Category Archives: travelogue

Chennai to Hampi – weekend getaway

Chuck fairy tales, go adventurous! – Is my motto. But with my spinal cord injury, my treks, and trip experience have mellowed down. Hampi being a not-so-tough to hike place, I said “Let’s go!” and three other friends joined.

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Particulars:

  • Where – Hampi
  • For – Trekking, weekend getaway
  • Organized by – Get Beyond Limits
  • Cost factor – 3000 INR per head
  • Cost includes — Bus picks us from Bangalore and drops us back, home stay, sightseeing more details are here

Why I chose this trip:

Selfish reasons, though — I am on the brink of starting my next novel, and I want some change to forget the characters of my previous flick. November being the National Novel Writing Month – I’m likely to start my third novel, tentatively I’ve given it a title – “Aspen Leaves,”

I wanted to meet new people – Of course, am an introvert but am a better observer. So, I wanted to see new people – I did start this trip with three friends and 20 strangers, but am back with 20 odd friends now! Yayy yay!

The gang:

  • Four outdoor leaders
  • 2 Germans, one from China, almost 8+ from Chennai and others from North India

It was a convivial gang of people with our interests aligning to exploring, having fun and to get back home with new friends and memories.

We had photography enthusiasts, a horticulture student, a few who work in IT organizations, a few who sing well, and of course, I was the only published writer, yet, found a few readers/ potential writers over the trip.

How we turned friends:

It started off with an ice-breaking session at the bus when we kick-started our journey from Bangalore to Hampi – we had to introduce ourselves amending an adjective and that in particular had to be a food item, our sweetest memory in the year 2016, what would you do if you get up one fine morning and realize you just switched your gender, and also, share your fear.

Next was the bouldering session – where we got to introduce each other, start talking, encourage each other while climbing on the large boulders.

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We were all set to trek, helping each other according to their speed. We explored Hampi — The famous Virupaksha temple, the Sanapur Lake, Vitthala temple, and we also had the chance to hear the history from a guide. Hike to Anjaneya temple was indeed an experience – 575 + 575 steps early in the morning was strenuous, but the view from the summit was mind-blowing.

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I also had the opportunity to talk with ‘Kush’ he is an outdoor leader who also writes poems, and we shared our love for writing, and our teeny bag of secrets.

Personal Experience:

I somehow shed the ‘introvert’ me and spoke to one of the outdoor leader Prajna – I wanted to know about her profile, how tough it is to be a leader, her experiences, etc.. I also shared the plot details of my next novel, and we were in sync. I also told her that I love to travel with people who are not personally close because most who do end up talking about their issues in life. While my agenda of a trip is to give a damn to the problems and to live the trek to the fullest. (and I did)

As usual, I took the first seat of the bus started reeling, plotting, and thinking over the details to understand if I use the details/experience in any of the novels that are plot-ready

It was almost 8:00 PM when I realized that we are running out of time and that I have a train at 11:55 PM from Bangalore Cantt station. The outdoor leaders were thoughtful, and luckily, Kush – the outdoor leader had his plans laid. We got down elsewhere and booked an Ola cab, Kush kept talking to me to ensure I am alright and promised that I’d catch my train and I did.

Before I got down from the bus I sensed most of them are worried about my train, my friend shoved more money in my hand; another said to inform immediately if I miss the train to pick me back from the station.

Having no clue about Bangalore with battery drained phone – I relied on people. I gathered information from the folks around to know the platform number, the coach stops, etc.. I usually take the side upper berth to avoid conversations with people ( Acute and slight Anthropophobia, you see!)

Just when my faith in humanity restored, and when I was about to doze off, the TTR woke me up at 2:00 AM to check the bloody tickets and left the lights on. Goddamn!

Back with:

  • Leg cramps, chapped lips, slight tan, and Hampi Hangover
  • Friends, friends and more friends
  • Google drive with beautiful pictures
  • A mail thread connecting all of us

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Hampi gave me a necessary break to start afresh! Bless me people – am all set to write “Aspen Leaves,” this November.

