It is just my Ice-breaker speech for toastmaster. It seemed like an overall good show, except that I got a bit emotional in the part where I described my son’s birth. It embarrasses me no end that I stood on a stage in front of around twenty people and got emotional, but I did get good feedback. so maybe, emotions or not, it did work in my favor!

Recording it for posterity! Speech below:

Hello everyone…You see, while I have always loved these opportunities to develop and express myself, I have never overcome the nerves that accompany them. Apparently, as people have told me, I’ve learned to hide it well… But, for me, it isn’t enough to look calm. I want to actually be calm when I deliver a speech or a performance. I still enjoy standing before a group, even with the shaky knees and sweaty palms, but I know that I could enjoy it that much more if I weren’t so nervous and that is the reason I stand in front of you all today to deliver my Ice-breaker speech.


My ice-breaker today is titled MAPs.

Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear.

More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day;

Here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love;

I cried there once, I was heart sore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.

 – Alexander McCall Smith


I would like to take you through a couple of major highways in my life’s map – things which changed my perception of life and made me a better person.

One was the birth of my child. My world was centered around myself before this and I thought I knew what love was. My baby made me realize that wonderful happiness comes your way when you give, care and love without any expectations or wanting anything in return! He definitely taught me major lessons in patience for sure! The second one was and continues to be trekking. I have done a few treks in and around Bangalore, Western Ghats and 6 treks in the Himalayas.


I completed my trek to roopkund – in Chamoli district in Uttarkhand about a month ago. This was the toughest and had the maximum altitude to which i have climbed so far – 16400 odd feet!

Just before we had planned to leave for Delhi, there had been flash floods and cloud bursts in Uttaranchal, especially in Chamoli district where we planned to trek. Everything was hanging in balance and that was a lesson in itself of patience… I learnt to wait, to trust the unknown and hope for the best. Treks have been magical for me. It provides me and a lot of other people to connect with themselves and nature. During a trek your life gets stripped to the bare minimum necessities. Mobiles don’t work in the mountains and the batteries run out due to the extreme cold. Food truly becomes a necessity and not a luxury. The cravings we experience here for chocolates and ice-creams somehow disappear there! After a long and arduous climb, getting hot dal and chawal will seem heavenly. You appreciate the effort that goes into making early morning black tea! A pack of tiger biscuits never tasted better than when shared amongst fellow trekkers, while taking a small breather on a steep incline! Everywhere your eyes roam, you get to see beauty. Mountains kissing the skies and trees that seem to be in an endless competition with them. Vast stretches of beautiful white snow. Walking on a glacier is something to be experienced to be believed.

During the kedarkantha trek, we decided to slide down 50-100 meters of steep descent and believe me when I say that this gave me more of an adrenaline rush than all the wonderlas and waterparks! But the most beautiful and peaceful sight is the night sky -Black velvety sky lit up by zillions of stars and the Milky Way snaking in between them. Star gazing on a clear night with absolutely no light pollution from artificial lights, gives you that moment of pure elation and you feel one with this vast universe.

I have met so many interesting people on treks – A world famous botanist, a great guitarist and so many ordinary people like me who all have extraordinary stories! On the Valley of flowers trek-incidentally my first trek, I was trailing behind everyone and just wanted to give up at one point. I was buoyed forward by a group of Sikhs on their way to Hemkund Sahib (they seem to be exceptional people). They helped me keep moving with the chants of ‘Satnam Vaheguru’ and glucose powder. There was an old man, around 80 years old probably who helped me cover almost two km with his stories about Sikhism and Guru Gobind Singh. I have nothing but respect for this warrior clan who helped so many of us during our way up and down. As I walked past them, I met up with a couple of Bengali babus, who told me ‘tea khabhi’ and then had the grace to laugh at their own Hindi and made wonderful company for a couple more kilometers. I was resting for a while, when it started pouring and I realized that I had left my raincoat in my solo journey. But as if someone had heard my thoughts, from the mists materialized my friend from sixteen odd years with my raincoat. From there on it was him and me and the mist walking in tandem to the pitter patter rain and the sound of our breathing. It is always an amazing feeling to finally reach the summit, to know that I am greater than my limits and the mental barriers that I had set for myself. The only parallel I can draw to this experience is very clichéd and probably cheesy – delivering my baby boy–where I yelled for the doctor to cut me open and end the pain, while he yelled right back at me to keep pushing. In the end the pain was gone and I had a perfect baby in my arms….this trek was almost as magical as that for me…and that, is saying something!

