Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 3/Day 4: Expedition to Silk Route in Nubra Valley via Khardungla-Top

We started our day early from Leh for NubraValley The road which connects Nubra Valley to Leh goes through the highest motorable pass in the world named Khardungla.We were all ready with permits which are required while visiting Nubra Valley.People say road to Siachen glacier goes through Nubra Valley and also it is the only part of India which touches ancient Silk Route.The road which took us from Leh to Khardungla pass was very steep and it is certainly not for faint hearted. The highest point in Khardungla called K-Top is at an altitude of 18382 feet from sea level. The distance from Leh to K-top is around 40KMs, which normally takes around 2-3 hours via vehicle because of very bad roads in some stretch. We saw a lot of diligent firangs in the road who try to cover the whole distance in Cycle.I could only imagine the feeling they would have had after reaching K-top via highest motorable road in the world in a cycle. We spent some time on K-top taking snaps valiantly in and memorabilia . We trekked some 400 meters to Kardungla gompa at the top of a hill at K-top.At every steps we made conscious of dropping oxygen level and sudden dizziness and headache seems quite normal. We left Khardungla in quite a high for for next destination Panamik.

(Route which we took for Khardungla-Certainly not for faint hearted)
(Bikers as seen from Distance at Khardungla).
(Amazing arid mountain range while enroute to Khardungla)
(Oracle'ites at Khardungla-Top).
(Posing at Kardungla-Top).
(Near a Gompa at Khardungla-Top.Literally gasping for breath.Rest seems only option)

The Road that takes us from Kardungla to Nubra Valley was perhaps the best I had ever seen in my lifetime. The scenic beauty along the road was something that seriously can’t be described in words and I am sure whatever I write about the experience I had while being on this road will demean the conundrum of emotions I felt there. The only thing that I felt missing was perhaps an Enfield below my arse. Travelling across the montains on dusty trecherous roads with a deep Grand Canyon type gorge on the right side with snow clad mountain at far distance with river flowing in between in shades of greenary with clear blue sky on top still gives me goosebumps when I thought about it. We reached Panamik in the evening. There is a small hot water spring but the water here was very hot for bathing. Still we managed to bath at one corner where water was somewhat cooler. We left for Deskit/Hunder after leaving panamik early. In between we spend some serene time in a lake after a brief trekking up the mountain. We reached Hunder quite late in the evening and immediately booked a tent for the night at a resort.

(Army Convoy as seen from Distance)
(Trekked to this beautiful lake in the middle of mountain)
(Wandering while coming back from Lake).

After waking up next day we went to Deskit that is the place where camel ride is done on top of two-hooded camel. They say these camels are normally used in ancient days for traveling across the silk route and these two-hooded camels have been bought here from Ancient Turkey.We rided camel for around 15 minutes across the sand dunes there in Deskit.Perhaps there were the highest desert sand dunes in the world. After riding an uncomfortable ride for around 15 minutes it started paining in my groin and I wondered how people travelled such a long distance in these camels over such a long period. We took bath in flowing fresh water (u can call it nala) while returning from the Sand dunes in Deskit. Then we made our move towards Leh by daybreak via Khardungla pass again. When we reached Khardungla pass we saw a group of cycle enthusiasts who were riding down the hill from Khardungla towards Leh.Straightaway my mind started planning for cycle ride down the hill from Khardungla Top next day. I know riding up the hill was next to impossible from Leh (considering 5 years in IT)but riding down from K-top was certainly attainable and it would have be an amazing experience and adventure. After reaching Leh I told the same to Suresh.In that case we would have to drop our complete plan to Pangyong Lake next day. Suresh told instead of Cycle ride we could do river rafting in Indus River early morning as an adventure. We decided and booked for River rafting next day morning that was about to become our best part of the whole trip.

(On top of two-hooded Camel in Deskit)
(Posing Jacketless in extreme cold while returning back from Nubra at Khardungla.Smile lasted only till shutter closed).

I will post about our great Indus rafting adventure in next my next post.Till that time….me signing off for time being!!


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 2 – Soul Searching in Gompas

We started our second day of the trip with heavy breakfast, as we look forward to visiting four monestries in and around Leh namely Hemis, Thiksey, Shey and Stok.
Hemis Monestry is situated around 40 Km from Leh town. The road that led us to Hemis goes beside Indus River that is considered to be sacred as Indus water is believed to be coming directly from Glaciars of Mount Kailash.On the way we saw a huge arid barren land on the left side of the road as we stop for taking some snaps there. Our driver told this was location where a song named “Dil Dance Maare Re” was shooted from a forgettable movie called Tashan.After travelling for another 40 minutes on road we reached an isolated village in the middle of mountain in all directions locating Hemis Gompa.Locationwise perhaps this was the best Gompa in Ladakh.Monestry in the middle of mountain in all direction was very panaromic and picturesque. The mesuem inside monastery also has a rich collection of numerous valuable artifacts and ancient relics. After spending some time in Museum and inside monestry we moved towards our next destination Thiksay.

(Barren Land beside Road enroute to Hemis)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 1 -- Got Leh’ed !!

