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Old 5th April 2015, 16:22   #1
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Default On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!

Every traveller has a been bitten by a bug. When this bug and the "love ka keeda" get along, the results are spectacular!

This is my story of getting Leh'd and braving the Chadar.

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Greatest love story of my travel life.

Every January, as an engineering student, I was off for trips. Last year, I was off to North India and had some of the greatest adventures of my life. But, the hunger for travel is insatiable.

I have always dreamt of going on my Classic to the temple of bikers as a kid. But, just after finishing my Bachelors in engineering, the South Indian road trip happened and then I had an offer letter, which hooked me to join the monotonous single-phased life, of being in a cubicle while being bullied by the seniors. There were a few short weekend trips to Dandeli, Sakleshpur and few road trips around Bangalore. If anything, they increased my craving for travel and the lust for Ladakh.

Another road trip to Goa was lined up for the Sunburn festival and I realised that I needed some time off from hectic corporate life and weekend pub-hopping. I needed some time for the sole and the soul!

The lust grew and steps were taken to satisfy it!

This not be the ideal thing to do when you are so new to the IT industry, when you have just started earning, when you plan to blow up a big lump sum of your savings, when weather is trying to kill you and certainly, a river is not a place where one should be wandering!

However, love makes one blind and makes them commit mistakes they shouldn't. But, also never regret the love you have had. This trip proved me right on each leg of its course. A perfect stage was setup for the story of love and lust!

How I broke boundaries

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Preparations were brief. There was not much time in hand to be prepped for. I was physically was in a decent shape and knew I could do it. But psychologically, not so much! Every story has villains, this had many too.

Villain 1 : Having leaves approved from the manager
Scene 1 : Long meetings, begging and pleading. Nth moment (from the trip point of view) got approval

Villain 2 : Ticket prices soaring, tickets get sold out
Scene 1 : But, still you clinch them at high prices as booking for the trek (non-refundable) is done
Will Pick up on this villain and great moves later.

After getting the tickets and the trek lined up, there was not much time left to prepare for the trek physically. Luckily, I thought I would be able to survive it without much of a struggle. So I did not eat garlic, which many logs and forums suggest. Neither did I do any sort of physical/mental preparation before the trek and decided to take it on as it comes. I had 2 days before the trek in the heaven to get used to the beauty around and not getting struck with a cardiovascular shock! That's the only acclimatization I required - realised so when I reached there. Even after being there for a good 10 days, you realise one can never get acclimatised to the beauty of Ladakh. You just can't.

On the gear front, there was zero ammunition in my arsenal and zero gyan! With the warm clothes that I had, I would have survived maybe a few hours max out in those harsh conditions.

Being a Bangalorean, it's always hard to find gear for any sort of weather. A lot of research was done to come to a final conclusion that getting things shipped was not an option - either re-schedule the flight and shop for one day in Delhi or manage with what you can get in Bangalore.

Obviously, the latter looked more safe feasible and hence, I decided to shop in Bangalore. Again, after a lot of research and avoiding Decathlon and trying to search for other sources, I came to a conclusion that there is no other place where I could have done shopping in the short span of time to get all the things.

A long week in Goa, the hangover of Sunburn and then, it was time to shift gears. With one weekend left, I decided to blow my hard earned money in the sport supermarket. After 6 hours of shopping and shelling out a big amount, I had finalised these:

2*2 upper thermals
2 lower thermals
1 zipped 100% fleece jacket
1 100% lower fleece pant
1 flowfit for upper
Forclaz 500 (My woodlands were worn out, wanted to buy hiking shoes either ways. Will explain about more on the footwear later)
Arpenaz 300 (Wind and waterproof with a fleece layer)
2 Woollen ski caps
Pair of woollen gloves
Pair of ski gloves (Wezde)
Neck warmer
Arpenaz 200 hiking pole
Bottle insulator

I bought all of this and had to add a lot more to it and for that the existing rucksack that I had wouldn't be enough. The padding had worn out over the years too. So, I decided to buy a Wildcraft Gangotri-65L.

The list mentioned above +

4 pullovers
4 x 3 = 12 tees
2 cotton track pants
4 water repellent / novadry trackpants
8 pairs of undergarments
Overall 10 pairs of socks (woolen+cotton)
250 x 3 packets of dry fruits
10 Snickers
6 packets each of ready mix tea and coffee
2 packets of chocolate syrup
1 packet of khakra
about 250 gms of other chocolates sweet meats
Power bank
Torch + 3 x 2 batteries
1 notepad + 2 pens
2 rolls of tissue
Toiletry kit
Medical kit
1 liter thermos flask
200 ml thermos
2 kilos of orange for Qayoom (organizer)
1 camera bag - 550D + 18-55 + 55-250 + 2 batteries + overall 64 GB cards
Chargers for all the gadgets

Yeah I think that was all that I carried. I will update if I find few more things, which were in the nooks and corners. I was all set with little accessories to be bought now and then until the packing was done 2 days before.

Day -1 :
Villain 2, Scene 2 : Waking up around 11 after a long previous day at work and finding a text message from jet airways, which reads "Dear Guest, We regret" and you go "NOOOOOO, NOOOOOOOOOOOO, NO!"

