3 0  T H O U S A N D  W H E R E

B U D G E T  T O U R S  U N D E R 3 0 K

 

B Y  N A U S H I N  S H A I K H

 

Money talks! Ever wondered what yours is saying to you? Well mine loves to say “Bye and I’ll be late!” Whenever I say “I want to travel”, my bank account says, “Wait, where?”  But I think travel is never a matter of money, it’s all about your desire, your passion, your courage! People chicken out often when it comes to travelling international destinations. But now it’s no more a story!

Keeping a budget doesn’t mean being hard-up or not having fun, it means you make a plan and don’t let your expenses get out of control. It’s actually being smart!  I feel budget is an emotion! It’s all about how emotional you are!

Here I have brought some ingenious stuff which will satisfy your budget as well as your emotions! These are the five astounding international tours under 30k. You don’t need a reason to travel. So, in place of thinking ’30 Reasons Why?” Think about, “30 Thousand where!”

 

  1. T H A I L A N D – D E C I D E  Y O U R  V I B E  

      Thailand is a heaven for budget travellers. It’s magnetic attraction makes the whole world metal! It’s tropical climate, beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, luscious food and captivating culture makes it a perfect holiday cocktail! It offers some amazing activities like water sports, island-hopping tours, cultural shows and laze massages. You can easily get low-priced hotels and restaurants there. Public transport is never an issue! Enjoy the most accessible public transport “Tuk-Tuk” there! Thailand is famous for it’s street food which helps you getting a good budget meal. The markets await you as the street shopping is to the gunwales! So, basically Thailand is a bunch of assorted vibes! Choose yours!

 

  1. D U B A I – E S C A P E  T H E  O R D I N A R Y   

              

  

The name is enough! A place where fantasy is converted into reality! So many places… so many activities… so much fun… in so less money! Dubai is a destination where you feel like an emperor! You breathe luxury in the air!  From it’s ultimate beaches to massive malls and buildings, Dubai is a synonym of extraordinary! Desert safari and Arabian adventure, Mesmerising Dhow cruise, Fountain shows are the must do things in the list! Talking about food ,Dubai it self is a buffet! A buffet of world cuisine! For budget meals Indian and Pakistani restaurants are a treasure trove. In a budget tour, street shopping is the thing for you as the malls only offer windows (if you can get this!)! Jummah market is a place for explorers! Where you can get authentic Arabian and Pakistani food and shopping! So, in the end I will just say “Dubai is…ETC…( End of Thinking Capacity!)”

 

 

  • S R I L A N K A – F R O M  S E A  T O  T E A

    

“World’s fourth largest producer of tea!” is enough information for the

“tea-reffic” people of India! A little sand in your toes… a little rain in the flows… makes everything composed! Peaceful beaches, alluring rocks and tropical rainforests offer breaths for life! Dive with blue whales, get lost in caves, explore the scenic trains, watch elephants like never before, hike past lush green tea plantations and surf…sand…sea is all about Sri Lanka. The food is cheap and cheerful! If you want to have budget meals, you can follow the Sri Lankan crowds into any of a million cafes, confusingly called ‘hotels’. Tea and handmade items are the things to buy. For exploring more, ‘Self drive Tuk-Tuk hire’ is a great option. So, breathe deeply, celebrate diversity and surround yourself with beauty! In Sri Lanka!

 

  1. B H U T A N – H A P P Y  L I T T L E  T H I N G   

       

 

This place has something for all! Bhutan is like a monk! It seems like Bhutan it self is meditating! Calm and Happy are the words for Bhutan. It’s culture, heritage and spirituality makes this small country colossal! Bhutan is a window for the Himalyan Ranges. See some of the stunning mountains like Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga from the aircraft. The best thing about Bhutan is the life adopted by the people. They have emulate a lifestyle from their religion (Buddhism). A session of meditation at one of the many monasteries or at your hotel itself will reconnect you with life. The natural beauty of Bhutan is worth living for. Just seeing the nature around you, or a walk by the river is a therapy itself. Because of it’s geographical bliss, it becomes a bounty for the adventure seekers. You can enjoy activities like biking, trekking, kayaking and hiking there. Bhutanese cuisine is a sight for sore eyes. You must try the local food like Ema Datshi, Momos, Jasha Maru, Goep and much more. You can buy Bhutanese Handicrafts, Hand-woven textiles, wooden bowls etc from there but one thing you will surely take home is the ‘Everlasting Smile!’

 

  1. B A L I – E A T ! S L E E P! B E A C H!  R E P E A T!

 

 

            “As free as the ocean!” Talking about Bali, this sentence has 2 meanings. First what it translates and the other because of the extremely low cost expenses. A world class massage and spa costing INR 300, can you imagine! The price of the other activities will also amazingly shock you! You can enjoy water sports like flying boards, rafting, snorkelling at the lowest cost. The only thing you can do in Bali is “Relax!” Cycling in the paddy fields and monkey forest, watching stunning sunrises and sunsets and eating the best sea-food. What else you want in life! For honeymoon couples secluded beaches are the thing! It would be the most romantic gift for your Bae!

Bali! Where the waves kiss your feet. Ocean air… Salty hair…Not a care…Take me there!

