Little Known Destinations

Dalhousie - My First Love!

Posted by Ms Pintueli Gajjar on February 17, 2011

 
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Dalhousie - my first love



Dalhousie was … Love at first sight! I had never before visited this part of the Himalayas and, I fell hook, line and sinker for it! I thought it was the perfect place to gather all the pieces of my life together…It would be a good place for me to get my spiritual and emotional self back…It was a fabulous place for my children to spend their childhood in…And for all that I know, it was. I have spent 4 of the best years of my life here – teaching at the Hill Top School in Upper Bakhrota.


Dalhousie, established in 1854, is spread out on five beautiful hills and is surrounded by dense forests, deep valleys and from some point down, on a clear day, one can see the mighty river Ravi flowing down to Pakistan. It lies comfortably between 6000 to 9000 ft above sea level. There are only 3 main roads here – Garam Sadak, Thandi Sadak and, the Court road. The first two go around the first hill and the second one goes down the other smaller hill, where the Sacred Heart convent sits at the top. A fourth road goes around the convent back to Subhash chowk. It is designed as the loop of 8.


The Court road goes all the way down to the pump house and towards my friend’s house. There’s a little garden across her house where one can sit and watch the sun set and the Ravi river snaking down the valley. It’s a beautiful place where one can even forget one’s existence.


The Garam sadak starts from Subhash chowk to Gandhi chowk and is a wide, sunny motorable road. The right side is lined with shops while the left side has the hotels overlooking the valley down to Bathri and Jhandri Ghati. Gandhi chowk is the hub of the town where the GPO and most of the shops and eateries lie. It is always crowded with the locals, tourists and the taxi drivers. And occasionally, hordes of langurs! (Both the varieties – with and without tails!) A few meters away is the famous yoga institute, the Dakshina Murti.


On the other hand, the Thandi sadak is a pleasant walk around the hill. It is much quieter and cooler as it is shaded by the numerous trees lining the sides. A few hotels have sprung up recently but otherwise, it is nice to walk and one can see the old part of the town below. From Subhash chowk, one can either take the Court road or take the steps down to the Sadar bazaar in the old part of the town. The steps are lined on both sides by antiquated stone buildings and shops. People have been living here since before independence and it has a unique ambience and architecture. The 150 year old Laxmi Narayan Temple stands testimony to generations of people living here. At the other end, the road takes you back up to the Court road. Court road has some beautiful hotels amongst which is, the oldest one, Hotel Aroma-n-Claire. Unfortunately, in a recent accident, it was burnt down, and I lost my good friend, Rohit, in it. There’s also the oldest store here – B.C. Khanna. The town police station and the court are situated here too. It’s much quieter than the Garam sadak. Up on the hill is the Sacred Heart convent school which is as old as the town itself. From behind the convent is another less-used road that meets Subhash chowk. From here, one can see the Canadian settlement and some of the most awesome sunsets!


Coming back to Gandhi Chowk, take the road going down to Ram Mandir and from there, go on to the famous Panchpula. Panchpula is about 3 kms from GPO and this is where several streams meet to form a huge pool. The main source springs from the north face of Dainkund running down to Panchpula. There is a monument and a Samadhi here built in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh, one of the great freedom fighters and uncle of Bhagat Singh. There is a bustling roadside café that serves snacks and tea. Due to a rise in tourism, this place has lost its original charm but nevertheless, it’s worth a visit. On the way back, one can quench their thirst at the Satdhar Springs, which are believed to contain medicinal properties. The water is sweet and refreshing.


There are 2 churches here…St. John's and St. Francis. St. Francis church stands prominently in Subhash Chowk and has beautiful glass and stone work inside. St. John's church is in Gandhi chowk and belongs to the Protestants. At both the churches, services are held on Sundays.


This, more or less, completes the little hill station called Dalhousie.


From Gandhi chowk, there’s a road that goes down to Karelu Khad where the Jandri Ghati palace is situated. Remember the song from the film 1942-Love Story “Kuch Na Kaho…” Well, it’s been shot at the palace! It passes through Subhash Bowli, from where it is said, Subhas Chandra Bose, while hiding from the British, meditated and held party meetings in secret and kept himself healthy by drinking fresh mineral waters of the natural spring. The spring still exists and the water tastes just as sweet. Just after the monsoons, Karelu Khad has the most beautiful waterfall and lies in the middle of nowhere, since it is not well known. There’s a motorable road all the way to the palace. The palace is out of bounds to the public but the library there is worth a visit and is open on certain days.


Another road from Gandhi chowk goes up all the way to Chamba. The road passes through some of the most interesting places to see around Dalhousie. It passes through dense deodar forests and winding roads and little gurgling brooks and streams. As soon as you take the road, you’ll first pass the famous Dalhousie Public School and get a panoramic view of its grounds and hostels. As soon as you reach the top of the incline, you’ve reached Dhupghadi, or, Upper Bakhrota. There is a beautiful walk around the hill from here that meets up at Ala. From here the road is pretty straight all the way to Ala. Just before you reach Ala, you’ll pass by another famous school, The Hill Top School. Incidentally, the school lies bang in the middle of the Khajjiar-Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary and if one is quiet or quite lucky, you can spot a Himalayan bear or a leopard, as I’ve had an opportunity to see quite a few times! It’s a beautiful road and is home to some of the most exotic birdlife of the Himalayan ranges.