You already have high priced tickets, which are going to get cancelled! But, this was for the Bangalore-Delhi flight and there would have been many other flights. Shouldn't the company give you a rescheduled ticket? I go online and check only to realise that

Villain 2, Scene 3 : The rescheduled flight was on 9th of January, which would reach Delhi at 11 am and the Leh - Delhi flight was 6.30 am! :shock:

And then I wonder, why do we stereotype the government offices and departments when the airline like Jet Airways can do this! I had a long conversation, only to realise the time between flights would be 12 long hours now!

I had to pack with a lot of anxiety and nervousness, the weather conditions of Delhi and Leh aren't something you appreciate when you have a flight to catch.

After packing, I went to office and had a long and excited, yet scary day.

Day 0 :

With my luggage packed and double checks on the list, I was all set to go. I left 4 hours prior to the flight. I always use the Volvo bus service provided. I find it incredibly efficient. Got a bus on time and couldn't even make it half way through in 1 hour :shock: Bangalore's traffic had gone for a toss. The Volvo driver said there was a jam due to a rally and there were long jams for long stretches all around MG Road. It was dead lock. The Volvo driver did something I do not appreciate generally, he broke the traffic rules, drove a little stretch in reverse took a U turn and drove the wrong way :shock:. At each step until now, there was some or the other element which wanted to delay / cancel my trip. I reached the airport and started the hectic procedure of standing in queue and checking in. After a while, just when I was about to board the flight the boarding was called off.

Bengaluru Airport

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Villain 2, Scene 4 : There was a technical fault in the landing gear and there was a huge team working on the aircraft. After 15 minutes, there was a sigh of relief as the boarding continued.

I reached Delhi and a had good 12 hours to while away before boarding the next flight. The flights were delayed and there were many passengers all around in T3 and the hustle and bustle of the airport lived up to Delhi's mark. I was still nervous. There were so many flights that were getting cancelled and 2 days prior, the Delhi-Leh flight was delayed by good 6 hours, when it was about to get called off. Many hours of eating, drinking and whiling away time by clicking pictures of the beautiful airport and I was exhausted and took rest for a while.

Delhi Airport

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Made a few friends from the US - had a good, long chat and could change a few of their wrong perceptions about India. Also, exchanged a few Hindi and Chinese notes with them. They were fun.

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I really find every corner of Delhi airport worth shooting - from the corridors

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to the food Court
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Even these look beautiful

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Day 1 :

Nervousness was brimming as the clock started nearing the 6.30 am mark. I was near the designated gate. There were a lot of Ladakhis - I was shocked to see so many of them. I was expecting a relatively empty flight, but the boarding gate suggested otherwise! It was a wonder that many flights were cancelled and delayed and were getting delayed, while the flight to Leh was on time and it took off exactly at 6.30 am. Just after 10 minutes, I was about to witness a dream, a heaven, a Ladakh. I was taken into the dream at 20 minutes to 7 and would wake up from it only after 10 days.

The infamous fog lived up to it's expectations

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And going into the dream

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Last edited by bhansali_hardik : 19th November 2015 at 21:08. Reason: Removing .....
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Old 11th April 2015, 01:14   #2
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Default Re: On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!

Well, every love story has a few setbacks and this one had some too! Work and a monotonous life sucks up all the juice from my body and even though I have time to present the story, the photograph segregation and processing takes its toll.

While I am completing small treks around Bangalore and going for road trips, there are these moments which always haunt me back from Chadar. Oh boy! Life did take a turn after the Chadar.

Coming back to the story, as I floated half high on the sun rise, I was taken to a different high all together, the huge, humongous, enormous… OK Himalayas were under and the gleaming sunrise was kissing the mountains gracefully as we moved towards the desert in the skies.

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Waking up to see your love, while sipping at your coffee and a hot breakfast - I was already in absolute bliss!

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DAY 01 :

There are layers and layers of awesomeness, which the Himalyas come in. The terrain can be seen and also the harshness of mother nature when there is a layer of snow, then the trees and the barren land. As I followed these plays of nature I ended up following it through, to a little hamlet!

Yes, Leh!

Love at first sight

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As we descended, my heart started racing, probably faster as the flight came to a halt as the pilot welcomed us with a note informing us about the weather outside. The whole setup looked warm cozy and scenic - movie types, where probably a Bollywood babe is running around in skimpy clothes to seduce…. ugh off topic! The temperature outside was -16.

I was already seduced by the great deserts and I was putting on layers ! As I stepped out, my heart was beating faster and as I stepped down, even the temperature also couldn't hold back my joy. This wasn't how I had planned to get Leh'd, but no matter how I got there, it was amazing already!

I had the moon on one side and sun on the other, snow peaks covered between the two and instructions not to shoot at it's an army area.

After a couple of minutes, my hand started to freeze and my face felt dry as I picked my luggage. I moved out and the sun was beaming gloriously, but the cold however seeped in.

I went to the Hotel Siyala while being greeted by the great Ladakhis. The scenery around was equally inviting. The moment I was moving around, I realized how much I have been in love and how much more lost in love will I be over the coming few days.