 

 

This was all about “30 Thousand Where!” I am sure after reading this, you will hear your money saying, “Let’s Go!”

So, Where to next? Comment below!

 

 

ZEST OF THE HIMALAYAN TREKS…

  THAT DESCRIBES YOU THE BEST…

By Naushin Shaikh

 

‌Introduction:

 

Every human being is exceptional. The top 10 best Himalayan treks Even if we find affinity with our surroundings and people, still there is an X factor that makes us apart from others. You all must be thinking why this ‘philosophy’ in a travel blog? Before I answer this question. First we’ll ask ourselves, “why do we travel?” The usual answers will be for fun, food, enjoyment, leisure and Blah…Blah…Blah…

But have you ever thought, why do you choose specific activities and destinations for travelling. Taking my own example I’ve been to Mt.Abu more than of my age. (Now don’t ask me my age!!! ) What is there, that entice me so much? There is a quote by ‘Rumi’ “What you seek is seeking you.” Every corner of the world is seeking you, but the question is, if you are interested in seeking them or not. This blog may help you to rediscover yourself, to hear those things which your heart tries to say to your mind. So let’s follow our heart’s itinerary.

 

 

        ABCT- ANYBODY CAN TREK…

 

‘Trekking’…the moment this word hits your mind, it gives you the feeling of getting blood out of a stone. But nowadays people are making volte face on these myths. It doesn’t matter whether it is the springtime or winter of your life. Even if you are full of beans, still there is place to fill some extra beans. If life is giving you shades of grey. Trekking will paint them again in an exhilarating way.

Trekking is not just a journey, it’s a destination, where you find your self, where hardships lead to friendships, where  ‘A New You’ is waiting, where journey is as rewarding as your final destination.

 

           The zest of Himalayas:

 

Summer has come. I’ve never seen someone so educated as ‘Heat of the summer’, so many ‘Degrees’ it has!!! Poor joke! I know. Himalayas have been always an escape for Indians in despotic summers. It’s alluring beauty and bucolic climate puts it in a bucketlist. And if you are going to follow the mantra of ABCT (Anybody can trek), here there is something for you. These are the 10 astounding treks to do in Himalayas this summer. Every trek has it’s own story to tell. Find, which story matches with yours.

 

 

1.”Beauty and the Beas”…The Beas Kund trek:

 

Simple trek with blue moon hurdles…

Enjoy it like childhood puddles…

Trekking for the first time? If you’re calling the shots for your first trek, then here is a copybook trek for you. The trek is well trodden throughout. Slightly tricky at times to cross the various streams. Riveting river of Beas is the bounty of the Beas kund. Blue water and green milieues will make you fall in love with this place. The trek begins from Solang Nallah famously known for skiing and paragliding. The trails of Dhundi will make you cross winsome river streams and finally drops you at enchanting site of Bakar thach. You will find yourself surrounded by peaks like Hanuman Tibba, Friendship Peak, Shitidhar, and Seven Sisters. You will definitely start believing your childhood tales as you can pluck the wild strawberries and mushrooms from the bushes and watch shepherds herding their sheep and goats. It is believed that Rishi (sage) Vyas, the author of Mahabharata took his daily bath here. The term Beas Kund seems to have been derived from Vyas, the sage; and Kund, a lake! This engrossing history of Beas kund lures many. This summer trek is perfect for beginners for its easy trail and short duration.

 

Discover yourself:

If you are a person living a lustrous life, but love to welcome and celebrate small scale problems. Then Beas kund is your match!!!

 

 

2. Roop kund  – Divulge the Death

 

This trek will lead you to death!! Don’t worry, I am not talking about you. This Death Denying Mind is actually very curious about Death!!! ‘Roop kund’ also known as Mystery Lake or Skeletal lake is perhaps the most popular trek in India. It has got it’s name as hundreds of human skeletons were found at the edge of this lake. Trek this trail and enjoy the suspense filled stories about the lake by the local guides(who happen to be great fiction writers). Apart from the mystery the trek offers eyesome lakes, green smudges and snow white mountains that will definitely make you an aesthete. The deep oak forests of Ghairoli Patal is ‘cheery on the bottom’ as the trek starts from here ,as you crunch and hear the rustling of dry leaves. This trek gives you the perfect dose of adventure with a cluster of steep climbs and slippery descents. If you want to give some thrill to your nervous system , ‘Junargali’ is the cliffhanger, as you walk along a sharp, exposed ridge towards it, while holding on a rope. Roopkund Trek is a moderate plus level trek. I am sure this trek will become a wonderwall for the rest of your life.

 

Discover yourself:

If you are an Orphic, if people take time to understand you, if you love being a Cimmerian Shade, then Roop kund is your story.

 

 

 

3. Triund – The Nemophily

If you are the one who is fond of forests or smell of the woods, then keep reading!!! Triund is a concert of nature; soothing, mellifluous and ineffable. In the lap of Dhauladhar Range, 18 km from Dharamshala, gives you the astounding views of Dhauladhar ranges on one side and the enthralling  Kangra valley on the other. The Triund trek is a moderately challenging trek, popular among adventure enthusiasts of all ages. The eyesome views from the top at different times of the day – dusk, moonrise, and dawn – is the integrity of this trek.  The evening sky will insist you to stay here. And you won’t be able to deny the invitation. Camping here is an indescribable experience. There is no Wifi here, but I promise, you will find a better connection.

