on the bike I could see and feel Steve struggling to pull the bike forward, and in that struggle he also has to manoeuvre on roads that are not roads, find a way past trucks that occupy almost all of what the path is and oh.. There is snow as well!

The terrain we were riding on, and the fact that the bikes were performing differently meant that all the bikes were not together all of the time. The two newer ones were ahead and the three of us were at different points of struggle. I had to be real quick to get of the bikes when we realised that it was not pulling and Steve needed to keep up the momentum and balance. I must admit that I was not too quick or smooth in this !

Steve and his ride minus me !

Since the bikes were struggling out here, the only way out for the 3 bikes was to do the difficult stretches single! Even when you are off the bike, walking through some of the stretches was really hard… the road is mucky and slippery and there is nothing to hold onto since the mountains are covered with snow PHEW! I remember at one point when I had to get off the bike and walk, there was this BRO person a little ahead… screaming to me and signalling to hurry up as the convoy was nearing… aaargh how much faster could I walk! I ran a little, walked the rest as fast as I could and when I reached him he said… “Koi baat nahin, dheere chalo.. idhar Oxygen kam hai” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After a point the roads just got worse and we were getting off so often that we decided that the 3 pillion riders would just WALK! That was the only solution we could see… because the bikes could just not take the weight of two guys + luggage on those treacherous inclines. Sellu, Chetan and I caught up at one point and started walking together. And it was on this walk that I actually looked around to see what was surrounding us. All this while I was just sitting on the bike, trying to guide Steve through the roads… whatever little I could, praying hard that the bike would make it through and make it through safe ! But now when I was walking up those roads I saw… HUMUNGOUS mountains staring at me. These mountain ranges were just soooooooooooo BIG! Wait… the right word actually is menacing. That is how they looked, mean and evil! I remember mentioning to Sellu and Chetan as well that I felt like those mountains were waiting to devour us! As we walked along we joked how we three actually TREKKED on the Zoji La pass while the others just got to ride on it 🙂

During this little trek of ours we briefly met with a few army guys, first of the many meetings that followed on this trip. We encountered their hospitable nature, right here in the middle of what seemed like nowhere! We were only passing through this bad patch, but these people actually LIVE here. They asked us where we were from, what we do, about our trip etc and offered to make us some tea. But listen to this… one of them tells us in Hindi that we are very brave people to come on a trip like this. Ha ha ! We laughed with him and told him how could he say that when he was braving such conditions for months together!

As we neared the end of the bad roads we got onto the bikes again, all 5 bikes together now. The road became a little better and we crossed through our first SNOW WALL… it was WOW! And a little ahead of this snow wall was the ZOJI LA … conquered by us at last! Yes, I use the word conquer here because that is JUST how it felt. It was a challenge and struggle for us all and WE HAD DONE IT! Wohoooo… You can imagine the celebration we had at that post that said you are at Zoji La! The excitement was double for most of us because it was the FIRST TIME we were touching snow, walking in snow, playing in snow…! I loved the first touch of snow on my palms; the first snow ball I made and threw up in the air… the feeling was WOW! Needless to say we stayed there for quite some time, just celebrating! Wohooooooooooooooo

Riding through the Great Snow Wall of Zoji La !

The beauties !

Family and Friends 🙂

The Gang

Aur thoda pyar 🙂

Something I missed mentioning before during our lil trek up Zoji La was the sounds we could hear… the sound of an avalance! It sounds like a distant rumbling… loud though! Imagine how powerful it must be when sheets of snow just slide down that way… the first time we heard it, it actually sent shivers down our spine! When we heard a couple of such noises again, we decided it was time to ride on and head to our destination!

After Zoji La came DRASS ! Now Drass is another beautiful place, different from Sonamarg but still beautiful. Drass is the second coldest inhabited place in the world.. Brrrrrr! From here on we made a few stops, took some small breaks and then rode into Kargil!

