Glimpses of sacred Pushkar!

My friend wanted to spend her new year outside Delhi and I wanted to spend it at some quaint place so that is how Pushkar happened. There wasn’t a much hassle in selecting a place to stay in Pushkar, as zostel is there in Pushkar. This was going to be my second stay in Pushkar Zostel. Staying at zostel or any such hostel can be learning in itself. It allows you to open up to strangers in a friendly way yet maintaining your own space. Sometimes, you get to meet interesting people and sometimes you’ll bump into really funny characters but you’ll surely enjoy if you have the guts to take in anything with not much tantrums.

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Sunrise at Anasagar Jheel, Ajmer

We started our journey on Friday night (best day to escape from the chaotic world of technological slaves: P). We were suppose to board bus from Bikaner House and upon reaching there I was excited to see famous Pandara road market just a few steps ahead to Bikaner House. Pandara road market is very famous among night riders in Delhi because some food joints (also the famous Gulati’s Restaurant) remain open late in night. The reason for my excitement was to hit the market unknowingly at night when lights were gleaming and people were in festive mood. We gulped in some hot badam milk to beat cold, located our bus and then finally boarded it. Journey from Delhi to Ajmer was a smooth ride in spite of the fact that there was dense fog on the way. We reached Ajmer with the break of dawn and waited for our friend who was supposed to pick us up from Ajmer and stay with us at Pushkar. On the way, he showed us various points which we would have missed otherwise like famous jogging point for Ajmeriites. There is nothing better than watching a rising sun and seeing the people breathing in fresh air and bucking up for their day. We too stopped for some time and soaked the freshness of it to revive our lost energy due to overnight journey.

 

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Books and Tau @ Zostel, Pushkar

Entering Zostel is entering into a fantasy world! The colorful common area assures a comfort stay; paintings on wall depict various stories related to Pushkar. I especially loved the one which says “something in Hebrew” because there are many places in Pushkar where it is written only in Hebrew and not in any other language. Room was to be allotted at 12:00 noon, so we got ready in the common bathroom (of course one at a time :P) and headed to calm our taste buds with scrumptious street food. With so many foreigners coming to this place, one can easily find cafes serving multi-cuisine food along with Rajasthani food. I was surprised to see roadside eating joints serving middle-eastern food like Falafel & Humus and even more astonished to see locals talk in Hebrew so fluently. I guess the settlement of lot of Israelis have made the influence on both tourism as well as locals here. Anyway, we were more interested in trying authentic Rajasthani food and since there are many things you can try road side, I’m listing it here for the convenience of writing as well as for reading: 🙂

  • Poha: We went to a famous cart in front of Varah ghat which serves Poha (a kind of flat rice). The man who serves Poha is Sonu and is very polite and sweet. He was happy to tell that some foreigner has already mentioned about his cart on google (internet). It was just for 10 bucks! We never had such tasty Poha at such a nominal price. The other food item that we tried at the same cart was Daal Pakwan. We named it as desi pizza! It was new and good in taste.
  • Jalebi: After having delicious breakfast one can have freshly prepared Jalebi with Rabri.
  • Lassi: It is prepared in a wooden whisk and served in earthen pots. Gulab lassi is also a hit among locals.
  • Malpua: This is strictly not-to-miss dish which unfortunately we missed and will have to go back to try it.
  • Mirchi Vada: Popular breakfast for Rajasthanis. Try it if you can handle the hotness of chilli that is filled with mashed potato, onion and spices.
  • Fresh Juices: Do not forget to quench your thirst with freshly prepared juices.
  • Falafel: Gorge on Falafel, Humus with Pita bread donned with garlic (to suit the Indian taste buds) at Ganga Restaurant. The owner here was fluent in Hebrew!
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Magnificient Sunset @ Pushkar

