Sunday, August 30, 2009

FLY Paparazzi: Again

FLY Paparazzi Again...

One more attempt to get more close to this insect and here are the results. Need one dedicated macro lens ASAP.



TRAVEL GUIDE: Ladakh, Leh & Nubra

TRAVEL GUIDE: Ladakh, Leh & Nubra

Saturday, August 29, 2009

TRAVEL GUIDE: Shree Amarnath Jee

Travel Guide: Shree Amarnath Yatra

  • There are two routes to reach Shree Amarnath Jee, one from Chandanwari (Pahalgaon) and the other from Baltal (Sonamarg).
  • I did the Baltal route, half by trekking then half route in Pony and returned by chopper so can guide better about that route. You can find the log HERE.

Chandanwari Route:

  • From Chandanwari it is a 3 day trek route which includes 2 night stays.
  • There is no chopper facility available from this side.
  • The route is most scenic when compared to Baltal route.

Baltal Route:

  • The holy Amarnath Cave is about 22 kilometers from Baltal base amp.
  • At base camp every facility is available including parking and locker facilities.
  • Belongings can be kept in various Shrine board permitted tent and they also provide accommodation options in the same tent.
  • Vehicles are not allowed after a certain point which is few hundred meters away from the parking lot.
  • You need to pass the security check before entering these areas except the parking area.
  • One can start early and can easily return same day but most people who trek prefer to stay there for a day.
  • It takes around 4-5 hours to trek and less than 3 hours if you take a pony.
  • It may take 1-2 hours for the darshan.
  • Chopper facility is also available. It costs rupees 3200 per person for one side only.
  • They don’t accept any cards.
  • The chopper ride takes only 4-5 minutes.
  • There are two service providers, one is Deccan and the other is Himalayan.
  • But as it is convenient many people are opting for the chopper ride which results in long waiting hours. So it is better to opt for early morning.
  • It is also advisable to book the tickets for both sides to avoid any inconvenience.
  • The whole route is scenic and you can enjoy the most in the trek route.
  • Do carry enough water.
  • On reaching there, there are many accommodation options in the tents.
  • They normally charge 100-150 bucks per night per person. And they also provide blankets to resist the low temperature.
  • Food is available free in the Bhandaras, they also provide warm water in the evening because temperature remains much low.
  • Toilet facility is available at a payment of 10 rupees.
  • And even hot water is available in morning for 10 bucks.
  • First aid facility is available at army camp and they are really helpful to any extent.

Do and Don’ts:

  • Do carry water with you.
  • Do drink lots of water at regular intervals to avoid AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
  • Heavy woolen clothes are advisable if you are planning to stay there or else you can manage with light woolen clothes if opting for the chopper. But winter garments are must.
  • Don’t litter anywhere, because due to low temperature even biodegradable items take years for the degradation process.
  • No photography is allowed inside the cave.
  • Aerial photography is also not allowed from the chopper.

How to Transport your bike in train?

How to Transport your bike in train?

This was the 3rd time my bike taking a train ride and it’s really hassle free as I feel. Every time I got the bike without any damage and any delay while loading and unloading. Many of my friends have a bitter experience with the transport companies mostly with delay.

Hope this tip might help when you want to avoid some regular boring stretches while you plan to do your next long ride….

1. If you have a confirmed ticket, then you can transport the bike in the same train to the destination you are going to.
2. You have to book your bike minimum 2 hours before the scheduled departure of the train.
3. You need original Registration Certificate (RC) with you. Also get 4-5 photocopies of it.
4. Another important thing is the ID proof. Also get 4-5 photocopies of it though you need only 1 but may required at many places.
5. Just be little careful while packing because you know where your bike need extra padding/support. Packing charges in Bhubaneswar was 250 rupees, 2 years before. This time I paid 200 bucks in Purani Delhi railway station. Just make sure that they are giving extra protection at petrol tank and cosmetics.
6. 50 rupees was paid for a tin plate having the name of owner and registration number.
7. Make sure that the Fuel tank is completely empty. I heard that otherwise RPF people can fine you up to 3000 rupees.
8. Straight go to parcel office and request them to book your bike.
9. The charge depends on the amount that you quote for your bike with some relation with the distance to be traveled. Unicorn was quoted for 35K and the charge was around 1300 rupees from Delhi to Jammu.
10. You have to carry the booking receipt to get the delivery at the destination.
11. It’s better to be present there when railway people will load the bike to the luggage compartment. You may help in keep it in position for its safety. Because it is a bloody luggage for them.
12. At destination the bike will be sent to luggage room directly. You only have to show your booking and they will issue the gate pass in exchange to it.
13. Then just carry it outside the station, unpack, get petrol and get on the saddle.
14. And no bribing at any place.