Ladakh in the month of May

I decided to spend 10% of my annual salary on a trip every year in the month of May. I usually don’t like to travel with family or very close friends where we end up talking (cribbing) about our awful life. So I wanted to travel with two friends who I know but I don’t know (hope you get the point) I posted a status that am planning Ladakh a few months back on FB and a few responded, after sharing the plan and details, 3 of us got set but unfortunately one had to drop out.
I kept reading many posts on ladakh visit and this blog by Rajiv Verma was of much use- http://webguy.in/
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That’s my college senior Karthika – A lovely companion
I love traveling within India, especially north, because it is rich in culture and heritage.
I have a very silly bucket list and I am done with a few in this trip:
  • Visit Ladakh
  • Witnessing snowfall
  • Stay in a tent
  • Do white water rafting (am done with paragliding at Goa, next on the list is Scuba diving J )
Things to carry:
  • Himalayas lip balm or equivalent (I swear you’ll need it more than anything else)
  • Sunscreen lotion of 40+ SPF
  • Woollen socks
  • Boots/shoes (No slippers please)
  • Gloves, mufflers, wind cheaters
P.S: At ladakh, the shops are open just for 6 months, so if you want to buy things, it is costly. You can bargain and get things for 20% less than quoted but still it would sound pricey.
You can get gloves for 200 INR and woollen clothes from 600 INR onwards. You can choose to buy them at the Tibetian Refugee Market. I spent almost 3 days there shopping there and I loved going around.
Note:
  • Try to reduce weight – walk and take stairs which will help you to travel at ease
  • Oxygen levels are low, and you might start panting if you walk uphill or use stairs (you can buy a small oxygen cylinder that costs 450 INR, they make it mandatory when you go to the lake side, if you don’t use – return and get 350 INR back)
  • If you have heart problem, asthma or breathing issues, please re-consider the trip
  • Choose to use tablets that would help to keep your oxygen levels normal and also, wouldn’t let you to puke often because you will be travelling through hairpin bends
  • Most talk Hindi – better to have at least one person who knows to converse in Hindi. Local Ladakhis are not good in English
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Travel:
No direct flights from Chennai to Leh. So flight/train journey from Chennai/Bangalore to Delhi and flights from Delhi to Leh.
Important places to visit and things to do at Leh
  • Nubra Valley (6 hours ride from Leh main and you can stay over in a tent camp)
  • Pangong Lake ( 7 hours ride from Leh main and again, a lake front tent stay)
  • Shanti Stupa (Leh is a place where Buddhism is predominant, and wherever you go it is Buddha) – this is an important place to visit as it has great views of the mountains
  • There are many monasteries around and almost, all are same. If you’re not of a type to look around places, just visit one – Diskit Monastery because right next to it is the giant Buddha statue. See both in one visit.
  • White Water Rafting – 600 INR for 6 kms and 1200 INR for 14 kms. 6 kms is just normal boating types, but 14 Kms is the best. The water is nothing but the melted glaciers, and know what? I jumped in the water and had a chilling dip J
  • Tso Morori lake – I didn’t visit (yet)
  • Sangamam – where lakes meet, the point beyond which you will go for rafting
  • Cultural dance – try their clothes too for 100 INR
  • Magnetic hill – they say in here the car will keep going without having to drive, but, nahhhh 🙁
  • If you’re physically fit – trek at Lamayuru and try mountaineering
  • When you travel to Nubra you will get to see and play at frozen lakes, ice plateaus, mountains of different colours – purple, brown, yellow, and some metallic colours too. Throw ice at your folks and spend time at the ice plateaus but please use gloves and boots or shoes
  • Go on a pony ride, camel ride; see yaks and the flock of sheep, at the sand dunes. Nubra valley is where you’ll see the cold dessert with white sand, with snow capped mountains around.
  • These are just important places to visit, there are many more. And you can visit as per your choice.
Climate ranges from minus 3 to 8 degrees (Jealous aren’t you) 😛
People at Ladakh
They are sweet and religious people, very pious and sweet. As they get to sell things only for 6 months, their price is way too much.
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Ladakhi Food
Try Gesmo Restaurant and Lamayura restaurant for sure.
Things to buy from Ladakh
  • Dry fruits – Apricot – fruit and the seed, walnut
  • Kashmiri salwar suits
  • Wish bell (picture attached) ranges from 85 INR for a small keychain to 2500 INR that are big ones
  • Pashmina shalls starting from 1200 INR – 3000 INR
P.S – you’ll get to find the same things at Spencer plaza in Chennai or at Bangalore
 Best places to stay at Ladakh
Stay at the Old Leh Road – either Hotel Grand Dragon or similar on the road, there are many small spots near the grand dragon where they arrange trekking, mountaineering, rafting, share taxi to nubra and pangong lake.
Ladakh has a lot to offer, it throws different colour at different months of the year. You can choose to road trip (you can rent Royal Enfield) or trek when the river stays frozen (Chadar Frozen River Trek)
Am back with chapped lips, dry skin, great good memories and 2000 odd pictures! so when are you planning your visit? 🙂
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Ladakh’s airport is as small as a coffee shop