I checked in and took a nap. I was exhausted from the travel and sleep-deprived.

I was in a heated room with a cozy scenic view outside and a couple of hours also felt like bliss. I had just sunk in, when I had to do my duties and I realized how tough it is (little did I know this will be the luxury for one). There was hot water running throughout and I could just take a couple of minutes to get dried up and change. Else I would have caught cold!

Even the streets are serene. No signs of green. It's all harsh yet beautiful

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As the sun comes up, people come out for their daily needs and there is a bustle in the market

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We headed out to the market too, to pick up the essentials for the Chadar trek - gum boots, thick woolen socks, few fellow members whom I had caught up with in Ladakh who did not have the hiking sticks, baclavas and so many little essentials which you realise once you are at the shop!

One little tip - buy the minimal amount of gear in your metropolitan city! There are loads of options in Leh, where you can choose to cater your needs and can actually have a choice. There is a huge market and is open even in winters for winter shopping. So, the best bet would be to go and choose and buy the gear from the market, which would consume barely half a day and carry the bare minimal to survive one day from the cities. By doing so, we help the Ladakhis too, who are the most humble and kind people I have come across. More on this later.

School kids happily posing when asked to

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The sun was out and the noon was fairly comfortable to move around as the temperatures were slightly on the positive side there were more people around in the market

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We first headed out to the hall Of fame. The experience they are going through and looking at the conditions and the way our jawans put their lives on the edge, is beautifully put up there. It's a poem - a sad one, but certainly a proud one.

I am not putting up any of those photos here, as I would really not be doing justice to the jawans. Tears drop when you read the description and the letters, there are a few letters written in Sufi and Urdu. I wonder what stories they tell. Everyone should know the tales of these heros and it's true, they did give up their present for our future.

Even now, when I think of the experience in hall of fame, the quietness, the coldness creeping in, the documentary they showed and the tales hidden in those journals make my hair stand

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Another clean stretch of road by BRO (Border Roads Organisation)

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Next we moved on for some more peace, as the name goes, it's the Shanti Stupa. This was my first time and it was amazing how every little corner, every little building, every little turn looked great. Every little thing looked like it has been put for attention to detail. The prayer flags, the prayer wheels, the chants - they all set take you back. You just get lost in the serenity of quietness.

Dragons, ice-caped mountains, absolute silence, sun beaming through

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The temperature is just above 0 - the snow around the Stupa is still intact

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The views from the Stupa - the winds howl here and the temperature of the wind is way below 0

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The rays of the sun creating patterns. Notice the snow below

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That's my shadow

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Magnificent Stupa

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Li'l kingdom

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Harsh yet beautiful

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Old 11th April 2015, 01:27   #3
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Default Re: On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!

As the day went by, we settled in for a late lunch + early dinner at Wazwan. There are very few options in winter to have food. We were served with some delicacies in Wazwan from a decent range available on the menu. Hot food after long, tiring day in the cold weather while you are cozy in a room on a couch - few moments just like these push you out and make your day worth it. The food tastes even better. We headed back to Siyala and called it day. The night got colder outside, we were asked not to use the heaters, so that we could get used to the low temperatures and would have a little less hard time at the Chadar. But, we had a heater on as the cold was creeping in. The beds were cozy with thick layered blankets. It felt amazing and comforting, but we did have fear and anxiety about the Chadar. We relaxed and drifted off into a deep sleep.

Day 02 :

There was a long discussion if Pangong should be done as the trek was scheduled to commence the next day. Going through Chang La without having clear skies and exhausting ourselves by going to higher altitudes - I was not so much in favor for Pangong.

The first time I had seen Pangong was when I had the vibes, looking at its beauty and serenity. Little did I know that I would be so close yet so far after so many long years. My heart broke, the destination for the day was fixed at a relatively shorter distance.

Keeping Alchi as our final point en-route going to Likir, Saspol and few more little villages just to be more enchanted by the beauty of Ladakh and feel smaller as the day passes by, feel humbled and equivalently shameful by coming across the simplicity and honesty with which the people live here.

In the morning, there were a few errands to run, so we hit the market for shopping once again

There were people heating up locks to open them

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The li'l kid amazed by the cam beaming with cuteness

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I had gone to shop from one store to another in search of souvenirs as I did not know whether I would later. The Chadar is unpredictable and since my list had everything checked, I decided to buy souvenirs. While doing so, I just forgot my camera at one of the stores and forgot that the camera was forgotten.

I was at a shop, speaking to shopkeeper. He was an artist. He was telling us the stories of how his childhood was, how he was forced, harassed, wife, money, etc. He had a beautiful tale to tell and I was lost. And one of the store keepers comes in and said, "Saab, aapka camera. I was in state of shock. How could I even forget my camera? Yes, you would go telling others, "lost in love", but still. It was an absolute shocker! I prayed and thanked them.

It was like losing my life and getting it back. My camera bag had more than a few extra valuables. This was just the start of what humbleness, sincerity, love, faith, loyalty and every possible good thing a human could showcase, was displayed to me on this trip. There are more instances like these, which I came across.