Kargil… I kept wondering to myself, how Kargil would be, what I would see, what can I expect. It is a quaint little busy town. People seem to keep to themselves; a lot of army presence is seen here! It is hard to imagine the state this place would have been in during the war.  We waited by this one place while some of the boys went hunting for places to stay. I found myself staring at the mountains that surround Kargil, thinking to myself how the enemy had trespassed and come over and occupied this place… those mountains are just so rugged and huge and .. just MEAN! How did they come in so stealthily… just how??

We got ourselves some rooms in a hotel in town… famished and drained out by night! We had taken 14 hours to cover 200 kms… that was pretty long and we all felt the toll on our body!

As I went to bed after dinner I could not help but thank God for his protection and favour over our lives. He kept us safe through difficulty and He gave us His beautiful creation to admire. While I lay down recollecting the day, I thought about my walk at Zoji La… yes the mountains looked menacing and scary… but the feeling I also had, of walking so high up in the mountains, almost felt like I was touching the skies… that feeling was EXHILARATING!

The day’s journey also made us realise something…the older engines are not entirely capable of taking the load of 2 people + luggage on inclines.. and we had many many many more inclines to cover! This problem came to us at many different parts of the journey here on!

Time to sleep and get some rest for the next day. Destination: LEH!

Riding “pillion” to the top of the world!

Starring: 5 bikes and 10 awesome people

So this was the trip Steve and I had been planning for a long long time now. Thought we’d do it in 2011 but plans did not fit in and so…. many many months ago began the discussions about “The big trip”. We went through the entire grind… [Wait, out here I shouldn’t say we… it was more Steve than I]….. researching the route, finding about places that we should visit and could visit… should cause the beauty of those places just call out to you and could because sometimes the most beautiful places aren’t open for people to ride into!

Over the months we drew out excel sheets, to-do lists, things to carry lists and through this entire preparation phase discovered people whom we now call FRIENDS! We did this ride with people whom we’ve known for years and people whom we met because of this trip just a few months ago. Introducing to you the cast and crew of TRIPPIN’ 2012. Yes yes…. a part of our planning was coining a name and designing a logo for our incredible journey. Thank you Nitisha for the wonderful design and Andy for help with the printing 🙂

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The Trippin’ 2012 flag !

So Trippin’ 2012 was planned as a 19 day long bike ride… starting from and ending at Delhi! And what did we cover in those 19 days… some of the most picturesque parts of India that lie between Ludhiana, Udhampur,Srinagar, Kargil, Leh, Sarchu, Manali and Chandigarh. In between these big cities and small towns that we passed are nestled numerous beautiful hills, full of life streams, menacing treacherous mountains, pure white snow tops, bitter cold deserts and much more. On most parts of this route we had roads and in some we rode on whatever surface lay ahead of us.

I m still wondering whether to go day wise while penning it all down here; cause each day had some little story to itself… or to pen it place wise cause well… each place is just so different !

8th June 2012 we reach Delhi late in the night, finishing a day’s work before screaming out aloud to everybody that I AM GOING ON MY HOLIDAY! We hit the sack soon since we began our 3400 km journey early the next morning. Destination: Ludhiana

The ride to Ludhiana was exciting and normal at the same time. Exciting since this was like my first time on such a long bike trip… that too one that I ve been dreaming and wishing to do ever since Steve did it the first time in 2008. Normal I call it now… because I guess it was one of the most plain riding days amidst the other 19… riding on the highway most of the time, seeing loads and loads of other vehicles on the road… simple but sweet! The sights of Punjab were quite something… green fields being harvested, brightly dressed people on the roads, the smell of basmati in the air, the sights and sounds of the many dhabhas enroute.  It was also on this highway that we experienced the first puncture for the trip; Philip’s bike.

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During one of the breaks on the highway

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Getting Philip’s bike repaired !

