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Travel Point…. Experience Corner….. down the lane of Memories


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A Weekend Trek to Ilaka Got via Triund (McLeodganj)

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“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”            – Cesare Pavese

It’s been quite some time since I had made this trip, but couldn’t have shared the experience. As it is said, “it is never too late”. Last year(2016) when I was at Delhi for my internship, I had utlized 6/8 weekends in exploring the nearby places in and around Delhi. McLeoganj and trek to Ilaka Got via Triund was one of those six trips. The trip was for a span of only two days and it was a solo trip.

  • Duration: 2 days
  • Budget: INR 3500 (Including transport from New Delhi)

How to Reach:

A lot of buses ply to Dharmasala and McLeodganj from ISBT, Delhi. I boarded the Himachal State Transport(HRTC) Volvo AC Bus (these govt. Buses are indeed good !) around 6:15 PM on a Friday evening from ISBT, New Delhi. The ticket price was around INR 700 after applying some discount coupons on Paytm. I met Sam here who was sitting just by my side and was on a world tour. He was going to stay for a month at Mcleodganj and then had plans to explore the North-east region of India. He had just completed his studies and before going into a full-fledged business; he decided to explore the world. The benefit of solo travel is that you get to meet a lot of travellers like this and get to know their motivating story. The bus reached Dharmasala around 6AM and McLeodganj around 6:45 AM.

Trek to Ilaka Got via Triund:

Before setting out, I had carried out a preliminary research on the area and had contacted a tour operator who was organizing trek to Ilaka Got at a cost of INR 2500 per head. But I hadn’t booked any. When I got off at McLeodganj bus stop, I came across a board “Himalayan Treks” (just near the tea shop at McLeodganj bus stop). As it was early morning, there was noone except a local who was sleeping on a bench there. When I talked to him, I got to know that he was  a trek guide(Vijay – +91-7831804538) and he agreed to take me till Ilaka Got(including Food + Accommodation) for just INR 1500. But as I was the only person, he told to wait for some other trekkers till 10 AM and if noone woould turn up, then he agreed to take me only.

I walked towards the market and from there walked down a bit till I found a reasonable hotel. As it was a Saturday, the road was filled with school kids waiting for their pick up bus. A lot of hookers were asking for hotel stay on the way, but I preferred bargaining with the hotel directly and finally fixed a deal of 2 hr stay(for refreshments only) for just a price of INR 200. I took a quick snap and was ready for the exploration around 9 AM. The view from the hotel was refreshing and picturesque. The entire McLeodganj was basking in the golden ray of morning sun.

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I explored the market area, had breakfast and went to the guide around 10:30 AM. On the way, I came across this small, but beautiful temple which is situated within the market area.

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Unfortunately or fortunately, there wasn’t sign of any other trekker. So he agreed to take me alone. I had aimed for Indraahar pass(14765 feet) which was a 5-6 days trek. In two days, it was impossible to cover Indraahar pass. So I settled with Ilaka Got(11800 feet) which is also a 3 day trek. Had I had one more day, I would have gone for Indraahar Pass definitely.  I had to complete it in 2 days due to lack of time. The journey started at 11 AM.

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Drop off till the starting point of trek(Gunadevi Temple) was provided by the tour operator. I had kept all the unnecessary luggage at the tour operator office to increase my walking pace and had taken only the essential ones. The trek to Triund started around 11:30 AM. The path was passing through a thick jungle. The view was getting better with each step. A lot of fellow trekkers were on the same path, a few were just sitting on the lush green grass and were enjoying the picturesque beauty. The path is extremely well-marked and there is no chance of someone getting lost, in case someone is travelling alone. There weren’t much water sources on the way. After around one hour of trek, we reached Magicview cafe from where entire Dharmasala and Kangra valley was visible(including the cricket ground).

We took a short break and continued the journey. The route was filled with rhodendron trees. We reached at Triund(10,000 feet) around 2:15 PM. It started drizzling the moment we reached there. We rushed into one of the Maggie shops there and enjoyed our lunch. Hot Rajma-Chawal and pickle in that chilling weather was a bliss.

The sky got cleared in 15 mins and I went out and explored the vicinity. It was a long stretch of lush green field(bugyal) and the slight pour of rain had made the sky clear. A group of foreigners were playing guitar and enjoying the awesome weather to the fullest. A duo of Belgium beauty were relaxing on a piece of rock in awe of the gigantic snow-clad mountain standing in front of them. A few trekkers were setting up their tents. Tents are available on rent here. The higher you’ll go, the costlier the food will get. A bottle of water was INR 60 here and a plate of Maggie around INR 100.

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Though my heart was saying to stay for a little more time, the mind was against it. We had to reach Ilaka Got before the sun set. So with a heavy heart, we started for Ilaka got. After ascending for around 15 mins, I got a better view of Triund. It was believed that the entire Dharmasala town is built on a pond and any tectonic vibration may result in sinking of the town. Now there is also work in progress to connect a rope-way directly from McLeodganj till Triund. I was doing a two days’ trek in a day. And the path was mostly steep at the beginning. The guide was walking very fast as it was a daily routine for him, but for me it was getting difficult to keep pace with. On top of that, there was hardly any source of water on the way. After an hour of walk, I was so exhausted that I would have slept on the road given the chance. But the path was getting more scenic and greener.

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The last stretch was mostly flat. Then we came across another Maggie point. The shopkeeper seemed to be a friend of the guide. They started chit chatting and a laid down on those lush green grass. Clear blue sky was up above my head and snow-clad Dhauladhar mountain in front of me. The campsite of Ilaka got was visible from here, but there were still miles to go.

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We moved ahead. For the first time, I heard the sound of water stream; but it was way below. The half-rotten body of a horse was laying down below. The guide told that the horse got a heart attack two days back due to overburden of luggage. Once the campsite comes in sight, the distance seems to fade away. Finally, we reached the campsite around 5:30 PM and I took a sigh of relief.

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A group of trekkers were returning from Indraahar pass when we reached Ilaka got. They showed the pictures of Indraahar pass and it was tempting to pay a visit there; but I hardly had time. After a short break, I went out and explored the surrounding. There was still some snow by the side of the camp. There is  a cave named Lahesh cave around 1 hr away from Ilaka got, but the route is treacherous and filled with boulders. So I skipped exploring that as it would be difficult returning to Ilaka got in dark. Moreover, the path is extremely steep and I wasn’t in  a condition to climb till the cave after such a long trek. Once the sun went down the horizon, cold breeze and chillness got a grip over my body.