There were clear skies, blues and mountains - vast!

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There were trucks moving with discipline. The whole set up looks like a movie scene or a painting. There was desh bhakti getting utpan when you see the jawans do all these things gracefully in almost uninhabitable conditions

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We then came to the Magnetic hill. Oh yeah, baby the love was magnetic! And it did pull me (rather the car) towards it

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As we moved, rather glided, through the smooth roads, while negotiating curves, there were these prayer flags put up, which just add to the whole setup

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Anywhere you look, any stream you shoot, it's all a painting

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It is just beautiful, everywhere you look

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Then you get a highway to heaven! It just keeps getting better. If you aren't in love with the whole setup, there is nothing on earth good enough to enchant you. Love just happens

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There are monasteries in the middle of barren lands, in the open skies

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Even the trees look like they are placed to perfection

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The bushes have the perfect tint, the perfect cut. The harshness of the winter is just forgotten when the results are so artistic

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The sunlight might deceive you, but look at the surroundings. You can find snow and ice! Yes, the temperatures are still in negative

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Just when you think the place can't get calmer and quieter, we walk across to go into the monastery

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When you take your shoes off and go in, wearing 3-4 layers, you still feel the chill

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The whole setup

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Just makes your hair stand

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There is a new definition to silence and calmness

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Let there be peace

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And then you are back on the curves, which gets you all excited

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The roads are as smooth as they can get. The sun tries to beam as much as it can. The winds outplay the sun and temperatures are still moving towards the lower side as evening sets in

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As we move across, lost in the silence, moved by the beauty and gliding on the roads, we hit the shades - the shades of blue

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One bridge after the other

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We reached a small little town named as Alchi. Just when you think things can't get more beautiful, we reached this little beautiful village

Where you have little cute tzos

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Small gates

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Prayers all over

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The whole village was just as beautiful as you can think it could get and what was just amazing is the simplicity of the people. They manage to keep the water running for the tzos

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There were a couple of shops, but only one of them was serving tea. We went to it. The shopkeeper made some Maggi and took a while to setup things in the harsh conditions. While we were at it, he offered us prasad and his own home-made food, which he had made for himself. It was a khichdi of some sort, which tasted amazing! In the end, when we settled the bills, he charged us only for the Maggi and chai! We offered him something extra. After a lot insisting and pleading he accepted money.

We were back on the road, ready to get lost again

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The sun was going down and the temperatures were dipping

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There was not one instance when there was no view on offer

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Last edited by Aditya : 19th November 2015 at 21:47.
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Old 11th April 2015, 01:34   #4
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It got very, very cold. We had to go back to the city, so we had checked out of Siyala in the morning and the staff was kind enough to keep our luggage until night. We had to pick the luggage and report to the hiking group, who had arranged our stay from that day.

We had a reporting time of 6, but spoke to them and got to know we were the people who were the group even for the trek and can change the time if we feel! So, we had to run around the city, as people were out of cash and needed to withdraw some money, I knew this would be a problem. Added to this, it was winter. So, I had hard cash and insisted my fellow mates withdraw as much as they could. But, there was no need for it on the trek, that we realized later. After collecting our luggage from Siyala, we headed out to hotel Silver Line. We had a quick intro and briefing, our group had already gelled and we were lucky on that front. We were introduced to the guides, one of the three would be heading our group. We had Kawah and then we were told to stay at Palace View guest house.

Well, to start off, the experience was horrible. The place was horrible. It was winter and we did not expect the place to be all nice and shiny. But, the toilets froze, the walls had ice on them, the room carpets were wet, the blankets weren't thick enough, the service personnel just barged in without knocking. Overall it was a strict "no" to go and stay there. We had already checked out of Siyala and had to leave the next morning, so decided to just adjust and get used to what we were about to face at Chadar.

We then went out to have dinner at the veg Punjabi restaurant in the main market. The dishes were chole bhature, dosas, hot gulab jamuns, gajar ka halwa, oh my! We had a huge feast just before we set of for Chadar, thinking about how tough the days might get and we might not get decent food for a long time, while battling the winter.

A shot of the Stupa at night. It was just beautiful to look at and how tough it is to use the camera in winter, that is when the temperature must have been around -10 to -12

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Meanwhile, I made another huge blunder. I had forgotten my camera charger at the hotel Siyala. I was wondering if the cold got to me, or the altitude or was it just Ladakh that made me lost? I was tensed, very tensed. It was 10 in the night. I might sound very cool about it right now, but it was a moment where meri "phati padi thi!" There were backup batteries to be charged, the primary battery drained out and the electricity was not constant with barely 8 hours to go to the Chadar.