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YES ! I rode with white shoes 🙂

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Sellu and I.. and yes my tan has begun to show

As we drove into Ludhiana, our first stop was at this quaint little lassi place that Sellu [oh… that’s how I refer to Selven, my dear devarji] took us to. With some yummy lassi downed, we headed straight to our hotel to freshen up and wash off all the dust that had settled on us. We explored a small bit of Ludhiana in the evening… meeting a sweet old mechanic uncle… strolling through the CMC campus… and ending the night with some yummy Punjabi khaana. We retired to the comfort of our bed, to get some sleep before we moved ahead… Destination: Udhampur

The second day of riding saw us move more and more into nature. Beautiful roads that lead you into beautiful villages! It was a “WOW” moment for most of us & me for sure when I saw the first signboard that said Welcome to Jammu & Kashmir… the heart beat faster in excitement! I had never thought I would enter J&K… that too on a bike!

The state of J&K epitomises a totally different meaning of beauty… the same green grass, yellow flowers, cattle on the roads… all of this looks and feels different here. We took a detour that led us straight to Udhampur through a little forest; avoiding entering the city of Jammu. Just a little distance before Udhampur we stopped to have lunch at this simple looking dhabha. Little did we know that we were going to gorge on the food, as though we’ve never eaten in days. Simple roti, dal, chawal and bhindi… some mind blowing chutney and lassi to wash it all down… here began the story of our wonderful lunches!

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Ride out of Ludhiana.. J&K beckons !

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Prashanti and Prajeeth !

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Looks like I missed the W from the Welcome in my excitement !

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We made a quick stop to celebrate “Entering J&K” ! Chocolates and ThumsUp wohoooo !

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My jacket, bag and helmet get some rest while I celebrate 🙂

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And on that bike are Anant and Chetan !

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Lovely roads that led us to Udhampur

We reached Udhampur early in the evening and rode straight to the home of a friend from church – Andrew! Andrew’s hospitality touched the hearts of all of us. He opened up his home to 10 people he hardly knew…he fed us like royals and gave us such comfortable rooms to sleep in.

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Unloading the bike at Andrew’s place !

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And the beauties get some rest !

After some lovely food and lovelier conversation with Andrew and his grandmother, we called it a night! It was riding day again tomorrow. Destination: Srinagar

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With Andrew at his home in Udhampur !

Now Srinagar is BEAUTIFUL! And the ride to Srinagar… also BEAUTIFUL!  I remember reaching one point on this ride where I actually gasped at the beauty that lay ahead of me! I experienced what they actually mean when they say “take my breath away”!  A little before Srinagar, we stopped at a deserted village, looking for a place to eat. Here we got our first taste of local Kashmiri cuisine – Ghostabha and our first story of the horror of the war and fighting in Srinagar. The town was infact deserted as they were observing a bandh in honour of those who gave up their life fighting for the country 10 years ago.

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Enroute Srinagar

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Philip & Sharon !

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Break-time !

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The famous Jawahar Tunnel that ensures round-the-year road connectivity to the Kashmir Valley

We rode straight the guest house recommended by Andrew and there we met Nazir bhai; our host for the next 2 days. Nazir bhai is a very interesting guy. At one minute he is this really sweet guy, opening up his home for us to stay in, and the next minute he scares you with his instructions and suggestions! At one point in time, I was just nodding my head for all that he was saying because I could not comprehend a word; I smiled and nodded my head… that’s all.

Nazir bhai gave us this one big room, carpeted so comfortably for us to stay in together. I was excited; it was going to be fun to have all 10 of us in one room. After resting for a little while we ventured out to explore a bit of Srinagar. This is where things got a little disappointing to me. Here you are in this beautiful city, surrounded by the distant glimpses of snow clad mountains and the sounds of birds tweeting; the smells of fresh bread and meat cooking! Even as you admire all this beauty around you, there is something that is amiss and that something is the warmth of people! When you walk down the streets you can sense the stares that are following you and sometimes even hear the bystanders whisper something to each other! No one has a smile for you or a proper response if you ask them for directions. It is quite sad to think that political situations and social equations are so disturbed here that trust as a value ceases to exist! Amidst this sad realisation; we passed an evening in Srinagar! We went looking for a restaurant recommended by Discovery Channel but unfortunately no one could guide us to the place. After a not so good dinner experience we headed back to our cosy little home! Since we were not riding to anyplace the next day the gang stayed up late into the night playing many fun games of UNO. We stayed awake till the clock struck 12… It was Steve’s HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! What a place and what a way to spend your bday right????

