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Old 9th February 2015, 12:45   #1
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Default Hello from a wannabe budget world traveller

Hello all

Just want to quickly introduce myself. Although I am using this site for years and even registered and wrote a post on my motorcycle last year, I have finally decided to be more engaged with team-bhp and become a regular.

I stay in Bangalore and have a few small businesses. At present, I have a Mitsubishi Pajero Sports, a Hyosung ST7 and a Bajaj Avenger that I use for personal travel. When I was **not** studying in the US, I used to own an old Ford Continental. As a car, the latter wasn't too great. But it was a walking sofa - the most comfortable car I have ever seen. Its bonnet was soo long you could pitch a tent on it and go to sleep.

With the Pajero, my desire for owning cars has reached its acme. I wish to own no other car and I don't believe there's a car that is better than the Pajero for my particular need - which is, a decently comfortable car with great off-roading and bad-roading capabilities. Yes, if you can get me the comforts and ride quality of an Audi with the capacity, engine and monstrous strength of the Pajero, I might be interested.

As for motorbikes, the world is a large place with many options. I like the ST7 because it is relatively cheap for the cruiser look. I could get similar looks in a Softtail, but that is beyond my motorcycle budget. The 883 etc do not compare, in my opinion, to the looks of the ST7.

I am not a bike or car enthusiast, but I am a travel enthusiast. I have been travelling alone since when I was 17, when I first did a month-long solo trip to the Uttarakhand and Kumaon in 1995.

Just yesterday, I returned from a car trip with the family - including my 3-month old son - to Malnad. The Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is a beautiful place.

I want to go there again on my bike, possibly camp there. If anyone is interested, lets talk.

I also have an interest in boating and fishing, and have a small motormount boat.

So those are my interests. I am looking to spend a lot of time, on this site and out of it, talking cars, bikes, and places to travel to in and around Karnataka. Possibly even planning group trips.

There are some awesome folks on this site, with a real interest in, and knowledge of, cars, motorcycles, travel spots, etc. I hope to learn a lot from you all.

S
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Old 10th February 2015, 16:34   #2
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Default Re: Hello from a wannabe budget world traveller

Welcome to Team-BHP.

You'll find many fans of the Pajero over here, me included. Good to know that you enjoy travelling as well. We'll look forward to some travelogues from you.

See you on the forum.
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Old 11th February 2015, 10:39   #3
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Default Re: Hello from a wannabe budget world traveller

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
Welcome to Team-BHP.

You'll find many fans of the Pajero over here, me included. Good to know that you enjoy travelling as well. We'll look forward to some travelogues from you.

See you on the forum.
Thank you, Aditya. I will surely be sharing my travels with the forum. I did a Kaza trip in my car couple years back. Let me find those pictures and I will write it up.
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Old 11th February 2015, 11:15   #4
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Default Re: Hello from a wannabe budget world traveller

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrSDey View Post
I am not a bike or car enthusiast, but I am a travel enthusiast.
I'm too!

Quote:
I have been travelling alone since when I was 17, when I first did a month-long solo trip to the Uttarakhand and Kumaon in 1995.
17, a month long trip and solo one at that - too intriguing. Could you share more on it?
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Old 13th February 2015, 13:14   #5
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Originally Posted by CliffHanger View Post
I'm too!



17, a month long trip and solo one at that - too intriguing. Could you share more on it?
In 1995, I got out of the boy's hostel I was jailed in for 8 years, and felt real freedom for the first time.

Without any planning, just a camera, a rucksack, a tent, and some 3000 rs in my pocket, I hopped on the Doon express from Howrah.

This was May. Two days in the sweltering heat, and I embarked, very early in the morning, at a small place called Laksar.

In those days, 20 years ago, Laksar was the place to get down at. From there, you took a bus or a local train to Hardwar. So I did that, and for the next couple days, roamed around the town. I also climbed the Chandi (?) temple across the river on the way towards Kankhal, but since the route was closed, I did it through the hill facing the river. It was a real wild climb right in view of the big city.



Note: None of these images are my own. I have the original photos somewhere i my native place in Kolkata, but I stay in Bangalore now, and after so many years, I am unable to find them.
Note2: They have a ropeway now, but I had climbed that sheer mud hill from the river's edge below.

In this first trip, I covered Gangotri. I walked the 18 kms to Gomukh, and then the 3 kms over the glacier to tapovan. A Bengali baba was living in a cave there with his wife. No Indians, just a bunch of Spanish, Italians and Germans staying with him - some were camping. There was another sadhu, but he didn't talk. I stayed with the Bengali baba, and roamed around Tapovan. I even climbed partway the probably best looking peak in the whole Himalayas - the Shivling.