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But it was time for some fun. We were three there: the guide, the cook and myself. I took out two bottles of beer from my backpack that I had carried all this way for this auspicious moment. I put those into the snow beside the camp and we started to make a campfire. But the wind was so cold that it was hardly bearable to sit outside. So we made the campfire inside the dining tent, yeah not recommended. 15 mins was enough to chill the beers in those super chilled weather. I handed them one and made myself cosy beside the fire. After a while, they both started telling me folk stories of their community and of their locality. The talk went on across a time frame of past, present and future. After an hour or two, we finally decided to have dinner and went to bed. The sky out was crystal clear with millions of stars twinkling to the tune of the universe.

Next morning, I woke up around 7:30 AM, had breakfast and started our return journey. The return journey was pretty smooth and comfortable. We reached Gunadevi temple around 11:30am. The guide dropped me at McLeodganj market around 12 noon.  I had booked JAT MURI ROU Express (18110) from Pathankot railway station which was scheduled at 11;45 PM. Pathankot is the nearest railway station from McLeodganj which is around 90km away. So I decided to explore McLeodganj till evening.

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With my guide (Vijay) at Ilaka Got

Things to Do at Mcleodganj:

I fixed a deal with an auto driver to cover the top tourists places nearby within 4 hours for INR 500.

Church of St. John in Wilderness:

This spooky church is situated just a km away from the McLeodganj bus stop. The building is bit old and stands tall among tall trees. An evening visit to this place will surely tickle your adventurous appetite.

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Dal Lake:

This is not a big lake, but the ambience around the place is serene. You can take  a walk around the lake. There is a temple beside the lake.

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Dalai LamaTemple (Namgyal Monastery):

This is just a stone’s throw away from the market. The place is extremely peaceful and serene. You’ll get to see a lot of Tibetan monks here. Most of the people were engrossed in reading holy books and praying.

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Tibetan Museum:

This is just next to Dalai lama temple. The history of Mcleodganj and Tibet is well-documented here. You’ll get to know all the struggle and war these people have gone through in the past.

Naddi View point:

This is just a few km away from Mcleodganj city. The view of the Kanga valley from here is astounding. Some part of the trail of the trek was also visible from here.

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Bhagsu Waterfall:

Though I couldn’t visit this place due to lack of time and this is one of the top tourists spots at Mcleodganj.

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PC: Flickr / Anamika Baghel

Mcleodganj is an awesome place to get some fresh air from the hustle bustle and boredom of life. A lot of foreigners come and stay here for a month and more. The place is lively and refreshing. Hope I will have to pay another visit to this awesome place to complete the unfinished activity of Indraahar pass trek. See you soon Mcleodganj !

 


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Mahabalipuram : An Archaeological Brilliance !

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“For me archaeology is not a source of illustrations for written texts, but an independent source of historical information, with no less value and importance, sometimes more importance, that the written sources.” ― Michael Rostovtzeff

Mahabalipuram is one of the best weekend getaways from Chennai, of course after Pondicherry. But it is perfect for a single day outing. It is situated just around 60km away from Chennai and is famous for its archaeological brilliance. It’s also known as Mamallapuram, so don’t get confused.

How to Reach:

Bike:

If you have got a bike, then you shouldn’t worry about the transport part at all. If not, you can rent one. There are plenty of options available at Chennai (Chennaibikerental, Rentrip, Wheelonstreet etc.) . An Avenger will cost you around INR 750 per day and a RE around INR 1000. The road is best for a bike trip spread alongside the Bay of Bengal (East Coast Road). The road runs parallel to the coast of Bay of Bengal making it a scenic driveway, although you will not see the sea until the last few miles.

Car:

If you have access to a car, that’s ice on cake. This route is part of the road to Pondicherry which is listed as Top 10 road trips to take in India. Car rentals (Zoomcar/Myles) are also available at Chennai. You can also go for a cab or Ola/Uber outstation.

Bus:

The cheapest way to travel is by bus. A lot of private buses or MTC buses ply to Mahabalipuram(Mamallapuram). You can catch one from CMBT bus stop(Z568C route) or from Adyar(Bus no 599, 588, 589). I took the MTC Bus-599 and it took my around one and half hour to reach there, but the cost was just INR 30 🙂

There are a few options on the way to Mahabalipuram; like Crocodile Park, off-road riding, Tiger cave. If you are taking the bus option, you might have to miss this. If you’re boarding the bus at Adyar and planning to have lunch, then Top See Restaurant is a good budget hotel.

Things to Do:

Shore Temple:

(Entry fee INR 30 for Indians)

The temple is located just a stone’s throw away from the bus stop and just by the side of the coromandel coast. A pile of rocks has been put to protect the temple against the waves of the Bay of Bengal. The place is full of archaeological marvelous and lush greenery. One could just sit on that lush green grass and behold the architectural beauty for hours.  It is an excellent spot to try out some photography skills.

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The Shore Temple

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Beach:

The beach area though is not huge, but always adds flavor to the trip. A lot of handicraft and other small shops can be found on the way to the beach. The part of the beach near those rocks is somewhat clean, the further you go, the dirtier it gets. A lot of beach resorts are also there. If you’re planning for a night stay, then there are plenty of options.

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Pancha Rathas:

(Entry fee INR 30 for Indians, INR 25 for Videocam)

This is the 2nd best archaeological marvelous at Mahaballipuram or may be the best. There are five(Pancha) stone chariots(Rathas); each of different size and architectural magnificence. Again a heaven for a photographer.  It is just 1km away from the Shore temple.

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Light House:

(Entry fee INR 10 for Indians, INR 30 for Camera)

There are two light houses: one that used to be, one that is. The view from the light house is breathtaking, but you’ll have to climb all those narrow stairs to the top. If anyone likes rock climbing, then it is a heaven for him/her. There are so many climbable rocks here that you just can jump n hop around.  There are a lot of options to hang out here, you just need to explore.

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Towards the end of the day, dark clouds started hovering across the blue sky and it started raining. That just made the trip splendidly beautiful when the dust on greenery washed away.

