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Posts Tagged ‘Adventure trip

Kashmir – On not bus-ing across Leh

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Thiksey Monastery

Thiksey Monastery

We abandoned our plans to hoof it around Leh, but we were still sample-the-local-culture type of tourists. So no rented SUVs for us, it was going to be local buses instead. We asked our inn-keeper for the night whether it would be possible to catch a bus the next morning to our next village stop. He assured us that there was a bus to be caught at 10:00 am the next morning. Excellent.

We had time to do the morning tea ritual and eat a leisurely, if spartan, breakfast. It felt like a vacation after all. We hefted our backpacks, walked half a mile to the nearest bus stop and patiently sat down to wait. The waiting was pleasant – deep blue sky, fresh mountain air, high desert landscape around us, the golden Buddha statue glinting in the courtyard of the monastery we had visited the evening before. Very picture postcard perfect. Put in some luxury tents and charge a bunch of rich tourists $1000-a-day perfect.

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Written by Sachin

July 7, 2009 at 12:17 am

Kashmir – On walking across Leh

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Lamayuru Monastery from the Highway

Lamayuru Monastery from the Highway

A combination of lack of detailed maps, the locals’ flexible notion of distance and time, and the thin mountain air, made us drop our grand plans to wander across Leh on foot. But every day or two we did have to walk the distance from the nightly bivouac to the nearest bus stop, which usually turned out to be just beyond the next mountain (us) / hill (locals). After a couple of days of lugging my stupidly heavy backpack it dawned on me that there were usually two tracks leading across every mountain/hill – one around it and the other over it. The latter seemed as if someone had created straight-as-arrow paths on a flat piece of paper, and draped that paper on mountains and valleys.

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Written by Sachin

June 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Kashmir – On not walking across Leh

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Hitchiking - the driver hadnt slept three nights ....

Hitchiking - the driver hadn't slept three nights ....

We traveled to Leh, in northern Kashmir, a few years ago. Good sample-the-local-culture tourists that we are, we traveled on crowded buses, hitchhiked on trucks, and once, memorably, on a fully loaded gasoline tanker truck driven by a dozing driver. One thing we did not try to do much was hike. It was not the lack of detailed maps that held us back. India is crowded enough that finding someone to ask the way to a nearby village is usually not a problem. The problem was estimating how long it would take us urbanites to walk across the hills and mountains of Leh to our destination. Actually, the problem was the set of short conversations we had with the locals one fine day, which I reproduce below.

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Written by Sachin

June 12, 2009 at 2:09 am

Soaring above Grand Canyon

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Small aircraft flight between Las Vegas and Grand Canyon

Small aircraft flight between Las Vegas and Grand Canyon

After the rafting trip through Grand Canyon, this was utterly lame and I am ashamed to admit that I loved every minute of it.  The helicopter trip cost as much as a dinner at the French Laundry but it was far easier to get a reservation. The only part that I didn’t like was waking up at 3 in the morning in Las Vagas – it essentially meant not going to bed at all.

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Written by Som

February 19, 2009 at 4:29 am

What keeps me going back to Death Valley

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Storm approaching salt flats of Death Valley

Rain approaching salt flats of Death Valley

What a beautiful, serene, solitary desert this one is. It is also the driest, hottest and largest national park. People have indeed died here although not in recent years.

My first trip to Death Valley was on a Thanksgiving weekend. We had started from Bay Area a little after ten. Nearly 12 hours later, we drove into Stovepipe Wells Village. They had given our room away. We had called at least twice that evening to let them know we would be arriving late!

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To leave only footprints behind while rafting through Grand Canyon

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Campsite at Grand Canyon

Campsite at Grand Canyon

Over the years, I have flown in a small aircraft over Grand Canyon, taken a helicopter tour, hiked parts of the canyon, driven through parts of it, stayed nights there, done some touristy things, and rafted through the white water rapids of Colorado river. It is the last I want to share with you today.

Two of us had started at the South Rim main visitor’s complex at 5:00 a.m.. Six hours, 9 miles and 5000 ft descent later, we had joined our rafting group. We had hiked before, rafted before but it was our first camping experience. We were looking forward to eight days in the Canyon. Our group consisted of six raft boats with a guide each and about 6 people to a raft. All except our raft. Our raft was thinly populated – us, our river guide and a lot of camping gear. Little did we know then.

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Srinagar – riots and roses

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Woman in Srinagar

Woman in Srinagar

If there’s anything that makes me feel cheated while traveling in India, it’s air travel. When you care the least about getting a window seat, like when it’s cloudy, there is always one available. When you really want a window seat, like when you are going to fly over the Himalayas, you will be seated between Mr. Corpulence and Mr. Mal-odor. If you are luckier, there will be a toddler kicking your seat throughout the journey, as it happened with me on a recent visit to Srinagar.

I was on a journalistic assignment, the tourists were returning to Kashmir with a revenge. We had been booked into the Centaur Hotel, beautifully situated, right at the DAL lake. There’s a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about that hotel, maybe it is the peeling walls, the stale smell in the rooms, bad service, random people ringing your bell in the middle of the night… The next day we shifted to Green Acre. A smaller, cosier place, with big airy rooms and warm hospitable service. It is an old bungalow transformed into a hotel. They have an old section with wooden ceilings and beams and a new concrete block. It has a beautiful garden, which was in full bloom. Although there is no telephone in the rooms and the service a little slow, you can be sure your food is coming from a safe and clean kitchen. There’s no menu, there’s standard fare for each meal- Lentils, Meat, Vegetables, Curd, Rice and Chapatti (bread), and it is always excellent. Not all rooms have wi-fi but the connection in the hotel lawn is good. It is run by the family, they live in one section of the hotel. Friendly, polite and helpful, that’s the place I’m staying next time as well.

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