We slept in a little late the next morning; making the most of an “off” day that we had! Some of the guys ventured out to bring us some authentic Kashmiri breakfast – girdha [kashmiri bread], butter and salted tea ! If eaten just out of the oven, I m sure this bread will melt in your mouth ! After lazing around for a little while we got ready to go on our Shikhara ride.

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Breakfast= Girdha, butter, eggs and chai !

Now this shikhara ride is an experience in itself! Sitting in these comfortable; beautifully designed and decorated boats, you get to experience the beautiful DAL LAKE! A two and a half hour boat rides shows you only a small portion of this lake; that is how big the Dal Lake is! As you glide into the water, hawkers make way to your boat, eager to sell you their wares. Oh and by the way… you will ALWAYS have some hawkers by your side throughout this ride… so be prepared for that! Halfway into the lake, our boatman took us to this shop on the lake, to get a taste of their special tea called Khawa. I found it a little too sweet but the others surely enjoyed their hot cup of Khawa!

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Nazir the boatman

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I don’t think I can give this one a caption !

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Sharon and I, with flowers that our boatman picked for us !

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The crazy 10 !

After our Shikhara ride we made our way into the town again. We decided to eat at the famous Mughal Durbar; another restaurant featured by Lonely Planet. We ordered for a Wazwan or what is known as a kahmiri feast. While a normal wazwan has over 2o dishes we asked for just a few that we could taste and see.  Did I enjoy the Wazwan?? Yes and No!!! Some of the mutton dishes were to die for and some of them too rich for my liking! But yes… please do try a wazwan when you are in Kashmir… it is worth it!

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At Mughal Durbar

We took an auto ride back to our room and here I HAVE to mention our auto wala ! He was the happiest guy I came across this entire trip I think. He had a fully decorated auto, a collection of some lovely Hindi songs from the 80’s and 90’s and a cheerful spirit! He smiled and sang his way through all the traffic and the diversions! End of the ride he left us all with a smile on our lips 🙂 Our happy auto wala!

Towards evening when the boys decided to ride down to the petrol bunk to tank up for the next riding day we realised that Anant’s bike had a snag and was refusing to start. All attempts to fix the problem yielded no fruit and the gang then split to go and find a mechanic who could help. Once the mechanic came the problem was identified, but for it to be fixed the bike needed to be transported to the garage. A vehicle was hired for this and the bike was loaded and taken away. Sharon, Prashanti and I spent some anxious moments waiting for some news from the boys about the bike after this. [Only post paid phones work out here and this meant we had just 3 working connections for most part of our trip]. A few hours later, all the boys returned, with all the bikes in running condition! An evening meant to relax turned out to be quite action packed!

Off to bed we went… preparing our minds for the next leg of the journey. Destination: Kargil

** Continued in the next post.. coming your way soon !

:) and 2011 was good !

Ok so this year has been EVENTFUL all right 🙂

Dear Blog, I know I haven’t written much out here this year, but before I leave on my holiday I just thought I will take a little time out to share what 2011 has been for me. People I am thankful to and things I am happy for

GETTING MARRIED tops the list! Yay Steve, 2011 it was for us 🙂 Our dreams and wishes came true as we said I DO to each other this year. Its been an amazing 9 months being Mrs.Thirumalai. Thank you for everything we have shared as husband and wife, every holiday, every laugh, every fight too… coz we learnt something from it. Setting up home and living with you has been and will always be awesome 🙂 You are the bestest boy!! I love you a lot!