After having heavenly food and feeling content, one can take long stroll along 52 ghats around the holy lake. That is what we did to digest our food and take in the city vibes in the best possible way. In the daytime, ghats keep bustling with pilgrims taking a dip in holy water (which is unfit for health but religious fanatics don’t mind about dirty water). It is preferable to wear slipper/chappal that can be removed easily as while walking on the ghats you’ll have to remove footwear at certain places especially when walking near lake. We saw lots of foreigners performing pooja (prayers) near ghat. In the evening we went to the sunset point to immerse ourselves in the hues of sunset forming reflections on lake, musicians playing ektara and nagara, town reverberating with the chants of Aarti. For me it was a beautiful evening to end the year with and hope for a peaceful 2017. By the night, town was surrounded with loud music (please read it as bad speakers) playing various popular Hindi, English and Punjabi, Rajasthani songs. Songs like “tip tip barsa pani” which tickled our ribs; but it was quite safe to roam around. We then took time to call or message our loved ones and wish them ‘Happy New Year’s 🙂

First Sunrise of 2017!

First Sunrise of 2017!

Next day was planned to hike to Savitri Temple which is on a hill top and is a sunrise point. I couldn’t hike till the temple and we decided to rest somewhere in the middle from where we could get to see a perfect sunrise. The time just before sunrise is very sacred especially when it is going to be first sunrise of the year. We were drowning in the moment when sun was rising. It was beautiful!

In the afternoon, we took our seats in Laura’s café and lazed there till early evening. People there at Laura’s café are really nice and sweet. Don’t miss to go there if you are in Pushkar. My two close friends drove down to Pushkar from Udaipur to meet me. I was overwhelmed with their gesture. It is all together a different feeling of meeting friends at a place away from your home.

Pushkar is also a home for only Brahma Temple in the world and a historical Gurdwara which was visited by tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It offers peaceful vibes to the otherwise wandering mind of city dwellers.

Time spent at Pushkar was enchanting with lots of shopping done in the colorful by lanes of the town with a good start to New Year. I wish that this year brings more peace in the world. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! (a little late though).

Here goes the sneak peek of two days at Pushkar:

Paragliding Paradise in India!

Winter has already knocked in! Bright sun is peeping through my window, spreading its warmth. Melodious Rabindra Sangeet by Shaan is playing, making everything in room to sway with it. And I’m earnestly eager to share my experience from my last trip. Though demonetization affected it a little but as they say “where there is a will, there is a way”, we managed it with all smiles. 🙂

Umm, the new adventure is about being a bird under the open sky. Yeah, you read it right, a bird. Befuddled? Well, let me clear myself. It’s about paragliding in mountains at the world’s popular paragliding site, Bir. And it makes one feel like a bird. 🙂 As usual, the journey started on Friday night. But before I start my blog I would like to mention about a

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With Dragan! 🙂

day prior to our departure. It is about meeting a Serbian cyclist, Dragan Sibalic, few months ago in Himalayas who was on his North India cycle tour and we made acquaintance with each other. He inspired me big time not only with his audacity of riding in dangerous Himalayas but also with his kind and humble nature. After few months, we again met in Delhi on one summer evening, promising to meet again when he will be in Delhi after his 8500 km of travel covering North India and Nepal. Keeping our promise, we met again. This time I was his host to show him my city – Delhi. The day was well spent in his company showing him few of the beautiful monuments of Delhi that stands testimony to imperial bygone era. And just before our departure for Bir, I bade him goodbye, with a promise of meeting him again but this time unsure of our meeting as he was leaving for his home next day. I will cherish all the moments spent with him throughout my life. 🙂

