Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cycle Ride to Khardungla

That awesome feeling, when you are on a bi-cycle and you can see aeroplane flying below you.

Khardung La (Khardung Pass):
Khardungla lies on north of Leh, is the gateway for Nubra Valley.
The roads are maintained by Border Roads Organisation (BRO),
Locals/BRO claim that it is world's highest motorable roads(18380ft),these claims are disputed by modern GPS systems which measure as 17582ft.

Renting Cyles : 
As we planned cycle ride to Khardungla, the first thing was to rent good bicyles.
We started the search, went to almost all cycle renting shops in Leh, didn't find good cycles.
After a long search we finally found one bike shop "Summer Holidays" on upper Tukcha road, Leh.
They keep good Mountain bikes for renting, he had TREK 3700/4300, GIANT bikes, and many more.
As that was peak season, rent charges are Rs.900/day/cycle same as that of renting an Royal Enfield Bullet.
After a good bargain we got 10 cyles for Rs.8000/- along with back up van, which we didn't thought of.

Cycle Ride :
Khardungla is 42Kms from Leh.
Ride to Khardungla is tough considering the whether, road and terrain conditions.
We started at 5:00 in the morning, temperature was around 5-8 degrees.
Moved towards Khardungla, streets wore a deserted look, no one around.

The route was not easy, as we started 5 from our batch moved past me.
After riding for an hour I realized i was the last rider, moving steadily negotiating climbs.

As time passing the distance between me and fellow riders kept increasing.
At a point thought of going back, but didn't, kept on riding.

We are not well prepared, just the day before we completed YHAI Mountain Biking Expedition.
Just had noodles before the start, carrying gatorade and few energy bars.

On the way to Khardungla
Later on I stopped for sometime, had a snickers and gatorade, started again.

Just before reaching south pullu, i was almost dead.
I cannnot push myself beyond this,and Khardungla is 15Kms from there.
And there is no point in pushing hard and falling ill, so decided to stop there.

Suggestion for Visitors - At south pullu

Saw a van ( not our back-up van) coming from behind, asked for lift.
Driver stopped and asked me to get in, the driver himself loaded and tied my cycle on van top.
These Leh people are so helpful, always ready to help.

Roads till south pullu (24Kms) are in good condition, from there the roads are full of rocks, dirt and may be snow melt.

The van driver a was great help, it was like a social trip for me.
All the way we were discussing about Ladakh Culture, what they do, how they live, etc etc.

Khardungla Top:

We reached Khardungla top, driver helped me untying the cycle.
As I tried to offer some money for the help(typical city lives), he refused firmly.
I gave my number and asked him to call for any help in pune (his children are studying here).

As I waved good bye to driver, the temperatures are below 0, felt something weird happening to me.
I was feeling dizzy, unable to stand, happened like my vision getting blurred.[Altitude Sickness]
Immediately went into nearby military facility, the army guy standing said civilians are not allowed.

Snow clad mountains - Khardungla Top
I can see cafeteria, its just 100mts away from me.
I was thinking "will i make it to cafeteria or collapse in between"
Took few deep breaths left all my belongings, walked straight to cafeteria, had 3 tea and hot noodles.
Rested for sometime, body gave a "good to go" signal, went out and roamed nearby.

A small frozen waterfall in between.

"The" route.

"The" route.

My cycle posing on the world's highest roads.
On the top, people are surprised to see me with cycle, started asking all sort of questions
did u come on bicycle? how did you manage? where are you coming from? etc etc..
Few people wanted to take photographs with me, now this is real weird for me.

Clicked few pics there and started back to Leh.

Elevation Profile : 
Elevation Map : Click for the elevation map of the route

- Start early.
- Plan well, sleep well before night.
- Carry water, energy drinks/bars.
- Wear layers of clothing, temperature changes quite fast, you can add or remove accordingly.
- Be extra cautious on rock and on fresh snow patches.
- Oxygen in air is 50% low compared to that of sea levels, be well prepared.
- Do carry cycle repair kit.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Baneshwar Temple, Nasrapur

Baneshwar Temple, Nasrapur
Place Type: Temple / Waterfalls / Recreations for Kids [ perfect for a day trip with kids ]

Distance : Approximately 35Kms from Pune.
MSRTC has frequent bus services to Baneshwar/Nasrapur.