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Krishna’s Butterball:

It is a gigantic rock stock to the hill. It seems as if just one push will make it roll. An awesome spot for some creative photography.

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Arjuna’s penance and Tiger cave are a few other interest points.

People here are great with stone carving and making stone sculptures. By the side of the road from Pancha Rathas to Lighthouse, you’ll see a number of sculptures and show-pieces.

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Four to five hours is enough to explore the surroundings. The entry to lighthouse closes around 5:30 PM, so plan accordingly. I embarked upon the same bus at around 6 PM for my journey back to Chennai and reached Adyar in 2 hrs.


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Jodhpur: The Blue City

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“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

This was my first visit to Rajasthan to attend the marriage ceremony of a close friend. I had travelled directly after Everest base camp trek to here. Pali was the actual destination I was travelling to, but I was expected to meet my other friends here at Jodhpur and to move together to Pali the next morning. I reached here after travelling by train for 3 continuous days: Kathmandu to Birganj by Bus, Raxaul to Delhi and Delhi to Jodhpur by train (12461-Mandor Express). I arrived at the sun-city in early morning and my friends were expected to reach in the evening. So in-stead of going to the hotel, I decided to explore the city for the day. I had kept the extra luggage at NDLS cloak room as I had to catch my return train from there only. Travelling light actually helps a lot. I bargained with an Autowala to cover the famous tourist spots of Jodhpur and finally settled for INR 500. And then the solo exploration began in an auto…

Mehrangarh Fort:

This was the first destinations in my list. The grandeur of the fort could be seen from far away. The fort is well maintained and guarded. A lot of locals have got employment inside the fort. There were a few playing instruments, singing Rajasthani folk songs making the dull atmosphere lively and energizing. The entry fee for Indian tourists is INR 70 excluding camera pass. Audio guide is also available on chargeable basis. Inside the fort, all the historical pieces are well organized for display with its details written by its side. The lavishness and luxury of the royal family can only be believed when seen in own eyes. From the top of the fort, the entire Jodhpur can be seen. Flying fox and a few other adventure activities can also be experienced at the fort. There is also a Chamunda mata temple at the fort.

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Sheesh Mahal

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Moti Mahal

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Phool Mahal

Jaswant Thada:

It is located just beside Mehrangarh fort. There is a small lake and well maintained garden. The well designed white structure stands out  among those green lines.

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Umaid Bhawan Palace:

It also can be seen from the top of Mehrangarh fort. Only a small part of the palace(left side) is open for tourists and the rest has been turned into a hotel. There are also a few parks at Jodhpur: Mandore garden, Machiya safari park, Rock park etc. I skipped those due to lack of time.

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Ghanta Ghar (Sardar Market):

I had booked my hotel just a stone’s throw away from Ghanta ghar due to the proximity to market and Mehrangarh fort. The Ghanta Ghar is located at the center of the market. There is a famous lassi shop(Shri Mishrilal) in the market and another good one just in front of clock tower near the main gate. I tried 3-4 varieties of Lassi: Makhaniya Lassi(Must try), Mango Lassi, Chocolate Lassi etc. Just outside of the inner main gate, there is a famous Omelet shop. Do try Masala cheese bread omelette and other Omelettes there. The shop is a tiny one and there is no space to even sit, but the omelette is a must try.

I was staying at Hotel Blue Turban, the location was awesome. The proximity to the market and Mehrangarh fort was such that I could see Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada, Ghanta Ghar(Clock Tower) from its rooftop. Did I mention, there was a well-designed rooftop bar from where one can see the lighted Mehrangarh fort. Just imagine…  dim lanterns hanging on an open rooftop and  trying hard to do away with the darkness, blow of gentle cool breeze soothing you and you sitting there with a can of chilled beer in front of the magnanimous Mehrangarh fort just wondering… how ? when ? why ?  someone would have created such a gargantuan fort ? The cannons(topes) could clearly be seen on the top of that enormous wall-line.  If you ever happen to visit to Jodhpur, do try this experience(PS: The fort is lighted till 10 PM). I bet the philosopher in you won’t be able to hold it back any longer.

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PS: On the way from Jodhpur to Pali, I came across the Bullet Baba Temple. The people here vehemently belief him. There is in interesting (or rather sad) story behind this temple also. Do google about it.


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Pondicherry: A refreshing weekend getaway

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“Live in the sunshine, Swim in the sea, Drink the wild air !” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My recent relocation to Chennai might give me the opportunity to explore the south, in a thorough manner. What better place can there be to start the journey than Pondicherry (Puducherry). Earlier I had been to south just once covering Cochin – Munnar – Alleppy – Kanyakumari – Rameswaram. There is a lot more to explore here. This was a short trip to the colorful city of beach, booze and bread !

How to reach Pondicherry (from Chennai):

There are various ways available to reach this lively destination. Some significant ways are cab or rented bikes. This is one of the top routes in India for road trip as the highway just runs by the side of the east coast(ECR). We were a group of six friends : Arpit, Prabina, Abhishek, Britto, Navya and myself. Britto being a localite took the charge and planned it. Here as language is a little barrier, so having a localite by your side can save much hassle. A lot of govt/private AC/Non-AC buses ply to Pondicherry. We had to catch a bus from Koyembeddu bus stop, but by mistake we(Arpit & Me) entered a wrong bus-stop in Uber that left us around 3km away from the actual bus-stop. And the bus was just about to leave. As a result, we could have been found running in and out Koyembeddu bus stop with a pic of bus’s number(TN01-AN1539 – see I still remember :p) in our hand. Finally, we boarded the AC govt. bus (fare INR 170 per head) from CMBT bus stop around 7 AM and reached Pondicherry around 10AM.

Bikes : best way to explore Pondicherry

We then directly moved to a bike rental provider(Vijat Arya 2 wheeler rental service) nearby. The owner briefed us on the sightseeing options there at Pondicherry, famous food joints to try out and basic traffic rules. We were reminded to be careful of the one-way routes there. The charge was around INR 400 per day per bike(Activa/Vespa) with min 2 days hire. We moved to our hotel(Hotel Corbelli, located around central market) and after a short refreshment , the journey started.

Paradise Beach:

Paradise beach was our first destination which is the top tourist spot at Puducherry. The last mile to Paradise is to be travelled by boat (to-fro ticket price INR 200 pax).

