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Old 26th November 2015, 00:58   #1
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Default Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley

Prologue:
A grainy photograph dug out and dusted off in August brought back a flood of memories!
I'm suddenly transported back in time and space. Circa 1995 - 20 years ago. On my first ever long distance roadtrip with friends on borrowed motorbikes. From Jamshedpur to Digha.

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-12144750_1263713886987832_7198008943347094565_n.jpg

Most friends of that period have long been buried in the deep recesses of memory. A few among them are those whose names have been forgotten - gone - like the wind. Others are identifiable - but their whereabouts long obsolete. However one name stood out - 'AB'. He is the gent in the striped Tee.


The mind's eye randomly pulls up an image of me sucking on oranges on our roof in the cold December 1994 afternoon. There's a reason I'm being shown that. I'm seated on an old rickety चारपाई (charpoy) sucking on oranges, and squinting at Mechanics of Automobiles by the venerable H.E. Barnacle. The significance of the studious act dawns on me. 'AB' and I have just received letters from Telco , Bombay House to make ourselves available 'for final interview(s)' at their Cuffe Parade office on December 13, 1993. It's Friday afternoon, December 10th before the Monday. My heart's hammering away. Four years of engineering education - and it comes to a series of 7 interviews. Pass these and it's my ticket to independence, fail even one of these, and it's back to the line of youth seeking gainful employment! The stakes seem astronomically high.

'AB' & I get through! Then after a few days of fun in bold n' brash Bombay, we are back to our Alma Mater. A spring in our step, a certain jauntiness in our air. After all, we've just cracked Telco. But for the 8th sem exam - we're already with the big guys!

We scrape through the 8th sem. In June 1994, we join up in Telco-JSR at the Graduate Engineer Hostel. We are even allotted the same room - probably because the kindly warden thought to keep friends together.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 16th December 2015 at 17:51. Reason: Edited
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Old 16th December 2015, 15:26   #2
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Default The conclave

Fast forward to 2015. The twenty one years have passed by in a flash.

It's amazing how the mind's eye can cue a twenty year tape of memories in a split second without fault. 'AB' and two of our classmates 'MC', 'MK' plan a meet up at MC's place on September 06. The ostensible reason is just to catch up - after all we've last been together in college. The other reason, is to make plans for another road trip - a throwback to our bachelor days.



Among other things, the trip would also represent R3's official baptism by fire. Yes dear reader if you have been following (Raging Red Rover (R3) - My Mahindra Scorpio S10 4x4) - this is well before R3's delivery date

And therefore as homework, a very innocuous email wends its way , to Tilak Soni जी on September 1.

"Dear Tilak ji
What is the best time to visit Nelong Valley in own SUV? Is it possible to take own vehicle beyond Gangotri?"

Pat comes the reply...

"Dear sir Thanks for your mail. Am traveling now, shall revert you shortly with all details..
Thanks n regards
Tilak soni"


24 hours pass. Nothing. Indeed - a far cry from hoteliers that the city bred urbane gentry are used to dealing with. Then another 48 hours pass. I don't feel ignored - well just a little perhaps - but not IGNORED. Another missive follows on September 4. Something to let him know , that I am not a bot spamming his inbox.

"Dear Tikak ji
Awaiting details of approximately 5 day plan (ex-Delhi) from you. Please let me know."


A phone call and approximately 24 hours later (September 5) comes a response....

"dear sir,
apologies for late reply..
Nelong valley is now atlast opened for civilians after 53 years...
shall be my pleasure to assist, support your group to enjoy this tibetan plateau..
the plan can be as under:
oct 17: arrival at uttarkashi
oct 18: uttarkashi to gangotri to nelang, night camping if we get permits
oct 19: nelong to back uttarkashi, visiting harshil and bagori valley.
Nelong valley consists of 3 valleys inside (neelapani, jadhung and PDA)
civilians are not allowed to go ahead Nelong post as per rules..
we shall try to get permits for areas ahead nelang from dehradun... members need to send ID proof and one passport size photo for availing ILP"


Great , I now have something concrete to go discuss with the gang.

September 6
We meet up at MC's. After a couple of hours, the initial reticence is well out the window.

Most of the evening is spent trading memories of how we managed to get through our own baptism by fire twenty years ago.

And then, the inevitable Question that's been on a low simmer , is ripe for the asking.

Do we think we can bring back the magic of 1994 with a trip to the great unknown - if we travel sans family - as छर्रा's (bachelors) ?