We started our freedom march from Bangalore on 15th August 2009 for Ladakh.We boarded was late evening flight from Bangalore to Delhi via Mumbai.We reached Delhi at around 2:00 am and joined Vinayak who reached Delhi around midnight from Hyderabad.All the flights which go to Leh (Main City of Ladakh) leaves in the morning so we waited for around 4 hours in newly built 1D terminal in Delhi Airport. It was only when we were standing for security checking we realized around 95% of the people who are traveling to Leh with us are Foreign Nationals. Suddenly ‘Swine Flu’ scare started looming large in my mind as I slowly put my mask on in despair. We boarded the flight pretty excited realizing we will be in Ladakh in another 90 minutes. The view from flight when we were crossing Himalayas covered in snow in the midst of clouds was completely breath-taking. Viny had to face the brunt of Air-Hostess when he could not resist his urge to take snap from top. After sometime pilot announced that we are about to land in Leh.The first sight of the arid and barren landscape of Ladakh still brings me goosebumps and it made me realize that this place was different from whatever places I had seen before. The sudden realization that I was in Ladakh made me a little emotional as I looked forward to spending some amazing time in next few days.

(Gorgeous Himalayas from top!!)

Mission Ladakh - Aug 09

Well last weekend I returned back to Bangalooru and again been caught up with my daily drudgery. But hangover of our grand trip to Ladakh is still looming large in my mind and I am pretty much sure it will be in my mind for quite some time. I have been inching to write a travelogue on this since I came back from Ladakh and I must say these posts will remain close to my heart for a long long time.

Where it all begin
Perhaps idea of visiting Ladakh germinates in my mind when I was traveling in Sikkim some 7 years back and one of my friends told me about it. But that was just a part of it. At that time, I thought Ladakh as just another part of J’n’K, which will be very risky to travel due to soaring insurgency and terrorism. But in due coarse I came to know a lot about Ladakh and I made of my mind to visit the place someday for sure. Since last 3-4 years, I have been harboring this thought and have been planning of visiting Ladakh quite seriously but somehow we could not take these umpteen plans to logical end, due to various constraints and we end up visiting Goa/Kerela/Gokarna, cheap and easily reachable substitutes of Ladakh.

Some 2-3 months back I was surfing television when I chanced upon a TV series in NDTV-Goodtimes named “ROADTRIP” where 7-8 bikers took a trip to Ladakh for 3 weeks and share there experience. After watching it my hidden and dormant urge to visit Ladakh was at peak like never before. Same evening Vinayak called me we had our regular discussion lamenting everything starting from regular day–to-day work to boring life to IT industry in general. It was there I told him about visiting Ladakh this summer as I knew if we didn’t make the trip this year then we will have to wait for another summer. Initially I am sure he might have thought I am kidding and not serious about this trip but somehow we went ahead with the plan. I conveyed my plan to Hemant and Suresh and Vinayak told about this to Bibin.We booked the tickets once I get confirmation from everybody and we fixed on 15th August 2009 for starting from Bangalore/Hyderabad. Later Pratap also joined us as we started researching and preparing for our grand Ladakh sojourn. Just few days before we were all set for the journey swine flu pandemic hit India.I along with my parents, was a bit skeptic and concerned about the whole trip. But I didn’t allow it to come in between and went ahead with it with added expenditure of face-mask in our budget.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting Leh'ed!!

This post is coming directly from Leh where we reached yesterday morning.The flight which we caught from delhi to Leh was having 90% foreigners and idea of swine flu was running high in my mind.
After reaching Leh we covered Leh Palace,Gompa Suma and Shanti Stupa.We didnt follow any of the accepted guidelines of rest after reaching Leh.Today we are planning to cover some of the other places near Leh.
I will have an elaborate post on this later as I am running short of time and internet is costing me around 90 bucks for an hour.

Bye for Now!!
Its time to get Leh'ed more!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Don't take a trip..The trip takes you!!

Just chanced upon an interesting piece of article written by a Bengali about Bengali people’s passion for travelling. Check this article “monkey-cap-in-the-bag” in your liesure time. I always believed you could tell in a hill station whether a tourist is a Bengali by looking at his Monkey-cap and/or Muffler. But certainly the spirit with which people travel in Bengal is something to reckon for.

When I went to Madurai some 12-13 years back during Durga puja with my parents, we hired a tourist bus from Chennai (then Madras) to Madurai.I rememeber about ninety percent of the people who were travelling with us were Bengalis visiting south india during puja vacation. Moreover to my utter astonishment, I saw there were hotels in Madurai with placards announcing special discounts for Bengalis during that time considering the heavy rush during that time. I believe I have also inherited the same genes in me from my parents who themselves were an ardent travellers, partially thanks to my father’s ever mobile job.

There is something about travelling that is mystical and very very enticing. I guess what we do on a daily basis have ramification that will happen in future (in my case it is end of month). Perhaps we all are leaving life at present for future. But travelling makes us aware of our present. Though there is always a destination to reach at while travelling but somehow there are no inhibitions of past and future and all you know and care for is that moment.