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One can travel there between 9AM – 5PM as the last boat leaves at 5PM. We reached Paradise beach around noon and the sun was at its peak.

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The sands on the beach had absorbed enough heat by then to roast our foot. Without any further delay, we jumped into the waving water of Bay of Bengal. The beach was extremely clean and well-maintained, but there was nothing available except coconut water 😦 After some 2 hours of gruesome face-to-face with the salty tides, we decided to return. The pointed shells on the beach had injured all of us by then in some way or other.

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After this salty bath, there is a rain-dance facility also available to refresh at a cost of INR 50. Then we returned by boat to the entry point.

At this point, there was just one thing in everyone’s mind : Food. We went to ‘Hot Breads’which was just beside our hotel and had a sumptuous meal of Pizza & Pasta. The food was good and cheap (as tax levied).

Rock Beach:

After a short rest at our room, we moved to Rock beach through the French colony which was just 1km away. The place is well-structured and maintained. This was an Indianized version of Dubai’s famous JBR(Jumeirah beach walk). The road was broad and only walkers were allowed after 5PM. One can sit there on those rocks and watch the sea splashing onto those black rocks leaving a few droplets on your face. The atmosphere there was just serene. There is a small fast-food market there just near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. We tried some Masala Pani Poori, Chat and some fruit salad out of the vast options available there. There is a café (Le Café) just by the sea-side which remains open(not in reality) for 24 hours. A nice place to try some french drinks, coffees or shakes. After chilling there for some more time, we returned to the hotel. The dinner party went on till 2AM at our room and everyone except two went to bed shortly. Prabina and I decided to pay a visit to the Rock beach.

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The beach was deserted, a but a few group were there; some sitting & gossiping, some lying just in wait of the sunrise and a few other in their deep sleep on the benches. The atmosphere couldn’t be explained in words, but can only be experienced: the tune of gushing sea water doing away with the quietness of the surrounding. After enjoying the soft breeze to the core of our heart, we returned to hotel with a hope of getting a glimpse of the sunrise next morning.

Auroville:

I guess that was some high hope :p We woke up around 9AM in the morning. We moved to Shri Aurobindo Ashram first. Then we moved to Auroville. It is a whole world in itself. After watching the short video, we walked till Auroville view point and clicked some pics.

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Shri Aurobindo Ashram

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Auroville

There was a lake around 8km away. We had planned to cover that too. The last 2km was a real pain. With road work under progress, there were only boulder s on the road. But after this when we reached the lake, it was disappointing. It was like a left-out lake due to lack of maintenance.

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We rode back to main city. After enquiring, we got to know there was just one AC bus yet to leave, but all the seats were already booked. The cab was too costly for a one way ride. There were some private AC buses in the evening, but the price was nearly 3 times. Luckily, we came across a bus which had come from Dingul and was on its way to Chennai. Three went to book the seats and the rest went to return the bikes. To utter dismay, the lock of the bikes was found stuck and couldn’t be opened. There were a wallet and some luggage in that. As it was a Sunday, so the repairing shops were also closed. We were running out of time. The bus was about to leave in 10 mins(at 3PM) and there we were, stuck with a lock. Then in desperation, we pulled the seat up and Britto slipped his hands into it and dragged the wallet and other stuffs out. The rental operator was kind enough not to charge for that. We literally run to the bus stop where the bus was on the verge of leaving. Some were even limping with their injured legs. With the grace of Almighty, We boarded the bus at the eleventh hour and that was the end of this awesome and happening journey.

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The Group

Some Other Sightseeing Options:

  • Basilica Church
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral
  • Arikmedu
  • Museum
  • French War Memorial

Some food joints to try:

  • Café Xtecy – for wood fired Pizza
  • Le café- for some soft drinks
  • Hot Breads- for authenticate French bread, Pizza & Pasta

PS: And there is one thing very cheap at Pondicherry, need I mention: p

Tips:

  • Protect your foot at Paradise beach from the sharp shells. If possible, take some band-aid’s with you.
  • Booze is not available at Paradise beach anymore, neither you are allowed to take any. Plan accordingly.
  • Be careful of the one-way routes and don’t park your vehicle near Rock beach side after 5PM.
  • Take a soap/Shampoo to paradise beach if you are planning to take a dip in the water.
  • For rented bikes, go to Vijay Arya if you haven’t researched properly.
  • To visit the inner sanctum of Auroville, apply for pass prior to 2-3 days of the visiting day.

 


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Everest Base Camp Trek: Living The Dream ! [ Part-II ]

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“I think that drive and mental strength are the factors that distinguish ordinary for extraordinary achievements. In competition, it is not the physically strongest climbers who win, but rather the mentally strongest.”   – Jibé Tribout

Click here to read the Part-I of the post if you haven’t yet.

Next morning when the golden ray of the sun kissed my forehead, I woke up to this magnificent view from the window.

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I ran outside to get a glance of the sunrise and the view out there left me spellbound. I stood there for quite some time and tried to soak this marvelous sight of nature to my heart’s content, watched the sun-ray slide down from the peak of the mountains slowly and gradually. It seemed like someone removing the blanket of darkness from the mountains. Tengboche is an excellent spot for some splendid photos of the mountains.

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Tengboche to Dingboche  (5 hr / 14,300 ft)  :

We set off for Dingboche around 8AM. There was a short, but steep descend at the start passing through a small jungle. The route was full of rhodendron trees.

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There were a couple of tiny villages on the way. We walked down till we came across the stream.The bridge was broken, but there was a temporary one.

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From that point, there was a small steep ascend and mostly flat-road after that. As we were moving slow, I was getting plenty of time to enjoy the scenic beauty on the way. We stopped at Somaroi for lunch. The landscape changed drastically after that, so did the height of the trees. It was shrubs all around the ground looking like green patches.

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The sky was clear enough to gift us some magnificent views on the way.

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Ama Dablam

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A porter-cum-kid taking rest. It was his first assignment with a 30+ Kg weight.

The sight of Ama Dablam was getting larger as we were approaching Dingboche. This stretch was the easiest of all. We reached Dingboche before we could know. We checked-into Everest Resort where we had a nice stay.

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Dingboche

The wind there was freezing cold. We were safe inside the wall of the resort, basking beside the heater in the dining hall. In the evening when I went out to take some sunset shots, my hands were trembling at such rate that I would have to take 3-4 clicks to get a stable shot. At night, cards was keeping us busy.