Eyes light up. A resounding roar drowns out my voice- I join in the clamor. For the briefest moment - four sober middle aged gents , are transported back to those golden hostel days with unbridled freedom.

As is wont in group decisions - the first question is can we do this in October? Someone asks - what kind of altitudes are we talking about? Questions!!! Questions !! Questions!

For a group that's just found it's first sweet promise of freedom from domiciliary responsibility - nothing short of immediate answers will do.
So a call is placed to Tilak ji, right there and then, and he very graciously answers all our questions.
As the call finishes, the mood is upbeat. Even a little combative towards familial responsibility. This trip is about Us! As individuals- Not domesticated husbands. In more ways than one, it's about rediscovering ourselves.

As we each leave for our own homes and hearths - we promise to make this happen. As I round up our meeting, I say " ...because somewhere in the last twenty years, I have become habituated into a predictable , 40 something middle aged family man and boring technocrat. It's not who I want to be remembered as."


A whatsapp group is setup.

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-11938019_482322098613007_7035661871047013369_n.jpg

The spirit of the evening is embodied in a very succinct two minute conversation that we had later during the journey..

Last edited by joybhowmik : 27th January 2016 at 08:41. Reason: Edited
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Old 22nd December 2015, 12:55   #3
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Default The Project Manager's worst nightmare.

The destination was decided, dates were reasonably firm, everyone was excited - and we just needed to get in and go.

Simple , right? Four guys - who just need to chuck their day-jobs and families for 3 days. It's a piece of cake, some would say.

In making this trip happen (as the de-facto project manager) I lived through the project manager's worst nightmare.

"The first 90% of the project takes 10% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90%."


September 11:
Tilak ji writes to confirm the itinerary and trip cost
"Dear sir,
Greetings for the Day !!!
the plan shall be as under;
Oct 31: arrival at uttarkashi, stay at Shivligna resorts
Nov 01: uttarkashi to Gangotri, further enter into Nelong Valley
Nov 02: Explore Nelong Valley (if we manage to get permits to go till neelapani and jadhung). Nelong to Uttarkashi, (visit dharali, harshil, mukhba, bagori, Gangnani on way)
Nov 03: See off

the cost (from arrival till see-off) for a group of 4 persons shall be INR 9300 per person
cost includes:
  • one support vehicle,
  • tent, sleeping bags, mattress
  • all Meals
  • Permits and entrance fee
  • Car permit and entry fee
  • support staff (me and my assistant)
  • Hotel accommodation (for 2 nights)
terms of payment: 40% advance (50% refundable in case of cancellation)"


And then began the drama about dates.

September 18:
"Tilak ji
Unfortunately our work/home schedule is such - that looks like all 4 of us cannot be free before Nov 15. Is it possible to do Nelong for 5 days starting Nov 15? If not Nelong - any other suggestions?"


"Hello sir,Nelong can be done till November end...no issues
Let me know when you can do..
There are lot of places which can be done"

"Thanks Tilak ji
It's a relief to know Nelong can be done till Nov End.
Please let me replan with my friends due to this news!

Many thanks & Kind Regards"


September 20:

"Tilak ji
After a lot of discussion in our group we have decided for Nelong only. 99% confirmed on following dates - Please let us know if it will be possible:
Saturday 28-Nov Start Roorkee reach Uttarkashi
Sunday 29-Nov Start Uttarkashi Reach Nelong Valley
Monday 30-Nov "Explore Nelong Valley (if we manage to get permits to go till neelapani and jadhung)
Nelong to Uttarkashi, (visit dharali, harshil, mukhba, bagori, Gangnani on way)"
Tuesday 1-Dec Start Nelong Valley reach Uttarkashi"


"It can be done sir.."

September 24:
"Tilak ji
Unfortunately there is another change to the plans. But luckily - now it seems we can go in October , due to update from one of our party. This is more preferable for all of us than November end - because it will be very cold at that time.
Revised date of arrival at Uttarkashi : 23rd October.
Attached pdf file contains the details.
We want to know if this plan can be done with your help."


"dear sir,
greetings for the day !!! i can arrange as per below details
oct 24th: welcome, arrival at uttarkashi, stay at shivlinga resorts
oct 25th: Uttarkashi to Gangotri to Nelong, night stay at camps
oct 26th: explore nelang valley, visit jadhung/neelapani, by evening reach harshil
oct 27th: harshil to uttarkashi, (enroute visit dharali, mukhba, bagori, cholmi, gangnani
oct 28th: see off"



September 30:
"Dear Tilak ji

As we discussed - please confirm so that there is no misunderstanding.