I went out of my room, only to find that the whole hotel was deserted, the streets did not even have a spec of light, there were dogs howling and crying due to the cold and the hotel was almost 3-4 kms away. I was so desperate, that I decided that in the worst case scenario, I'll take a walk to pick it up. However, my neurons did fire up somehow in those negative temperatures and I made a call to our driver who drove us around the whole day. I told him the whole situation making more than half a dozen calls as the network fluctuated and voice kept on breaking. He said, in the morning at 4, I will get it for you. Morning at 4 - it would have been inhuman of me to allow him! I requested him if he could, he gladly showed up at my hotel door with the charger. I started thanking him. I was so grateful to him that I could have done anything for him. My conversation with him :
Me : "Thank you thank you, shukriya. Aapne bahut bada kaam kiya mera."
He : (While pulling hard on his beedi )"Saab, shukriya kyon, theek hai. Hum hi toh aapke kaam aaye. Khushi hui." (leaving the smoke out as he spoke).
Me : "Iska kitna doon, aapne itne raat mein itna lamba trip maara."
He : "Iska kya paisa lenge. Hum aapke kaam aaye bass. Ho gaya. Chalta hoon."
Me (while chasing him with a Rs. 500 note): "Arre lo. Rakh lo, kaam aayenge."
He : "Itna nahi rakhunga. Iccha se kuch de do, but isse kam."
Me (Handing out Rs. 100 x 3 notes that I had): "Ruko"

I went in and fetched a few oranges for him which I got from Bangalore. He wasn't ready to accept them! He was then happy to know that I got them from Bangalore. He happily took them and ran into his car, while pulling hard on his beedi and rubbing his hands to beat the cold.

I had a long, painfully cold night and made it through it. When I woke up there was a lot of hustle and bustle around the hotel. And the service boy was still barging in.

Had tea and a few toasts, geared up and came out to witness a small mela for the Chadar.

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We put ourselves in the back seats and behind us was huge lump of luggage, that looked like the mattresses, tents, sleeping bags, and other supplies. The locals joined us and fit themselves in wherever there was space. They sang folk songs as we moved after picking the rest of the folks from hotel Silver Line.

We had a brief introduction and spoke to the four members who joined the seven of us. We were carefully watching the driver as he negotiated the curves, hoping that he did not turn out to be the Stig! But, I would certainly think he was the "brother of the great Himalayan yeti." After negotiating the beautiful scenic roads and seeing the Chadar being formed, while appreciating nature, we reached a place where the tar road ends and mud road starts. After four hours or so of the journey, where the mud road also ended, we got off the bus, all geared up for icy expedition.

We had to walk and dragged our feet through oodles of sand

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And towards the edge, as we saw, stood the magnificent Chadar. My heart just started pumping faster and to be honest, I was nervous

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We start descending towards it

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It was a steep one, with sand and rocks all all over

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While we were careful and searching for spaces to tread, searching for grip, these people just ran past us with huge loads on their back. We were astonished and baffled. Little did we know, this is just the start of sights like these. It's their way of living and they certainly are good at it.

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4002.jpg

Sights like these before we step on the Chadar, made our heart pump faster and hair stand

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4006.jpg

It was a huge crowd, coming down in a queue and you would wonder, if it is really going to peaceful

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4020.jpg

And we step on the Chadar

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4051.jpg

These were the first few, curious moments where we on our toes and like little babies who are amazed by the thought of standing on their feet. Being able to realize that it was happening for real took us a while. A few baby steps ahead and a few nerve-wrecking moments later, we started to actually cherish it

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4052.jpg

It was just amazing, the idea of us standing on a river. It just blew my mind! And was my face was lit up from one ear to another all the time

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4056.jpg

The guide assigned to us was Yamzor. He instructed us to come towards a campsite and we followed him. For this day we had just a km's walk and we settled in at the first camp. As they were setting up the camp, the people had already begun to enjoy

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4059.jpg

Camp being set up

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4060.jpg

A few of the groups going further ahead to settle down for the day

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4063.jpg

We were served tea and biscuits in a short while. We were amazed by the whole environment and just sat on the sand right in front of our tents sipping on the tea and getting lost - as lost as one could get

We were hungry, very hungry! This was the dining camp where we went for food

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4068.jpg

They served us hot, real hot khichdi! We had expected Maggi to be our staple food, but the khichdi was amazing. It had veggies in it. Added to it, there was pickle, ketchup and hot sauce. We were shocked that in such place they served us all this

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4069.jpg

We had few more hours to move around the campsite before the sun went down and temperatures dropped. So, we took a stroll on the Chadar exploring it

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4070.jpg

And then a little fun

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4080.jpg

The sun started its play. We sat to see while it painted everything

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4120-2.jpg

As we saw the play of sun and ice

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4123.jpg

it was evening and before we could digest the heavy lunch, they called us for dinner.

Everything was done early. It was barely 7 'o' clock and we were having dinner. All gathered up near the fire and we were told that the next day will be a hectic one as we have to cover a lot of ground, and in the morning at 6, we would get a wake up call

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4144.jpg

Last edited by bhansali_hardik : 20th November 2015 at 16:39.
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Old 14th April 2015, 00:51   #5
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So, moving on, how do I describe the night?

Once the fire was down all started to move to their respective tents and as the temperature was dropping, we were realizing what people dread. We were sitting by our tents on the sand on the bank and realized we would freeze. So, we moved inside. The pain you get while you take off your gloves to unlace your shoes is just the start of the freezing pain. Next up, is putting yourself into the sleeping bag.