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Mt. Everest in clouds

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It was a full moon night !

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Next day was an acclimatization day. We were supposed to climb up a little bit and to come down. I like these acclimatization days more because you don’t have to slow your pace or wait. You can go at your own pace or may be faster; explore the most you can and then come back to the hotel. The guide had told us to go till the flag-post point, the route after that was tricky and treacherous. There was a peak named Nagarjuna peak (16,669 ft)up there; 2.5 hr of steep ascend in not so easy path. I had made up mind to try my best to reach the top, least would stop if the path would cross its safety-limit. I reached the flag post in an hour and moved ahead for the top.

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The First Stop !

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A trekker catching her breath with the view of the mountains

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The route got narrower, steep and bumpy. It was so steep that I would have to stop after every 15-20 steps to catch my breath. As I didn’t have day-pack, I hadn’t taken water-bottle with me. Luckily, I had some dry-fruits with me. That helped me a lot. After one more hour of climb, I was on the verge of breaking. The sight below was scarier, I would have to climb all the way down !

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Can you spot Dingboche here ? There was still 1 hr to climb.

Someone coming down told me that it’s just 30 mins more to the top and it’s worth it. So I continued. The last stretch was bit tricky with no clear route in sight. One needed to cross some large rocks, boulders and make way to reach the top. Once you reach there, the marvelous picturesque sight will make all your pain fade away.

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@ Nagarjuna Peak – 16,699 ft

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Ama Dablam view from Nagarjuna Peak (16,699 ft)

 I just sat there for a couple of minutes till I was full with this gorgeous and beautiful sight of nature. Descending is always easier, but more dangerous. It took me 1 hr to climb down that mighty mountain. I was literally running down. By the time, I hit ground it was around 1:30 PM and my knee was pleading before me to give it a break. Everyone already had his/her lunch when I reached hotel. I did some stretch-up and had my lunch. We were mostly surviving on Dal-Bhat. I tried so hard to stay awake in the afternoon, but the tiredness was so much that I couldn’t. There is also another alternative for day hiking at Dingboche: to Ama Dablam base camp.

As we had one day less, we had to make up for it anyhow. So next day, we planned to go to Gorakshep directly in-stead of Lobuche. But the issue was there was only one guide and he had to stay with the other group. Still we took the risk. “Great things in life never happen the easy way.”  We had only one thing in mind: to reach EBC.

Dingboche to Lobuche  ( 5 hr / 16,207 ft ):

So next morning, we(Swayam, Barsha & I ) left early for Gorakshep. The porter was with us, but he wasn’t much of help. He was a kid studying in 8th Std who could neither speak nor understand hindi or English. Just after moving for a short distance, Barsha felt ill. She was struggling from day-2, still she managed to reach this point; that was an achievement for a first time trekker itself. She told not to take risk and wait for us at Dingboche. It was a matter of one day only, we were scheduled to come back there next day itself. As there wasn’t any guide with us, so I also didn’t force her. Because in those unknown territory and hostile conditions, getting medical help in case of emergency would be uncertain and very difficult. Moreover, we were covering two days’ distance in one day. And if the illness was due to AMS, it could be fatal. So we sent her back to the hotel at Dingboche with the porter and we continued the journey.

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A view of the valley towards left

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Thukla

The initial stretch till Thukla was an easy one: long stretched, but  mostly flat green terrain. One could see the village Pheruche down to the left valley. We were moving fast as we had to reach Gorakshep anyhow. After an hour of walk, there came a stream just before Thukla. There was a small bridge to cross it. The water near the bridge was frozen and iced. From Thukla, there was a long steep ascend. Just the sight of that gave us Goosebumps. The wind was getting colder and unbearable.   The wind was so chilled that we had to look for big rocks and took shelter there in opposite direction of wind in between. The other route via Gokyo was visible from there. Group of trekkers were coming from that route. That was a longer, tougher but more scenic route. That route met this one at Lobuche. Once we passed the steep ascend, there was a little descend afterwards. That was the best descent I had ever come across, because that saved us from the super chilled wind. The path to Lobuche seemed like never ending. There was a flat stretch before Lobuche. After 3.5 hrs, we finally reached Lobuche. Just then the porter also joined us. We went to a hotel and had lunch. After a short rest, we set out for Gorakshep around 12 noon.

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Lobuche to Gorakshep ( 5 hr / 16,961 ft ) :

We were just at the edge of Lobuche that we saw a trekker who was returning from Gorakshep fell flat on ground. He must be in his 50s. He had lost his sense. We had some Glucose with us, that we offered the group attending him. Someone took out his jacket, two held upon his face to give him some shade. After around 5 mins, he regained back his senses and told that he had to kala pathar in the morning and was coming back directly. As Lobuche was just at a stone’s throw way, they carried him to a hotel and we moved on. The path was mostly flat, but the burning sun above and the super chilled wind were adding to the misery. After a 40-mins walk, there came a short but steep and tricky ascend. As the porter was going bit ahead, we missed the actual route and got stuck at the wrong one. A local returning that way helped us and showed us the path. The terrain had changed totally. No trees, no shrubs, but only stone and rocks all around; surrounded by mighty mountains both side. Then we got the glimpse of Khumbu glacier, one of the biggest in the world. There was hardly any energy left in the body, still we were pushing ourselves. Finally around 3 PM, we reached Gorakshep, our last stop.

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First glimpse of Gorakshep

It wasn’t the end of our misery, but the start. We were supposed to stay at Buddha Lodge. But as we reached late, the owner had sold the rooms to foreigners with some good money. As it’s the last stop, so very few hotels and lodges are there. There is scarcity of place most of the time. He offered us a tent to stay, but we hadn’t brought any sleeping bags with us. Finally, he allotted us a tiny room with two tiny beds and a broken window. The room was just big enough to fit two bodies in that. There wasn’t any electric bulb in that. We first approached the owner to change the room, but it only felt in deaf’s ear. We then tried contacting XLanc members to get another hotel, but all in vain. EBC was our priority, so we decided to adjust one night anyhow. It wasn’t that easy though. We had patched the broken window with tapes to prevent the chilled wind, but the room was so suffocating that we opened it. There was -25 deg C temperature outside with chilled wind. We slipped under the blanket and waited for the sunrise.