This time when the person who was booking was anxious as we were with our helmets and saddle bag. He made things really easy as we were late as usual, it was only 40 minutes left for the departure . But it was really hectic so better to go early.

LADAKH & NUBRA: A cherished dream

My Pilgrimage...

A dream ride to the 'Roof of the World' covering some 2500+ kilometers on the trusted 'Uni'.

LADAKH & NUBRA: A cherished dream
A Biker’s Pilgrimage

Leh, capital of Ladakh region always stands in the top of a Biker’s to-do list. So how can we be the exceptions!!! It was a dream when we shifted to Delhi with the Uni in Feb ’08 just after completion of our B. Arch.
We wanted time to get ready for the trip in all senses. With proper riding skills in the hills (which started only after 7 days with a ride to Nainital), proper bike (a ZMA was in the pipeline along with the Uni), proper riding gears etc, we were suppose to hit the road for Leh. We were not in a hurry, so just decided to do Leh during Aug ’09.
Along with many rides to the hills, the research for Leh/Ladakh was in it’s own pace. SPITI peeped in-between and we headed towards it during Aug ’08. It was the real base for a big ride. We were 4 people on 2 bikes (Uni & CBZ) and it taught us many things. And it is the most adventurous ride for me till date. It showed us how the nature/weather can be and how you can expect the unexpected. You can find it here. Though Spiti was untouched because of bad weather and landslides but we managed to reach Chhitkul (Sangla).
Some more research on Leh and at the end of the tunnel I reached NUBRA, a beautiful valley on the ancient silk route.
Things were absolutely fine until my crash on 12th December. This incident turned everything upside down and it’s still a nightmare for me. Ladakh dream was just disappeared as Om gained some weight with the 6 inch long plate and 7 screws in his right ankle. It was because one drunken auto driver hit from behind outside an ATM and we were leaving for Manali then. His first operation was on 13th Dec. On 27th March he was operated again only to remove 1 screw so that he can able to walk without any support. On the very same day we drove to Gulaba to break the jinx over Manali along with our sister and a close friend. And after this we drove to the hills a couple of times and then ‘Ladakh’ came to mind. ‘Scorpio’ was the option to make the ‘Leh’ trip. But nothing was certain.
Till 10th July ’09, we had absolutely no idea, whether we are going / when we are going / how we are going. Strange!!! But it was very true.
There was no permission from home, no confidence on myself to do the ride; I was working in office though I served my notice period after my resignation. But it was sure we are going to Leh for minimum 15 days and we‘ve to return Delhi by the end of July. And initially I had a 20+ days plan doing the Spiti, Ladakh, Nubra, Srinagar and Amritsar but it was to be changed in anyway.
On 11th night we sat together and discussed about the trip. After 2-3 hours discussion we decided to hit the road on ‘Uni’ from 13th. And the route was via traditional Manali-Leh highway. A quick gold service of Uni, some missing spares for the emergency kit from Karolbagh and onetime usable Saddlebag were to be bought in 2 days and I was really excited.
But later we decided to ride via Srinagar because the route is more scenic than the Manali-Leh route and we wanted to enjoy the route to its most. But the whole thing was concentrated with the condition of Om’s ankle, how will it react with long sitting hours on bike!!! As per our Doctor’s suggestions, it is fine to sit for 5-6 hours means 150-200 kms maximum in a day; still it was a great relief. It was fine for us, as in hills this distance is good enough. But what about the initial day, we have to ride long!!!
Till 11th I was working late in the office and there was only one day for every preparation. So with a sudden idea from Om, we searched for Tatkal tickets till Jammu. It was really a fantastic idea. We were lucky enough to get the tickets. So one major problem was solved by this and we got decent time to take rest and as well as avoided the boring stretch in plains till Jammu. The idea proved to be fantastic and saved lots of time and energy. The train was scheduled for departure at 4.00 PM on 13th from Purani Delhi and to reach early morning at Jammu next day.
And it was the unexpected way we started for the expected ride. Good Luck to us to complete the ride and back home safe.