Discover yourself:

If you love to divagate in nature and materialistic things doesn’t float your boat. If you are missing a place you’ve never been, may be this is the one.

 

4. Hampta pass and Chandratal Lake- The Divine Contrast

What will you call a place where you can find a forest, a river, a desert, grasslands, valleys and snow together? Dream? Or fairytale? But, India is a country of wonders. And ‘Hampta pass’ is one of them. Trekking here is an indelible experience. The highlights are Chikka Campsite which offers Riverside camping near a beautiful waterfall, the alluring maple forest of Jobra, the river delta camp of Balu Ka Gera offers some of the astounding views of Indra Qila and of course the  stunning trek which will make you fall in love with it’s each moment. Trekkers also have a bonus of the Chandratal trek if it is accessible to go. A  ‘B L U E T I F U L’  lake with desert landscapes. So, this trek is a perfect opportunity to do something new, something bold, something beautiful!!!

 

Discover yourself :

Bored from your monotonous life? Craving for some change? If you are a creature being a surprising personality all the time. Then, Hampta pass is calling you!!!

 

5. Kheerganga Trek- The Nature’s Spa

Tired? Yearning for some relaxation? Then contact ‘Kheerganga’! Kheerganga is an easy to moderate level trek, or I can say a ‘Therapy’! It’s a beautiful day trek with narrow cliff side path going by numerous waterfalls, small villages and all heart people! Mountains covered with herbs and shrubs will give you euphoric feels. Imagine a trekking for 4-5 hours in rough mountains and then to be welcomed by a luxuriating jacuzzi! Enjoy the hot water bath in Natural Sulpher Springs watching the gleeful scenery of the valley. Savour the camping here with ‘The Sky Full Of Stars’! So, Kheerganga is a complete Spa package with a life time membership!!!

Discover yourself:

If you are a person who does not believe in reward without hardwork. If you are a person who stays hungry or eat less just to enjoy the next meal fatly. Then, Kheerganga awaits you!

 

6. Kareri Lake Trek- Find it’s calling!

There are some things which are knowingly unknown! Kareri lake is one of them! This moderate level trek is one of the most stunning treks in Himachal Pradesh. But still it is less explored, because most of the trekkers in Dharamshala or Mcleod-Ganj prefer Triund trek as it is a more commercialized spot. Kareri is kind of a hidden trek! It starts with the trail through Kareri village as you pass mixed pine and broadleaf forests. The trek is a bonus for the nature lovers as it offers graphic flora and fauna to explore. Black Drongo and Red billed blue magpie are the commonly seen birds. The Kareri lake is a high altitude shallow fresh water lake. The lake it self is glacial and close to the snow line. Camping under the stars with bonfire, majestic views of Dhauladhar ranges, and interesting people and culture of the Kareri village are some of the highlights. This trek has a lot of potential. The need is to find it’s calling. So, do not underestimate the power of Kareri lake!

 

Discover yourself:

If people underrate you and your capabilities. If you have a lot to show them. Then share your story with ‘Kareri’. Because sometimes it’s good to be underestimated!

 

7. Sar pass Trek: Every moment matters!

There are some things in life which we undertake not because that is our ultimate goal, but to enjoy it’s process, it’s journey! ‘Sar pass’! Located in Parvati valley of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. ‘Sar’ in the local dialect means a lake. While trekking across the path from Tila Lotni to Biskeri Ridge, one has to pass by a small frozen (normally) lake (Sar) and hence the name ‘Sar pass trek’! The trek starts from Kasol which is a celestial place for trekkers. It’s an easy to moderate level trek through forests, meadows, arty-crafty villages and snow covered mountains. Sar pass is an astounding trek in terms of the journey. But if you are a ‘Goal oriented’ person may be, this is not your cup of tea! But I would say, we should enjoy each moment of life! Savour the little details! And to learn that perspective ‘Sar pass’ is the best teacher!

Discover yourself:

If you believe in acting without any expectation, if your work, your journey is your ultimate reward. Then go! Pass the Sar Pass!

 

8. Rupin pass trek: Nature’s Topper!

Rupin pass is a brilliant student of God! Who has grasped all the beauty given by ‘Him’! In the merit list of consummate treks in India, Rupin pass tops with flying colours! This moderately difficult level trek is an all rounder! At every step there is a new scenery to unfold. It consists of trails dug out of rock faces and wooden bridges, cut through deep dark folds in the mountain glaciers and icy slopes. Along the way there are white Rhododendrons and stretch of green meadows. The azure waters of Rupin works as an incentive for the trekkers! As you go higher, you pass the snow caped fields which is an echoing canyon which echoes your nearby success with the winning chequered flags! And as I said, this scholar has got all: Hanging villages, gigantic forests, glacial meadows, countless water falls and of course the intoxicating pass crossing!

 

Discover yourself:

If you are a smart worker and believe in getting best of both worlds with dinky effort! Then this scholar Rupin pass is the best thing since sliced bread!