Gorakshep to Kala Pathar ( 4 hr / 18,200 ft) :

Next morning, we were supposed to go to EBC with the porter. We woke up around 5 AM, got freshened up, but the porter-guy was nowhere in sight. We looked for him everywhere, but only got disappointed. It was nearly 7AM, we couldn’t spare any more time. We were about to leave for EBC that a passer-by told it would be extremely cold at this early morning hour at EBC. So I thought of going to Kala Pathar first and then to EBC. But my friend was skeptical about going to Kala Pathar keeping in view the last day’s fainting scene. So I alone went. The look of the Kala Pathar route was scary. It was extremely steep and slippery. Though there wasn’t much wind at that time, but the temp was so low that even after wearing two gloves I felt like my hands will burst in cold. I was changing my hand holding trekking pole each 2 min and was tucking the other hand inside the jacket. After one hour of climb, I still was left with 90 mins of climb with no sight of the destination. I was in a dwindling situation whether to continue or to return back.  The returning trekkers were motivating me to make it till the top. After around another 15 mins of climb, I got the glimpse of the peak.

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Route to Kala Pathar peak with Mt. Pumouri in background

Only that one glimpse fueled my body and there was no turning back. I climbed up slowly and steadily and made it to the top in less than 1 hr. That last stretch went through boulders and big black rocks. Once I reached the top, the mesmerizing sight of surrounding mountains faded away all tiredness. The might Mt. Everest was right in my front. The Everest base camp and Everest glacier were also clearly visible from Kala Pathar. This was my highest point climbed so far, 18,200 ft. At back, Mt Pumouri was standing tall. At south-side, 3-4 small lakes with crystal blue water were visible. I was 360 degree surrounded by tall, mighty mountains.

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@ Kala Pathar – 18,200 ft

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View of Everest and Everest Base camp from Kala Pathar

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EBC & Everest Glacier view from Kala Pathar

It is moment like this that makes all pain, effort and fatigue worthwhile. I sat there for some time and tried to imprint each and every sight in my mind. In front of those gigantic mountains, the philosopher in me realized how small we are. Though I wanted to wait a little bit and to drink the sweet elixir of nature bit more, but I had “miles to go before I sleep.” In just 45 mins, I climbed down and reached Gorakshep around 9:45 AM.

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Gorakshep top-view

Swayam had already left for EBC by that time. Our guide had also arrived by then who informed me that the porter had left last evening only due to some emergency.  I quickly had my breakfast and started for EBC.

Gorakshep to EBC ( 3 hr / 17,600 ft) :

Around 10AM, I started my journey for the final lap. The road to EBC seemed like a cake walk after doing Kala Pathar. The path was mostly flat with little bit of ups and downs through rocks and boulders. But the body had started showing signs of tiredness and fatigue by then. After around 1 hour of walk, I got the glimpse of Everest Base Camp. With each further step, the sight got clearer. Towards right, there was this big glacier. Some party was going on at EBC, I could hear the loud music far before. That electric music helped  me walk those last few steps. Around 11:45 AM, I put my foot steps on the heavenly land of Everest Base camp.

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To the left, some party was on: dance, music and crowd. To the right, there were a lot of yellow tents pitched. And up above was this mighty mountain. I explored the base camp area in and out. Each 5 min, a helicopter was landing there with some luxurious tourists. The snow on the mountain was bit bluish and was dazzling in sun.

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 But it was nothing like Kala Pathar. One could see happiness and accomplishment in the face of the trekkers. Everyone was in a rejoice and cheerful mood. They were congratulating each other on the success of 11-days long trek. I started back my journey around 12:15 PM and reached Gorakshep around 1:45 PM. I had egg- fried-rice in lunch and immediately set out for Pheriche.

Gorakshep to Pheriche ( 6 hr / 14,100 ft ):  

This was the toughest day for me. Kala Pathar, Everest Base Camp and journey back till Pheriche, all in a single day ! That too without a guide 😀 There was another challenge in front of me: to reach Pheriche before it gets dark. The same route had taken around 7 hrs in fast pace from Dingboche while coming. It was already 2:25 PM, when I left Gorakshep. That means expected time of reach at Pheriche around 9:30 PM. In no way, I could afford that. I had to double the pace, but the body had already faced enough for the day. There wasn’t any alternative, but to make it happen. The initial 30 mins path was bit tricky, the rest I literally ran, jogged would be more appropriate though. I crossed Lobuche before 4PM and reached Thukla around 5:30 PM. I climbed down that last stretch before Thukla so hurriedly that my right ankle was almost worn out. But this much of progress gave me a feeling that I would make it to Pheriche before dark. After crossing the bridge, there were three roads: the middle one leading to Pheriche. I followed that only, but after a few meters ahead I had had to take right and had climbed all the way down. But I went straight as there wasn’t any route visible that way. So I was going towards Dingboche. Though I knew this, I thought there would be a way down to Pheriche as it was visible while we came that way. And there wasn’t a single passer-by to ask or verify. It was starting to get darker and fear was getting a grip over me. After walking for some time, I got the glimpse of Pheriche; but it was down in the valley. And no route was in sight to climb down till there. I was high, very high than Pheriche’s level. It was getting darker. Then suddenly, I saw someone coming on a horse, like a savior. He guided me a way to climb down that humongous height. In those prevailing darkness, I made my way to Pheriche before it was too dark. I stayed at White Yak Lodge. Barsha also had moved there by then. This was the best stay during the trek: with no crowd and over friendly hotel staffs.

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Flora & Fauna in EBC route

Pheriche to Namche Bazaar ( 6 hr / 11,280 ft ):

We left early next day, moved steadily to Tengboche. We had lunch there and moved to Namche Bazaar. As Barsha’s knees were in bad shape, we were moving very slowly. It was almost dark when we reached Namche. We checked into the same hotel

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Hotel Komal dining area

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Natural Set-up: Where the sun cooks a cup of tea for you !

Namche Bazaar to Lukhla ( 6 hr / 9,200 ft ):

Finally, here we were: last day of the trek. We followed the same rule: ”Slow & Steady”.  We reached Phakding around 2 PM, had lunch there and continued till Lukhla. The last stretch seemed like never ending. It got dark while we were still at a 40 mins distance from Lukhla. Barsha was in bad shape, hardly able to lift her leg.  In those darkness and gloomy forest, She literally limped, jumped, but never stopped and made her way to Lukhla. It was around 7:30PM when we reached Lukhla. The sight of first street lamp of Lukhla gave me more happiness that day than EBC or Kala Pathar. Next morning we flew back to Kathmandu.