So, finally five girls all excited about their two days trip to Himalayas and being a bird, boarded bus from ISBT. To our astonishment, we had five last seats of Volvo. Thanks to the person who did this blunder while booking tickets. I was forgiven with their laughter :). Before even the bus started, two girls gulped in the Avomine tablet in order to not feel giddy of sitting on last seat. Keeping in mind all the adversities and awkwardness of the back seat, we adjusted to our best ability; singing, talking, and making fun to start our trip on a happy note. At around 2:00 am, after being scolded by a lady for singing loud, I managed to doze off only to wake up at a sudden jerk and seeing a friend of mine slipping from her seat, I held her though but imagining her lying on the bus floor made me laugh. And she is definitely going to beat me after reading this. Bus stopped twice, one for dinner break and second for a tea break. It was colder than Delhi and holding hot cup of tea in hand was more soothing than sipping it with a loud slurp. We reached Bir with the first light of the day. Morning and air in mountains make me high, makes me smile without any reason. I’m happiest under the mountain sun! Bir does not have a proper bus stop and in fact there are not many direct buses. Instead you need to take bus till Baijnath and take a taxi from there to reach Bir. We were lucky enough to get direct bus. Our hotel was in a small hamlet called Chougan which was a small trek down the road that hosted beautiful monasteries of Bir on one side and fluttering colorful prayer flags on the other side. The sight of it had a calming effect on mind and soul, and I knew that we are going to have a great time. After few calls and asking for directions from the locals, we finally reached hotel and got our keys. Infused with enthusiasm, we forgot the last night’s back seat journey, and planned to get ready and head for breakfast. I was told by a friend that one of her friend will be joining us for breakfast. He was really very handsome  and to my disappointment he was only 9 years younger to me so I stopped my mind from wandering in wrong direction and concentrated on food rather. At breakfast, Mr Chandan Bhatia Sir also joined us. Mr Chandan was an acquaintance to us through “Himalayan Club” on facebook. And he is absolutely one gem of a person who not only took care of us but also booked paragliding for us at a very nominal price. We can’t thank him enough for what he has done for us.

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Friends!

After having breakfast, we left for Billing (launching site) which is 14 km from Bir, in Chandan sir’s car. Road to Billing is really steep and oxygen level is also low thus making one feel like nauseating but going up and watching parachutes against azure blue sky took us in its awe.  We were given time to acclimatize to the weather before we could take a flight. We utilized time in clicking pictures, soaking mountain sun and making memories. We cheered fellow people who were ready to take their flight, bucking up ourselves to take the flight. I’m scared of heights but my father has always taught me to face fears with all my strength; it is his belief and my faith that gives me courage to take anything that comes my way. Here is a small poem that I wrote while preparing myself for the trip, shooing away all the negative thoughts and imbibing all the positive energy inside me.

Sitting on edge, with eyes full of dreams,
All set to para-glide, shout and scream
To fly under the open sky,
Above the mountains so high.
Ticking one more from bucket list,
Taking with audacity the air twists.

Finally, it was our turn to fly. With tensed face I wished good luck to all my friends and started chanting God’s name to keep me safe. I was the last one to fly. I took a flight in second attempt. I fell on stones in my first attempt and this reason was enough to terrify me. After few seconds of running and taking a flight, I was in air under the blue sky. It was ecstatic! After few minutes in the sky I was comfortable and talking to my glider but as I looked down it scared me again so I decided not to look towards ground, closed my eyes and let cool breeze touch my face and I got drowned in its howling sound remembering my grandma, brother and his wife, missing them and praying for them. I also felt the presence of my faith, rising behind the mountains and telling me to calm and enjoy the moment. I was in the air for around 30 minutes and after landing on the ground, my friends came running to me, one of them saying – “Gur, we did it. We all are alive!” I was so much elated to hear this that gust of tears came rolling down like a ferocious waterfall. We then celebrated this little achievement by feeding our empty stomachs with some food and watched the sun that changed the hues of the horizon as an artist fills his empty canvas with strokes of beautiful colors, before setting behind the Dhauldhar range. After dropping us all near our hotel, we said goodbye to Chandan Sir who was heading home which was a 2 hours drive from Bir. Bir is a very small town that has very limited options of restaurants which closes maximum by 8:00 pm. Hence, we were left with the option of having food at our own hotel which was decent enough to satiate our hunger. We then took a stroll on the narrow hilly roads under the moon which was supposed to be the largest and closest to earth. At last we came back to our rooms and dozed off to get up early next day and watch the rising sun.