And hey… when I thank God for you, I thank God for the family he has blessed me with :)Thanks Steve… it is coz of you!

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FRIENDSHIP: This one has been special this year 🙂 Old friendships strengthened and new friends were made. Thank you Philip and Sharon for everything you have been to me and Steve. Thank you for every whacky weekend, every community activity, for all the memories we have made together this year. The Gokarna holiday was good fun 🙂

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Prashanti and Aiswarya 🙂 Knowing you has been a blessing! I thank God for sending you both into my life. I cherish the friendship we share… and before Manju starts fretting about her name not being mentioned here, I shall now introduce her into the blogpost. I think we 3 are awesome :P. We ve done the craziest of things, laughed like mad, cried together too. Thank you for being there with me all along, thank you for everything 🙂 I will miss you Aiswarya… and yes… Manju I miss you a lot too 😉

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To all my other friends who make life special, I thank you all too 🙂

WORK : Yup !! I am thankful out here too. Thankful to God for the job that He has given me. I love Hanmer MSL. Amidst all the madness in servicing clients, and the not so nice things that are under the umbrella of PR… I work in an awesome place and I love it! Thank you Hanmer Bangalore 🙂 for all the whacky times, for giving me so many things to laugh about and the many achievements 🙂

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And even as 2011 draws to a close, I am super excited for my brother as he prepares to be HITCHED!! Yes… the NEXT BIG HAPPY NEWS this shall be…

Vandana Dayanand  🙂 I am soooper happy to have you as family 🙂 Love you both!!

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All in all, I ve had a good and happy year. I holidayed a lot !! Kodai, Ooty, Gokarna, Kerala, the green trek  across the Western Ghats..wohooo !! I shopped a lot, I ate a lot, I laughed a lot.. I did a lot of a lot of things !! 🙂

So a big THANK YOU goes to God for LIFE 🙂

Mwah to the world. I hope you all have a good end to 2011 and a fantabulous start to 2012.

See you next in 2012, dear Blog ! 🙂

Ooty and WOW !!!

Imagine a large canvas… and thrown in are different hues of green… and in between some earth and then some rays of the sun… or maybe some glimpses of rain on one end of the painting!! That was OOTY this weekend and the artist was none other than GOD!

This holiday, God just showed me a tour of His creation, His marvellous creation and what I saw just held me captivated!! He is the best artist ever!!

Taking a short break from work, we decided to drive up to Ooty for three days. Driving through the night was great [minus the one portion of the drive where I fell asleep 😦 ]! Going through Bandipur early in the morning, a herd of grazing deer greeted us amidst the sounds of birds waking up to the new day. Lovely… 🙂

Here is the first sight that captivated us… what an awesome play of light this was..

And then we caught the first sight of Ooty and its tea gardens. Gorgeous!! Neatly “groomed” estates, miles and miles of tea gardens, water sprinklers a distance away… Ooty welcomed us, Steve, me & Te!

We took a diversion into the Glenmorgan estate to see what makes this place beautiful. What we saw justified why people say you must do this drive… it is a scenic drive leading you to a beautiful lake within the estate! But what we experienced from officials at the Electricity Board there left us in distaste. Rude people, hardly giving you a chance to ask what you want to know!! YUCK…that was what I felt about them!

But it did not take long for us to be back in good spirits… the beauty of nature just lifted our mood 🙂 We continued our drive to the town, all the while through beautiful, scenic views. [I wonder how many times I am going to use the word beautiful here in this post :)]

We had no particular agenda for this holiday and I think that was the best part of it. We just drove to places we’ve heard of and never heard off before 🙂 And each drive was just wonderful. To Lovedale and beyond, to Coonoor and back and the best of it was to the EMERALD LAKE! This was by far the BESTEST part of our holiday.

This lake is tucked away some 25 odd kms from Ooty. It is a really really beautiful drive, but nothing about the drive prepared us for what was in store 🙂 PHEW!!! We caught a glimpse of the lake from up above the “world so high” and we were like WOW!! The fact that it was raining through most of the drive made the Poojitha in me sooooooooooooooooooooo happy and excited!