Day wise Plan

1) October 23. Arrival in Uttarkashi at night. Overnight at Shivlinga resorts
2) October 24 Uttarkashi to Nelong via Gangotri.Overnight Camp at Nelong Valley
3) October 25 Explore Nelong valley - Go to Neelapani, Jadhung if permits are issued.Overnight Camp at Nelong valley.
4) October 26 - morning. Exit Nelong Valley and see off"

October 1:
"Dear sir,The below plan is confirmed along with the cost of 9500 per person..
Day 3 night may be at nelong or at harshil, Depends upon availability of permits for 2 nights inside nelang"


October 3:
"Dear Tilak ji

Please acknowledge receipt of Rs 8000/- transferred to your bank account by NEFT."



One would have thought this was final - right? Oh no. Not so fast. Not yet anyway.
'MK' was irrevocably stuck in an extended workshop with his client.

So , here I went again..

October 4:

"Dear Tilak ji
As sent on SMS - there is a problem with the Oct 23 date , with one of the party. I request you to acknowledge receipt of advance, and not make the booking until you hear back from my side."

October 13:
"Dear Sir,
the cost for three persons shall be 10,000 per person (total 30000)"




October 19:
"Hello dada,Greetings for the day!!! We are not getting permit for Night stay inside the nelang valley.. They are permitting us to visit the prohibited valley from sunrise to sunset only.
Am still trying my best to get at least one night stay, and have sent docs to dehradoon for approval.. Let's hope for the best...
So please take note of the same..."

"Thanks Tilak ji
The planned camping at Nelong is the high point of the trip.
Kindly please try your best for it - and please keep us informed."

"Definitely dada, my best efforts have already been floated..
Last month only we got one night of stay but his time they are not permitting. Shall keep you updated..."

As if the prohibition to make camp at Nelong was not enough of a dampener, the unthinkable happened ... even the third pax, 'MC' had an insurmountable difficulty at home and could not join us.

That left just AB and me.

It's difficult to muster the courage to go on a dream trip with an old classmate - especially if we have been out of touch with each other's lives for nigh on twenty years. What does one talk about for 96 hours?

That was one of the reasons why I wanted to be in a group of at least three friends. The jokes (ribald or otherwise), memories , banter and kidding around would not dry up.

Besides, we would have to make a day trip to Nelong - and any plans for camping there at night was no longer possible.

But at this stage none of that mattered. I put my trust in the himalayas, and thought to myself , that just the change of scenery will ensure that I am not bored off my socks.

So I called AB , and asked him direct - would he be comfortable going out - just the two of us? And his answer warmed the heart - "For you buddy - anytime, anywhere!". That settled it. We were on.



October 22:
"Dear Tilak Ji
AB and I would be starting early from Delhi to Uttarkashi Friday (tomorrow). We will be in touch on the way. Please expect our call while we are en-route for route guidance in Uttarkashi."


October 23:
"Hello sir,Wishing you a happy journey...Due to some unexpected work I came to delhi early morning.. Uppi sajwan is waiting for you at uttarkashi..I may reach uttarkashi tomm morning if my work finishes up... Please check in at hotel shivlinga, 2 kms ahead tunnel on main road.."

We did not see the last email , till we got back from our trip. The reason: We could not be bothered with checking our email on the mobile.

This was one trip, where we would do some soul searching and re-discovering ourselves.

Mobiles, laptops and the other trappings of the unruly urban cage - had absolutely no place in what we had set ourselves on.

So what did we take along?

For AB - it was his clothes, snacks, mobile and selfie stick. For me - just my meds, camera gear, clothes and mobile phone. After years of traveling with family, I was shocked with how little space our luggage consumed. It came to just two overnighters, camera backpack, water bottles, and a plastic bag of chips and biscuits. That's it.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 27th January 2016 at 08:39. Reason: Edited
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Old 22nd December 2015, 13:39   #4
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Default Destination Uttarkashi

October 23 3:30 AM
The evening before the departure had definitely not been restful, on account of Mahanavami revelry. And I had not slept a wink. However that did not dampen the spirits. I tossed my stuff into R3, and drove over to AB's place in Noida.

A quick hello to his mom and wifey, and loud promises to be good - and then we were on our way.

Ex Delhi, the road to Uttarkashi wends its way past Modinagar, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee and thence to the gateway of the hills - Rishikesh.