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Lukhla Airport

It was truly a journey of a lifetime. Three days back to back flight cancellations, one day short in time, no guide support, knee injury: nothing could stop us in making it to EBC or Kala Pathar. We were destined to make this happen. It may sound like bragging, but it is well deserved. Each three of us had pushed his/her limits and had went through hell lot of obstacles and difficulties.

“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.”  -Sir Francis Younghusband

“Alok! You should go for Everest Base camp once, you’re good.” Prakash, a fellow trekker, a journalist by profession, had told me this during my first trek to Har ki Dun in 2015. I had laughed hard on him that day. And today it is history: done n dusted. Everest base camp through Gokyo-Ri route is also in my bucket list and only mountain knows when it will be echoed.

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Tips of the Trek:

  • Book Kathmandu to Lukhla flight in Tara Air either in first or second or third slot. After 12 noon, the weather at Lukhla is susceptible and more prone to change. Do NOT ever go for Sita Air.
  • Take TCell sim. Up above, Tcell has better coverage than Ncell though is bit costly. At EBC, both works that too with 3G. At Dingboche, you may get network at Nagarjuna peak.
  • Take some energy bars or dry fruits; but don’t add much of weight. Travel as light as possible.
  • Fix your lunch or dinner menu before leaving Lukhla, otherwise you’ll have to survive on Daal-Bhaat only throughout 11 days. Though there aren’t much options, but talk to your organizer & keep two-three alternatives handy.
  • Make sure hotel rooms are confirmed for Gorakshep well in advance.
  • The golden rule: Not to sleep in the evening and to do some stretch-out after a day’s trek.
  • If you’re new to trekking, do the insurance. It’ll cost around 1500 IC(Indian Currency) for 11 days.
  • Keep enough INR 100 rupees notes with you. INR 500 or 2000 rupee note will be difficult to exchange up there.
  • If you’re going in April or afterwards, you can skip the sleeping back. There will be enough blankets at tea-houses. This depends on weather also.
  • If you’re thinking of taking porter, take from Lukhla only. At higher the cost is more plus getting a porter is also uncertain.
  • Take some good quality gloves or make sure it’ll keep you warm in those chilly wind.
  • Go out once at night at Tengboche or Dingboche and enjoy the night sky. Up ahead i.e. at Lobuche or Gorakshep , it’ll get difficult due to extreme low temperature. Plan the trek keeping in view of moon’s status for better result.
  • There is a day-hike from Tengboche to a high spot from where you’ll get an excellent view: a bird’s eye view of the monestary with the mountains in the background. Apart from Nagarjuna peak, there is another alternative of day-hike to Ama dablam base camp from Dingboche.

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PS: I know the post was very long, but hope you had a good read. FYI it was just  half the story, the rest we’ll talk over a cup of coffee or a glass of beer 😀

All photos used here are clicked by me only. Some of the photos have been clicked without intimating the person in the photo. Write to tektriphy@gmail.com or info@tektriphy.com for any issue or suggestions.


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A Trip To God’s Own Country – MUNNAR [Part-1]

After a number of  planning, rescheduling, postponement; finally the trip to Kerala-God’s Own country turned to reality on 2nd March. I, with my friend, Soumya set off on the most awaited journey to God’s own land.

The First destination was Munnar situated 1600 m above sea level. It is also called “The Switzerland of India“.

The Switzerland of India

The Switzerland of India

Journey from Bhubaneswar(Odisha) to Munnar(Kerala)-

Plan-

Jajpur Road to Chennai – By Coromondal Express[12841] (SD-7:36 PM; SA- 5:15 PM)

Chennai to Coimbatore- By Nilagiri Express[12671](SD-9:15 PM; SA- 4:50 AM)

Coimbatore to Munnar- By Bus/Taxi via Udumulapet

We had booked our ticket in Coromandal Express(12841) before two months to be in safe side and had completed background research of our targetted area of visit.Everything was set. It was time for action… !!

I boarded the train at Jajpur Road(JJKR) at 7:55 PM on 2nd March. The train was running late by 20 mins or so. My friend joined me from Bhubaneswar(BBS). We had dinner and settled to our respective seats. The chill of the AC was starting to prevail. I was engrossed in Ashwin Sanghi’s Chanankya’s Chant. After hitting a century(ofcourse of pages !!), I went to sleep. The next day we reached at Chennai nearly around 5:20 PM.

Our next train to Coimbatore was at 9:15 PM.There was ample time. So we thought of going to Chennai’s famous Marina beach. We went to park town station i.e. just opposite of the Chennai Central Front Gate. From there we caught a local train and got off at Thiruvallikeni station that comes after Chepauk.One can clearly see the Chepauk stadium while travelling by train. From there , the marina beach is just a stone’s throw way.The cool breeze at the beach was so soothening. We sat at the beach for some time , clicked some photos, had tiffin at the nearby food-stalls and returned to Chennai Central.

Evening at Marina Beach, Chennai

Evening at Marina Beach, Chennai

Marina Beach, Chennai

We had dinner at Sarvana Bhavan. Good quality south indian food. The train had arrived on the platform by then.We boarded the train and the journey continued.

The next day, the train reached at coimbatore at 5 AM. Coimbatore is an excellent well-planned and well maintained station. We completed our daily routine at 1st class AC waiting Hall cum railway dormitory. Just infront of the station, there is a “High Class Resturant“. We had our breakfast there (Idli + Eddyyapam + sambar +Chatni + kadal). The quality of food  was very good and the budget was also nominal. From there, we took an Auto to Ukadam Bus stand which was just 2km away and reached there by 7AM. The location of the bus stand is near a lake. We were planning to take a bus to Udumulapet(Runs in each 5 mins) and from there to book a cab or to find a bus to munnar. But we found that from ukadam bus stand , direct bus plys to Munnar. And the bus leaves the bus stand at 8:14 AM. It runs via Pollachi-Udumulapet to Munnar. Another bus was also there on the schedule that leaves the station 2:30PM. But it was not running at the time due to some problems.