Before I started trekking, my perception was to conquer the mountains; you know…the planting your flag on the summit sort. But nothing could have been farther from the truth. I was the one who was conquered and in letting myself be conquered lay my victory! I know it’s grammatically incorrect, but “Yes! I dind it.” Well that’s how Rishi, my son used to put it when he achieved anything that is extraordinary for his little hands. And that’s what I think and feel every time I reach the summit! I want to go down on my knees and give thanks to the majestic mountains, the gurgling streams, the thundering clouds, the angry river and the unpredictable rain for letting me complete this journey. I feel humbled and grateful and elated all at the same time. This I think is as close to a spiritual experience that I will ever get.

I started with a quote and I feel it is only fitting that I end with a quote form one of my favorite authors – Maya Angelou….

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

So friends…as Ruskin Bond says –

Out of the city and over the hill,
Into the spaces where Time stands still,

Cast away care and come roaming with me!

I have been doing little experiments with myself! Half of my friends are going to snigger and the other half will get worked up and worried. But there it is…I should probably call it “My experiments with truth and other stuff” (as pompous as it sounds, I will risk it!).

I have been trying to push myself out of the comfort zone. To go out there and live. To be excruciatingly honest with myself and others in my immediate circle. To find new experiences, to discover different ways of doing the same thing.

I deactivated my Facebook account. It suddenly hit me one fine day as I liked and commented on a friend’s baby photo that our relationship had become virtual. I no longer had her number and in the days of yore I would have at-least called her and spoken to her. I wanted to push myself to make that sort of effort with the people in my life.But am I going to be off FB forever? Honestly, I don’t know! (I am getting more comfortable with the ‘I-don’t -knows’ and the ‘maybe-s’ in my life.)

I had a very honest conversation with a long lost friend and found that brazen, blatant, honest conversations provide you with a peek into your own self. I want more of those!

I also turned around the attention that I was giving others and the problems in my life onto myself. Books that I love to read, people that I want to be with and it was difficult learning to put myself first. That too, I discovered comes with practice! It is something that I know I need to inculcate unless I want to end up depleted.

I realised that I am happy only when I am learning. I need to keep learning about love, life, travel, cooking….

I started a small little garden and found how rewarding growing something can be. That my baby was also equally enthusiastic about this endeavor made it more special.

I read a few very interesting books. Who knew Agatha Christie could write about love and life and so well at that!

I had always associated her with the brilliant yet eccentric Hercule Poirot or the clever old Miss. Marple.

Do read her books under the pseudonym of ‘Mary Westmacott‘ – ‘The rose and the yew tree’/’The unfinished portrait’/’Absent in the spring’/’A daughter’s a daughter’ to name a few.

Pink – another movie which held my thoughts in its grasp for a couple of days atleast. A good movie which certainly sparked off discussions and brought awareness about the legal rights of women.

The Pink Sheep – Mahesh Natarajan.

A book about homosexual love. We fear and abhor what we don’t understand. This book definitely drives home the point of how natural and normal homosexual love is. This book is different from others in the sense that it doesn’t glorify the struggles of homosexuals or say how all of them are good. It deals with their fears, heartbreaks, deceits and life which makes it endearing and as a human anyone can relate to those emotions.

This book leads me to a new restaurant  (I first saw the book here)that a friend introduced me to. It is the Yogisthaan cafe in Indiranagar. The best masala chai I have had in ages and a calm environment to boot, books to read and wonderful organic stuff that you can buy. You ought to try their organic jaggery with chai and I promise you, this will elevate the humble chai to a whole new level!

I also ended up reading ‘One Indian Girl‘ by Chetan Bhagat. Oh boy! the man cannot write- nope, nada – zilch!

But he brings across the point very well that women need to give themselves permission to be successful, to be more than mere decorations. In the book, an IIM-A grad still rates herself by the size of her boobs and the color of her skin.

That women are forced to chose between a flight of success or the nest of their homes is another point that is brought forth. Also how women are forced to work in timings that were first set by men and that there is no acknowledgement that women’s needs differ or the lack of efforts in the direction of accommodating a working woman’s needs does come through in the final chapters.

The writing is horrendous. The conversations between the female protagonist and her inner voice – the one she calls ‘mini-me’ are yawn inducing.

I have a few more books in my kindle that I plan to get on to, places that I plan to travel to, foods to cook and eat, watching my young one grow and bloom, people to meet…life definitely looks exciting!!

After keying in this rant, it had me wondering what prompted me to it??

The year end review at office is my best bet!

This, then my friends is my true year-end review and I would definitely rate myself an exceeded expectation !!

I struggled quite a bit with this piece. Should I give a blow by blow account? Should I stick to the emotional roller coaster and the gamut of experiences?

Then, my son during bedtime asked me to tell him the story of Roopkund, and I thought, well why not?