Brrrr! It's like taking the ice bucket challenge. You get into one and then you're cold from head to toe. You start to zip yourself up and realise that the the zipper of the tent is still open. You have to get up to zip it up. The cold wind seeps in and the cold creeps into every part of your body. Getting into the sleeping bag is like putting yourself in a cold bathtub. Then comes the tricky and painful part of zipping yourself up. Multiply that by two, as you have to zip the outer and the inner sleeping bag. Well, after 15 minutes of being in painfully cold conditions, your body finally heats up the sleeping bag and it gets a lot cozier than you can think. I hadn't realized that the sleeping bag was touching the tent's surface and as the cold seeped in I did not know that it was in contact with the surface. I regretted it when I woke up. That was just the start.

DAY 04 :

We woke up to the call of the porters. They come to your tent calling out loudly,"Good morning sir. Chai ya coffee? Morning... Subah ho gayi!"

Here I was wondering it's so nice and cozy and bam! There you have the start of problems. I could not feel my feet due to my own mistakes and then the face! I did not tuck myself totally in neither did I cover my face as I felt suffocated. It felt like it's not a part of my body. When I slapped myself, it felt like rubber.

Next, you pull yourself up and realize what the shock of moving from decent cozy temperatures to negatives is. That is from inside the bag, to outside. The hot tea helps you to breathe, while you absorb the shock.

Next pain, coming out of the the sleeping bag totally and putting on your shoes. You really need to be brave to do this. It was the most painful morning I had witnessed, while I crawled out of the tent and as I stood outside, I froze again.

But it was beautiful by the camp.

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-1.jpg

Next, you would be wondering, about the morning rituals. Yeah, well that became the most discussed topic of our life for the next few days. To go to the loo you have 2 options:
Option 1 : Khulam Khulla - There are small caves and blocking walls. Go to a safe corner, do your job and get back.
Option 2 : There is a little tent, which is the loo toilet for the particular group. Go in and you find 2 big stones and a little hole dug up.

So, you would want to weigh your options. I would certainly pick the latter. Why? Because I am just scared of ending up in an awkward moment if someone passes by. Added to this, the winds don't help. They might freeze you.

The latter option has it's own issues though. The hole is small, the number people are large. It's got to stink! If you are the first one it's amazing, as the time passes by it gets tougher. But still I chose the latter and there of course is no question of water. It's all tissues baby!

After you finish that, you would want to brush your teeth. Well, you have a frozen tube and the paste won't come out. Gargle with the mouthwash, eat a lot of gum.

A few comments that I make, a few more lines which may look as if I am complaining, a few weeps here there, does not mean I did not like it. I miss all of it even now and it was a trek that was meant to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. These are just momentary situations. None of them mean it is not worth it. Every second out there was worth it and happiness has its own forms. These comments are made to describe the situation exactly so that it can be felt and appreciated for the better lives that we live. If taken otherwise, I'm sorry.

We were walking around the campsite and trying to keep our feet warm. They were calling us for breakfast. It was breakfast and the first huddle of the day. "Keep your shoes in, put on the gum boots. The weather was bad and you don't how much water will be there. Always follow the guide. On the first actual day of walking on the Chadar, don't do whatever you feel like. If anyone falls in trouble, shout for help from the locals. Give away your luggage to porters, if you wish to. They will get it to you on the next camp site. We have a long day ahead, pack up. We leave in 5 minutes!"

We were, in a hurry and packing the luggage takes a lot more effort than you think it does. You have to apply sunblock. But guess what? It's blocked in the tube too. We somehow got our stuff from the tent in 15 minutes while Yamzor shouted out "chaalooo, challooo, chalooo". We were in comfortable shoes and the moment we switched to gum boots, our feet went numb all over again.

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4152.jpg

We started walking, the sun was not yet out and it was relatively cloudy. We were all very slow, using walking sticks. Treading on the ice slowly and carefully, we covered a little ground and THUD! There went one of my group members who fell on the Chadar. Yamzor says, "theek hai theek hai. Sab log 5-6 baar girega. Sambhal kar." We were still learning about the surface. The sheet of ice has various forms and shapes.

There are a few sections which you slip on and there are a few sections where you go 8-10 inches down while you walk, but they are safe. While there are few sections where you feel taking the corners is good, Yamzor thinks otherwise. We carefully follow the instructions and walk.

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4154.jpg

We werr amazed by these little shiny blue pools of water. How tiny we are! We took our first break here, which was fairly after an hours walk

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4155.jpg

The porter / sweeper coming along as he carries a set of luggage for the people who want their luggage to be moving along with them

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4156.jpg

As the last set came, we had a few munchies and a sipped a few cups of water. The first break on the Chadar meant the first group pic

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4162.jpg

As we moved ahead and tread on the Chadar a little more easily, we came across patterns like these. It was a horse shoe like cut and there was water flowing beneath it. We had a good hour's walk and we could hear a lot of splashing of water, we wondered where the sound was coming from. We went around a little turn and witnessed this