In the mornings, you wake up to the melodious whistle of the whistling thrush. And just before the sun comes up, you can spot the long-tailed blue magpie, flitting from branch to branch, the babblers, barbets, hoopoes, wood peckers, nuthatches, sun birds, bush chats, tree pies, the solitary fly catcher, the paradise flycatchers and hordes of other birds, not forgetting the cacophonic parakeets. Just before the rains, one can hear the continuous humming of the cicadas. Somewhere in the distance, you’ll hear the unforgettable sound of the Great Indian barbet too. You might spy a mongoose, or a hare, or, if you are really lucky, the Himalayan pit viper, slinking away under a rock. And overhead, you’ll see the magnificent Lammergeiers, romancing the skies. There’s much to see for both the amateurs as well as the professional birders. Don’t forget to take your field glasses and your bird guides. Ala is a tiny place with just a few homes and shops. From here, the road winds up to Lakarmandi. From behind the shops is a small 'Pag-Dandi' or a path leading up to Diankund Airbase. The quietness of the trek is overwhelming and a solace to ones spirit.


Lakarmandi, as the name suggests, is a small settlement of coal making Dhogri community. It lies at an altitude of 8600 ft above sea level. The people living here burn trees and make coals which they sell down in the plains. If you haven’t had your breakfast, this is the place to relish some really filling omelettes and aloo paranthas doubled up with the local chamba chukh, actually, pickled chillies. A halt here is a must if you want to see some of the most pristine woods around. Take a walk down the rustic road to Kalatop, perched at 8000 ft, a place with fantastic views of the valley around. And all the better if you can book in advance at the Government Guest house (Booking can be done at the GFO, Wildlife, Chamba) and spend a night with candle-lit or, if the electricity is not there, a starry-studded dinner!. Spending a night here is thrilling as in the wee hours of the morning you can hear the barking deer and maybe, a grunt of a prowling bear. You may also spot the elusive jungle cat, as we did so often. In the far distance, one can see the town of Chamba, if it isn’t too foggy. The smell of the deodars and the sight of the lovely daisies in summer is worth the time spent here.


The Charcoal People


Walking along the snow-swept roads

Bent over with their heavy loads

Black charcoal filled gunnysacks

They walk with strong n’ sturdy backs!


Up and down the slope they go

With not a soul to goad them, though

Smiling and humming on their way

With not a minute to waste away!


From Lakadmandi to GPO

Back again and to n’ fro

Life is hard and a little rough

To survive, that is enough!


Neither a whimper nor a sigh

Escapes their lips and besides,

To complain or make an excuse

Does it help? Is it of any use?


To work and go calmly on

Whether it snows or shines on

They have no time to ponder…

…What strength they have, I wonder!


From Lakkarmandi, there’s another motorable road to the Airforce Base at Diankund. The road ends at the base and from here, one can trek up to the Pahalani Devi’s Temple. Interestingly, there is no idol of the devi here but some trishuls by which, it is said, the devi killed the witches. There are two beautiful lakes, one of which is situated inside the base and beyond limits for civilians. The other one lies in the valley beyond the temple. There are two 60 ft radars there and photography is strictly prohibited. Going along the same ridge past the temple, lies the ‘Jot’ pass and you get to view some really breath-taking valleys and fields along the way, not forgetting to mention the company of hundreds of butterflies on the expanses of wild white daisies and yellow buttercups! Diankund is also known as the Whispering Hill because one can hear the wind whistling through the forests and glades in a multitude of different sounds. The winds are pretty strong up here and it’s a heavenly feeling that cannot be described but has to be felt.


Back on the road to the next ‘Switzerland’ of India – Khajjiar!


Khajjiar is more than my words can describe it. The very sight of it sends ones pulse racing and when you reach there, you’ll be gasping for breath. There is a beautiful stone and wood temple that dates back to the 10th century dedicated to Khajji Naga – the Serpent-God, and has intricate carvings on its pillars and the ceiling. The two smaller temples adjoining the main temple are of Shiva and Goddess Hidimba. ‘Halal’ or, sacrificing a goat, is still carried on at the temple during some festivals. Khajjiar is shaped like a huge saucer. In the middle is a little floating island and from its position, one can judge which side the wind is blowing. Around it is acres and acres of green turf, enough to make any golfer regret carrying his tees! Early mornings are the best time to be here, before the merry-makers arrive with all their noise and din. The fresh smell of the deodar trees and mist in the air rejuvenate your spirits and you come away thinking how beautiful our world really is.


Spend a night at any one of the numerous hotels here and see the millions of stars shining down on you – make some wishes on the many falling stars that you see or catch a moonbeam in the stillness of the night. It’s an unforgettable experience.


Move on to Chamba – the land of a hundred temples!