“Am worried that youngsters are deprived of good books,” says Nalini Chettur

I am not fond of the word ‘Ma’ and I don’t get close to any elders or my friend’s mom, so I don’t use that term a lot. Unknowingly, the first word I uttered when I met Nalini Chettur was ‘Ma’ and she scooped my heart in a jiffy. I spent two solid hours with her, talking about the bookstore, the Indian publishing industry, her experience with books, and my experience with publishing, and to the recent issue of a girl wearing a knee length dress but commented by the auto driver at Bangalore.
She is versatile, intense, scintillating, high-spirited, determined and passionate. I can just go on and on!
Why Taj did this?” I frowned. “Because they are TAAAJJJJ,” she said and laughed. “But, yes, they have been kind so far. “They don’t charge me a lot. There was a family that flew down from Singapore just to visit my store and take some books. There are many who mention the book store at the feedback forms at the Taj.”
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She knows a lot about books. She is keen not to stock her store with best sellers but to stash exotic and one of a kind books. The minute you start talking, she can analyze you and say what type of books you need.
This bookstore is my oxygen,” she added. “I always suggest books to my people. I know them for years, and I love interacting with young people like you. I believe that my store will live with the kind of individuals who visit,” she smiled.
There are authors she knows; there are authors whom she introduced to Madras. She looks like a Living book encyclopedia. Give her the title or author name or publisher name – you will get the story from her! Such intense person who dedicated her life on books is indeed an inspiration.
I need a list of books, here it is,” I handed over. “Just read once, I store it in my mind!” she said and indeed she does.
Giggles Book Store:
•    Smallest bookshop in Chennai rightly named as the Biggest Little Bookshop
•    Location: Taj Connemara Hotel, next to Spencer Plaza – Near the car parking, as small as just 150 sq feet where books are stashed, and you can see Nalini Chettur sitting in a chair welcoming you with a smile. She is running this store for the past 41 years.
•    Issue: Taj wants to expand or whatever, and wants Nalini Chettur to vacate the place ASAP
What we need:
•    A store in and around Spencer Plaza
•    Rent of 10,000 INR
•    Required in 2 weeks time
Help yourself! Visit her – talk to her and walk home with a heavy bag full of books and face shimmering with a smile!
If you’re not in Chennai, ping me with a book request, I will get you the same with her autograph and courier it to you. You can transfer the amount to my account.
If you’re in Chennai, JUST VISIT HER! No excuses.

Belur Temple – Love at First Sight

The moment I stepped in, divinity caught my throat. I sensed a strange fulfillment. I walked through the steps admiring every detail of the temple as such.
The main prahar was closed for a special pooja, and my train schedule had a rush. I had to walk out without sneaking Lord Vishnu; I kept battling and fighting within me. I said to myself that I wanted to see the deity before leaving, and I stood right there watching the closed red curtain.
It was raining and was such a close call, I stood there with all hope. A few seconds before the car started, I heard the bell drumming to catch my attention. Lord Vishnu’s way of calling me in, the feel of rushing in to see the exotic deity of Lord Vishnu, has no words at all in my dictionary.
I felt the best though I missed visiting yet another temple named Halebedu. I loved the trip as such.
To visit: Mangalore is the nearest airport, else its much connected to places near Bangalore, Chikamaglur, Shimoga, etc.. Reaching this place isn’t a big deal.
Verdict: Soul-stirring and Soul-searching would love this place. Architects, DSLR fanatics, run to this place, please!
P.S Pictures were clicked using my mobile – iPhone 5 (Sorry for the quality :P)