So here comes a story – of a king and a queen, of a goddess’s wrath and majestic mountains and a mirror like lake containing in its womb thousands of human skeletons!

Welcome to the story of our trek – a trek to the ‘Mystery Lake’ – Roopkund.

Our journey started from Bangalore-Delhi-Kathagodam-Loharjung. Loharjung was our first base camp and this where the ancient legend begins too…

It is said that Mata Parvati fought with the mighty demon Lohasur at this very place for more than a year. After a tough and drawn out battle, Lohasur was vanquished and Shiv and Parvati moved ahead.

We too moved ahead from Loharjung to Didna village. It was a steep ascent in the later part and was a true test of will and stamina for all trekkers.



Didna is a quaint village with just a couple of houses as far as our eye could see. The house we stayed in was the most beautiful, coziest, darling little house. Blue shutters and awnings and bright blue doors against the stone walls and the sloping stone tiled roofs, added to the rustic charm!

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We had some simple but tasty food and had loads of fun playing dumb-charades. As the sun began to set, the chill in the air was much more noticeable and it almost seemed to say to us – “welcome to the mountains!”.

Didna Village to Ali Bugyal

Bugyals are meadows and Ali Bugyal is one of the largest in South Asia. It was rainy in patches, but the scenery and the rolling stretch of green meadows were unbelievably beautiful. It felt awesome to be above the clouds, which would now and then manage to come up above us, shower their blessings on us and then move way as gracefully.

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Ali Bugyal to Patar Nachauni via Bedni Bugyal and Ghora Lotani

Mata Parvati on the same path, decided to take a breather on a rock. But she was invisible to the lesser mortals. A shepherd decided to throw the smallish looking rock away, as it was blocking his path. But try as he may, he could not lift it! Only after he sent out a heartfelt prayer to Durga (believed to be another form of the Goddess Parvati) , was he able to move the stone.

There is a small Durga mandir, made of some roughly assembled stones nearby and many of our team tried lifting the rock. Only a few were successful! It is said that one’s wish would be granted if they could lift the stone. I will need to cross check with the fellas to see if their wishes did come true?!

Now, its not just us, trying to follow the divine footsteps. Remember, the Raja and Rani that we spoke about at the start of the story, they were on the same trail too. Raja Jasdhaval, the king of Kanauj, was traveling with his pregnant wife, Rani Balampa. They were accompanied by servants, a dance troupe, and others as they traveled on a pilgrimage to Nanda Devi shrine, for the Nanda Devi Raj Jat, which takes place every twelve years.

Little did they know that the divine couple were just ahead of them.

The Raja decided to entertain himself and his soldiers and asked three of his dancers to put up a show. The goddess angered at this display of cavalier attitude, simply pulled in the three nachnias to pathal – the underworld and hence the place gets the name ‘Patar Nachauni‘!

I still think it was misplaced anger!? Wasn’t it the Raja’s idea??

We clearly are able to see three sudden depressions in a raised piece of flat land…whether or not believe the legend is unto you!

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Patar Nachauni to Bhagwabasa via Kalu Vinayak

From here, us – the trek team, the Raja and his Parivar and the gods, all of course in different timelines move onto Bhagwabasa via Kalu Vinayak.

Kalu Vinayak shrine is a reminder of the famous story of how Vinayak got his elephant head and how Lord Shiva granted him the right of worship before any other god. It is all supposed to have happened here!

From here the snowline starts. The chill is definitely more pronounced. We begin to see patches of snow in the far distance.

Near the Kalu Vinayak shrine, is a small tarpaulin tent in which an old man sells maggi and tea. I waited for my black tea here, for quite some time, after the other trekkers had left. It was definitely worth the wait! The tea powered me enough to reach the Bhagwabasa camp at the same time as the others!

Like any other normal couple, the divine beings have their spats and ego and vanity too. Shiva asked Parvati to let go of her vehicle, the tiger as he was doing the walking all by himself. So Parvati left her tiger in a cave and this place came to be known as the ‘abode of the tiger’ or BhagwaBasa! Gokul, one of our guides who is the source of all these tales, told us that after this point no big cats or animals can be found!

The Bhagwabasa camp is filled with flat stones and is bone numbingly cold. The tents were pitched on these rocks and only because of Nagu, our superwoman tent mate, were we spared a bad back ache in the morning!

She as usual managed to reach the camp site first and found the best tent of the lot!

A lot of clickety clack of cameras later, we had our acclimatization walk and it was here that Gokul narrated the stories.

From our camp, we could see the formidable looking Trishul mountain and the treacherous path that we were expected to navigate the next day to reach Roopkund lake.

Our trek lead, Tara showed us a trough formed just below Mt. Trishul, where Roopkund was nestled.