Well enough of philosophy I guess. I was inching to write this on my post for quite sometime and I am very glad to announce that I am going for our grand Ladakh sojourn this weekend. It has been on my mind for last 3-4 years and finally I am glad it is going to get executed pretty soon. It will definately be a much needed "Hawa Bodol"(read the article above to the meaning) for me from my mundane drudgery. So keep checking this space on our latest updates on -"Mission Ladakh ’09".I am pretty much sure I will have a lot to write about our grand journey. I would like to end this post with this quote which I read recently :

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”……Anatole France

Hope to see you soon in Highway!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

OCM Done!!

While going through all my previous posts, I remember nowhere I have mentioned what I do for a living. Its not that I am a born millionaire and have ample time to spend in various leisure of life and write about it. After all “Papi pet ke liye kuch na kuch karna hi padta hain”. Well I am working as a Software Engineer (Who isn’t!!) in an organization called Oracle for last 3 years in a city called Bengalooru (Kanadiga-Istyle). I am working as an Oracle DBA here. I have a typical 7 to 4 job (I know 9-5 would have greater impact) which I normally spend sitting in front of my laptop thinking what I am going to do with my life and is this what I wanted to do in life. But again I am forced to use the same words again “Papi pet ke liye kuch na kuch karna hi padta hain".While going through all this dilemma in my professional life I have recently finished OCM (Oracle Certified Master) in Oracle 10g.It is an exam which is conducted by oracle very scarcely in a year and I have know few people who traveled to other cities to give this exam. The exam take place in a span of two days where participants have to work on real life scenarios and it covers basically all features of oracle database broadly. I will not be able to disclose much as I am I legally not allowed to divulge details at such a public forum due to some agreement which I signed before the exam.

As far as I am concerned all I can say I hope this places me in a better position to use my, what Tim Harford would say, “Power of Scarcity”(Reference : UnderCover Economist), if you know what I mean!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Copenhagen at Rangashankara!!

Well today evening I watched a play called Copenhagen at Ranga-Shankara, which will definitely be one of the best if not the best play I have seen so far. It is a play by Michael Frayn, based around an event that occurred in Copenhagen in 1941, a meeting between the physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg.

Frayn's play Copenhagen speculates on what might have transpired during a meeting between Nobel laureates Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen in September 1941, at the height of the German advance into Russia and just three months before America's entry into the war. The power of National Socialist Germany was at its pinnacle, and the Germans had just been made aware, through Swedish sources, of U.S. plans to build an atomic bomb.

The meeting was at Heisenberg's behest. As Germany's leading theoretical physicist and head of the German Uranium Club, the organ that would assess the possible war uses of nuclear energy, he was the man best situated to advise his government on the creation of an atomic bomb. The older Bohr was not only a professional colleague of Heisenberg, but a close personal friend as well. The play ponders the possible reasons for Heisenberg's visit, linking them to the failure of the Germans to develop the bomb.

The action of the play encompasses the initial meeting of the two physicists in Copenhagen in 1941, another encounter in 1947, and finally an imagined meeting that takes place after all three characters have died. Margrethe, Bohr's wife, is present in all scenes as interlocutor and commentator. Even after death they are unable to ascertain with certainty (thus, the uncertainty principle in human life) precisely what was said in Copenhagen in 1941, what was implied, and what was inferred. Did Bohr understand what Heisenberg intended to convey? Did Bohr misinform intentionally or unwittingly, the Western Allies of Germany's wartime plans?

Did Heisenberg ask to meet Bohr in order to confirm the reports concerning an American effort to build an atomic bomb? Did he want Bohr to disassociate himself from the American project? Did he want Bohr to dissuade the West from developing the bomb because he, Heisenberg, intended to discourage Germany from building the bomb? Did he tell Bohr that Germany would build only a reactor, an engine and not a nuclear weapon? Or was he attempting to mislead Bohr about Germany's real intentions?

As portrayed in Copenhagen, Heisenberg again and again expresses his doubts as to whether scientists should cooperate with the state in developing weapons of war. As an individual and a loyal German, Heisenberg was confronted by a moral dilemma. If he chose to thwart Germany's development of the bomb, he might threaten the very existence of his country, since he knew the enemy was building a bomb. And indeed the preponderance of historical evidence suggests that Heisenberg chose to dissuade the German war office from building the bomb by providing spurious and exaggerated estimates of the materials and time required.

Apart from the plot, which itself is very captivating, was amazes me the most was the strength, dilemma and vulnerability of characters at various acts who I had earlier came across only in my physics books some 7-8 years back. There were lots of references to other scientists including Fermi, Schrodinger, Pauli, Einstein etc during the play and it tells a lot about comraderie and interestingly animosity they share between each other due to their opposite and conflicting views on Physics.

At the end it doesn't surprises me at all that this play has got so many accolades all throught the world. It debuted in London in 1998. Within the National Theatre in London, it ran for more than 300 performances and opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on April 11, 2000 and ran for 326 performances.

At last all I can say is I got much more then my money worth watching this play.