Places that will forever be ingrained in memory - as these were the very places I would pass by on my way to college many years ago. I still remember the rickety green and cream रोडवेज (UPSRTC) buses that would hurtle down the motorway from ISBT, New Delhi to Roorkee ferrying a distance of 165 km in slightly over 6 hours, for the princely sum of rupees 25.

I drove. In the background - an animated conversation interrupted by peals of laughter! What happens when you put together two like-minded gents who knew each other , way before marriage & family was sacred? It's all bottled up inside waiting for a way out! And coupled with memories from twenty years ago - it becomes a heady banter!

October 23, 5:30 AM
Before I knew it, we were at this nondescript ढाबा (Dhaba), sipping hot चाय (tea). And the stories would not stop!!

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As we winded up, AB took over the wheel, and for the first few minutes, he could not stop gushing about how he felt driving R3!

The miles passed by in a flash, and 7:15 AM saw us standing at the gates of our alma mater.

But we would always remember it as "UoR" not the commodity like IIT-R - however cool the latter may sound!

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In the back of my mind, a memory sprang to life! Many years ago when I was a penny pinching student at this hallowed institution, I had made a promise , I would come back in my favorite ride!

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The dear old century gate - so named because it's over a century old! The scene of anti-mandal commission protests, the first ever lathi charge , and much else.


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And finally the holiest of holies! The icon of our youth! The place that fed us - बंद समोसा (Bun Samosa), मिल्कशेक (Milkshake) , चाऊमीन ( Chowmein) and all other manner of unhealthy finger licking good food!! Sadly it was closed :-(

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Though we wished to enter the college and tarry a while on the Main building lawn, or have a coffee at Satkar , it was not to be. The highway called, and we had to get going again.

Thus, with a heavy heart , and bellies craving for breakfast , we moved on. Our next stop was Har Ki Pauri, Hardwar, where our breakfast was a waiting!

But not before the customary shot at the riverfront.
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A group of Sadhus wait for alms.
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a Selfie
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And that's AB doing a काक स्नान (Crow bath... involves sprinkling a few drops over one self in lieu of a bath ! )
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The mouthwatering छोले पूरी (Bengal Gram and fried wheat bread ) served on a plantain.
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AB took over the wheel again , till our next tea-break at Narendra Nagar. In this pic- Narendra Nagar main street is decorated for Diwali.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 17:16   #5
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Default The emerald lake and our plans revisited.

Narendra Nagar to Uttarkashi is a distance of approximately 150 km. In the hills, it should not be more than 5 hours of relaxed driving. As hill drives go, it's largely unremarkable.
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However, we tarried on the way.

We just had to have our fill of the Emerald lake so christened because of the crystal clear iridescence in green.

Who would believe that its the product of much strife of one man against all odds?

I leave to you our memories of the pristine Tehri Dam reservoir.

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Dharasu bend (30.629412, 78.330151) where the roads to Gangotri and Yamunotri diverge. To all intents and purposes, this also marks the spot where the Shivaliks end and the true himalayas begin. Whilst our way lay to the right, I hope someday, I will have the opportunity to go the other way.



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Hotel Shivlinga, Uttarkashi, where we overnighted. Can you spot R3?

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The Bhagirathi river flows by the property - and is a treat for the weary traveller. It's lovely to dip one's feet in the cold waters and simply stare out into the wilderness.
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As AB and I settled in, Uppi bhai (Tilak ji's assistant), met and greeted us with a sheepish grin and some earth shattering news. Apparently the forest department had not provided us permission to camp at Nelong. The Army and the district administration had provided us their blessings to visit upto Nelong only (not Jadhong). Thus our dream to really savour the high altitude valley was turning out to be a damp squib even before we started. The plan offered us was :
Day 1 - Arrival and overnight at Shivlinga resort (Uttarkashi)
Day 2 - Drive to Gangotri and overnight at a suitable hotel there (with halts at Gangnani, Harshil on the way)
Day 3 - Day trip to Nelong and overnight at Uttarkashi (Shivlinga resort)
Day 4 - Exit

Though we were dismayed with this news (and the revised plan), we tried to recover as much as we could from a bad situation turning far worse.

For us camping in the great outdoors was the raison d'etre for the trip. Try as we might, we could not reconcile ourselves to overnighting yet again in a hotel. So we asked Uppi bhai if it's possible to camp by a river anywhere enroute from Nelong to Uttarkashi.

And the answer was Yes! There was indeed such a place , upstream of the Assi Ganga by the Sangamchatti road. Incidentally, this (mostly unpaved) road is an alternative link between the Gangotri highway and the Yamunotri highway (via Gangori).