Note: The Bengali baba has grown old in this picture, but when I saw him, he was quite young, and no white hair.


Note: I had climbed that ridge before the peak. It was a walk, made fearful by the caves up the top from which, I imagined, a bear would come running anytime.

Unlike now, it was less crowded in those days. I had the whole beautiful valley to myself. There was a small river running through it, and millions of flowers. My first taste of freedom was exquisite.

From Gangotri, I hired 2 coolies and 1 guide. They charged me for panch-paurah, or 5 days, but I think the total came to some 1200 rupees for the lot of them.

Someone at Gangotri told me that the only easy trek for a novice like me - that still offered some adventure - is the Rudgayra trek and climb. So that was the plan.

From Gangotri, I crossed the river one early morning, and then entered the forest to the right. It was a simple enough trek, and the gradient was not steep at all. Best thing about the trek was - there was absolutely nobody except us! In all of 5 days, I saw no one else, except a lot of wild animals.



The first night we camped by the river at a shepherd's hut. It wasn't too cold, so the coolies stayed in the hut (no roof) and the guide and I took the tent. We lit a fire and cooked khichri. The rice and the dal didn't both cook properly. I think the rice cooked, the dal didn't. It was the altitude. Rudgayra is about 19k feet, the basecamp is some 15k feet, and the first camp maybe 12k or so. Anyway, the place was nice, and I have never seen so many stars all at once.

Trouble began the next day. Right after first halt camp, there was a pretty deep river gorge on the left. The track was soil, not rock, and an overhanging tree's branch hit the pack of one of the coolies, he slipped, and slid down the not-so-steep mud towards the gorge. We didn't have our rope tied on, it was supposed to be a simple trek, and we just watched in horror as he slid on.

At the last moment, probably 2 feet from the point of no return, his luck held. He held on to the mud, claws and feet. But one of the bags he was carrying fell off his shoulder and down into the gorge.

That bag contained our pressure cooker!

We could see the bag - it hadn't fallen into the river. But it was unreachable. Without a pressure cooker, it is almost impossible to cook food in the mountains. What a nightmare!

Anyway, with forlorn looks back, we trudged on.

The place was really beautiful. There was the Auden Col right ahead of us, on the right, along the track and besides it, was an unnamed mountain gorge, then the fast-flowing river Rudgayra to our left, and beyond that, like a massive wall, was the mountain of the Kedar dome. One of our route plans had been to come down from Rudgayra and cross that mountain to go to the Kedartal. But one look at that massive cliff of a mountain - and another look at my pressure cooker - and I said forget it.

The route was in valleys and hills. Cross a hill, go down a valley, cross another beautiful hill. As the sun came up, I had fallen behind. As I was nearing the top of a hill, I saw the guide and the coolies on the other side, waving at my desperately. I stopped, and after much deliberation, I realized they were asking me to take out my camera. In those days, I had a Nikon FE3, bought cheap from a friend whose father had bought it in Germany and then never used it. You wouldn't know what a Nikon FE3 is if you are of this generation. But that was the best camera of the early 80s - solid as a rock as well. I also had a Nikon 50mm lens, perhaps their best ever lens. So I took it out and carefully topped over the ridge.

The sun had just come out. I saw in front of me a huge valley of green and gold, coming down from the mountain and tapering down towards the river. It was ensconced between two ridges, one on which I was, the other where my guide friends were still waving away. And all along the valley, among the grassy knoll, there were at least 50 wild Himalayan spotted mountain deer. Cute as a button, their bellies white, their skin brown, with white spots on them, smallish horns, with maybe a couple with larger horns, beautiful, glorious, enchanting.

I took my first shot with no one noticing me and in all natural glory. By the time I was ready for the second shot I was running, because they were too. They ran for the gorge, and me with my rucksack and my water bottles and my camera, I ran as fast as I could. I managed 3 shots before the last single deer vanished down the gorge.

Today, a little older and with more hindsight, I wouldn't even have brought my camera out. I would have sat there, right at the ridge top, and watched them. I don't believe such visions are available any longer. With glaciers receding, treeline receding, more people arriving everyday, I think those deer are long gone, gone in some pretty deer heaven where there are green hills and wide rivers and massive mountains that no humans can climb and bother their unspoilt wilderness.

We reached the basecamp as the evening was falling. Here too, there was a roofless shepherd's hut. However, there was no way to light a fire because this was above the treeline. We collected some dead grass and a few wooden sticks the guide had bought, and tried to cook khichri in a pot. It was left uncooked, and we had a poor meal. It was biting cold too, with signs of snow probably sometime at night. All 4 of us huddled in our 2-man tent, barely able to sleep, no food in our stomachs. Late at night we felt the roof of the tent bending down. The guide said that a mild snow had started to fall. We spent the night taking turns lifting the roof up, removing the snow.



