A Travellerspoint blog

The Mountain Trails

Part II – The Good & Bad Ride…

sunny 2 °C
View The mountain trails on incommunicado's travel map.

I was too occupied watching my steps and not fancying being pushed around. NJP is a busy junction. My concentration was however broken when I heard Amar introducing me as “Ma’am” to someone. As I looked up I saw Tshering, our Sherpa and the man I’ve seen in so many photographs, heard a lot and also had carried an important gift for him.
I joined both my hands robotically and greeted him with a “Namaste” and also added, “I have brought your “thing” with me.” And before I could say anything more he took my smaller backpack and walked towards the parking lot, keeping a watchful eye on me while crossing the street. As we walked towards our cab I knew it’d be a wise idea to buy some fags. Just in case. I knew soon we’d be out of civilization. When the chances of finding a phone booth were one in a million, getting some good fags was an absolute zero. So when the others were scurrying for their favourite seats in the cab, I walked across the street again to buy fags. And I think it was a blessing in disguise because as I walked towards the car, the front seat was all for me! Yippie!!! Nothing could be better than this! Tshering opened the door for me and closed like a true gentleman as I hopped inside and also asked me if I was comfortable. Comfortable? I smiled! This was a treat.
As I looked to my right, I saw Shyam a.k.a. Titu, the driver. We exchanged “Hellos” and soon the engine roared and we set off. We were on the outer fringes of NJP town in no time. The four girls took the middle row and Amar, Tarun & Tshering sat behind.
We crossed Mahananda wildlife sanctuary as we slowly began our climb. The weather was bright and sunny. Within an hour and half we reached our first stopover. It was a small place, barely consisting of a few shops, a temple and a few houses. Dudhia is the name of this place. Our breakfast was ready and it consisted of rotis, alu sabjee, boiled eggs (optional) and tea. As I took my first bite I felt I was hungry for ages! But I did not gobble like a fanatic. I prefer traveling empty or at least light stomach. We took a few pictures and soon we hopped inside the car and as the engine roared yet one more time there was some music playing too. This came as a surprise. Because I did not see a music system when I first got on to the car in NJP. But there was too much to do than calculate about the music system. The road was curvy, went up and down, well maintained and with such a bright and sunny weather the view was amazing. It looked like a picture postcard. Tea plantations and pine trees together was quite a heady combo.
And our journey was definitely getting better every minute.