We had absolutely no delusions about the fact that this first trip had not yet been fully rescued from being an unmitigated disaster. Aside from the fact that two of our buddies could not make the trip , there was also the disappointment of not being able to overnight at Nelong in the highest himalaya.
In other circumstances and company it would not have been surprising for the glumness to persist. However, that's where I love having AB around. He is so infectious with his enthusiasm. No wonder he has a fan following in the thousands !
His motto is "YOLO" - You Only Live Once! And who can deny the wisdom of his words -> it's better to live for the moment , eking out the maximum that the moment can yield - and one would have Lived!

And thus we were all set for our first trip as Bachelors after we got hitched.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 27th January 2016 at 08:46. Reason: Edited
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Old 7th January 2016, 22:52   #6
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Default Uttarkashi to Gangotri

October 24:
Our day began with a quick breakfast of पराठा , washed down with a very milky चाय. By 8:30 AM we were ready to roll. As the day's itinerary covered only a hundred km to Gangotri - we had all the time in the world. Since Uppi bhai was riding with us, that was a heaven sent opportunity to begin gabbing about everything under the sun! He proved to be quite an enterprising person- aside from being Tilak Ji's man-friday , he is also the elected representative of the Uttarkashi tradesmen's guild, an avid photographer, cyclist, trekker & biker!! A man after my heart!!
He knew that this was the first time we had broken off the shackles, and that we wanted to savour every moment of the drive - so he went out of his way to show each point of interest, and click our photographs. In fact quite a few photographs on this thread are clicked by him - for which I am forever grateful!

This 100 km drive is mostly by the Bhagirathi river , tracing the valley upstream, with a few vantage points from where one can get breathtaking views of the middle himalayas.

Our first stop was at Maneri barrage (30.74486,78.52781) approximately 13km from our hotel. A non-descript barrage(one among many) that tames the wild Bhagirathi as it traipses its way down to Devaprayag.

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A bubbling waterfall on the way.

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Enjoying a plate of hot maggi at a roadside tea stall in Tihar, Uttarakhand (30.870185, 78.656303)
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This roadside tea stall has only a small kerosene stove, to cook and keep its occupants warm. Such little wants and needs!
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Gangnani (30.90328,78.67997) to which the milestone refers, is one of the hidden gems in Uttarakhand.
Revered by the locals, and pilgrims, commercialization interest is on the pilgrim tourist, and thus the place still maintains an aura of peace and tranquility.
A refreshingly hot bath at Gangnani's sulphur spring - was on offer - and we needed no second invitation. Uppi bhai merrily clicked away!
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We met with a French adventurer - and he recounted his journeys across the world - while the both of us were being washed down by the spring waters! His next stop was Ladakh! Wishing him luck ,we went our separate ways.
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The bridge over the Bhagirathi at Bhangeli provides a nice spot where we stopped to click pictures of....

R3 and yours sincerely!
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Uppi bhai and AB
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Two good friends - after all these years
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Standing tall...
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With my friend
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Nothing beats the brooding looks of R3!
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We stopped by the Bhagirathi on a whim and looked back on the road less traveled...
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A little ways before Harshil , when we stopped to gaze at the Bhagirathi far below us.
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The NH-108 snakes up the hill-side
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That's me again!
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Stopped for lunch at Harshil

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0238_2015102414h06m02dsc_2213.jpg

There was this small stream soon after- and for the heck of it, we thought to capture the moment when R3 plunges through it!
Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-r3-water-crossing2.jpg

Getting the alloys washed!
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Little did we know it would turn out to be a pro bono Scorp ad .
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Watch out , and would you please get out of the way!
Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0259_2015102414h17m33dsc_2218.jpg

At Harshil one can pick up apples by the crate at the local market
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AB shows the way to get one's apple.

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Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0300_2015102414h32m07dsc_2233.jpg

I am one to avoid histrionics. But I rather liked the idea of bypassing the middle-man altogether
Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0288_2015102414h29m41dsc_2224.jpg

So it's straight from the tree to the mouth!
Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0311_2015102414h34m52dsc_2244.jpg

We stopped at this picturesque bridge, and clicked a few snaps.
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Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0325_2015102415h03m37dsc_2253.jpg

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0326_2015102415h04m13dsc_2254.jpg

This left turn (31.024859,78.868738) at Bhaironghati marks the way to Nelong.
Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0329_2015102415h23m02dsc_2257.jpg

Gangotri is 8 km ahead from this point - and is a relaxed drive. We ended our journey there at 4 in the afternoon.