National Parks

Solo Trek - Valley of Flowers - Uttarakhand

Posted by Ms Pintueli Gajjar on February 17, 2011

 
Forum Post

Its late in the night as I sit in the comfortable confines of a railway compartment at the old Delhi railway station. Its a new experience traveling alone as I wait for the Mussoorie Express to chug into the inky darkness which I hope will take me to a new dawn in my life. I feel more in control of myself and while trying to absorb the atmosphere, I get an occasional strange glance… a single Indian lady with a backpack! I feel good. The train’s started on the dot at 10:15 pm, and I’m on my way. I quickly settle down for a nap and before I know it, am dreaming of flower-filled valleys and endless meadows with laughing brooks and singing rivers. Only when the train comes to a shuddering halt at Haridwar, I’m jolted back to reality! The train, for reasons beyond my understanding, halts here for 3 hours before taking off for Rhishikesh, I decide to get off here and proceed to Rhishikesh by road.


Its 6.15 as I take an auto rickshaw called ‘Vikram’ from here to Rhishikesh which costs me a mere Rs 15 on a sharing basis. They charge per passenger and can crowd in about 10 passengers at a time. It’s been drizzling for an hour now and I expect more rains as I proceed up. The clouds look ominously dark and are hanging low, a sure sign of showers along the way.


The Ganges in Haridwar is magnificent. Unfortunately, my camera is deep down in the rucksack and I’m already regretting not having removed it earlier. I can see a few sadhus having an early dip in the morning chill. 


The road passes up through dense Chilla forest of bamboo, teak and cherry and, Rhishikesh comes quickly. I head straight for Chotiwala’s across the Ram-jhula. This is a famous tea/lunch stall and is so named, because a Chotiwala sits there, all pink and roly-poly, grinning at all and sundry. He looks weird with his ‘choti’ standing straight up in the air!


I have a quick breakfast and leave my rucksack at Chotiwala’s (he’s trustworthy and moreover having such a distinct hairdo he would be easy to spot anywhere) and join a group of people on a small trek to Neelkantha. The cobbled path is slippery as it’s been raining and I enjoy the way up with a group of college kids from Lucknow.. Somewhere deep from the jungle comes the trumpeting of wild elephants and we all hurry along…the pachyderms here are notorious for attacking and a series of stories start on the way up. It’s interesting to hear some of them while most of them are hearsay. We reach at 1:00 pm. I take a dip in the cool stream flowing by the temple and am feeling refreshed. The clouds are now closing in and a damp atmosphere engulfs us. We hurriedly start the trek down and this time, we are almost running as the clouds threaten to break any moment. I quickly gather my sack from the Chotiwala’s and head back to town. As I check into Hotel Uttaranchal, the heavens let loose…. I’m glad to be in my room. After a hot bath, I catch a few winks.


What a surprise when I wakeup at 5:00 pm... The sun’s shining as though it’s never rained! One of nature’s tricks!! I stroll down to the GMVN Office and meet a really nice gentleman, Mr. Allan Sharma, who not only guides me but also lends me the beautiful map of Uttaranchal that is hanging behind his desk. I feel lucky to have met him. He gives me the details of all the probable places I could have a comfortable and affordable stay while on the move. I profusely thank him and go and sit on the banks of the mighty river.


Watching the river flow, I’m lost in thoughts ~ on the creation of the earth, the bounty of nature and thank God that I’m born in such a traditionally rich, seeped in culture and breathtakingly beautiful country. What freedom! I sit pondering until the twinkling golden and silver lights start sparkling through homes across the expanse, reflecting a million reflections in the rushing waters. I choose this moment to call my daughters and my dad and share these happy moments with them. Reluctantly, I walk back to the hotel. On the way, at the market, there’s this sweetmeat shop, Saket, which has a tiny but clean restaurant at the back and serves excellent cutlets and fantastic coffee. My dinner done, I pick up a few apples and nuts for the journey tomorrow and head back to the hotel and in minutes, I’m back in the land of flowers and mountain fragrances…as I dream on.


Up and away at 2:30 am…to the bus-stand to catch the 3:15 bus for Joshimath. As I settle down, I’m half-sleepy and groggy. As the bus starts, I realize with horror that I’m the only passenger and the driver is driving like crazy….he has a terrible smoker’s cough and is continuously smoking bidis and coughing. At times I feel he might just double up any moment….and his driving is driving me nuts. I have all my fingers and toes crossed and am chanting the gayatri mantra to save my own soul! I decide to close my eyes and try to sleep, but to no avail! On the contrary, I’m holding on to all available support with my extremities …and ability!


The journey is awfully beautiful and somewhere along the way, I have managed to lose the Ganges and have no idea when the Alaknanda has joined me … keeping me company… flowing…clouds hanging really low…the mountains towering above and the yellow-vented bulbuls flying around. I can hear the whistling thrush, the low whistle of a bushchat and chirping of the other birds. We manage to arrive safely at Srinagar and as the bus halts, many Sikh pilgrims, on their way to Hemkund Sahib are now boarding the bus. I’m relieved at the company. As the bus starts once again on its journey, I try to take some pictures of the narrow bridges across the river but find it difficult to hold steady … thanks to our ‘Desi-Grand-Prix-Driver’. In fact, most of the passengers are holding on to the seats, windows, bars, each other, whatever … all for their dear lives! I know it sounds hilarious but it is sheer hell! We finally make it to Rudraprayag at 8:15 am. The driver is having another bidi and I wonder what’s going to happen next… my gayatri mantras begin…Was my dream of a new freedom going to go up in a puff of bidi smoke?