By two in the afternoon we reached stopover number two. Maneybhanjan. It was a small little town, seemed busy and looked as if the number of tourists were more than the locals.
We now felt the chill. There was a drop in temperature, the winds were strong and the sun hid somewhere behind the clouds.
Our lunch was again ready for us. Amar, like I said earlier has excellent networks and he had ordered our lunch prior. And believe me; we had the tastiest lunch. It was simple, very much home made consisting of rice, dal, cauliflower tossed lightly with spring onions and pepper and chicken curry.
By the time we were done with our lunch, Shyam had already unloaded our bags and it was time for us to move on to Land Rovers. We managed to jostle and bustle anywhere we saw the sun. Dipanjali and Niru were busy looking for a paan shop and their happiness was evident when they found one!
We hired two Land Rovers and moved further up. Dipanjali and I took the front seat with the driver, whereas Amar, Tshering and one of the porters sat behind. On the other were Niru, Kakoli, Jun, Tarun and two more porters.
As I looked behind and asked Amar how long it would take us to reach, he said an hour and half at the most.
And the bad road had just begun. The curves were steep, the road was rocky and it got more and more narrow. The land rover at the most moved on second gear. Midway we had to stop. The driver asked us to get down and enjoy the view while he, our Sherpa, Amar and the three porters got busy with some local people. We realized much to our surprise a man lay fast asleep in the middle of the road. On checking him, we realized he had a drink more than he could handle and had passed. It was Holi and maybe the festivity had got the better off him. With the help of a few locals we managed to take him to a small hut nearby and then hopped again inside the land rover and move further.
The road was so bad it seemed as if we were galloping on a horse that had gone absolute berserk! And we passed a few people who seemed more at ease walking.
Dipanjali and I had the same thought and the same time and in unison told Amar, “even we could have walked”.
“We start our walk from tomorrow girls”, he replied.
It was four in the evening when we reached Tumbling. By then it was already misty and very cold. Our lodge was a cute one, neat rooms with clean sheets and quilts and a clean bathroom as well.
Dipanjali and I were sharing a room. As I opened the tap to wash my face, with a good amount of face wash already applied on my face, I gave out a sharp cry! The water was freezing and it felt as if a thousand needles and pins were hitting my face. I immediately knew the less contact with water, the better off I will be. I explained this new found theory to my roomie and we both decided that hence forth “thou shall use wet wipes and spoons only”!
Dipanjali is a red tea no sugar drinker whereas I prefer milk tea. But in such places I did not fancy having tea. I am bit fussy about how my tea is made. So I had carried small sachets of Nescafe with me. Enough to last me a week.
We put on some more warm clothes and walked towards the kitchen. The kitchen was spotless clean, warm & people gathered around the charcoal that was being burnt. I asked for a cup of hot water and my roomie wanted some red tea. After filling our system with some caffeine, we went out for a walk with Amar. It was more to acclimatize ourselves with the air pressure and temperature. We were at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The air was light and at first we had difficulty in breathing as we took the first few steps.
Tumbling is a cute little village that falls in Nepal. Mist engulfed us and literally we were walking on clouds. We could take the cold no more and so we came back inside the kitchen. But soon the lady who manages the lodge asked us to move to the dining area, as there were other people too and the kitchen could not hold so many people. In the dining area there was a big chimney, logs of wood burning and we sat cozily by the fire place and befriended a few more people. We particularly got along well with one German and an Israeli.
Soon it was dinner time. I asked Dipanjali what was the time and it was 7.30 p.m. That was way too early by our standards to have dinner. But in hills people wind up early. They run on generators. There is no electricity. So they shut down the lights by 9.00 p.m.
Post dinner, Dipanjali and I talked for a while and I don’t remember exactly when I dozed off.
In Mirik

In Mirik

our lodge in Tumbling

our lodge in Tumbling

Posted by incommunicado 09:44 Archived in India Tagged mountains trekking backpacking Comments (0)

The Mountain Trails

Part I – Embarking on an unfamiliar territory…

sunny 2 °C
View The mountain trails on incommunicado's travel map.

Adventure really did not begin at the crack of dawn. I was unsure. This would be the first time in four years I’d be on my own, taking days off; leaving my daughter home, off course under the responsible hands of her dad. Both daddy and girl had chalked out a detailed plan & “a things to do list” when Mommy would be out of town. But being a mom I was in tears as I kissed her goodbye. Amar, when saw me in tears, eyes swollen and a running nose, casually said, “Did you just marry off your girl and sent her miles away?”

The train chugged off the station right on time. As I looked into Dipanjali I knew I was not alone. She was a mom too, leaving home a son and all set to soak up some adventure in unknown territories. And with a quick prayer to God, we embarked on this wonderful journey.

Sleep never seems an easy task in a moving train. As we got ready to retire, I sensed Dipanjali talking to one of the co-passengers. I just popped my head out and looked at this stranger and saw him offering her and also to me some pork & rice. I thanked him profoundly saying I already had my fill. But then we had a friend with us who’d love to have a bite or two. Without waiting for his answer I called Amar – our main man who was taking us on this journey. He was far from us and my shout got absorbed with the train chugging at a rapid pace. I buzzed him and poor boy was getting ready to sleep. But “pork & rice” made him run to our seats in no time and soon sleep evaded as we spent a lot of time talking and sharing the stranger’s meal. I am not a pork person but as the man opened the lid of his tiffin box, the whiff of it made my tummy churn and I too had a piece of meat! By the time we retired we had just a few hours to reach our station.