Next day started as early as 5:00 am, we got ready and strolled on the unknown streets in the wee hours when we were joined by four dogs wagging their tales whom we gave names as – Tiger, Snowy, Brownie, and Kallu (all according to their colors. I thought ourselves as being racist but could not think of better names than these 😛 🙂 ) Tiger being the most quiet and innocent, stroked a immediate connection with me. They joined as soon as we started our walk and remained with us till the end. In just two hours, we got attached to them. We got to see the sunrise from somebody else’s home which we first entered to click the picture of rising sun and eventually took permission to enter their courtyard and spend some time. We walked laughed, clicked pictures and experienced many wow moments together. While on our way back to hotel, I found a secluded place where colorful prayer flags were hung around trees, sun was coming up from east, and mountains were at the backdrop; I decided to stay back and meet friends after some time at hotel. I was accompanied by friend’s friend, the same hot guy who was nine years younger to me. We talked so much about ourselves that when we returned from that place, we were in a relationship. A relationship of being elder sister and younger brother! After having our breakfast, we hired a cab to visit the largest monastery – Sherabling , around Bir. The monastery is grand and beautiful. It stirred that corner in all of us which was holding some pain and it came out in form of tears. We were also lucky to visit a school there and meet little monks. Ohh! They were damn cute. I wish I could have adopted one. We also were lucky to see mask dance at another monastery near our hotel. We had a bus back to Delhi at 5:45 pm so we couldn’t see more around Bir. There are so many places – trekking points and monasteries that were left; and I will cover them in my next trip to Bir.

The trip ended witnessing a beautiful red sun setting behind Himalayas and lots of cherish able memories. Here goes the photo blog:

Moon Lake, Galaxy and Photography!

Before I embark my steps towards another journey to hills, here’s a very quick sneak peek to my memorable trip to the moon lake of India. Chandratal it is! Though it has been a month since I’ve come back and I believe it’s never the late to write (experiences). So here it goes –

Okay! So a trip to Chandratal was planned for few reasons, one that I was short on leaves, two it was first trip organized by my friend’s own venture, I was travelling after a major mishap that happened with my brother and his wife, it was an Astro photography tour, and finally I wanted to dedicate my first astro picture to my brother who was also an avid traveller and always inspired me to travel. After much doubt, ifs and buts, I finally said yes to join the trip.

I didn’t inquire much about the people I was travelling with as I believe that meeting people on start of the journey itself is a good start to the journey. So, I boarded bus to Manali from Delhi along with ten other enthusiastic photographers. One more was supposed to join the group in Manali. Even after much travelling, I’ve still not overcome to handle butterflies in stomach before the start of the trip. And I think this is what makes me a seeker for knowledge and experience. I was trying to find a seat for myself when I was asked by one of the fellow traveller, Arpita Bose, to sit by her side. Well! Thanks to her as I’m very bad at striking conversations and even bad at talking. Anyhow, so we started talking and I think I took a quick escape from all the conversations and soon dozed off. But when I woke up in the morning, we were no more strangers and were friends now.

On reaching Manali, the twelfth photographer, Prabhjit Veerji, joined us and after getting ready we went out for fun and food. Eleven of us were out whereas; Nimit (one of the organizers) was sleeping in hotel. I’ve met Nimit earlier on few photo walks and he is a good human being who is always ready to help people around him (as much as I’ve observed him). The rest of us strolled together on the streets of Manali, talked, laughed, ate, shopped, and most of all made friends with each other. In the evening when we came back to hotel, Nimit was still sleeping, and when we went out for dinner, he was still sleeping. He slept like a polar bear that sleeps in the day light and prepares himself for his prey seal that is most active at night. Well! Nimit prepares himself for astro photography. 😛

Next day our journey started to Losar. Losar is a small village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Losar is relatively remote and hence unexplored. There are very few houses and even lesser accommodation and food options. It is situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet above sea level and therefore the weather here is usually very windy and chilling. To reach Losar, we had to cross Kunzum pass which is considered to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. I was more excited to cross Kunzum than reaching Losar because it has been one such place which I’ve wanted to visit since 2-3 years. Travellers crossing pass take a round around a small monastery built at pass and seek blessings.  We reached Kunzum on 4th July, on this day every year, prayers and rituals are conducted at the monastery here. We were really lucky to experience it. The aura of being at Kunzum is inexpressible in words. With every bell that rang there, I missed my brother and his wife and tears rolled down from my eyes. Anyways, we left Kunzum with good memories and proceeded towards Losar. The view leading to Losar is picturesque and breathtaking with mountains of different shades of brown and clouds and sun playing the game of light and shadow with them. If you are nature lover, sit by the window side and enjoy the view, else sleep and prepare yourself for low oxygen problems. 🙂