    Alaknanda

                                    

We leave Rudraprayag at 9 am. The journey is slower due to the other traffic on the road – some blessing in disguise. Also, since the bus is now crowded with the pilgrims, the driver has less opportunity of trying out his driving histrionics. I doze off until we reach Chamoli. There’s a landslide up ahead and all traffic has come to a standstill. I get off the bus and stretch my legs. The mountains are beckoning and I can’t wait to get to the valley. Just one more night…I arrive at Joshimath at 5:40 pm and have a splitting headache. I check into the GMVN tourist bungalow, which luckily, is bang on the main road. I put my rucksack into the room and order some food, pop a dispirin and doze off. I am awakened by a cacophony outside the hotel. I freshen up and decide to have a look at the town.


    Landslide at Pipalkoti


Joshimath is a small town, but a prominent one as Gobindghat (the staging point for Hemkund Sahib & the valley of flowers) up ahead does not have all facilities. As I stroll down the main market road, there’s no electricity tonight but the whole place is aglow with the soft lights of the candle-lit evening and millions and trillions of stars studded in the sky above. I suddenly realize how dependent we are on technology and how we have, in the name of progress, lost the many beautiful sights that nature has to offer. There’s a chill in the air and I feel snug in my overcoat and muffler. I walk into a small dhaba on the roadside and order some hot food. The strange glances towards me continue…but am so hungry that I just ignore them and enjoy the food. 


I have a good sleep and am up before dawn. I take the 6:40 am bus to Badrinath. The bus is a hotchpotch mix of passengers. The back is filled with the locals while there are a few Bengali tourists in the middle. There’s an antique-looking villager and he’s got a running commentary on… of his visits to Haridwar & is adding his own notions and ideas on religion. He keeps looking at all of us hoping someone would lend him ears, little knowing that we have no choice but to listen to his ramblings….a child is crying somewhere in the back and the bus is packed. The bus conductor has a whacky sense of humor: Bumbai ka fashion…Uttaranchal ka rotation aur Gadhwaal ka mausam – koi garantee nahi! I agree with him. The mountains are lush green and sheer drops of waterfalls dot the scenery. The clouds are still up there and I can see a build-up. Well, the whole valley is shrouded in fog. It’s going to be another wet day!


We reach Gobindghat at 7:15 and I get off the bus and feel my pulse quicken. I look up at the mighty mountains and breathe in the dew-laden air. It smells good. I take my time to gauge the exact time I might take to reach Ghangharia and, realise that I have no idea! I walk through Gobindghat, taking in the ambiance created by the hundreds of pilgrims… some sturdy enough to climb in a short span of time while some are so old that I wonder how’ll they make it??? While I contemplate taking a porter, one suddenly appears out of nowhere, GhanBahadur Singh. He has a kind face and I agree to hire him to carry my backpack. We agree on Rs 200. It has started raining now and I am huddled inside my raincoat.


As we cross the bridge and head towards Pulna, I’m slowing down. It takes some time getting used to walking in the mountains. The fresh air is too good for these hungry lungs of pollution-laden Mumbai and the going becomes tougher. I stop at Pulna and watch the farmers in their fields. Alongside is a tributary, Pushpawati, in a mad rush to meet Alaknanda. The clouds are closing in now and visibility drops. To add to woes a cobbled path, mixed with rain slush and horse-shit, makes it all the more difficult to walk and one has to be careful of putting one’s feet in the right place. A slip here would not only be painful but will cause much misery if not be fatal at this point in time. I make two more stops to enjoy the flavors of the villages and keep a steady pace going. We finally reach Ghangharia at 2:30 in the afternoon.


    Pulna Village


Ghangharia lies bang in the middle of a dense forest shaped in a gorgeous V shaped valley. The tall pine trees shoot skywards like rockets as if to lay a personal claim to the bright rejuvenating sunlight, while the clouds come rushing down, blanketing everything in sight. It has an ethereal feel and I suddenly get a feeling of Déjà vu. I can’t believe I’ve reached here – on my own. The tiny hamlet is bustling with pilgrims and I spot a few Japanese tourists. Just before the hamlet lies an open meadow converted into a beautiful helipad. Today, there are some children playing hopscotch and I am tempted to go join them but I know, I can’t trust my legs now. The last bit was a trifle hard. In fact, I felt like a Jack-in-the-box and my legs are so rubbery that I practically have no control over them.