The cacophony caused by the hawkers and tea/coffee vendors broke my sleep earlier than I anticipated. I looked out of my window and the sun was yet to rise. I meditated for a while and freshened up. Soon Dipanjali was wide awake as well and by 7.00 a.m. we reached our station – New Jalpaiguri.

As we got down on to the platform the other four members of the team arrived too. They were in a different compartment. Exchanging Good Mornings we walked up the stairs and proceeded towards the retiring room. Amar is a man with the right connections and network at the right places. He introduced us to Pradeep, the Station In-charge. He opened one big dormitory for us to change, freshen up and also have some teas.

The seven of us were still new to each other in one way or the other. So the ice breaking sessions were still under progress. We waited there for quite a while and seemed our ears got used to the monotony voice of the lady in the microphone announcing which train was arriving in which platform in three different dialects. Amazingly this voice has a particular uniformity across any railway stations in India and we wondered how one can have such an uninteresting job day in and day out! If we had to wait longer I knew it’d soothe me much like a lullaby does to baby.
Soon Amar walked into the dorm while being glued to his cell phone, asking someone to arrange breakfast for us and gestured with his eyes and hand to take our back packs and proceed.

Yay! The wait was finally over and we were just minutes away from this super adventure ahead of us. The adrenaline rush was immense.

Posted by incommunicado 06:09 Archived in Nepal Tagged mountains trekking backpacking Comments (0)

My Cinderella Story

sunny 12 °C

Just two weeks back I stepped into my thirty sixth year. Celebrations were low. Over the years I have started enjoying quiet birthdays. If four glasses of Chantilli white is "celebration" with Knopfler, Led Zepp & Floyd on the play list, then surely it was a good one.
Seriously I do not have a plan A or a plan B. Just go with the flow. This is so me. And when life throws lemons at me I rush to get the tequila bottle as fast as I can! Not that I enjoy drowning myself or get wasted but I definitely like to make best use of the lemons that are in question!
And then something interesting happened during the last two days. I would be lying if I say I was not expecting it but yes I was not expecting it to be so fulfilling, beautiful and never thought it would bring so much of contentment and happiness... I am still grinning ...
The chance meeting at last saw the broad day light on a Sunday evening when I decided to meet the Scorpion. And it took quite a while to let the feeling sink in. I had to keep re-assuring myself that this was real!
I bumped upon the Scorpio... hey let me get the facts straight and clear...
Okay... so it was him, the Scorpion who bumped into me thinking me to be someone he knew from his school days. And like a twisted story I was not the one he thought me to be. My name-sake he was in search for is but by the way related to me! Interesting things happen to interesting people. Though the Scorpion got the wrong lady in question, it did not matter much I believe when I look back and recollect our conversations. We instantly got along well and that's how our friendship developed.
All the chit-chats we have had over the years - either exchanging messages or texts or speaking on the phone or via Skype, I realized we are two very different people but there definitely was some mysterious sort of similarities as well which made our friendship so interesting.
And on Sunday we were finally meeting in person for the first time.
He called me to say that I should keep my eyes open looking out for a white Zen as I was waiting for him, and when he finally arrived a few minutes later and asked me to get inside, well honestly I don't recall what was going on in my mind. I mean I could not waste time and allow cars to honk mercilessly.
And then like I said earlier, we still didn't have a plan A or plan B what to do next or where to go!
So we took one of those roads with lesser traffic and started our conversation from where we left last.... I did not feel like I was meeting the Scorpion in person for the first time. I know this sounds too cliched' but still I must say, it felt as if we had met a thousand and one times prior to this rendezvous of ours. So driving along the Express way we talked like excited kids who had so much to tell ... you know clearing a huge back log! We stopped by a small tea stall. Sipped tea inside the car and kept updating each other about our lives with every minute detail possible. And then it was time to get back to reality. He dropped me home and I knew I just had one more chance of meeting him again and I did not want to the let that slip. So I asked him to have dinner with me the next day.
But the day started off on a bad note. I seriously did not wanted to screw up anything. But then there are moments when you don't have much to choose and you have no one to blame. First hiccup came in the form of all shops closed to my utter dismay. So the chicken I thought I'd cook got deleted from the list. Second was the caramel. I may sound as if I am bragging but I know I make good caramel custards. So confident I was that when I set it on the oven, electricity went off and I could feel the uneasiness on my nerves and pulse. I thought I was on my way to disaster.
But nothing went wrong. The caramel turned out the way I wanted it. Rest of the food I cooked was a simple dinner - rice, some dal, tomatoes & potatoes mashed and fried and some egg curry. And yes... there was a salad too but I happily forgot about it...
He arrived on time as he said. We decided to sit by the balcony and spent the entire evening there only... talking, talking & talking more. We laughed, we gossiped too and we discussed the other important issues of life, marriage & kids.
He is married for the last fifteen years (okay... I guessed that. I don't recall how long he has been married) with two grown up daughters. And I have been married for a decade now with a four year old daughter too.
We had an early dinner and after a cigarette each by that same balcony again, he took leave.
And till now I am grinning thinking about our chance meeting.
I have met so many men in my life, have dated when I was seventeen or eighteen years old and if my meeting the Scorpion could be termed as a "date" ... even if its an iota... let me tell you, its has been definitely the best date ever. It relaxed me. Both the evenings were so very beautiful. It was fun and yes it was just the right thing that happened to me... to break my otherwise so very mundane life.
As I woke up today morning, I had a smile on my face... I definitely thought it's going to be a good day today, everything looks bright and beautiful. This is usually not me when I wake up.
I don't know if a Thank You would be enough to let him know how much this means to me. I hope he does, I hope he's seen the woman in me ... the way I am and I would look forward to meet him again if luck be our side.
Here I am - a plain Jane... on the wrong side of thirty and the weighing machine too & there he was - tall, dark and handsome - you know the ones you usually read in Mills & Boon novels... :)
yes, when I told a friend about all this, he said I sounded like a little girl just back from her first date!
But then yes, this have been my bestest date .... so what if it took thirty six years, being married for a decade and with a four year old child in hand....
Good things happen when you expect the least...!