Best Time to visit : Anytime , Better in monsoons with waterfalls.
Exercise extreme caution in monsoons, as the water falls will be at full flow.

Baneshwar is a temple of lord shiva , located in Nasrapur.

Driving Directions:

View Driving directions to Baneshwar Temple Access Rd, Nasrapur, Maharashtra in a larger map

Temple Architecture [ From Wikipedia ]
Baneshwar temple architecture is from the medieval period. The temple was constructed in 1749 by Peshwa Nanasaheb, son of Peshwa Bajirao I.
The total cost of construction was 11,426 Rupees, 8 Aane, 6 Paise. 
The temple hosts an important bell which was captured by Chimaji Appa after defeating the Portuguese in the battle of Bassien in 1739.
The bell has the year 1683 and a Cross on it, which depicts that the bell belonged to a church and was transported as a token of victory. 
Same kind of Portuguese bells can be found at Bhimashankar Temple too.

The temple has two pond/tanks where few fish and turtles can be found.

Surroundings : 
The temple is surrounded by lush green trees, hence the name Baneshwar - God within forest.
The forest surrounding temple hosts good variety of birds,a must visit if you are a bird lover.
The scenic water falls behind the temple is one of main attractions.
The garden surrounded has kids play area, along with green trees and birds make it a perfect one day family trip.

I have been to this temple once in mid-summer, the forest and play area surrounded is as usual green.

Temple Entrance


Fish ponds inside temple.

Children play area outside temple complex.

Children play area outside temple complex.

Waterfalls behind temple

This is in mid summer, temple is lush green

Waterfalls wore a deserted look in hot summers.
Other Similar Places:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mountain Madness - Himachal Pradesh

This is about my recent trip to beautiful Mountain State, Himachal Pradesh, where 90% population lives in rural areas.

With snow clad mountains, pine forests, perennial rivers, apple and cherry orchards, a place which I say in nearest approximation to heaven(if it exists).

The mighty peaks are host of many adventure activities like Trekking, Rafting and Skiing.
Most of the parts of state are cut-off from outside world by snow for 4-6 months(may be this is the reason to remain beautiful).

Manali, Shimla, Kullu are not of my interest because of crowds.
Was seriously looking for some off-beat not-so-crowded and not-so-known places to visit, found few places and Tirthan Valley topped the list.
At Tirthan Valley, we stopped by Raju's Cottage, which itself is amazing place.

Read detailed post on Tirthan Valley and Raju's Cottage.

Raju's Cottage across the Tirthan River
I always wanted to see/spend time in villages and take real experiences.
While I was staying at Raju's, met a local college going guy had a chat him.
Asked him if he can arrange for a nice trek and village stay.
The same day he called me and arranged a home stay and trek to Lambri.

Detailed post on Lambri Trek

Nature Hues : On the way to Lambri
After that I moved to Kasol for Sarpass Trek organized by Youth Hostels.
Sarpass Trek is the oldest and most famous treks organised by YHAI.

Detailed post on Youth Hostels Sarpass Trek

Sarpass Trek : On the way to Nagaru Camp

Lambri Trek - Himachal

Lambri is a hill in Tirthan Valley, altitude might be some 9,000 ft.
This is not a popular destination, in fact doesn't even have a road to base village Jamala.

Lambri Trek Route:
Gushaini - Sarcha Village - Jamala Village - Lambri.

We started at around 7AM, took vehicle and went to Sarcha.
Got to see some most spectacular sunrise from mountains.

Mighty Peaks
There are almost no plain lands in Himachal

Subash is the guy whose co-ordinated and organized this,we stayed at Rittam's place in Jamala.

Towards Lambri
Sarcha is a small village which is some 19Kms by road(under construction).
Villagers use the trek route daily which is 7Kms, which we can't even think of.
No wonder poeple there are so strong and don't fall sick.

Small hill top villages, Jamala and Sarcha
After Sarcha comes Jamala, which is just 2Kms away.
Reached at around 9AM, got to Rittam's place.
Rittam's place has big wooden house, which can accomodate few guests.
Had a nice chat with Rittam's family, big un-divided family.
Chat went right from village matters till politics, was a nice social trip too for us.

Beautifully built wooden houses in Jamala
Had heavy breakfast and moved, Jamala is the last village on the way.
The trek completely goes through dense forests, it's very risky to go without local villagers help.