 

9. Bharigu Lake And The Animated Scenery!!!

Love drama? Guess what? I’ve got a thing for you! ‘Bharigu Lake’! Sounds out of date? But once you will get to know this place, you will definitely fall in love with it! ‘Bharigu lake’ or ‘Brighu lake’ is a high altitude lake located in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. It is in the east of Rohtang pass and is around 6 kms from Gulaba village. It is named after Maharishi (Sage) Bharigu. It is said that the sage used to meditate near the lake, and thus the locals believe, due to that the lake never freezes completely. It’s a heaven for nature lovers and adventurers. The best part of the trek is that you can climb a challenging height of 14,000 ft in just 3 days, which is usually achieved on the 4th or 5th day of other Himalayan treks. Now what’s the drama? The oval shaped Bharigu lake changes colours with seasons. The stunning scenery around the lake is worth living for! You will surely think back on ‘Yash Raj films’ as you can enjoy a thrilling jeep ride for around 3 hours in that beautiful region before starting the trekking, the clouds will be floating around you because of the soaring height. And while descending to the rice fields of Pandu Ropa, you will come across grass that is taller than you. This will surely make you miss your lover even if he/she doesn’t exist! In the last part of the trek you can explore the traditional villages and apple orchards. The trek ends with the relaxing hot water spring of Vashishth temple, where you can take a dip and refresh your self. Thus, Bharigu Lake and it’s animated scenery becomes a complete theatrical work!

Discover yourself:

If you are a big, bright, sparkling personality, who keeps looking for drama in each moment of life. Then Bharigu lake will satisfy your thirst!

 

10. Tarsar Marsar: The duo of the gorgeous sisters!

Still single? Then I have someone amazing for you to change that status! To fall in love with it! No no…it’s not the gravity that will make you fall in love, it’s the beauty!

Kashmir valleys are very famed trekking region in the world. The name ‘Kashmir’ is enough to lure anyone, and trekking there makes it an intoxicating experience. Tarsar and Marasr must be gratified being a part of it! It’s one of the highly opted treks of the Kashmir valley. A trek encompassing a journey to the two beautiful twin lakes, Tarsar and Marsar surrounded by the peaks of Kolahi mountain. These two almond shaped lakes flow in the opposite directions. The famous Dachigam National Park is in the territory of Marsar lake. It’s a moderate level trek with the highest peak of 13,000 ft. The trek can be easily accomplished without the need of acclimatization. What makes it so special is it’s indescribable beauty, which will definitely turn you in a philocalist. The lakes are surrounded by astounding alpine trees and the Summer makes it more beautiful, as the alpine flowers form a radiant sheet reflecting on the water. The flora and fauna makes the place more fetching. Some of the birds and regional animals seen there are: Golden eagles, Bar headed geese, Black Bulbuls, Musk deer, Snow leapord, Brown bear and many more. Camping there near the lake in flat grassy lands in the fluent silence while counting stars is an ineffable feeling. So, this duo of gorgeous sisters is waiting for you to make you lovesick!

Discover yourself:

If you are a person who admires beauty in everything, appreciates little things in life, who takes the life at a little slower pace. Then, this exquisite trek is for you.

Caution: Can cause inner peace!

At the peak!!!

So, now you know that things that excite you are not random. They are connected to your purpose, to your inner soul. And trekking in Himalayas will be a perfect option to reach that state. So, now tell me which is that trek that describes you the best in the comment section below! And just “Adjust your Altitude” and “Live the journey”…

 

                                                                                                                        By,

                                                                                                            Naushin Shaikh,

The Tern Travellers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOOD-THE DAILY OSCAR OF AN INDIAN

By Naushin Shaikh

Introduction

First of all, if you are reading this blog in the hope of finding what to eat in Himachal Pradesh or on the streets of Delhi and Mumbai, the secret behind the Bali food theory, or what is the best thing to eat in Indian xyz region.. Unfortunately this blog is not about “what to eat in India”….It’s utterly about “How to eat in India”? And I am sure if you know ‘How’ ,you will definitely find the answer for ‘What’…This may not be my ‘Magnum Opus’ but it will help you to know ‘The Status Quo’ of Indian Food. So let’s start the beginning and see where we end up…

Food….What is that?A filler? A maintainer? A stimulator? An addiction? A tonic ? or for that matter… A fuel? World has associated food with so many words. But when I talk about ‘THE INDIAN FOOD’…I repeat “THE INDIAN FOOD”…It’s a different story. We are hard wired to take food as a treasure trove. Indians are known as  ’emotional clods’… Our hearts are always ruling our minds..And with that astounding fact, our food becomes an emotion, a party, a celebration….

One more thing to note about the Indian population is ,that we are self rewarding people. And the dangling carrot is always the ’food’. It is used as a reward from ages. Or I can say Food has been celebrated  daily as a reward in India.

The Food choices in India are predicated by one’s income, health condition, Living circumstances,  knowledge of food, storage facilities etc. Main factor that affects the preference , quantity and

quality of food is related to the demographic, socio-economic background .It also depends on the level of Intelligence, instinct, desire and most importantly “hunger”…..For example most of the Indians are indulged into emotional eating. Eating in a huff is the most common. We Indians also believe in awards. Food is a daily award for us….And we receive that award with such pride… here is the award receiving speech…..