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Old 7th January 2016, 23:00   #7
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Default At Gangotri

So we were finally at Gangotri - almost at day's end, tarrying quite a bit on the way.
This was our first time at Gangotri - and we were taken aback at the sight of a pilgrim town sans pilgrims. There were hardly any at this time of the year.

AB very pleased... with zero crowds

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A very colorful bazaar

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There were only two kinds of tourists that had taken up lodgings at this time of the year - Bongs and फिरंगs (foreigners). And they both had one common goal - try the trek to Gaumukh or for the more adventurous - Tapovan.

Nevertheless, we dumped our stuff at one of the lodges,

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0331_2015102416h24m11dsc_2259.jpg

... refreshed ourselves with a steaming cuppa coffee...

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and headed out to the Gangotri temple.

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Quote:
Wikipedia:
Gangotri, the origin of the River Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga, is one of the four sites in the Chota Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The original Gangotri Temple was built by the Gurkha general Amar Singh Thapa. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (the Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri.

According to Hindu history, Goddess Ganga took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagiratha's predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries.
According to this legend, King Sagar, after slaying the demons on earth decided to stage an Ashwamedha Yajna as a proclamation of his supremacy. The horse which was to be taken on an uninterrupted journey around the earth was to be accompanied by the King's 60,000 sons born to Queen Sumati and one son Asamanja born of the second queen Kesani. Indra, supreme ruler of the gods feared that he might be deprived of his celestial throne if the "Yajna" (worship with fire) succeeded and then took away the horse and tied it to the ashram of Sage Kapil, who was then in deep meditation. The sons of the King Sagara searched for the horse and finally found it tied near the meditating sage. Sixty thousand angry sons of King Sagara stormed the ashram of sage Kapil. When he opened his eyes, the 60,000 sons had all perished, by the curse of sage Kapil. Bhagiratha, the grandson of King Sagar, is believed to have meditated to please the Goddess Ganga enough to cleanse the ashes of his ancestors, and liberate their souls, granting them salvation or Moksha.
The sanctum sanctorum, administrative offices , the ghats , and residences for the priests are built around the large courtyard. Presumably this open space is used when the devout turn out in large numbers. At the time we were the only people seeking the grace of the Goddess.


A scene of Lord Shiva on Mount Kailash - arresting the flow of the Ganga.

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The story goes thus...

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The spot where Bhagirath performed penance - now a shrine

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The administrative office - where one can obtain special prasad

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The river beckoned ...

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... and could we ignore the call?

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As darkness gathered , AB - finally found release in doing what he does best - trekking!

AB goes off on a recce towards Gangotri National Park - whilst I headed back to the lodge (to rest and quench a parched throat )

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This entrance to Gangotri National Park, is the portal to reach Gaumukh and Tapovan.

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In the evening , as we were having dinner, AB described the trek. It sounded interesting , so we planned a quick trek towards Gangotri National Park in the morning.

October 25
We were up at 6 AM. Uppi bhai was sleeping in the next room - so we decided not to bother him. AB got his gear together and off we went.

The initial part of the trek is relatively easy - and it's possible to get to the gate in about half-an-hour. But the views of the Bhagirathi from the path were just mesmerizing - so we just shelved the plans to actually get there.

A view of Gangotri town

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The man leading these ponies has applied sun cream - not war paint!

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A distance chart - this is the point where we headed back, as it was getting late.

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Back at the lodge, and after breakfast, Uppi bhai insisted on showing us something unique. We suspected it was a ruse to kill a little more time, but little did we know, how wrong we were!

So, off we went on a short walk - on the other side of the Bhagirathi

The Kedar Ganga tributary its way to join the Bhagirathi

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The other side of the river is dotted with Ashrams.

This one offers advanced yoga classes

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Whilst this one had a very interesting front door

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And this one: Tapovan Ashram so named after Swami Tapovan Maharaj sports an eclectic mix of curios in its front yard.

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The highlight of this walk was the Surya Kund waterfall that lies downstream of the confluence of the Kedar Ganga and Bhagirathi





The cavities and pockets on the rock draw one's attention - And were we surprised!

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A closer look - and one wonders at the hand of Nature - sculpting these amazing shapes!

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It was time to leave, and at 9 AM, we reached an impatient R3 raring to go to Nelong!

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And so were we!