    Ghangharia


    Ghangharia


I check in at the GMVN guest house and take a dorm-room – all to myself, as there are hardly any tourists. It’s a four-bed room with a bath attached. So far, so good. I dump my backpack and go out to explore. I walk into a hotel opposite and order some food and afterwards, a hot ‘chai’ and watch the people around. There are all kinds… I meet a local couple from Bhyundar village and have a good chat – about their life … and, they look so happy together. Somewhere deep inside, I envy them their blissfully simple lives and think of the madness of my own life in a metropolitan city. It is then that I realize what a loser I am! I go out and explore the small lane selling all the various paraphernalia of temple offerings and flower garlands, sweetmeats and guide books. Spotting a photography shop, I walk in and am greeted by a pony-tailed youth, all smiles and at service. I look at the marvelous photographs of the flowers of the valley. Rajnish Chauhan is an amazing person and a walking encyclopedia of Botany. A resident of the Bhyundar village, he’s been studying the flora and fauna of the valley and the upper regions of the Himalayas since the past 6 years. He’s passionate about his valley and as he talks, a glow spreads across his face as he lovingly dishes out the almost-alien names of the flowers. His shop is full of the most exotic flowers I’ve ever seen – all frozen on postcard-sized glossy photographs.


    GMVN - Ghangharia


It’s now 4:00pm but feels as though it’s 7:00 in the evening. Rajnish has invited me to come view his slide show at the library. As I come out of the library after the amazing show, I can feel my toes and fingers going numb with the cold creeping in. I walk back into the restaurant and dive into some hot tomato soup with paranthas and rush back into my room. I order for some hot water for the water bottle I carry. As I wait for the water to arrive, I pack for tomorrow’s trip to the valley. Everything in order, I jump under the blankets with my water bottle and try to sleep. Outside it is 12˚C and it is raining. The chill is too much and I find sleeping difficult. Have tried all positions and am not sure if I’ve slept even a wink the whole night.


    Rajnish Chauhan


Am up, even before the alarm goes off and drag my numb body out of bed. Have a quick change of clothes, arrange my things neatly and as I step out of the room, I get a shock of my life! I can’t see a thing as the fog has completely shrouded everything. And worse, it’s drizzling. I go to the reception area and ask for a chai. I have no choice but to enjoy the moments of a steaming cuppa. The clouds have rolled in too and except the trees closest to me, can’t see anything beyond. I wait for an hour and then, decide to move on. It has cleared a bit and the receptionist assures me that it’ll completely clear in an hour or so. He was right.



    Entrance to Valley of Flowers


I go up to the entrance of the valley and sit there twiddling my gloved fingers. My legs have taken their own sweet time to get there – after a long, sleepless night they seem out of gear. I buy a ticket at the entrance and wander inside and am greeted by clusters of asters and erigrones – all in purples and yellow, complimenting each other with their unique identities. The path is cobbled through a thick forest of birch, maple and oak. And yes, lots of ‘bhojpatra’ trees. I come upon a small waterfall and take a few pictures. I slow down here as the path now winds uphill while the Pushpawati flows downhill. After a kilometer I reach an old wooden bridge and standing on it, can feel the tremendous power of the swollen tributary. Ahead, I bump into some college kids, who have come from Delhi. They are amazed that I’m doing this trek on my own… well, so am I! As we walk together, chatting about this and that, I spy a Himalayan Pit Viper under a stone. I catch it and show it to the kids who have never seen it. After all the oohs and aahs, I let the snake slide back under the stone. We cross another log bridge and see a glacier where the Pushpawati has cut through. This whole region is now a protected forest and is named as the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. You are not allowed to carry any eatables or disposable water bottles inside the sanctuary to prevent littering.


    The Old Wooden Bridge over Pushpavati


    Bhojpatra Tree


Just as we turn the bend, I find myself gasping for breath. The valley ahead is miles and miles of a many-hued carpet. Yellows, pinks, blues, reds, purples and whites… all clambering for attention! I feel tears roll down – out of sheer joy! It’s a dream come true. The Bhyundar glacier pass is clearly visible and I just sit there gaping! I am sure this is where the Gods live. I walk the length of the valley, marveling at each miracle of nature. I take time to visit the resting place of Joan Margaret Legge and pay my respects to the brave lady who brought recognition of the valley to the world. I am almost at the end of the valley when I see the first cloud rolling in. Reluctantly I turn back and feel certain heaviness in my step as I hasten back. By the time I reach the bridge, the clouds have overtaken me and I’m caught in the downpour. I find shelter under a birch tree. After a 20-minute pour, it suddenly stops and the skies are once again clear. I’m tempted to go back but decide otherwise and head back to Ghangharia. After a quick meal, I join a group of pilgrims, on the way to Hemkund Sahib.







I start at 2 in the afternoon and although it is a mere 6 km trek, it takes me almost 6 hours to reach up. I think this is one the most arduous trips I’ve ever managed. It is 9 pm by the time I’m through visiting the holy shrine. Undecided whether to go down or stay put, I decide to stay put at the Lakshmanji’s temple. Although I now realize how risky it was to have stayed there, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this again tomorrow. Fighting the biting cold and fatigue, I manage to pass the night, singing songs to myself and exercising to keep the cold at bay. The mountains look beautiful in the luminance of the moonlight, not to mention the majestic Nanadadevi Parbat rising just behind the Gurudwara. I don’t feel alone and the mountains seem friendly. At the first sign of dawn, I climb up a small hill beyond the Hemkund shrine and am again down on my knees – this time crying like a baby! The expanse of Brahma Kamals and Fen Kamals are the tip of the cake!!! It is a tremendously overwhelming feeling, which still haunts me to this day! And what’s more, I am out of film!!! Sheer bad luck. But, I guess the power of memory is greater than any film roll… a life-long consolation!