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Bhagwabasa to Roopkund to Patar Nachauni

We woke up at 3 AM the next day and after eating a very watery maggi noodle – soup..sorta mush, got ready to complete the journey that had started in Bangalore.

I had had a misadventure with the samosas the previous day and as a result had some stomach issues. One of the trekkers offered me norflox, but the poor soul in the limited light, had given a wide spectrum antibiotic – Oflox, which rather worked out well for me, as I faced absolutely no stomach issues during the climb and back!

The climb was all that it had promised to be. It was tough, demanding and scary in parts.

We were also given crampons to help us walk on the snow. We had to finish our climb up and down before the sunlight could start melting the snow. Melted snow becomes soft and pudgy and extremely difficult and dangerous to walk on!

We moved like a well oiled machine on those narrow tracks. Never breaking ranks and always together. For me, it was emotional at times and meditative at others. I did not speak or look ahead but just concentrated on keeping the next step and then the next…

Tara’s well intention-ed taunts and jokes all fell on deaf ears, as we climbed what was to me the most difficult summit climb that I had done so far…

As we reached the cusp of the summit where we could see the glimmering Roopkund, shouts of joy, whoops of victory broke out everywhere. There were a lot of tears too! I was crying! This had to be one of the best parts of what had been a very difficult year for me. The humbling experience, once again brought to fore how minuscule ‘I’ was.

In another age, in another time, Parvati before heading off to kailash (Mt. Trishul) wanted a mirror, to do her sola-sringar! Shivji never did anything small scale now, did he? He stuck his trishul into the ground and out sprang an oval pond with crystal clear water, where the divine lady satisfied her vanity! Hence the name – Roop Kund — the Beauty lake!

Now the Raja and his troop weren’t going to miss out on all this action, were they?! They followed the couple. The goddess was angered at all this hoopla and encroachment on divine territory. She rained hail stones, as big as iron balls which cracked open the skulls of all the soldiers. The king and queen perished and tragically the unborn child passed away too… I asked Gokul to repeat the last part, hoping that the story would somehow end differently, that at least the queen and the child would be spared…but that was not to be. (I did change the ending for my li’l one though!)

The skeletons can still be seen strewn around the lake and can be seen inside of the lake as well. (However, the lake was frozen when we trekked. It melts only in the November-September time frames.)

Women weren’t allowed on these mountain ranges for a lot of centuries, but of course things have changed.

Now scientists have found that all the bodies date to around 850 AD. DNA evidence indicates that there were two distinct groups of people, one a family or tribe of closely related individuals, and a second smaller, shorter group of locals, likely hired as porters and guides. Rings, spears, leather shoes, and bamboo staves were found, leading experts to believe that the group was comprised of pilgrims heading through the valley with the help of the locals.

All the bodies had died in a similar way, from blows to the head. However, the short deep cracks in the skulls appeared to be the result not of weapons, but rather of something rounded. The bodies also only had wounds on their heads, and shoulders as if the blows had all come from directly above. What had killed them all, porter and pilgrim alike?

Among Himalayan women there is an ancient and traditional folk song. The lyrics describe a goddess so enraged at outsiders who defiled her mountain sanctuary that she rained death upon them by flinging hailstones “hard as iron.” After much research and consideration, the 2004 expedition came to the same conclusion. All the people died from a sudden and severe hailstorm.

Trapped in the valley with nowhere to hide or seek shelter, the “hard as iron” cricket ball-sized [about 23 centimeter/9 inches diameter] hailstones came by the thousands, resulting in the travelers’ bizarre sudden death. The remains lay in the lake for 1,200 years until their discovery!


The descent was somehow much more difficult than the ascent. It scared me out of my wits to see the path in broad daylight. I am just glad I did not see it well in the early morning or I might have never made the climb 😉

We came to our base camp at Bhagwabasa, had a quick lunch, packed our bags and started the long descent back to Patar Nachauni. I was physically and more so mentally exhausted. The climb down was slow and painful. We also got caught in a hailstorm but it was sorta pretty, to see small pearls dropping down on us every where!

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Patar Nachauni to Lohajung via Bedni and Wan

This was the toughest descent yet. My toes were screaming to come out of my shoes. The 20 odd kilometers downhill gave us all blisters and frustrating moments galore.

The only relief was the serene and cool waters of the Neelganga. We kicked off our shoes and as one of my friends’ put it, we could almost feel the steam coming off our tired, blistered feet, as we immersed them in the Neelganga.

We had our lunch here, clicked quite a few artsy type of photographs as well. I also managed to gather a few small and colorful stones for my son.

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I was very thankful for the ascent that came next. It provided much needed relief to my toes but pretty soon another long stretch of descent started. This was pure, unadulterated pain. But we all made it to the spot in Wan village where vehicles were waiting to take us to Loharjung.