The village kids are very much fond of us and gadgets we are carrying.
They want to take photos, use mobiles, cameras, had fun time with kids.
Few want us to play cricket with them, they made their own bats and using old stuffed socks for balls.

High Altitude Cricket

The forests here hosts a wide variety of birds and animals.
If you are a bird lover , you will get to see and hear beautiful birds.

You might get to see some cheetah, tigers also.
We are not that lucky, just saw some remains of cows and goats eaten by wild animals.

These forest are very good source of herbs and medicinal plants.

Morel Mushroom, Rs.40K per KiloGram
Didn't know that time, else would have been there few more days to cover travel expenses

High rise pine trees

On the way, while we are taking photos and playing in fresh snow.
Rittam was collecting some plants, leaves, mushrooms, which are used to cure common problems like stomach ache, fever, etc.

The trek is awesome, as we got to stay in villages and experience real Himachal Pradesh.
Below are the pics

Nature Hues

Negotiating steep Climbs of Lambri.

Lambri Summit

Read more from Himachal Tour here:
Lambri Trek - Tirthan Valley
Sarpass Trek - Himachal Pradesh
Tirthan Valley - Gushaini

Sarpass Trek - YHAI

Remember that time spent on a rock climb isn't subtracted from your life span.
Climbing is as close as we can come to flying.
-Shamelessly copied.

This is my third expedition with Youth Hostels(YHAI), read about previous ones below.
Goa Biking Expedition
Leh Mountain Biking Expedition

National Himalayan Trekking Expedition or simply Sarpass Trek:
It is one of the oldest and famous trek organized by YHAI.

View of Mighty Mountains from Kasol Base Camp
Is it for me?
I found many people leaving the trek intermediately, it's no fun leaving in between.
So, below are few things to consider before taking up sarpass.

Its for you, if you:
- Have done a good numbers of treks.
- Can sustain a couple of falls/injuries with no loss of enthu .
- Know that you can be injured fatally(Didn't see/heard of any though).
- Know the utmost luxuries you get are a sleeping bag and a blanket.
- Know that the whether can go bad anytime.
- Know the temperatures might drop below zero.

Strictly not for you, if :
- You are inspired by movie "Yeh Jawani Hain Deewani".
- You are inspired by friend's facebook pic and want one for yours.
- This is your first trek.
- Think this as a picnic.

Schedule for Sarpass - 2014:
Day 1:- Reporting at Base Camp, Youth Hostel Kasol.
Day 2:- Acclimatization and Orientation.
Day 3:- Rock climbing and rappelling.
Day 4:- Trek to Grahan (Ht 7,700 ft,9 kms, 5hrs).
Day 5:- Trek to Padri (Ht 9,300 ft,9 kms, 6 hrs).
Day 6:- Trek to Min Thatch (11,200ft,10 kms, 6 hrs).
Day 7:- Trek to Nagaru (11,800ft, 6 kms,5 hrs).
Day 8:- Trek to Beskari (11,000ft,14 kms, 8 hrs).
Day 9:- Trek to Bhandak Thatch (8,000ft,12 kms, 6 hrs).
Day 10:- Trek to Barshani road (6,600ft,10 kms, 5.5 hrs), transfer by bus to Base camp Kasol.
Day 11:- Camp breaks after breakfast.

Daily Schedule:
Tea and Snacks.
Breakfast and Pack Lunch for afternoon.
Welcome drink and snacks at destination.
Milk + Bournvita
Hot water at Higher Camps on request.

All the camps are tented in nature's lap, equipped with bare necessary things and staff.

Day 1: Report and Rest
The day was purely meant for rest, did rest and got used to tents, camping and all.
Took a walk to nearby market bought a pair of nice gloves and socks to keep hands and foot warm.

Kasol Base Camp.
Day 2: Acclimatization hike.
A small hike will was organized to get acclimatize and to know each other.
Briefing on YHAI and sarpass route by Field Director.

Day 3 :
We had a couple of sessions in Rock Climbing and Rappelling.
This is the last day at base camp, we packed our Hiking Bags and submitted the extra luggage.

Kasol Valley

Kasol Valley

Day 4:
Here starts the actual trek, moving to higher camps.
A 9KM nice trek to Grahan Camp/Village, it was the last village on the trek to sarpass.
Camp is located a mid green fiels and snow clad mountains.
We had some good interactions with village people, bonfire experience on chill nights is awesome.