Posted by incommunicado 21:29 Archived in India Comments (0)

Splutter & Blubber - My Pilgrimage

all seasons in one day 24 °C

Standing amongst fifty thousand people watching the band play was one thing only to be seen and experienced. Words fall short. I can not describe it in one word or a sentence.
“Awesome” is the closest I can get and to add spice to the awesome word I can equalize that with the word “Aphrodisiac”.
“Yes I am going to the concert”, is all I told Nirav when we read, “Dates are out! Metallica India gig on Oct 28, 30. The band is slated to perform on October 28 and 30 in Delhi and Bangalore respectively during their inaugural India tour.”
Bangalore was the place to be. It was decided.
That was on a hot May day when I said I was all set to head bang. And in these five months I had a lot to do… my daughter’s half yearly exams, a great summer vacation and many birthdays to attend. And then there were the unexpected hiccups… short trips … the unending rains… mugginess in the air … all to be termed simply as this that and etcetera.
As days passed, from dry summers to the humid Monsoons there were a few more people who said they too were looking forward to attend this concert. And this would be the only topic we’d discuss during weekends – binging on grilled chicken and cooling off with Budwisers. So it was six of us who’d finally go together. And it sounded so much fun!
And in these five months not only the excitement swelled but some people I trusted without a doubt showed that they had a nasty side too. For example there is A. An ardent Metallica enthusiast he took the responsibility to get the tickets done. At that point of time we had no clue that the tickets would be available online. He happily took the cash and till date I have not seen his face or heard his voice. But that’s one story we will continue later on.