Another hour’s drive and we were in a guest house, with running water and modern toilets and a promise of hot water to come!

Treks enforce life lessons like nothing else can! The things like running water and all the modern amenities that we take for granted, are unavailable on a trek. It teaches one, the value of natural resources, it teaches and renews your trust in human beings.

Money is no scale to measure the help and guidance that the trek leads and guides give us on the journey.The money in your pocket will mean nothing on a trek if there isn’t another human to help you out!

The Roopkund trail is a well traversed one, however the local guides and trek leads make every effort to create awareness and the trail is amazingly clean. No plastic, no litter!

There are so many more things that I still want to write about – the wonderful camaraderie, the new friendships forged, old ones strengthened. Hours of ‘Uno’, sharing food and goodies, helping each other, understanding each other.

Celebrating a birthday at 14000 feet with a freshly baked cake and a milkmaid icing and the immeasurable effort and care that might have been put into the making of that cake!

Calling back home after a long gap. Enjoying the best scenery that a man could wish for while brushing teeth…not brushing teeth for a couple of days and of course the feeling of hot water on dirt caked skin after almost eight whole days!

Sleeping truly like a baby, after hot rice and dal and a bath! Waking up to mixed feelings – already missing the mountains, the simple life and then the longing to see my son and go back home to my own bed. Salivating at the thought of idli sambar, for some it was rotti palya!

Finishing up half a kilo of pear and a kilo of lychee between the both of us (me and Nagu)!

Enjoying the first taste of dahi and butter after what seemed like ages.

Explaining what a trek is to a beautiful Bengali lady and her kid at the railway station. Experiencing a slightly scary train ride.

Last but not least, snatching a few precious moments with my best friend, she and her spouse took so much pains to make those minutes filled with love and giving. Thank you both.

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There is definitely something about the mountains, that makes you want to believe in these legends, to believe in magic and divinity and finally makes you believe in yourself and each other.


P.S: Picture courtesy – Thirtharaj BM, Nagashree Upadhyaya, Vidya.

A couple of days ago, as I prepared to snuggle in for a well deserved siesta, I felt a sharp pain on the eyelid of my right eye and then the itching started…I rubbed and scratched till I managed to find and squelch the culprit, a small red ant.

I went to a family gathering with a swollen eyelid is worth another story, but I wont digress, I promise!

The ant bite and me crushing it so easily led to a completely different set of thoughts – thoughts of floods in Chennai and loss of life.

Before you decide to close the browser window, spare another minute or two….

What if the earth was a giant, breathing, throbbing ball of life? What if like the ants we are just not able to see the big picture, since we are, well, very very infinitesimally small?!

What if she (earth) decides we are just the red ants irritating her, causing her eyelid to swell, when she wants to look gorgeous for the party that all the planets are going to?! She would probably want to get rid of us too…maybe just gently wash us way with a lot of rain or a tsunami, or just shake us off with an earthquake, or perhaps keep the area dry and make sure it gets lot of sunlight and air, till the pesky little humans, who are so very much a blight on her gorgeous self, drop off!

This entire idea suddenly seems so much plausible to me as I put it into words.

Take a look at what I found on google (of course!) –

“The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually — human. The rest are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.It is more like a complex ecosystem—a social network—containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit our skin, genital areas, mouth and especially intestines. In fact, most of the cells in the human body are not human at all. Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to one.”

We are not even independent within our own body, we are not who we think we are!

The existence of our species, does not matter to anyone but us. If we as a specie cease to exist, nature would reclaim what is rightfully her’s and a new species, maybe one more intelligent than the dumb-asses that we are, would arise.Maybe this intelligent specie wouldn’t be so hellbent on eradicating their own existence and life on earth will go on, one way or the other.

Dinosaurs and several other species were wiped out, because they could not adapt. We might go the same way, because instead of adapting, we thought that we could change the mighty earth to suit us. Much like the ant that probably thought it was going to have a brilliant future, full of…well whatever it is that ants care about, when it bit my eyelid, and we all know the fate of that poor ant!

So when I see statuses on FB which proclaim in heroic fashion to save mother earth, I cringe a little , for it is the false bravado of a braggart, who thinks he can, or even needs to save something that is far beyond his understanding and grasp.

The message that should probably go out, is to save our own backsides, which in turn translates to learn to adapt and live as part of nature and that might in the end, be what appeals to our inherently selfish gene!