    BrahmaKamal


    FenKamal


    HemKund Sahib


I head back to Ghangharia, and head straight to the restaurant for a breakfast of the local ‘Madhve ki roti’ and black tea. I go to meet Rajnish but he’s gone off with some tourists and missed meeting him. But I do meet his father, Mr. Jagdish Chauhan and promise to come back. Back at the hotel, I meet a family from Kerala who are also traveling to Joshimath. Going down was tougher than climbing up because it was slippery like hell! And by the time I reached Gobindghat, my legs were like two stumps that just wouldn’t bend. I hitch hiked the ride with the family from Kerala, till Joshimath.


    Auli


I stayed there for two days, visiting Auli. Later I went to Mussoorie and did another trek to Har-ki-Dun… but, that’s another story altogether! This visit to the valley wouldn’t have been possible without the full support and motivation of my daughters. They believed in me more than I did and I do not have enough words to thank them. My only wish is for them to visit the place for themselves and re-live all the beautiful moments and experiences that I did.


Valley of Flowers was indeed a dream come true. I have dreamt of visiting the valley ever since I first heard of it while still in school. Since this was my first solo trek, at the ripe ole age of 45, with low blood pressure and a bout of arthritis, it has been a tremendous achievement. Someday, I want to go there again and open a small school for the village children and give them vocational training.




Some advice to first-time trekkers:


• Always plan your itinerary keeping in mind the delays due to the weather and landslides. They are unpredictable.


• Always carry some fruit, chocolate, candy and nuts with you while traveling.


• A torch, batteries, candle and a matchbox are essential commodities in your kit.


• Keep the contacts of the people you know or meet on the way. It’s nice to know you have someone in case of an emergency.


• Be nice to the local villagers. If you are buying something from them, do not haggle too much over the price – probably that’s the only source of income they have. Life in the mountains is far tougher than we think or know.


• When traveling by road, keep a map, notepad and a pencil handy – it helps to jot down experiences.


• Keep your money safe – I usually travel with money in my socks!

• When packing, keep your woolies on the top – you never can tell when you may have to start layering yourself.


• Put all yr medicines in the same pocket as your water bottle for emergencies on the way and make sure it is not easily accessible.


• Especially while traveling in the mountains, carry an umbrella or a raincoat or a rainproof jacket.


• It is also advisable to carry an extra pair of shoes – in case one pair gets wet!


• One sure remedy to keep the cold at bay is to rub some Amrutanjan on the soles of your feet before wearing the socks, on hands and in the neck, just before you jump into bed.


• Never tell strangers of your plans nor let them know that you are new to the place.

• The best place to ask for directions is either the tourist office or the police station.

Photography

Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve - Mydanahalli village, Madhugiri town

Posted by Akshay.S on February 12, 2011

 
Forum Post
Myself and my father with his friend went to the Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve, situated near Mydenahalli, a small village about 23 kms frm Madhugiri Town. The place boasts of about 4000 to 5000 Black Bucks, 6 leopards, jackals and the famous Indian Fox and about 20 to 30 species of birds including the most endangered Montagu's Harrier , Red Necked Falcon and the Steppe Eagle. The place is totally comprised of grasslands similar to the African Savannas.

Mydanahalli is a place for Black Bucks making it the second sanctuary apart from the famous Rani Bennur Black Buck Sanctuary. Recently, The forest department sanctioned funds for the construction of two rooms near the entry gate for the sanctuary. The rooms are available at an affordable price of . Booking are to be made from the Forest Department, Tumkur( address is given in the next page ). Mydenahalli is a total grass landed area providing the Black Bucks to roam around the sanctuary .

Mydanahalli is not difficult to be reached. Here is some info :-
 

Nearest hotel for good food       : KYATASANDRA            Distance : 38  kms

Nearest Bus Station                  : MADHUGIRI                   Distance : 23  kms

Nearest Railway                       : KYATASANDRA            Distance : 38  kms

Nearest Airport                        : BANGALORE                   Distance : 163 kms

all the above given data is in approximate calculation .

REACHING THERE

Mydanahalli can be reached from two different routes. They are :-

1) FROM BANGALORE TOWARDS TUMKUR :-  
    Bangalore -----> Nelamangala -----> Kyatasandra -----> Tumkur ----->

    After reaching Tumkur, cross 3 flyovers and then after a few yards a mud road comes to the right side of  the higway main road . Follow that road.

     After about 40 kms you will reach a village called Koratagere, continue further about 5 kms to reach a town called Madhugiri. Again Continue further 23kms

     to reach Mydanahalli and from the main road. A mud path leads to the right, follow that and there you will reach the main gate of  the  Reserve.


2) FROM BANGALORE TOWARDS DODDABALLAPUR :-

    Bangalore -----> Hebbal -----> Yelahanka -----> Doddaballapur -----> Gowribidhanur -----> Thondebavi ----->

    Kodigenahalli -----> Maidanahalli

    I don't know when and where to deviate from the main road as i forgot to note down the names of small villages though i feel this is the best route to enter the black buck reserve. I will try to note them down when i go there next time .