The day the courier came containing the concert tickets I was thrilled… excited like a teenager who just saw her crush pass by across the street. I looked at it for a long time. Read each and every word over and over again and it took good amount of time to let that feeling sink in.
Two days before the concert we reached Bangalore. But instead of six we were four now but that did not matter. As long as we were ready to rock and roll I knew this would be an experience of a lifetime.
But a tragic thing happened on the night of 28th Oct. We were unaware of it. It was a phone call from Lioness. She asked me to switch on the TV and just browse through any of the news channel. My heart roughly missed a beat when I learnt that the Metallica gig that was to be held in New Delhi got cancelled. There was a hell lot of mud slinging. Blame games. Angry people ransacking the stage. A near stampede.
We were all silent. We just did not want to talk or discuss anything nasty and negative. I just whispered a silent prayer to God. All I asked him was a perfect 30th … a Sunday I’d always cherish. But there were a thousand people propagating too may things everywhere; be it in the social networking sites, TV, elevators, malls. I just shut myself up amidst some good books, family and rum. For I know if nothing else work, rum surely does the trick!
Slowly the time was drawing nearer. And I was hoping everything would be right.
The night before the concert – it was a Saturday and I was to meet up my cousin and that planned collapsed too … well almost if I may say… we were supposed to meet at some pub over a few drinks and that was all. But he got stuck with his work and the next best thing I said was “let’s postpone our meeting.” Meeting him was also very important to both of us as we’d see each other after twenty two years. The last time I saw him was when I was in class six and he had just cleared his twelfth. After that we have been in touch either through mails, phone calls and texts.
But the sweet fella he is, he took directions of the place we were staying and he drove 25 kms. just to see me. Meeting him after such a long time has been another experience again.
And we spent the whole night talking and sipping scotch (for a change I shifted my loyalty) by the balcony. We were so engrossed in our conversation that we did not realize slowly it was dawn! He left at 6.00 a.m in the morning.
After he left I knew I had just an hour of sleep. Nior would be soon awake and I would get busy with her. But nothing happened as I planned. Nior woke up and she never disturbed me (my sweet-heart… I don’t know how come she understands me so well)… & Nirav was awake too. Infact the entire household was up and into their own devises and the sun rays falling directly into my eyes would not let the sleep come. So I too got up and a big mug of tea was all I needed.
By noon we decided to move. I made Nior understand that I would be out for some work and that she should behave like a good girl and stay with her aunt, uncle and elder sis and also Shamima (the girl who stays with us)… and she said she would.
We met our friends at a junction and headed for Palace Grounds. There was a slight drizzle but nobody cared a bit about it. The queue was a rather long one… and this was just to step inside the Palace Grounds.
Once inside the grounds there was no queue whatsoever. But there was a heavy rush of people at one direction only and we too stood somewhere close to the massive crowd. Then we heard the guys standing infornt of us say “Gates have opened”. I cannot tell you how suffocating it was, to stand in that crowd which was swelling every moment. You really did not have to walk, you could just move as you were being pushed. At one point I thought I’d pass out. I looked into Nirav and said, “hold me as tight as you can”. And I asked one of the guys infront of me, “how long will it take us to reach the gate?” He scratched his head; pressing on to the shoulders of another guy standing infront of him he arched himself up and replied, “Roughly two meters”. Those two meters seemed an eternal journey. It took about forty five minutes to reach that two meter mark. I saw a very small “gate” through which only one person at a time could enter. The whole area was full of these huge and frightfully morose looking bouncers. Dare you create any nonsense! We walked for another few meters and there was another ordeal to be passed. This time around there were five rows. People were being frisked lest we smuggle alcohol, cigarettes, lighters and cameras. And finally…finally I could see the arena.
I looked up my watch. It was 5.00 p.m and as I looked up on the stage there was Nikhil (Chinappa) introducing Guillotine a Delhi based band. As they took the stage it prompted a tongue-in-cheek “Delhi Sucks” chorus from the audience, the Delhi chaos and no-show still fresh in memory.
Once they wrapped up a Scottish alt-rock act Biffy Clyro's took the stage for an hour and the crowd stood expectantly in the pouring rain.My back was slowly hurting and I sat on the ground… I was lucky to be standing near the barracks. I had some clear place to sit… the rains had made the entire place slushy.
Soon they were off the stage the crowd was getting frenzy. The wait was finally over. We would see Hetfield & Co. in any minute. But to everyone’s surprise there was this man on stage giving a sermon on safety. He urged the audience in front to look to their “left”, “right” and “behind” and then take “three steps backward”.
And as obedient school children the crowd adhered to it without fuss.
At about 8.00 p.m as the band came finally took charge the whole Palace Ground got euphoric. Hysteria set it and finally it was happening. I am sure everyone present there had the same feeling like the one I had. This was it… it took them so long but they finally arrived… the wait, the pain, the rain, hunger and thirst everything was forgotten.
From CreepingDeath to For Whom The Bells Toll people sang in chorus. Nothing matter at that time. Seemed we were all one. Standing their in unison, head banging and enjoying each and every moment and soaking it all.
The LED screens behind the two storied stage and on the sides is where you could see them giant size and the fire works added sparks to the whole ambience.
And then there was the anti-war song One when a fleet of doves flew above in the dark night sky and all I could say was “they were so well trained.”
As they belted out one hit after another I could not have thanked God enough for making this so perfect for me and another few thousands too.
And as they sang Master of Puppets, Hetfield gave out that evil laugh much to everyone’s delight and there were so many like me I noticed who clutched their foreheads in utter disbelief.
And then the time came I was waiting for… after a solo by Kirk Hammet for about fifteen minutes the music seemed familiar. Oh yeah… It was Nothing ElseMatters. The entire Palace Ground with fifty thousands metal heads singing that song was amazing. People came from every corner of the country and other parts of the world too. There were people of all ages… there were people in crutches, bandaged arms and heads too. But all were there… to see the Gods of Metal perform live. The finale was Enter Sandman… as he Hetfield chanted “And now I lay down to sleep… “ I just told myself, “this is insane… I can take no more”….
I has been truly all the long travel… the back ache and all the wait …. I never thought I could see these guys ever … but Jasoon Newstead you were sorely missed…Lars seemed to have gone mellow… age suits him and what can I say about Hetfield… he is just too much!
As we decided to walk back to the nearest taxi stand I still could not believe what I had just seen… I knew it would take a hell lot of time to let that feeling sink again… like it happened to me when opened the courier and saw the concert tickets.
As we were heading home I knew this was definitely a pilgrimage and also realized that I had not slept for the past twenty four hours.
So much for Mr. James Hetfield & Co.