  • DAY IV (Srinagar-Baltal-Shree Amarnath Jee)
  • DAY V (Shree Amarnath Jee-Kargil-Mulbekh)
  • DAY VI (Mulbekh-Lamayuru-Leh)
  • DAY X (Leh-Chumathang-Korzok/Tso moriri)
  • DAY XI (Korzok/Tso moriri-Pang)


Day-III (16th July ‘09)

I always wanted to visit Old Srinagar, and what could be the best to take the water route along with a Sikara ride!!! It was an early morning start and we were back to the boat after 3-4 hours. And now it was time for some rest and then shopping for the things those were left from the essential list.

Lotus Garden…

Old Srinagar…

Bought polythine for luggage and proceeded to Shree Sankaracharya Temple. It’s under the control of Army because one can aim the whole city from this place. Another highest point is Srinagar Palace which is not accessible to the public for the security reasons.

Some random snaps/macro attempt…

Next while visiting Mughal Gardens we met ‘Sourin’, a guy from Mumbai roaming in Ladakh region for more than 30 days on his ‘Yam FZ’. This decent guy became a very good friend in a short while and his inputs made everything easy and smooth. Thanks man, your plan came out really well. He made the final layout of our ride spending more than 2 hours on it.

Sourin and Om…

Sunset from houseboat terrace…

And here we decided to go Shree Amarnath Jee. It was a four hour trek route from Baltal, some 100 kms from Srinagar towards Leh. We planned to start early morning from Srinagar for Baltal, some 20-25 kms from Sonmarg. We thought we will be back by the same day evening but it was a different story next day.

Route – @ Srinagar
Total distance covered - 52 Kilometers
Road condition - Excellent city roads, some parts are very dusty.
Event of the day - Sikara ride at Dal Lake and watching sunset from the houseboat terrace.
Important places - Old city (can get all your necessary things)
Tourist interest points - Shree Shankaracharya Temple (beautiful aerial view of Srinagar), Sikara ride at Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens-Nisath garden, Chasmasahi, Parimahal, Old city)
Precautions – Polythene is banned in Srinagar, sales person may bother you, avoid roaming late in the city.


Day-IV (17th July ‘09)

At around 7.00 AM we were on the road. And we had to reach Baltal as soon as possible. It was easy to cruise little fast in the morning. The morning view in the valley was awesome.

Gulmarg is a beautiful place with lots of horses gazing on the green carpet. I even dint stopped to capture it thinking that will back to the place by evening for the night stay.
It was a task parking the bike (it was the only bike among around 1K vehicles), keeping the entire luggage before we start climbing. Public vehicle was restricted to go beyond a certain point. Shree Amarnath Yatra tips will follow later.
We started at around 10.30 AM. After trekking some 5-7 kilometers we were restless. It was little steep actually with big boulders. And it is tougher when compared with the route to Shree Kedarnath Jee. Before reaching half route we hired pony. And the route was more dangerous after it. Find them in the snaps and it was really scary at certain points.

Find the route in these pictures…

Before reaching there we decided to return via Heli service. But to our surprise there were no tickets for the same day and we made it sure that we are not returning in the same route after seeing some incidents on the way. We never thought about such a route and we need to take the Heli service. The only option was to stay there for the night. After the darshan we thought about what to do. And to another surprise we had exactly 6540 rupees with us and 6400 is for the tickets… OMG. What to do!!! But god was there, food was free there in Bhandara and there was no restaurant at all. One problem was solved. Now what about night stay!!! Thankfully we became a friend with a young saint from Mathura who offered us to stay in his tent and when I asked for the rent he casually said, ‘doston se koi paisa leta hai kya!’. Else other people were charging 100 bucks per head. It was a great relief indeed and later I told him the whole story and he laughed to the floor saying that god is there for everybody. He also told that nobody demands money here.
There were enough blankets in the tent to counteract the freezing temperature there. We had to start early for the queue to book our tickets.

Tents on thick layer of Ice…

Route – Srinagar-Sonmarg-Baltal-Shree Amarnath Jee
Total distance covered - 92 Kilometers
Road condition – Good Tarmac overall, scary trek route from Baltal to Shree Amarnathjee
Event of the day – Shree Amarnath Jee darshan
Important places – Forgot the name, some 50-70 kms from Srinagar (last fuel pump and ATM-J&K Bank before Kargil)
Tourist interest points - Gulmarg
Precautions – Tank up at Srinagar or before ??? (10 kms before Gulmarg) because the next pump is at Kargil, some 180-190 km ahead