On the way to Grahan Camp

Grahan Camp, a mid green fields and snow clad mountains.
Day 5:
Another 9KM trek to Padri Camp.
Padri is completely surrounded by high snow clad mountains.
As and when we reached padri, nature welcome us with hailstorm.
Padri Camp is on a thatch(grazing lands), there is small river flowing.

All Valleys

Padri Camp

Padri Camp, welcome by hails.
Day 6:
Trek to min thatch is the most difficult on this route, as one gains height of 2K+ in 10Kms.
When we started the skies are covered by dense clouds, all are skeptic about whether and many people turned back from here.

As we moved further, the trail gave us nice view of mountains with waterfalls, high rise trees.
The path was very steep almost everyone started panting, pace got very low.
After few kilometers, the whole trail is on snow,all were tired and hiking on snow was tiresome.

Two kilometers before the min thatch, there was a heavy snowfall.
Snowfall gave us spectacular breath taking views of surroundings, offcourse scary too.
Many times the trail was on the ledges of valley, all reached safe and sound.

Min Thatch Camp, Nagaru Behind

Min Thatch Camp

At min-thatch the temperatures were very low, those who didn't got good number of clothes and whose bags got wet had real hard time.
Its always advised to keep few extra clothes and most important to cover bags properly.

Day 7:
Few people who are ill-prepared like clothes getting wet, injured, not-so-fit moved back to base camp.
This was the best day for all of us, as we moved further, it started to rain, winds blowing and snowfall.
Little did we know that this is going to turn into huge storm and cancel our whole purpose of sarpass trek.

The trail was easy, but winds made it diffucult.
At a point my rain coat over turned and the winds so heavy that I feared I would be carried away by wind.
With no option I sat down on snow to avoid winds.

On the way to Nagaru

On the way to Nagaru

On the way to Nagaru

Nagaru Camp
Check the below Nagaru Camp video

There were no trails further, all covered with snow.
It was hard to navigate, the cold and snowfall made it even more diffucult.

Some how we managed to reach Nagaru Camp. There are no signs of skies getting clear.

At a point of time, all that we are doing was to hold tent firmly so that tent doesn't get up-rooted and cleaning tent top every 30 mins to avoid getting buried.
We are hoping that the storm and winds will be cleared by morning.

Day 8:
We woke up at 4AM to proceed towards Sarpass, unfortunately the whether is the same.
And the whole batch has to move back as guides are not ready to take us further citing bad whether.

With no other option, we had to move back to base camp.
While coming back, all the partially covered hills previous day were fully covered by snow.
The trees which appeared green previous day were in total white.
The fresh snow is till knees, its was not easy to climb down too.

This is how green mountains changed into.

Day 9/10/11:
Not Applicable for our us.

Tips :
Carry few polythene bags to protect clothes, etc.
Boys, don't do a clean shave, facial hair helps from dust, tanning, etc.
Take good quality rain coat and thermals.
Protect your bag from water and moist.


Woolens / Thermals / Jacket

Cotton Shirts / T-Shirts

Slacks / Comfortable pants

Sun Cap

Comfortable one's
which you are wearing from some time
Woolens are better, even cottons work
Enameled or Steel Mug / tumbler
To drink tea, water, etc.
To eat food, no paper plates, better carry steel one

Swiss knife
Will be really helpful.

Cold cream / Vaseline / Sunscreen

Liquid body wash is better
Toilet Paper


Rain cheater / Rain coat

Medicines which you normally use at home

Camera with extra batteries

Membership Card 
YHAI Membership card and Admit card / Passport Photos
Flight / Train / Other travel docs
Clotrimazole powder 
Good to have
To fight itching from sweat
Memory cards 
Good to have
Carry one as spare.
Battery Bank
Good to have

Tooth brush  




Paper Soap
Good to have

Fitness Certificate
Can get from General Physician
Inflatable Pillow
Good to have
If you are used to pillow.
A good Rucksack to hold all above

Note : Above experiences are my own, from the batch SP-06 of 2014.
Camps and trek route might differ from time to time.

Read more from Himachal Tour here:
Lambri Trek - Tirthan Valley
Sarpass Trek - Himachal Pradesh
Tirthan Valley - Gushaini