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Old 8th January 2016, 13:01   #8
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Default Driving to Nelong

Nelong - finally! Nelong. A word of two syllables. Wikipedia describes Nelong thus-

Quote:
Nelong is a small hilly village in Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand, India, and claimed by Zanda County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet, China. Jadh Ganga, an important tributary of the Bhagirathi River, flows through this place. Some of the nearby villages are Jadhang, Sang and Pulam Sumda, which all lie in the valley of the Jadh Ganga.
maps.google.com (not maps.google.co.in) describes it as lying within a disputed area.

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-nelang.jpg

The movie Seven Years in Tibet documents how avid mountaineer Heinrich Harrer escaped to Tibet through this very area. While I have been a big fan of the movie , I did not quite realize that this very place was Nelong -until I first came across its name on this post.

As Tanveer has mentioned, one can't simply pack up one's bags and arrive.

For a very simple reason:

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A perusal of Harish Kapadia's seminal work High Himalayas, Unknown Valleys, Indus Publishing Company, shows

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What lends credibility to the inaccessibility of Nelong, was Romesh Bhattacharya's admission of the difficulty in obtaining the all important permit.

Tilak ji has thus achieved what successive local/state/central governments have not achieved, despite these areas being strategically important.

Working tirelessly , to open up these areas for the average Indian citizen - takes hard work. Dedicating a life time, towards this endeavor just so Indians can feel more Indian, and the locals can better their lives, overcome hardship with an alternate source of income, and be more connected, truly needs applause.



Tilak ji had got us the all-important permit

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-permit.jpg

To me, access was never more important - and somehow at that moment , this small remote village at the border made me feel more Indian than I felt in all my years in New Delhi.

After glancing at the images that follow - some might say
what of it? There's no beauty here. There's a broken road that's laid on a ledge, atop a mountain bereft of any greenery

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To them I say, beauty does not have to follow commonly accepted stereotypes.

There's an unspoken beauty of a broken road ,in a wilderness so remote , that it's stillness is punctuated only by an alpine wind that howls and swirls around the traveler.

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There's beauty in knowing that in the not so distant past, this land was not yours to tread upon, far less drive through.

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There's beauty in knowing that in the millennia past, the road did not exist- only a frail wooden footway, now crumbling

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There's beauty in the knowledge that the distant unassuming footway was an important link of the old Silk Route.

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There's beauty in the gurgling stream - the Jadh Ganga, that skips over rocks on its way towards the Bhagirathi.

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There's beauty in the knowledge that this distant stream below, was in ancient times, just as unassuming, and yet bit by bit, has carved away millions of tons of hard rock!

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Just like this road that's forged out of hard rocks and cliff face by dint of sheer hard work.

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so that vehicles can carry men, instead of mules.

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so that a companion and I may travel it.

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The splendor of the Nelong valley

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Two friends - pause and look.

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The Pagal Nallah (30.797973, 78.447903) so called as it's the nemesis of a few low GC cars - not for R3 though!


The glacier whence the Pagal Nallah is born

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In the distance, the glacier's edge

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The temptation to be clicked is too hard to resist!

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Far below us the Jadh Ganga

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From whence our bravehearts defended a young nation.

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A selfie - as the river valley curves towards Himachal

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Last edited by joybhowmik : 11th February 2016 at 19:16. Reason: Edited
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Old 9th January 2016, 09:59   #9
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Default Driving to Nelong (Cont'd)

We stopped at the place where the Jadh Ganga curved away towards Himachal

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0608_2015102511h37m41dsc_2408.jpg

As I stretched my legs, AB decided to stretch his back!

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I checked out a pine cone...

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...and plucked one for my daughter back home

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the sap on one's fingers was a small price to pay

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A memorial to a few brave soldiers, who in 1994, died in an avalanche, while looking for water.

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Today every army convoy , stops here to offer a few bottles of water for the thirsty souls.

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The road kept going East- level and fairly broad by now. As we turned a corner, the road was blocked!

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Although the road goes further East for a good 40 km, we were not allowed further.

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We were finally at Nelong!

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There was not much we could do or photograph here. It's simply not allowed!

So we just took a walk

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Signs of the road under construction

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The glacial moraine behind us, as we walked back to a patiently waiting Uppi bhai and R3.

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Some say the destination is the journey. Now that we had reached Nelong, it was time to head back...

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The Jadh Ganga far below , accompanying us - as we were lost in our thoughts.

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An interesting sight, stopped us in our tracks.
A tree with its roots exposed.

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And here is the reason why.

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The soil appears to be of the alluvial kind - notice the rounded stones embedded within - a clear indication that this part of the earth was at some point a part of the Jadh Ganga's embankment or its bed.

Soon we had reached Bhaironghati.... and were out of the Nelong valley.