I struggled giving a title to this post..should I have said “Hampta Pass, 14500 feet – done and dusted”? But that’s far from what I feel!
It’s not a personal victory over the mighty Himalayas but the feeling of gratitude to the multitude of people who helped me cross the pass, gratitude towards nature for having let us see the sights we saw, for the weather being in reasonably good condition, for the slips that didn’t turn into major falls!
I think gratitude and an understanding of the abysmally unimportant and minute nature of human-life are my biggest takeaways from this trek.. and this sets me free!
We all live in our own personal worlds within the larger world. A personal world where we are all important, where our decisions have huge impacts, but somehow, being with the mightiest of mountain ranges sets me free from this self-imposed prison! To understand that I am but a very small speck in the cosmos, gives an entirely new perspective to the worries and the daily grind. It makes me live my life with a lot more freedom of mind..
I know this philosophical rant is not what you look for in my blog..especially one on a trek! you want to see beautiful photographs(All courtesy my trek mates..I am the worst photographer there is!), blow-by-blow details of the ascent, of the people and the place…and I nor the Himalayas are going to disappoint you! So here goes.. A motley crew of nine from Bangalore, a few of whom i had trekked with before, but most of them who turned out to be wonderful new friends I made, left for the mountains.

Day 1: Travel to Chandigarh by air and then a tempo traveler to Manali. 

Since I had traveled to Manali pretty recently, this seemed like the shortest route . We reached Manali by around 12:30 AM the next day. Had an awesome nights sleep in one of the most comfortable cottages I have ever stayed in. we booked the double room cottages. Not to forget the jolada rotti and shenga chutney provided by Guru through the journey!

Day 2: Manali – Jobra- Cheeka

Late wake-up and awesome breakfast of Gobi paranthas and we headed to the Rambaugh Circle on Mall road to meet up with the rest of the trek team from IndiaHikes – Met up with the trek lead Ashish and the very handsome and dashing Arjun (I think that was the name…all the girls in the team had a mini heartbreak when they got to know he wasn’t going to be leading our batch but was leading the batch coming after us! ) Since we had to wait for a couple of people who were yet to arrive (their bus had broken down a couple of times the night before, as we came to know later..), we hogged on bikaneri jalebis, ice-creams and chai to pass the time. We left from Manali to Jobra by around 1:30 PM and reached Jobra within an hours time. The drive is beautiful and gives you a teaser of whats in store for the rest of the trek! Standing in between clouds, with a light drizzle, we ate ‘Siddu’, a Himachali delicacy, which was described as the ‘big brother’ of a ‘momo’. Let us suffice to say that none of us were a huge fan of this dish, but it did help fill our tummy and caused all sorts of tummy troubles for the majority of us!! Jobra to Cheeka was an uneventful easy 2-3 hours trek through a slight ascent and pine forests and a meadow. On the eve of the trek , I had had a brain wave and decided to take my laptop bag as my backpack…since it was supposed to be ergonomically designed et all. Huge mistake! It weighs you down so badly and now I know there is a reason there are light-weight backpacks manufactured! Lesson learnt!

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Day 3: Cheeka – Bhalu ka ghera. ‘Bhalu-ka-ghera’ – it instantly brought to my mind ‘Bhalu the bear’…and in my imagination there were a lot of bears, holding a round table conference, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire…now, hold your horses, it doesn’t match my imagination one bit, but Bhalu ka ghera means a huge pit/mound of sand, which is left over once the rivulets passing through the area dry up! So off we went from Cheeka..slightly difficult ascent, had a phase of around thirty minutes where breathing became extremely difficult, but it passed and with a lot of encouragement from Sunil, one of my trek mates, we reached ‘Bhalu ka Ghera’. Beautiful campsite as usual!

Day 4: Bhalu-ka-Ghera – Shea Goru (After crossing Hampta pass)

I had wisely given up on guessing the meaning of names by now! Ashish, our trek lead explained to me that Shea Goru meant the ‘road of winds’ and so it was! But before that let me give you the low down on crossing the pass itself, the dreaded and steep Hampta pass, which the trek leads had us believe was just after the next slope. We had to cross many a steep blanket of ice before we could reach Hampta Pass! The clouds were so close and would envelop us like a blanket, making visibility a challenge. We also had to use crampons/micro spikes to help us through this climb! I have to mention about ‘Superman – Sid’. He climbed the pass with a torn ligament in the knee, without taking a moment’s break, but kept trudging on when the rest of us would take a break just for the heck of it! Sid, you were an inspiration to all of us!

Superman Sid!

Superman Sid!

The exhilaration on reaching the pass was awesome! A lot of photo sessions later, our tummies started rumbling, but the packed lunch of soya pulav had frozen and had become inedible! We were saved by the rations of dry fruits and dates and chocolates that we had brought along! That said, the trek team were very open to suggestions on the food quality, but I do not think, there might be anything that would survive the temperature at the pass and still be eatable! The descent into Shea-Goru and thereby the Spiti valley was the steepest I have done so far and was lots of fun! Camp at Shea Goru, next to the river was the most beautiful.