 

Feed your self…Its Charity…

The sweet Indian craving

An Indian craving can be very dangerous. It can make you drive 10kms in midnight, just for a cup of “cutting chai”, or it can be as wild as eating 8 Motichoor Laddus one after another from that ‘diwali ki mithai ka dabba’. Or as hilarious as changing the colour of the ‘beef’ from red to black. Biryani in Indian homes is not a one time meal, the craving will make you open the ‘Handi’ anew. Taking my own example, I will definitely cross the line of control to reach the fridge just to eat my Rasmalai. Talking about ‘free food’ , we love the concept of ‘free food’. It can be associated with weddings, birthday parties, functions, niyaz, prasad, langers and sometimes funerals. We are always ready to eat. Basically we are “freelance eaters”

 

THE GOBBLER MIND

The indian thought process starts with food and ends up with food. We search every trick in the book to fulfill our cravings. Whenever a group of friends call the shots to where to meet, it is always a place where edible materials are sold. It doesn’t matter whether you are born with a silver spoon or an iron rod, the mentality is always the same. The grandeur of an Indian wedding is always judged by the food served there. Talking about my self, the minute I enter the wedding, the first thing I search for, is the food counter. The savour of  biryani puts me into a conflict of interest whether to meet the bridegroom or just attack!!! If you are getting married to an Indian guy and want to be in your In-laws’ good books, just become a good cook. Indians believe in cooking up a storm as our hearts are as big as our stomachs. This classic and adorable culture and tradition makes the ‘Indian food’ remarkable.

Sharing my personal experience, I dropped by delhi a year ago. And being a gobbler,I was not giving a toss to see those world famous monuments and forts. My one and only concern was to find that restaurant which serves the best seekh kebabs in delhi, highly recommend by my ‘paternal uncle’s nephew’s daughter’ (or whatever). And that day I definitely became a ‘Delhi trotter’ to find that indefinite restaurant. My self was gotten into a pickle, just to try those seekh kebabs, and my cab driver’s goat was gotten because of passing hundreds of traffic signals and irritating T points. But at the end of the fatigued day, I was over the moon, as I took the first bite of that luscious juicy seekh kebab. So this is how it feels being a Gobbler!!!

 

 

 

THE MUST EAT CONCEPT

The thought process which makes the Indian food so huge and grand is the concept of ‘I must eat this’…For instance, if you are in Gujarat, your  bucket list be dhokla,fafda,thepla,the gujarati thali; in punjab it becomes dal-makhni, makke di roti, sarso da saag; in South it comes with dosa,idli,sambhar. And some usual must eat statements are….Bambai ki chowpatty kulfi aur Pavbhaji ,Delhi ke chandni chawk ke kebab(of course!),Bangali Rasgulle,Rajasthani Daal-Baati-Churma,Indore ki Kachori,Garma garam Vadapav, Samosa pav etc…etc..

 

But Indian food is far more classic and elegant than we think and  know. When you dig more in the world of Indian Cuisine ,you will find the art, creativity, it’s incredible history and most importantly ‘the love’ in the form of those astonishing indian recipies.The vegetables, cereals,spices, herbs, fats used in the indian recipes are the witnesses of the stunning indian journey of food. So before thinking about what to eat in india….Breathe in the pride of indian food.

Because at the end the oscar for the best food goes to ‘You’…To ‘Us’…. ‘To India’… Daily…..

So, tell me which is your sweet indian craving that makes you a gobbler with a must eat concept? Share it in the comment section below!!!

 

 

 

 

Meghalaya- Abode of the  clouds  caves

 

 

I walked up a trail that had been created by many footprints. It was dubious by fallen rocks, bushes and the sound of the wind through trees. I walked… and walked… and walked… And finally a twist! Freezing darkness, cold rock walls, dripping sound of the water and echoing footsteps! A cave! I stepped in and saw my shadow dissolving into the surrounding darkness. And then….” Kumno!” someone said! A gray man was standing in front of me. He again said “Kumno!” and then thumped me on my head! He started shaking me! I was shocked and irritated. “You are late! You moron!” I woke up wildly! My mom had bursted my bubble. Waking up can be really harsh, especially when your dreams are better than reality! Close but no cigar! Again!

This often happens with me. This place reoccurs in my dream! A recurring dream probably merits close attention. Something wants you to pay attention! But what?

 

I’VE GOT BIG PLANS!

Christmas holidays were at hand! Me and my 3 useless friends were calling the shots for planning our next trip. Fortunately my friends don’t come into “Goa is on!” category. We believe that adventures are waiting for us. And that’s why the room was filled with the words Trekking…Hiking…Snowboarding…Rock climbing and so on! I was quite in the whole discussion and suddenly I jumped and said “Caving!” Everyone stopped talking and stared at me in amazement! “Really?”, “It isn’t safe!”, “ It’s not a solo sport!”, ”You need to be 100% sure in this”! “Are you talking about India?” and Blah…blah…blah…everyone was speaking together! But my heart was constantly reminding me about that dream! After sometime when everyone was looking at me in disgust, I said “When was the last time you did something for the first time? It’s time to get away my friends! Everyone seemed convinced up to the point! And that day I finally took the first step towards my dream! I screamed in excitement “Caves are calling us and we must go!”