AVAILABLE ACCOMMODATION

When you travel to mydanahalli, i suggest you to stay the whole day in the sanctuary because you may get rare happenings in nature. Usually I would stay till 5'o clock in the evening and I would return, but now the Karnataka Forset Department has sanctioned funds in building two rooms in the sanctuary. U can stay there. The rooms are luxurious and are at an affordable price.


Cost of the rooms              : Rs. 300/- per room
Booking to be made at       : Aranya Bhavan,R.K. Nagar,Kunigal Road
                                           Tumkur
                                           Ph :- 0816 - 2201196 / 97
 

Person to contact                : RFO


WHAT YOU MAY GET TO PHOTOGRAPH

Apart from the Black Bucks , you can get a wide variety of various wildlife subjects to shoot.
Wildlife what you can sight are :-
* Indian Fox ( exception )
* Leopard ( i have not even seen once )
* Montagu's Harrier
* Red Necked Falcon
* Steppe Eagle
* Short - Toed Snake Eagle
* White Eyed Buzzard
* Marsh harrier
* Oriental Honey Buzzard
* Snakes ( If you are lucky )

The existence of Leopards in Mydanahalli is not known to me. I have just listed it because i remember my father telling me that one of the photographers team had spotted a leopard pug mark.

THE BEST SEASON FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

According to me, the best season for photography is during winter. It is because you get not only

Black Bucks, but also you will get the birds of prey as they will be available to photograph only

during the winter in whole of south India. Even the sanctuary will be green. You can also enjoy

the pleasant winter climate. Hence you can leave your place at an ideal time around 4:30 am in

the morning so that you can reach the sanctuary around 8:00 am.

 

Dont forget to have your breakfast packed or you can have it on your way to Tumkur, you will

not get to eat anything in and around the sanctuary in 5 kms of radius.

 
WILDLIFE I WITNESSED AND PHOTOGRAPHED

On my first trip to Mydanahalli I saw only the Black Bucks and the White eyed buzzard and also

the Red Necked Falcon. But my second trip was somewhat successful. I got to see 10 species of birds and 2 species of animals. As you well know that you may not be successful in all the outings you go, you maybe successful in one of the ten trips. That happens for all of us. Hence I didn't get disappointed when I first went to this sanctuary.

I also have my own website, under the name, http://www.wildlifeventures.com,
please visit the site and also please give your suggestions by writing in the guestbook

Bio-Diversity

BEEJ BACHAO ANDOLAN

Posted by Tulip Das on February 04, 2011

 
Forum Post

The ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ [BBA], begun in the late 1980s, is twenty five year old, led by farmer and social activist Vijay Jardhari. The Andolan started in the village Jardhargaon of district Tehri, Uttaranchal, famous for its unique movement to save the traditional seeds of the hills.

 

The ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ [Save the Seed Movement or BBA] is not only a crusade to conserve traditional seeds but also to promote agriculture and local tradition.

 

A farmer and social activist, Vijay Jardhari realized that modern agriculture was destroying traditional farming. Crop yields of the high-yielding varieties in the modern agriculture were actually low; soil fertility was declining leading to an increasing dependence on toxic chemicals. Along with other activities of chipco movement, Jardhari formed the BBA to promote traditional agriculture and crop varieties.

 

In the valley of Ramasirain, Uttarkashi district, Farmers were growing a distinctive variety of red rice called chardhan. The rice was nutritious and suited to local requirements and conditions. Farmers also grew indigenous varieties like thapchini, jhumkiya, rikhwa and lal basmati. Agriculture here was untouched by modern practices and good yields were obtained without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. What the farmers here were doing was avoiding monoculture in a method called baranaja [12 grains] that involves the multicropping of a no. Of cereals and legumes. This diversification is security against drought and crop failure. Different crops are harvested at different times of the year and ensure year-round supply of food. This also maintain soil fertility replenishes nitrogen.

 

Today BBA has about 150 varieties of paddy from which 100 different varieties can still be grown. BBA has also collected 170 varieties of rajma. Effective pest control is accomplished by using the leaves of the walnut and neem, and the application of the ash and cow’s urine. The use of traditional farming methods and seeds has resulted higher yields, improved health of humans and increased conservation of soil fertility and agro-biodiversity.

Bird Sanctuaries

Birding in Rollapadu Landscape , Andhra Pradesh India.

Posted by Murali on January 18, 2011

 
Forum Post

Birding in Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh:

        

        Grassland ecosystems are one of the finest ecosystems in the world which support very good populations of birds especially the grasslands specialist. Among such grasslands ecosystems in India, Rollapadu wildlife sanctuary is one of the finest grasslands present in India. This sanctuary was formed in the year 1988especially to protect the endangered bird The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) and also Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus) which nests in this region.Topography of the sanctuary is gentle undulating plains with an elevation of 290m and vegetation is of Southern Tropical Thorn Forest type. Climate is mostly hot and dry for a period of more than 8 months with mean annual temperatures about28°C, maximum being 42°C and minimum being 18°C.Average rainfall of the area is 450mm and usually it varies.  It is open dry grassland with interspersed thorny bushes. The flora includes grasses like Arisitida funiculata, Chrysopogon fulvus, Heteropogan contortus, Sehima nervosum, Dicanthium pseudoischaemun and small tree species like Morinda sp, Pheonix sp. etc. Fauna includes blackbuck, jackal, wolf, Indian fox, bonnet macaque, Indian bustard, Indian roller, sparrows, mynas and pipits, Russell's viper, Indian cobras etc.