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Day 5: Shea Goru to Chatru/Chandertal

It rained heavily during the night and our trip to Chandertal was hanging in balance, when the skies suddenly cleared up and a very faint rainbow appeared on the horizon, as if to say that our trip to the moon-lake will be done! The walk down to Chatru is a gentle descent and beautiful at the same time. You will start to see a long winding road as you near Chatru and this is the first sign of civilization that you get to see after so many days in the mountains! I was not really sure if i liked being close to humanity again or not! Chatru to the Chandertal lake, was done in vehicles and i would be lying if I don’t admit that i was glad there was no more walking! Spiti valley has a beauty all its own…it is barren, cold, majestic, sporting a myriad different hues in the dry dust…the mountain peaks all look to be of varied colours ranging from brown to red to a dull bluish grey! Chandertal lake, like all alpine lakes is crystal clear and beautiful and shaped like the moon, as the name implies! We fooled around in the icy cold waters, stayed on till it was too cold to stay put at one place. Another thing that I observed, is that even the slightest of activity in Spiti valley will cause breathlessness initially. This is because the air is so thin here and the oxygen content is very less due to the near absence of any vegetation! Back to our camp in near Chandertal lake, to be followed by a night of music ,dance and revelry! Panna Lalji,the cook – our anna daata, redeemed himself that day with amazing carrot halwa! He also proved to be one hell of a musician as he sang lovely Himachali songs accompanied with drums on an empty plastic can! I will always remember this mad caper of a night with Guru singing ‘Jumma chumma’ song and we adding our own ‘Bhalle bhalle’ twist to the Himachali dance steps!

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Day 6: Chatru/Chandertal to Manali

Next day back to Manali, freshened up in the same cottage that we had booked earlier, had dinner at a place called Ilferno. Amazing Pizzas, lasagna and salads and an amazing fresh oven baked biscuit topped off with chocloate mousse – fiametta I think, it was called….yum, yum! Oh and not to forget, the roadside leg massage 😉 Early next morning, we were off to Chandigarh. My backpack, that I hated so much during the trek, got stolen in Chandigarh! Maybe I had grown too trusting, sticking for so long with the mountain people! But I also lost all the small little trinkets I had bought for friends and family back home along with my gloves and cap which were four Himalayan treks old!

Oh! I am forgetting to mention so many things.. Especially the ‘cliff hanger’ type save of a fellow trekker by our assistant trek lead Mahi! Also a special feeling getting to know that Mahi was the same shy fifteen year old I had met on VoF trek a few years ago and now he is such a handsome, confident albeit still a bit shy and very emotional and a wonderfully endearing person! In his own words “gaane se meri phatthi hai!!” and off he disappears before the music and dance begun!!

And also our river crossing adventure and sliding down a steep descent on ice, scraping my back totally in the process! can I forget finding ‘nandini’ good life milk at a tea shop in Spiti and me and Naga going all gung-ho about seeing kannada there!!

The last one, I promise…no explanations, except that the memory is going to bring out the giggles in many!! IMG_6617 Still in the same head-space and finding it very difficult to come out and work in the rigid cubicles of a corporate environment. Till the next time the mountains call, I shall wait and prepare and dream away!

Picture Courtesy: yashu, Divya, Sid, Jairaj, Nagashree and others if I have missed out, please remind me!


And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


                                       -Dr.Seuss (Oh, the Places You’ll Go!)

I must be the proudest proud mommy around! (Yes, have been reading a bit too much of Dr.seuss…if there can be such a thing!!).My son and myself went on a day trek to Makalidurga to the beat the school re-opening blues.( I am not sure which one of us feels bluer…).

Anybody who has read my posts will know how much I love the mountains. I wanted to share some of that love with my son too. I was super excited since my son would be part of something that occupies a huge a place in my heart…but I was also a bit scared that he might not like it at all! You can never tell with kids!

That said, we bought him a new pair of trekking shoes at Decathlon and off we went.

Boy-oh-boy!! It was a revelation to watch him climb up the steep tracks..that too in the middle of the day with the sun threatening to melt the skin off our necks! He was a mountain goat, nimble and sure-footed, effortlessly climbing, turning back now and then to call me a ‘slow coach’!

As he took the lead and as he realised that he was good at this, I saw his confidence bloom. He was more chatty, enthusiastic to open up to other kids and the sometimes shy kid that I see had disappeared!! I saw him walk with the trek leads to see another ‘view point’ when most of us had given up and were resting in the shade.