“But where?” I thoght!

 

GOT IT!

Bragging about something and convincing others for that is easy, but making it real is a hard nut to crack! In my case, I think I can go anywhere I want, if only I knew where to go! I again tried to remember the place of my dream and let my fingers google at ease! I opened my eyes. My fingers had done their work! I read “Caves in India” and the results… “Meghalaya- Abode of the clouds!”

After reading for sometime, I was astounded! Wow India! Meghalaya has about 500 natural limestone and sandstone caves.  The deepest cave in the subcontinent named ‘Synrang Pamiang’ and the longest ‘Krem Liat Prah’ are in Meghalaya. And the most amazing thing is that Meghalaya is one amongst the ‘Top 10 caving destinations of the world!’ I had got my place! “Meghalaya! See you very soon!”

 

LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!

                     We were standing at the Guwahati station waiting for the taxi. Meghalaya was about 105 kms from there. A vivacious journey of about 5 hours! Our destination was ‘Cherrapunji’ also known as ‘Sohra’. A town often been credited as being the ‘Wettest Place On Planet Earth’ because of it’s record-breaking rainfall! I regretted coming with my friends in that romantic cuddle weather! Freezing temperature and feathery rains! Have you watched the movie ‘Avatar’? If not, then Cherrapunji is enough! It emulates the movie as there are countless living bridges. The locals(Khasis) have developed techniques from ages of growing roots of trees into large bridges. Here it is proven that “love creates bridges!”

Finally the wait was over as the next day was ‘The Day!’ As we moved to ‘Krems!’. A cave is called as ‘Krem’ in their local language. In our caving adventure we were going to explore numerous lime stone caves! Siju, Mawswami, Mawsynram, Krem Kotsati, Synrang Pamiang, Krem Umthloo, Syndai were some of the tongue-twisters in our list!

“I am looking like a mechanic!” my friend raved. We were dressed in full legged jumpsuits and helmets with a storm of caving gears. “Don’t worry! In you is a treasure!” the other said looking at the cave! We all burst out laughing on his infantile joke. “Ready Cavers?” I snickered. The ‘Y E S’ was massive as we already entered the cave! So, this is how it feels! The echo of my dreams! Same place, same whiff, same feels! While walking in, I witnessed the magnitude of nature! The cold walls were whispering something! Something that I always wanted to hear! We saw astounding formations such as flow-stones, cave curtains, cave pearls and candles. Everything was so marvellous and divine! We walked through waist deep water and even swam to navigate the caves. Suddenly, I fell on the slippery surface. And a man came in front of me. He was the same gray man of my dream. He smiled and said,”Kumno!” I looked around to see my friends. But they were not there. I tried to get up but somehow could not! I looked at that man for help. He was still smiling! He again said “Kumno!”I was now irritated and annoyed. I bellowed wildly but felt helpless! That man said, “Why are you screaming, don’t you want to go to college”!

“Y E S…M O M” I bawled. But this time, no echo!

Sometimes it takes a great fall to really know where you are! I have got the Dreamers Disease!

 

        FINALLY!

It always seems impossible until it’s done! I continuously pinched myself to ensure that, it’s not a dream in the whole journey of Meghalaya from Guwahati.

I walked up a trail that had been created by many footprints. It was dubious by fallen rocks, bushes and the sound of the wind through trees. I walked… and walked… and walked… And finally a twist! Freezing darkness, cold rock walls, dripping sound of the water and echoing footsteps! A cave! I stepped in and saw my shadow dissolving into the surrounding darkness. Now I was ensued about the reality. My friend introduced me a man saying, “This is our local guide!” That man shook hand with me and said, “Kumno!”

…And I just laughed!

 

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR!

So, this was all about “Once upon a dream!” Some places are like dreams! And for me, Meghalaya is one of them. Between me and Meghalya is a ‘Skinny Love’! Where two people love each other but are too shy to admit it, but they still show it! This fiction travel tale was to introduce you the concept of caving in India. I am sure it will definitely discover ‘Meghalaya’ in your bucketlist!

  P.S:

Comment your dreams below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                            

LADAKH – THE LENS EYE VIEW!

PREFACE:

Camera bag unzipped! Lens cap uncovered! Blue skies…Fresh breathes…Ecstatic winds…And finally “Hello Sunshine!!!”

I came out of that chocking black bag. It is truly said, “Patience is the key to paradise”. And who can value this paradise better than me.  You know I was bought with great enthusiasm. But probably my use appeared to be an unfortunate set of circumstances. My owner boasted so much about me. But it hurts the worst when the person that made you feel so special yesterday, makes you feel so unwanted today! Sometimes being unique, being special can become a curse for you.