         The sanctuary is bordered with the agricultural lands cultivated with dry-land crops like that of sun flower, tobacco and cotton. A small village named Rollapadu lies closely to the sanctuary. A mud-road passes through the sanctuary, which bisects the sanctuary; it is used for transportation by villagers to reach the agricultural fields present on the other side of the sanctuary. A small man-made water body is maintained in the sanctuary to quest the thirst of wildlife. Alaganur reservoir is another man-made reservoir present adjacent to the sanctuary to store the rain water. This is located three km towards east of Rollapadu village. Prosopis sp. covers the dry area during dry season.

          

        Nearly132 species of birds were recorded which included the resident and migrants (winter). The resident birds included a wide range of them starting from small sized warblers to the huge sized Short-toed snake eagle. The tall trees interspersed provided nesting for the large sized raptors like that of Eagles and the old abandoned wells acted as nesting sites for the Eurasian eagle-owl. The reservoir served as a roosting and nesting place for many aquatic birds including winter migrants such as the Bar headed geese, demoiselle cranes, harriers etc. Short-eared owls roosted in scrubby areas. It is also doubted that Greater Flamingo’s use this area as passage route during their migration to southern parts of India.


For check list of Birds, Please mail me @ (murali7murali@gmail.com)

Wildlife

Dr Clay wildlife veterinarian and Game warden Chobe Botswana

Posted by clay wilson on January 10, 2011

 
Forum Post
I was very kindly invited to join your club by Susan Sharma. I am amazed at how much support and love i receive from the people of India.I would one day like to visit your beautiful country. i have been volunteering my services and personal funding to save and promote wildlife conservation in Chobe Botswana.Here we have over 160 000 elephants compromising over half the entire elephant population of the world. i alone provide veterinary services for the park. i have 2 Major projects which i need to implement One is to save the declining lion population that was wiped out by a canine distemper outbreak last year, The other is introduction of UAV IE Unmanned aerial vehicles for patrol and identification of poachers. These are very expensive and i need your assistance in doing this. i have  no source of income and have expended my lifes savings. please visit my website at http://chobewildliferescue.org/ to see what i am doing.
Any help would be much appreciated
Brgds
Dr Clay Wilson
Kasane

Wild Elephants

Human Elephant Conflict

Posted by Ankur on December 27, 2010

 
Forum Post

The combined wild Elephant Population of North Bengal is about 500. The vegetative degeneration in addition to innumerable human habitations inside the forests has rendered the existing habitats in the area redundant. Moreover, the forests have become too fragmented even to support the 300-odd elephants, thus the elephants are compelled to move through tea gardens, villages and agricultural fields killing more than 60 persons annually. In contrast to the figures for north Bengal , only 30 to 40 deaths are caused by human-elephant conflict in southern India , even though the elephant population is more than 20 times the Wild elephant population of North Bengal.

The locals use spears, arrows, firecrackers and even firearms to drive away the elephants. Invariably the Elephant gets injured and unable to bear the pain goes berserk, causing even more damage. A lot of Elephants face an agonising death each year.

A recently upgraded Railway line from Siliguri to Alipurduar has added a new dimension to Human Elephant Conflict. Since the conversion of the tracks a few years back, over 25 Elephants have been hit by trains. On the night of 23nd September’2010, seven elephants including a four year old calf died when a Guwahati bound goods train passing through dense forest knocked them down. Four of the elephants died on spot including one female that was dragged along for 300 meters by the train, The baby elephant was outwardly without any wound; but it slumped to the ground and died later in the morning.

Please assist us in raising awareness about the issue. All suggestion and inputs are welcome.

Bird Sanctuaries

Magadi Lake, Gadag, Karnataka

Posted by Shirolkar BW on December 22, 2010

 
Forum Post
Magadi Lake is located in Gadag district of Karnataka state. It is a part of North Karnataka. Every year thousands of Bar headed geese come to this lake. This year some of my friends of North Karnataka Birder Watchers club has noticed two geeses which are banded. They are successfully photographed and traced their origin to Mongolia.

Shirolkar

General

Vacancy At Orange County Kabini, Karnataka

Posted by Joydeep Banerjee on November 22, 2010

 
Forum Post
We have vacancy for the post of Executive Naturalist at Orange County Kabini. Candidates with pleasing personality, communications skills and knowledge on wild life and conservation can apply.

http://www.orangecounty.in/kabini/home.php


Warm regards,

Joydeep Banerjee
Resident Manager
Orange County kabini
Website: www.orangecounty.in
Email: joydeep.banerjee17@gmail.com
joydeep.banerjee@orangecounty.in
Mob: 9980137141

Photography

photovally

Posted by sudhianna on November 14, 2010

 
Forum Post
green leef
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