Posted by incommunicado 22:29 Archived in India Tagged me people parties night hitchhiking Comments (0)

And all the blubber & splutter

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Without a doubt this is the way things happen when I try playing with words. Its been a long long time and a lot many things happened in the last few months...
And all these definitely would come out as "splutter and blubber" and I am excited as a kid like in a toy shop... from where to begin...

2011 has been a good year. So far so good... as the count down for the new year begins I can write this with confidence... and a smile steadily forming on my lips and eyes glittering with all the stories I have to tell...

I don't know who will read all this. Or will these ever be read.

I don't write to please anyone's whims and fancies. I write for myself. I write because it relaxes me. Writing to me is like speaking to a friend who would never judge me or be biased. But rather would be a good listener... nodding his head in agreement, squint his eyes at times, raise his eye-brows when he listens to all the mischief, would pat me on my shoulders and lend his arm to hold on to when I need the most.

So now that Nior's school is over and so are my duties I guess I will have enough time to write.

My bench mark - One story a day.

But then I have a case of forgetfulness...

This is a reminder note of all the things I should put down in plain simple words:

Milestones - Nior
Summer at Havelock
Notes on my ex factor
Transition from Old Monk to Khodays
My pilgrimage
My first crush (someone asked me about this yesterday and I really smiled a lot while I narrated this incident... so let us get this straight into the naanosphere page... I mean why not!)
Bonding & re-unions...
Late nights
Misunderstanding and ironing out the creases

& maybe something called Where there is a will....

Posted by incommunicado 22:28 Archived in India Comments (0)

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