Ohh! Sorry I forgot to introduce my self. I am an ‘Ultra Wide Angle Lens’ aka ‘Fisheye’. You all must be knowing DSLR cameras. In the court full of his great courtiers, I am his Royal Fool! In photography and cinematography I am used in capturing wide panaromas and skyscapes where the photographer may not be able to move farther from the scene to photograph it. I can give a wide field of view. Though I have this much potential, it was still needed to find my calling. My owner is a great traveller. But when it comes to photography he always chose state of the art or safe pair of hands. For example portraiture, candids, close ups, zoom bursts and etc. using my respected collegues like standard lens, short telephoto, macro, kit lens and so on. I wasn’t used for so long. Frustration was really set in. I felt like I am waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. I just wanted somebody who will never stop choosing me.

There are two great days in a person’s life- the day we are born and the day we discover why! And that day was my second great one! I got the purpose of my life. My mind was clear…my heart lost all the fear…my nerves were bringing on cheer…because my destination was near!!!

And finally the moment when the shutter button got pressed, click…click…I was amazed and going crazy seeing the beauty around me. I never felt so much happiness in my entire life. A mesmerizing art of nature. Magical, unbelievable and fantastic landscapes, extreme deserts, blue waters, freezing winds, glaciers, sand dunes and breathtaking mountains. I was now getting impatient to know where I was. I wanted to know the name of this stunning, bewildering and outrageous place. I read somewhere ‘ Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport’. My owner again clicked, click…click…Ohh, now this is too much…Finally my wait was over when a person came in front of us and said, “ Welcome to Ladakh!!!”

 

Jinpa!

A 25 year old man was standing in front of us. He was short heighted, round faced and Chinese featured with tiny thick nose, small ‘chinki’ eyes and striking pink cheekbones! He introduced himself, “Hello, I am Jinpa.  I am your driver cum guide during the tour.” I could figure out his typical dialect peering in his words. The best thing about him was his ever lasting smile! He took us to our car. As we were moving towards our hotel, my excitement was soaring. The road was flanked by mountain ranges on both sides featuring some stunning sand and rock natural formations. I could see the bright sun shine in that semiarid desert. The roads were quiet. The only thing I could here was the sound of those euphoric and fizzing winds. I was so engrossed enjoying the beauty around me that I didn’t realize Jinpa was driving the car so tactfully. Though there was pleasingness around,  I had never seen so strange and adventurous roads in my life. I could remember that car racing video game my owner plays where there are extra points for drifting. If it was in real, hitherto Jinpa must have scored a storm! My owner started chatting with Jinpa. He told everything about him. He was a ‘Dard’. The original population of Ladakh are called Dards. He also told us about the Ladakhi culture. Ladakhi culture is a mixture of two main population, the Dards and the Arghons which are the Muslim communities in Ladakh which is a  result of connection with the Kashmiris. People of Ladakh exhibit a strong Tibetian influence in their demeanour, language, culture, food, clothing and lifestyle. While knowing the amazing culture of Ladakh, we entered a city lane. What I realized here was that it was not only Jinpa smiling all the time, I could see all the people smiling as we passed that street. I was really impressed with those charming and warm hearted people. We finally reached our hotel. Click…Click…”It’s just a hotel idiot” I murmured to my owner!!!

 

Wheels of Peace!

“Jullay”! Jinpa greeted with that ever lasting smile. “But it’s May” I thought! I could figure out the same confusion on my owner’s face. Jinpa finally cleared out that he meant “Hello” in Ladakhi language! So beautiful morning it was! As we moved towards our destination, I took a deep breathe of fresh air. Yesterday we slept late as we were wandering in the Tibetian markets of Leh. What a place it was! Calmness in chaous! Hilly streets, intimate lights and smiling people. I gave some amazing wide angle clicks of the market. We bought the famous Buddhist masks and Thangka paintings. My owner also bought some traditional Tibetian and Ladakhi silver jewellery. I don’t know for whom!

Jinpa was explaining the whole day plan. And my owner was constantly chewing the apricots we bought yesterday. By the way apricots here are top of the range. We finally reached our first stop. As soon as we got out of the car, Click…Click…So huge and grand! “Thiksay Gompa!” Jinpa exclaimed. The largest structure in central Ladakh. It was a Buddhist monastery. “We have to walk up” Jinpa said. As we moved up I could see some metal wheels parallel to the path. Jinpa was rolling it while walking. My owner asked him about it. He told that they were’ Prayer wheels’. A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle. Traditionally the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Prayer wheels are used to get wisdom and merit and to purify negatives. My owner also started rolling them. A soothing sound was made from the wheels, which can make you speechless. It was peaceful, pleasant and conducive to the mind. We went up and saw the monastery and of course that amazing view from the top. Click…Cllick… Unfortunately I even can’t say that I saw that view with my wide eyes open!  Because it’s already wide! Just kidding! But I am happy that I got so many chances to perform.

But the real stage was waiting for me. As we went to Shanti Stupa, again rolling the prayer wheels. I felt most alive there as a wide angle was must needed. And then the best performance of my life had taken place!

Our other stops were Hemis monastery with the tall Buddha statue, Jama masjid, Namgyal Tsemo Monastery and so on. Though the day was full of energy, lively and of course hectic for me, the noiseless sound of the prayer wheels made me pacific and had become my wonderwall!

 

50 shades of clay!