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4170.jpg

Yes, there was full fledged force of water gushing through, it was serene blue and mesmerizing to see how nature worked. There we were standing towards the left of the frozen river and the river right just after a few feet is flowing while reflecting light and creating amazing shades of blue. It was scary at first and then, as we moved on, we realized we were walking alongside it for quite some time now

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4171.jpg

There are different layers of ice sheets here. The water was not gushing through here, but was moving smoothly. There was a huge pool of water, which went below the ice and came through mellower than it was earlier and slid through while few fractals joined a few others to form the ice

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4172.jpg

If you look closely, you can see the footsteps right next to the little water hole. We had to walk across it. Any one would have chosen to take the away part, but Yamzor pointed out telling if you take the away path, you will mostly land in sub-zero temperature waters. We cut across here and then we had beautiful long stretch ahead

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4178.jpg

Hello sunshine! We took anther break as we were tired after walking for a couple of hours and we just dropped our gear on the Chadar

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4182.jpg

While we drank some water and applied some sunblock, it was put into the inner fleece of mine, which picked up the body heat and was usable now. The sun was shining bright and if there were no winds, the atmosphere felt real good

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4186.jpg

We moved in a single file just like the ants do

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4198.jpg

Across this very turn we see this

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4206.jpg

See, the porters were 8-10 inches in the water. Let's not comment about the temperatures of the water it just felt hell-cold! More cold than the ice could be! "How?", you would wonder. I don't know either. It just is bloody cold.

So the porters were hitting hard and checking if it was safe and were we waiting to give a green signal to go through. There was a little problem. One of our group members declined to go through as it looked very dangerous and worst part being that he had just one pair of shoes - the ones he had on. It was really stupid of him, but we however decided that the path was not suitable to take as the water would seep into the gum boots from the top. So we took the mountains and walked on the gravel part and went on

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4207.jpg

What was about to happen next, was the scariest part of the whole trek. There are no photos for this little play. These were the exact moments for which one would go gaga over telling, "you have to be there to experience it."

So, we walked for half a kilometer or so on the gravel and we hit a point where there was no further going ahead. There was good Chadar right in front of us, but to get there, the edges were cut off. There was water at the edges. What was the next thing to do?

After a lot of poking of sticks into the surface and realizing the Chadar was not strong At any point for us to step on, they dumped a huge rock and to see if the inner layer of ice was strong enough to bear our load through it. But no, the stone went a little further in. Then they threw another one on it and could somehow make it a step-worthy place to take the leap.

There was yamzor on one side and there were other porters on the other. They just jumped off from one of the sides and got there. So, they were keeping one leg on the stones and the other and making people jump from one end to the other. There were around 8 of them who did this and the Chadar was getting weaker. The next lady who was about to jump, got a little confused and the porter pulled her, while she did not put in inertia to make it across and then, she fell in the water. Her left half was immersed in the water, which people dreaded. The idea of it seeping in the shoes made peoples' spine chill and this lady was in the cold water.

First things first. When you have such temperatures and you are wet you just have a little window to change your clothes before hypothermia sets in. The people and the porters found her bag and started rubbing her feet and hands and changed the socks and the first 2 layers of her clothing. While all this was going on, she sat there stunned by the whole thing. All of us worried, she had a huge mark on her left cheek. Chadar had slapped her.

There were four of us still on the gravel and stones, while this happened. The Chadar totally broke at that particular point and there was no way we could cross it from there. So the whole process of finding a suitable place started again and after 10 minutes, we finally found a spot. The four of us were very scared after watching the whole incident. We took leaps and made it across somehow. We were ready to move ahead, still shaken by the incident.

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4210.jpg

We then moved ahead on the Chadar, saw more and more beautiful views, which were treacherous at some points. But then it's mother nature, which has its own way of showing its beauty. One constant question that you keep asking yourself and the others in the wild, isolated, life threatening conditions is that "can you get enough of this?" Then you realize it's a statement more than a question. The answer lies in front of you all the time. There is never enough of it at all.

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4215.jpg

We then come across another patch of Chadar, which is not formed yet. Look at the image above and see the people moving towards the hill and going up the hill. It was a long detour and a time-consuming one. The distance which had to be covered through this land route was almost twice as that on the Chadar and going uphill and downhill consumed a lot of time. Here, there were places where you had no choice but to walk in a single file on the hill, where there is loose gravel and sand. You have to keep your balance and make sure you do not just go down with the falling rocks. As we were crossing, there were a few rocks rolling down and going into the icy water. It gave all of us chills and we had to walk carefully. This was all over more adventurous again.

You can see how the conditions on the little detour were

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4216.jpg

And also semi-formed Chadar

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4217.jpg

Harsh, yet beautiful as always

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4218.jpg

The moment we finished the climb down, there were porters waiting with the lunch prepped up along with hot chai and biscuits. We were arranging our luggage carefully again

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4230.jpg

Lunch time in beautiful sunshine...

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4232.jpg

...and then we were off again

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4240.jpg

The Chadar was all clean like a highway, allowing us to pick up the pace. We had lost a lot of pace due to the detours and were off the mark. We had to cover up a lot of ground and as we had to make it to the camp before sunset, we were pushing as fast as we could

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4241.jpg

We saw many more mesmerizing views, but did not have time to savour them

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4246.jpg

There were scenes set up by nature. You would not believe the terrain out there - how it transforms and how it moves from one form to another in perfect symphony!