Note: Thanks to all copyright holders. This was somewhat similar to how it looked in 1995, except I don't see the shepherd's hut here.

The next morning we had planned for rest and practice day. Although it was May, that had been a late summer year and there was still a lot of snow up in the mountains. Rudgayra, I have said, is one of the eaiser mountains. But there still was some climbing to be done, and my little training of rock climbing at Ayodhya pahar in Purulia hadn't equipped me for ice. I had crampons, ice picks etc, so we spent the day going up into the snow a little, coming to permafrost, and trying out gear. Navin Tamang, the guide, turned out to be an expert, and I learned a trick or two from him.

The next day was our peak day. It was to be a long day. We had to reach the peak by 12 noon and start our return journey immediately. Any later, and Navin warned that the wind became so terrible that it could blow a man right off his feet and carry him away into the gorge. So we had to wake up at 2AM, boil some potatoes to carry with us, eat a few for breakfast, and then by 3AM, in the ghostly falling snow and starlight night, we had to begin our walk and climb.

It was dangerous work, but it was beautiful. No human presence anywhere in the world except us stragglers. The moon was out there somewhere, beyond the snowy sky, and there was a pale, beautiful light. We tied rope to our belts, bent down and trudged on. Our camp was left behind.

About an hour from the camp, we faced a 90 degree wall of rock and ice. It wasn't too high, probably 10 feet, but it formed a kind of ledge which had no way around except up. None of us had ice climbing expertise, and Navin said this was the only wall like this. So, instead of a proper climb, we formed a ladder of men and Navin climbed up with the rope. Using the rope and our crampons and ice picks, but actually simply by brute force rather than any style, we climbed ourselves up. Everyone had some tea right from the flask. In very cold weather, even boiling hot liquids can be drank right away, without any burns to the mouth.

After that initial hiccup, the rest of the route was a slow gradient. There was ice, how deep we don't know, and about a foot of soft snow that really troubled us and slowed us down. As we were climbing a gradient rather than on flat ground, there was no fear of dreaded crevasses like I had seen near Tapovan. It was steady, tiresome, but safe climb.

By the time the sun broke at 9am, we could see the peak. Rudgayra has 3 peaks, but unlike the Gangotri peaks etc, these are not really separate peaks as such, but just high points on the same ridge. We sat down for some boiled potato breakfast, with the guide hurrying us on that although it looked close, there was still a 3-4 hour climb left. As the sun rose higher, I could see something that made me go faster - wind on top of the mountain making snow swirl up and away! Navin said that a little after noon, those winds would be too strong for us to go up there.

Nothing untoward happened and we reached the peak around 12.30. I dove into my rucksack for my camera and found that I had left it behind. I remembered, half asleep, having gone out to take a long duration picture of the night. I think I left it back in the tent. Luckily, Naveen had a small point and click, and we managed to take pictures of ourselves conquering that peak.



Note: this is not us, but a picture I borrowed from the net. But this is how we must have looked.

The view around us was beautiful. I could see as far as Nanda Devi on one side, but the other side was blocked by the massive Kedar dome. I may be a little wrong in my geography, because in those days where was the Internet. My only source of information was Navin Tamang from Nepal via Uttarkashi and Gangotri, and to be frank, although a nice enough chap, he had a habit of putting two and two together and coming up with 6.

We started back within 5 minutes, because it was already too windy for even normal breathing. We had a running lunch of more boiled potatoes - i was sick to my stomach now of our food - and hurried back. By 3, we could see our blue tent sitting in the valley. By 4, we were back at camp and fast asleep.

We had planned to rest and explore the valley the following day. I had especially wanted to go down to the river, cross it and check out the route across the Kedar dome (?) to kedartal. It had looked daunting, and I have always loved daunting.

But my next morning, all of us were in terrible stomach pain. It was probably from eating uncooked food, and low oxygen attenuated our breathing trouble. But I decided, not another day here - and I will return with adequate food the next time. The pickle I had unfortunately picked was sweet mango, and I hadn't planned it to go with the main course. Imagine, cold weather, uncooked rice and potatoes and dal, and sweet pickle!

Somehow, we packed up and started the long way down. We threw away the remaining food to lighten our load, and resolved to reach Gangotri the same day. It could be done, because now we were going downhill. Like madmen we ran down that road, and I remember, as we crossed the river near Gangotri where the beautiful multicoloured forests begin, I was literally crawling. I was heaving dry, because without food there was no material to vomit. The others were better off, but not by much. Somehow we entered the town - in 1995 it wasn't as it is now, and there weren't a lot of people. We hd some rotis, it was around 5pm, and I chewed on and sniffed a lemon wedge and felt better. That lemon wedge was my companion on the ride back to Uttarkashi in the zeep.