Hello new day! We were ready with our stuff for the next two days. I was very excited as we were moving to one of the most isolated valleys of north Ladakh, Nubra Valley! It was 150 km ride from Ladakh. Using the word ‘ride’ was worth as the hilly roads will make your adrenaline high! The whole journey was like a drama! Drama of the nature! Hilly roads, breathtaking passes, high altitude cold deserts, ancient monasteries and small green oasis villages.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done for Coffee? Well, I have my answer! ‘Khardung La Pass’! The world’s highest motorable road and the highest cafeteria in the world! It’s a gateway to the Shayok and Nubra valley. So I think having a cup of coffee at the height of 18380 ft is a fair enough answer.

Click…Click…Oh My God! I saw the milestone, “Nubra-15 kms”! I thought nature has used the whole box of crayons there! It felt like mountains have played ‘Holi’! I couldn’t count the number of tints and shades there. That Y shaped Nubra valley was an all rounder! It had got all, crisp air, stunning views of wheat, barley, mustard and pea fields along with fruit gardens, colourful mountains, rivers, rocks and the ultimate white desert! A perfect fairy tale!

We stayed there for two days. And for those two days I was wild! Every single place was calling me! For those two days, my cap was not put on. The Hunder sand dunes were my favourite! We did a double humped Bactrian camel safari there!  I also saw some trekkers there. Thus ,Nubra valley was an ultimate experience of fun, adventure and respite. For this fifty shades of clay, I wanna live forever!

I am in Love!

No comments! No praise! No words! I was in love! For normal people the colour of love and romance is Red! But for me it’s Blue! Bewitching mountains, intoxicating sky, fizzing winds and extraordin

ary azure water! Oh ‘Pangong’ why were you so gorgeous!

On that day I was really tired because of the long run of 220 kms from Leh! It was a beautiful and adventurous journey as we cross the famous Changla pass, the second highest motorable road in the world, but my inherent lens nature was waiting for something grand! And as Jinpa said “This journey will take us to a lake.” And I still remember my reaction “220 kms, for a lake? Seriously!” My owner actually brought me to heel! But when I reached the place, I felt like a hero who doesn’t believe in love! And then something happens! Magic! Love! Click…Click! My nerves were not in my control neither my owner’s!

Jinpa told that this ‘high grassland lake’ is situated at the height of about 14,270 ft. And 60% of the lake lies in China! Lucky China!

 

P.S:

Hey, Pangong! Meeting You was the best day of my life! You are beautiful! And remember, you will always be my owner’s Facebook coverphoto!

That’s life!

There are some life experiences that change the way you look at life. And that day was full of them! After the thrilling visit of the magnatic heel I strongly believe that life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by it’s breathtaking moments. I mean just imagine, a drum of water when poured on a heel and it climbs up the heel, A car is running at a speed of 100 km per hour without pressing the excelerator! Miracle right? Thogh it has a scientific reason behind it, what I saw there was the power of nature. This kind of episodes make us modest. You see so tiny place you occupy in the world!

Other place we visited was the ‘Hall of Fame’. It’s a museum built by the Indian Army in the memory of the brave Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pak war. When you see the photos, things, the last letters written by the martyrs, you get that feeling when you don’t even know what you are feeling! You are filled with emotions of grief and pride with tears in your eyes. Click…Click… we gave a salute to the military aircrafts flying over our heads leaving tri-coloured smoke!

As it was our last day in Ladakh. Jinpa insisted to take us to his home. And we agreed. His house was in a small village near leh. He parked the car at one point, and from there we walked to his house. A walk where all our worries, anxieties and problems were faded somewhere. In the trees… In the breeze…I found nature’s peace and bliss. My irritation and anger of not being used for so long was so callow I felt. We reached his house. Simply beautiful! I was happy to meet all his family members. Jinpa was living with his wife’s parents. I felt happy to see a feature of Ladakhi society that distinguishes from the other rural parts of India. As Jinpa told us before, woman in Ladakh has a high status and emancipation in the society. Also the society is both paternal and maternal, where the husband staying with his wife’s family is not considered a taboo. Wow, I hope my owner had learnt something from them! They were all-hearted people. We were engulfed by their hospitality. And the best part, they were so surprised to see me. I felt that attention is the purest form of generosity! We walked back to our car and I could see them all waving from so far.

So that day was the day full of experiences, emotions, feelings, joy and love! And that’s life!

 

Time to say Bye!

Bags were packed! Memories were taken along! Blue skies…Fresh breathes…Ecstatic winds and Good bye Ladakh! Jinpa was standing in front us of course with that everlasting smile but tears in eyes. In his eyes, I could see the love and goodness of the people of Ladakh. “Jullay” I whispered with my overwhelmed memory card. We entered the airport. And suddenly my owner stopped, turned around and……… “Click…Click…!!!”

 

 

A note from my memories!

I went to Ladakh few years ago and after that I travelled many other places. But Ladakh has a special place in my heart, which is irreplaceable and ineffable.

This is not just a blog. It’s an emotion! An insight! A memory!!!

Have you ever been to Ladakh or want to be? Then share your thoughts in the comment section below!

P.S: Click…Click!

Naushin Shaikh

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