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4253.jpg
We come across the dance of the ice. You wouldn't want to tap that

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4254.jpg

We headed forward and were pushing hard as there was little time and we had to reach before it got dark

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4265.jpg

The views just kept getting better and better. We were on a different planet we felt. It was just as amazing as it could get

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4281.jpg
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Last edited by Aditya : 20th November 2015 at 16:36.
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Old 14th April 2015, 00:55   #6
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And then, just when we thought we have had enough and seen all the shades of blue, we come across a spectacle

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4289.jpg

There was a hot spring flowing on the left and there was a frozen waterfall on the right. The temperatures, waters and chemicals had a chemistry out there and put up a show. On the other hand, there was a huge mountain ahead, across which was our camp. We did not know that yet

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4301.jpg

The Chadar was not in good shape and we were negotiating it carefully as the sun was going down. This is the hot spring / waterfall flowing in the -ves

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_5033.jpg

We had a long walk after which, we had a steep hill to to cross. The light was bad and we were exhausted. There was no energy and left to click photos of the camp. Added to it, was just the start and first serous day of the trek. We had to conserve batteries. There were a lot many days still left and there were many more unseen views. There was a lot of calculation before taking photos and there was a lot of energy put in to make sure the batteries remained heated up using the body heat to retain the charge, be it day or night.

The camp was set up on a little hillock between the huge mountains and there was a lot of cover from the mountains and relatively, there was no wind felt. We had a good time and even though it was super cold out there, we were adjusting and getting a little better sleep in the sleeping bags ffter going through the painful process described above. The whole thing went on at the night and continued the next morning too. The pain never felt less, be it on day 0 or the nth day of the trek. The cold does creep in.

There were a lot of lessons learnt. A toll was taken on the body and there was a long day to come ahead after having done a long, toiling day! Learning a little about the Chadar, learning about its agility, unpredictability and how humongous nature is and how little we are.

Well, this was just the start!!!

On a sheet of Ice - Chadar!-img_4304.jpg

Day 05 :

Well, waking up in the morning to the porters call, getting a hot sulemani or the black cup of the coffee to start your day! Sounds amazing, but it isn't that welcoming after all... when you are tugged in a double sleeping bag and your body heat is the only thing keeping you alive through the night! The moment the zipper goes down the cold creeps in and the painful morning starts.

The morning regime, I mean from taking the zipper down to putting on the shoes - everything is a bloody pain. However, after a little warm up and moving around, we had some amazing hot breakfast and the guide forced us to speed up, pack and move.

I was a little more organised today and many of my group mates gave most of the heavy luggage to porters and decided to travel light. Previous day, the first actual long trek and the events had given our pace a setback. But, today we had to keep up the pace and also enjoy, rather than just being concerned about the surroundings.

But you always need to mind your surroundings. We learnt how to tread on the Chadar, how to balance our body weight and use it to our advantage.

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Last edited by Aditya : 20th November 2015 at 08:08.
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Old 20th November 2015, 16:40   #7
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th November 2015, 18:47   #8
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What a Brilliant writeup!

I consider myself fortunate to experience in your words, photographs , what it could have been living this . Thanks a lot hardik to make others make a belief, that it is do-able

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Old 20th November 2015, 21:36   #9
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Absolutely beautiful, this is simple mesmerizing, I have seen Chadar treks trip log before this but this is simply amazing. Love the whole narration and the pics. Keep it up brother.
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Old 20th November 2015, 22:45   #10
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Wonderful travelogue. Please finish it soon please. Mesmerizing. Hats off to you for doing this trek. Something which I am sure I wont be able to do
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Old 21st November 2015, 01:18   #11
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Thank you for taking me there through your write up.
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Old 21st November 2015, 01:25   #12
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Couldn't resist to stop by and congratulate you for completing this dream trip. What a brilliantly written travelogue, I'll never ever be able to write up this way. Read it line by line. And trust me, as I kept reading, I was dreaming with my eyes open. It's a dream to visiting Ladakh, and this travelogue increased my thirst to visit this heavenly place on Earth. Keep the pictures flowing Sir! Eagerly waiting for the next part.

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Old 21st November 2015, 13:57   #13
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That is one phenomenal write up! Please finish it soon.

I am looking forward to get Leh'd this January and you are providing many useful pointers. Kudos.

Which organizer did you tie up with for your trek?
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Old 21st November 2015, 17:28   #14
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Wow !!! Hardik

That was atleast an hour of trance for me. Awesome write-up and lovely pics. You truely experienced the exclusivity of mother nature.

I was literally feeling that bloody pain in the mornings

Totally glued and impatient for the rest part. Plz complete this asap.
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Old 21st November 2015, 17:45   #15
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@bhansali_hardik What a wonderful travelogue, you've described everything in such detail yet managed to keep it entertaining with great pictures to go along with it.

Reading your travelogue made my day, on a side note w.r.t to the lady who fell in the water, how soon does frost bite set in?
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