It was still afternoon when we reached Losar, with not many faces around, I was little disappointed but at the same time I was in awe of the serenity that Losar offered. After having a quick meal and deciding on the further plans, I took my tripod and camera and went deeper in the valley where there were few houses. Here, I was guided by an old shepherd when I couldn’t find the way to the village.  I love these small incidents that happen while travelling and make your belief firm in humanity. 🙂 As I went down, I saw a cute little girl wearing red sweater and was immediately driven to her innocence. I humbly requested her mother to take picture of her and to my surprise I was granted the permission with much excitement. I took little Tenzin (name of the little girl) in my arms and walked down towards a small field that was few meters away from the house. Four of her siblings followed me to that field. And I didn’t miss a chance to click a picture with them. I clicked a tripod selfie with them! It was great fun. 🙂 We all were smiling and smiling faces look gorgeous. At night we tried our hands at astro photography. We all were shivering with cold but determined to take our best shots. I couldn’t take a good shot that day but was in a hope to click a good galaxy shot next day at Chandratal.

The gang!

The gang!

Next day we headed to our main destination, Chandratal. As we started in the wee hours of the day, most of us were in slumber. On the way, one of the tyres got punctured and busted. We were saved because of the slow speed on the rocky road of mountains. We didn’t miss the opportunity to click pictures here while driver, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (named by Sabby), fixed Tyre. We reached Chandratal at around 8:00 am in the morning. Immediately on reaching, we unloaded our stuff from the vehicle and went to the last motor able point before the lake. There’s a small 15-20 (timing depends upon your speed and stamina) min trek to the lake. Many of us were exhausted till we reached the lake because of less oxygen at higher altitude. Chandratal is the beauty! The view left me totally flabbergasted. The sky, the water, the clouds, the mountains, the flags, the flowers, the green hilltop and the calmness of the moment filled me with rapture. We all took out our guns (cameras), pointed at the lake and shot beautiful reflections of sky and clouds on the lake. Apart from offering mesmerizing view, Chandratal also offers peace and serenity. We then went back to our tents and rested for some time to rejuvenate ourselves for the night’s activity. The wind here was so fast that I couldn’t stop myself from saying – “Fuck! The wind is so fast yaar. :P”. In the evening we had a little music and chatting session with Old monk (savior on hills and in winters). At night, we took our positions to shoot and Voila! I was able to get a descent astro shot if not good. Thanks to Sabby from bottom of my heart. I hope he reads it. He helped me so much that day. Without him I would not have been able to take a good shot. And of course how can I forget little Subro (boy from Assam) who was with us all the time while we were shooting. He too got some good shots. Hardik, Arpita, and Aditi laughed so much while clicking, unaware that they were making memories for the rest of the group too. 🙂 I never wanted that night to pass, I wanted to seize the time and stay there under the stars forever. It was yet another beautiful night under stars in mountains.

Next day, with heavy heart we bade goodbye to the place to return back to our daily chores of life, get frustrated and run for another escape to mountains. Everybody in the trip was hash tagged with a name given on the trip. The names that remind us of the awesome time spent together. I got to learn so many things in this trip and most of all made friends with awesome people.

Ohh! I forgot to mention about the famous chacha chachi shop at Batal on the way to Losar. A husband and wife run this small eatery and they are known for their kindness among travellers. Also, we met a Serbian cyclist who was riding from past 23 days and had plans to cover most part of India on cycle by November. This is why we need to get out, meet people, be inspired, and stay inspired.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers and wishing them good luck in their lives. Thank you all the readers for reading till here. Love for all!

I’ve managed to collect pictures of few fellow travelers along with my pictures and here it goes. Enjoy!