Suzlone Made Windmill on the way from Pollachi to Udumulapett

Suzlone Made Windmill on the way from Pollachi to Udumulapett

In between Pollachi and Udumulapet, one can see many wind mills(Suzlon made). The bus reached at Udumulapet at 10 AM. Passengers had tiffin there. It left at 10:40 AM from there. After 30 mins of travel, it entered Anamalai Wildlife sanctuary. When it crossed Kerala border, the name changed to Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary. Except a few monkeys, one could hardly see any wildlife there.  Then it passed through Marayoor Sandalwood forest. On the way , large size of tree plantaions could be seen on both side of the road. The hilly-curvy road and at both side tea plantaion’s greenery will make the ride interesting. On the way  a few cottages, water falls, trekking point could be seen. The entry to Eravikulam National park also falls on the same way. South India’s highest peak Anaimudi(8841 feet), Luckom Water falls, Tata Tea Museum, Nyamakad water falls, Thoovanam water fall can be seen on the way.

From Udumulapet to Munnar Way

From Udumulapet to Munnar Way

Excellent Scenic Beauty on both side of the road

We reached at Munnar at 2:30 PM on 3rd March. Checked into a Lodge-KALI NIVAS located at the center of the market. The room was decent. We freshened  up and went out. We had lunch at the nearby Mahavir Resturant. One of the few places at Munnar where one can find North-Indian food and most importantly not made of coconut oil. Then we went to room , took rest for half an hour. We then came out to explore the near by places and the local market.

Mount Carmel Church– This church is situated in the center of the Munnar city. A good place to kill some time.

Mount Carmel Church

Mount Carmel Church, Munnar

DAY-1 SightSeeing

Top Station route is the main attraction of Munnar. But one of our friends was supposed to join us at munnar the next day.  So we had to change our preplanned schedule. We thought of taking the other routes that day i.e Kochi/Madurai route. We covered the following locations that day.

Fun Forest Adventure Park–  This is located in the Kochi-Madurai highway direction a few kilometers away from Munnar bus stop. A good place for some warm up and adventure activities. Mostly suitable for youth. They have a  variety of activities like Multi Vain, Horizontal Ladder, Free Walk, Tyre Walk, Spider Net, Burma Bridge, EPGP, Earthquike, Zip-line, Valley Crossing , Rock Climbing, Rapling,  Buggy Ride. The price starts from RS 100/- to RS 500/- per head and depends on the activity. One shouldn’t miss out Valley crossing, Spider net if going to this place. There is also a Tree-House and the scenic view from it is spectacular.

Valley Crossing

Valley Crossing

Tyre Walk

Tyre Walk

View from a Tree-House

View from a Tree-House

Lack of regular maintenance and modification has deterioted the park’s ambiance. A few massage centers are also there near by to the Fur Forest park. Various types of massages are facilitated depending on the need and interest of person. The price varries from RS 400/- to RS 2000/- or more. After registration, they will take you to there massage center by Jeep.

Dreamland Fun Park– This park is around 4km away from Fun forest park. They provide various fun packages. Elephant ride or camel ride can be done here. There are a few other activities like Water-ballon walking, Rubber jumping etc. The whole package includes RS 900/-. For only elephant ride, they charge RS 400/- per head. But the time limit is extremely less. Only about 5 minutes. They have only 2 elephants and 1 camel. These two elephants must be the laziest elephants in the world. The old man at the ticket counter acts like he is the busiest person in the world and hardly listens to anybody. This place is mostly a hotspot for lovebirds and couples.

Dreamland Fun Park

Dreamland Fun Park

Attukad Water Falls– The Attukad water falls is a few km away from the dreamland fun park. It’ll take around 20 minutes to reach there. On the way to the water falls, excellent scenic beauty can be seen on both side of the road. A few good cottages are there on the way like Aranyakam Cottage. The view of the water fall amidst these tea-garden is just spectacular. Cardamom, Coffee and Pepper plantations also could be seen on the way.

Attukad Water Falls, Munnar

Attukad Water Falls, Munnar

Pothamedu View Point– This is the best view point at Munnar. Long Stretched tea-plantation garden getting faded  to the distant misty mountain, the lush green view, the series of mountains dancing to the tunes of nature under the grey-umbrella of those clouds will make you spellbound. Sitting there on the edge with a cup of coffee in hand and enjoying the beauty with the chilled weather will give one a feeling of heaven no doubt. Down the lane tea, cardamom plantations could be seen. The place was so mesmerizing that we sat there for more than an hour just looking at the splendid view. The view of sunset from this point is an out-of-the-world-view.The time seemed to stop for a while.

Pothamedu Viewpoint, Munnar

Pothamedu Viewpoint, Munnar

Blossom Park- This park is situated near the Munnar town. Only 2km away from the market area of the town. Though one could hardly see any blossom of flowers, but no doubt it is full of blossoming beauties :P. There is facility for a no. of fun activities also in the park e.g Water-Ballong walking, Air Gun, Bow & Arrow etc. A good place to kill some time. Ofcourse, an excellent place for lovebirds and couples.

Blossom Park, Munnar

Blossom Park, Munnar

It was already 5 PM when we came out of the Blossom Park. That was the sightseeing for the day. We returned to our room, got freshened up . As I have missed the lunch that day, I was so hungry, I could eat a horse.. We went to the same Mahavir Resturant and had a stomach-full lunch. Then we took rest for a while at our room.

In the evening, around 7:30 PM we visited the nearby market. We both ate an omlette each, tasted Raw-Banana Chop, Ripe-Banana Chop and ofcourse Masala Dosa with sambar-chatni. Then we paid a visit to the local market. The jackets were so cheap there. As next day, we were going to the Top station, so I bought a jacket for just RS 750/- which will be around 2000/- if bought from the city shops. We then had paratha and egg curry at one of the resturant. As here large no. of christians and muslims reside, so in most of the resturants beefs is also made. So one should be careful in chosing a resturant. What we used to do !!? We would first go to the resturant and ask him if they serves beefs ? After confirming that there is no touch of beef at the resturant, we would sit. Munnar is also famous for its home-made chocolates, home-made wine and home-made spicies. So make sure you don’t miss out these on your next visit to munnar.

In my next post, I am going to post the sightseeing locations on the Madupatty Route.