On reaching the spot, we were “beauty struck” [I don’t know how else to describe what I saw]. A lovely lake, a small little bridge, a cosy river bank and the view of the Nilgiris on every side you see… MAN!! This lake is just awesome! We had the Avalanchi Lake on one side and the Emerald Lake on the other, as explained to us by the locals there. Well, whichever lake it might be… it was splendid!! Steve described it as the Pang Gong Tso of the south 🙂


We just sat by this lake…in silence…no actually in conversation with nature!! I was so overwhelmed by the beauty that I could not stay without praising God for the awesome CREATOR that He is… for the beautiful ARTIST that He is… for the WONDER that He has created!! AMAZING!! No words can I use, no picture we have clicked will EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER capture the splendour of what we saw 🙂 My blog will do not an inch of justice to the experience we had…

This trip was just refreshing… we had a great time… ate some yummy food! Nothing too fancy… two of the best meals were with a family we know and all we asked for was hot steaming rice, even hotter rasam and tasty chicken fry !! With temperatures dropping steadily as the rains lashed through the town this meal was just lip smacking!! A lovely dinner with a friend at King’s Cliff… by the fireplace… got our holiday to a beautiful… oops tasty end!!

Oh oh… and before I forget… if you are going to Ooty, please go to Modern Stores and fill yourself with the variety of chocolates up for sale. “OOTY HOMEMADE CHOCOLATES” took a whole new meaning for us here… all that we get in the many stores out there cease to tempt me anymore!! This place sells the best I ve eaten till date…and what makes these special are the fillings!! Cranberry, Blueberry, Maple Almond, Peanut Crunch…. and so many moreeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Uffff… Just lovely!!

We drove back to Bangalore through a different route from our onward journey. We took the Gudalur route while driving to Ooty and the Masinagudi route while returning. While Masinagudi was not as scenic as Gudalur, it was still a good drive 🙂

We met up with Philip and Sharon at Masinagudi and did the rest of the journey with them. A quick stop at this quaint cafe DREAMCATCHERS on the highway and a good lunch by the river Cauvery at Amblee Resort was the last of the good times we had 🙂 Wonder why?? Well we took over 4 hours to cover the Mysore- Bangalore stretch thanks to maddening traffic!! Terrible!!

But but but… like every other holiday I ve taken in the past few months… God sent me rain 🙂 It poured while we were entering Bangalore and I could not help but smile and wonder how lovely God is 🙂

** The pictures shared here are just a futile attempt at capturing the beauty of Ooty this holiday!

Dear blog….

Dear Blog…

I know how left out you feel, forgotten and untouched !

I wish I could let you know, how much I want to fill these pages again, how much I miss writing here and how much it hurts when I log in here and see the date June 21, 2011 stare at me; the day I last wrote on puddlerides.

At first I thought the problem was TIME. Between work and home I was all caught up and did not have the time to write here.. but as days turned into weeks and weeks into months the realisation has begun to dawn on me.. the problem ain’t anything else, the problem is ME !!

 
 I cease to be inspired to write and to spread the cheer to my  writing. Even my FB updates are BLAH nowadays !!
 
 Where has the old me gone ?? While the weather does cheer    me up still, it  doesn’t take me to heights of excitement that  translates into my  blog… while opinions still form in my head,  they don’t seem to  take the “form” of words.. while the joy is  still there, the desire  to pen it down doesn’t come ! WHY WHY  WHY ???

 Why can’t I write anymore ?? 

 
 
I’ve shared some of life’s most special moments out here, when  love occurred, when friendship bloomed, when tears were shed,  when laughter echoed.. when all this happened in life, I relived them here… !!

My dear blog, I hope you will always remember that you are special .. and I never would like to see you die! I promise you that I will give it my all… to write and fill these pages…!! 

Till then.. please bear with me..

Your’s Poojitha !!!