For those that would like to understand more about this 20 odd kilometers of road.. here's something to whet the appetite..

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-nelongelevationmap.png
Graphic courtesy - Google and Maplorer

A GMVN under construction at Bhaironghati.

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More power to them - they are the vanguard of tourism infrastructure at these remote areas.




A small dhaba, at which we stopped for a simple lunch

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of roti, daal and sabzi

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The temple dedicated to भैरव (Lord Bhairav) to which Bhaironghati owes its name.

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A rock precariously hangs over the road , as we move towards Uttarkashi.

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One last photo-opp for AB

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And then we are officially out of Gangotri National Park...

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And on our way to the camp-site!

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Default Camping in the wildernes

The sun was almost setting by the time we reached our camp site (30.797973, 78.447903) .

Tilak ji was there to meet us.. having already unpacked the necessities from his Bolero.

Meeting up with Tilak ji... L to R -> AB, Tilak ji, and I.

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The camp site was right by the Assi Ganga on Sangamchatti road - midway between the exit from Gangotri - Uttarkashi road, and the Doditaal trek.

To be honest, this would be the first time camping in India. All my camping experience had hitherto been at Adirondacks and Acadia National Park - so it would not be amiss to say- that I was more than a little jittery about the experience. Nothing could have prepared me for the evening ahead!

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A panoramic view of the camp site , with Assi Ganga flowing by it.

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Can you spot R3 in the foliage?

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Food was a simple affair - but in a fantastic setting....

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With Kishore Kumar's timeless classics , Asha Bhosle's lilting melodies filling the air , the starlit sky above, and a roaring bonfire - there was nothing else left in our wishlist.

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0784_20151025_211646_16.jpg

The music did not stop, as we continued partying. Many a number was played by AB on his trusty harmonica.

Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley-a0802_2015102521h40m18dsc_2557.jpg

It was almost 11 PM by the time we winded up for the night.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny. Much as we would have liked to stay on, unfortunately we could not. We had to return home - and had a long journey ahead of us.

After a quick cup of tea, we reluctantly said our good-byes to Tilak ji and Uppi Bhai, packed our few belongings into R3 and left.

Last edited by joybhowmik : 11th February 2016 at 19:20. Reason: Edited
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Old 9th February 2016, 22:54   #11
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Default The home stretch

October 26:
Thus we were almost at an end to our escapade. A few moments stolen from the humdrum of our daily lives. To live life, for ourselves - for a change.

As we joined the mad traffic of the plains, somehow, it did not bother us. We were both refreshed. The unnecessary honking and jostling, seemed like so much noise.

The distance from Uttarkashi to our homes is a good 12 hours of drive time - but we did not feel it. Every so often , some batchmate from somewhere in the world , would call us to wish they were there ... such is the power of instant information and social media.

Back at our homes, we went back to our regular lives. The dutiful husband, father, son, manager, colleague, neighbour....

But ever so often , we connect - and make plans for the next such escapade just so we can find ourselves again!

One such is already in the pipeline... and I sure hope that it sees the light of day!

Until then... फिर मिलेंगे !

Last edited by joybhowmik : 11th February 2016 at 19:29. Reason: Edited
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Old 12th February 2016, 11:07   #12
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Default Re: Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogue Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 12th February 2016, 11:57   #13
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Default Re: Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley

Oh Man!!
You have gotten all us married folks future options for trouble with our wives!

Amazing trip, and the effort and energy in the narration shows that this one is for the ages.
Thank you for the inspiration.
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Old 12th February 2016, 13:23   #14
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Default Re: Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley

What a great writeup, Joy!! Truly amazing. Your written words had so much power that i felt as if i was there with you - i almost felt the cold, fresh air near the gangotri. Again, Kudos to you for the post!

I guess this is why one opts for an SUV instead of a sedan. It takes you places where other cars simply cannot.

Your persistence in seeing that this trip is executed no matter the hurdles, paid off. The call of the wild and the call of the youth is too powerful too ignore, uh?
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Old 12th February 2016, 15:06   #15
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Default Re: Being a bachelor again - Driving holiday with friends to Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Nelong Valley

What a beautiful travelogue. My Friday is spent productively in reading through your writings than to worry about project deadlines, permanent shortage of resources in our projects, delivery issues etc etc .

Wonderful narration backed by superb photos and that menacing look of your R3, gives us (city slickers that is) inspiration that it is possible to enjoy nature with the right attitude and a capable vehicle. Ours country has a lot to offer, especially those of you in North India, who have better opportunity to trek in Himalayas.
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