2 days recuperating, and I was on again towards Badrinath, my next stop. I skipped Kedarnath because I couldn't think of doing another trek. In 1995, there was a real trek, not the padded variety they built later. Almost 17 years later, in 2012, I went to Kedar after a bike trip from Hrishikesh - but that's another story.


Badrinath was nice. In those days, charming little place with decent hotels, hot bath at the temple geyser, and a lovely trek towards Mana. Beyond Mana, near the Tibet border, on the old route to Kailash, I came cross a barefoot sadhu. he was crossing the little frozen river glaciers on his two bare feet. We got to talking, and he said he was doing the chardham by foot, for 3 months. It was late May, so he must have been treading ice. I didn't believe him, so he went across a ice patch barefoot, and asked me if I would please try. It was about 20 feet across, so I took off my shoes and walked across.



Note: the route to Vasudhara falls.

Halfway down, my feet turned blue and numb, and I fell down. I would have slid across to the river below, but the sadhu came running - bare feet - and helped me back. He was profusely apologetic, but i have since then developed profound respect for bare feet sadhus. They are freaks of nature!

Nobody does Garhwal and Kumaon together, but I, having no knowledge of these things, had planned accordingly. I took a bus to a small town called Gwaldam, that seats on the passage between Garhwal and Kumaon. Unfortunately, rain had started slowly, and there was an avalanche blocking the road. Few tourists apparently take this road, so there wasn't army engineers' corp clearing roads here. No sir, when there was an avalanche, you either pitched tent and waited for them, or walked across and took a vehicle on the opposite side.

So I did that, and late evening, I reached Gwaldam. A pretty little town, half asleep in the mist, and walking down the tree lined road up the hill, I could still hear dogs barking in the misty valleys below. I ate meat here for the first time in almost 3 weeks.



Charming Gwaldam

My next stop was Almora, where I stayed at the Ramakrishna Mission, then I went to Mayavati, where I stayed at the Ramakrishna Mission, and finally I went to Shyamlatal, where I stayed at the Ramakrishna Mission.






Each Ramakrishna Mission was picturesque in its own way. Almora hung on its threads by a deep valley, Mayavati sat perched like a queen on a hilltop from where you could see the entire himalayan range, and Shyamlatal was so misty you could get lost walking to the dining house.

I think I saw a leopard on the way back to Tanakpur from Shyamlatal. I don't know, I was sitting on top - the real top - of a lorry and I saw something zip past behind me. It could have been a dog, but I like to imagine it was one of the old man eaters of Kumaon, come to meet one ardent admirer.

The train from Tanakpur to Lucknow was interesting - there was NO ONE in the entire boggy, and I spent a nice night sitting by the door and watching the thousands of fireflies dotting the trees by the track.

At Lucknow, my money ran out.

I had only 3000/- when I started, and although tickets were cheap, and so was food and lodging, and I even got to stay for free in all of Kumaon, it just wasn't enough. No ATMs either, to help me out, and I think we didn't even have a phone in those days at my house. Anyway, I knew some sadhu at the Benaras Ramakrishna Mission, so I hopped on a train - without ticket, sorry Indian Railways - and somehow managed to reach Kasi Sevashrama. There I stayed for 3 days, enjoyed the town, heard the evening aarti at the temple (and the evening azaan at the nearby mosque which happened at the same time), and the day I was about to leave, I told the poor sadhu that I had no money.

The sadhu was himself poor enough, but bless him, he gave me some money. When I reached the station, I realized the money was just enough for the ticket, but left nothing for food. So I bought myself a halfway ticket in the chair car, and saved the rest for food - having promised myself never again to compromise on food. The journey was uneventful, except I got robbed by two policemen in Bihar. That left me nothing for food, and the next day I reached Howrah. I took a taxi to my house, and had my mother pay for it.
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Old 13th February 2015, 16:18   #6
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Default Re: Hello from a wannabe budget world traveller

When I was 17, the maximum distance I was allowed to travel alone is 10-15km, and you, experienced the other extreme of life at that age. I'm amazed.

That said, I'm a firm supporter of living the free spirit of human life. With rapid industrialization and greed world over, humans have been relegated to concrete cages.

Anyway, that will be a topic for another discussion. Attaching a pic that closely resonates with me whenever I read it. Times have changed and our minds have already been conditioned by the society on what is acceptable extremes, still the words in the pic resonates somewhere deep within.
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