He made friends, learnt about being patient and persevering and about pushing your own boundaries and limitations – mental and physical, that nothing but something like a trek can teach. He knows now that when he wants to give up, there are huge reservoirs of strength that he can call upon, deep within!The most wonderful change is in his level of confidence.

He may not be able to express in so many words, but as a mother, I know that he knows…I see a definite change in his attitude. He also knows when to respect his body’s needs and take a break. Hard to believe that he learnt all this in a single day, but treks are magical! They reinforce life lessons like nothing else!

A huge round of applause and gratitude to the trekking group – Indiahikes for thinking of organising something like this for kids and parents. There is definitely scope for improvement in the way the transport and the trek timings were managed, but the intentions and the efforts are definitely praiseworthy!

We will always remember the steep climbs, the ginger chikkis,sliding down the heated up boulders and our pants melting away!, Shubhankar explaining about different angles of the body and centre of gravity and his smart lesson on climbing down. I am thankful to both the trek leads for raising awareness about plastic waste and littering. I am glad that on every trek that I have been to with Indiahikes, cleaning up the trek path has always been a priority. (This is not a sponsored article!!)

We made memories that day, ones that he will hopefully remember with a smile!

The ultimate question—Will I take my son on a trek again?

The answers is a …………..A resounding yes!!

One of my friends is preparing for GRE and has been throwing new words at us each day, and I for one am loving it. Learning a new word is almost akin to eating creamy caramel pudding with coffee sauce.(Well people who know me will understand my fixation with this!)

Each new word, like a tasty morsel to be rolled around on your tongue, savoured and saved in memory , in wait for an occasion to use it! (I am in love with ‘Hiraeth’ and ‘syzygy’…now go find out the meanings…’cos I am not telling you 😉 )

Also, have you experienced how some words embody their meanings…like ‘slaughter’, it invokes images of blood and gore, or it could be ‘nefarious’ and I can only think of ‘Kroor Singh’ . Words have a special way of bringing back memories. Some words can trigger an entire train of thoughts!

So, sometime today, I chanced upon this word – ‘allegory’ and that led to me remembering reading out ‘Little Men’ by Louisa May Alcott to my son.

There is a story in that and it goes something like this:

“This great gardener gave a dozen or so of little plots to one of his servants, and told him to do his best and see what he could raise. Now this servant was not rich, nor wise, nor very good, but he wanted to help because the gardener had been very kind to him in many ways. So he gladly took the little plots and fell to work. They were all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some were very good soil, some rather stony, and all of them needed much care, for in the rich soil the weeds grew fast, and in the poor soil there were many stones.”

“What was growing in them besides the weeds, and stones?” asked Nat; so interested, he forgot his shyness and spoke before them all.

“Flowers,” said Mr. Bhaer, with a kind look. “Even the roughest, most neglected little bed had a bit of heart’s-ease or a sprig of mignonette in it. One had roses, sweet peas, and daisies in it,” 

“I knew he meant us!” cried Demi, clapping his hands. “You are the man, and we are the little gardens; aren’t we, Uncle Fritz?”

“You have guessed it. Now each of you tell me what crop I shall try to sow in you this spring, so that next autumn I may get a good harvest out of my twelve, no, thirteen, plots,” said Mr. Bhaer, nodding at Nat as he corrected himself.

“He means things to make us good; and the weeds are faults,” cried Demi, who usually took the lead in these talks, because he was used to this sort of thing, and liked it very much. (Demi calls such stories ‘arregories’ and that never fails to elicit laughter from my son!)

And all this leads me to a little story of my own!

After reading this story out, we were all discussing what would be the good seeds (an allegory to good habits) that we would like to sow in our gardens…My sister spoke about making up her mind to wake up earlier, I wanted to sow seeds of patience and then we asked my son, what he would want to grow in his patch of garden. He thought about it for a while and said that he would want to be less shy and speak to people…

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but for a six-year-old to be able to analyse and introspect and express what he needs to cultivate is amazing! (Alert: Proud Mommy speaking. 😀 ).

But it also brought forth something else…that everyone of us has the ability to introspect. It had me wondering whether as we age, do our egos also grow which prevents us from seeing what is really lacking within us..that we start to perceive ourselves infallible?

Still mulling over it and resolved to try and be honest about my shortcomings to myself at least!

New words, some soul-searching and a long winding story….happy weekend y’all..

The internal dialogue:

“It does not matter what you said or did, he never has a right to hit you or push you or slap you or punch you or verbally abuse you . And don’t try to justify him hitting you.”

‘Well, if I wouldn’t have said this, or did that, then he wouldn’t have gotten mad enough to hit me’ or ‘It won’t happen again, he is just stressed out.’

“NO. It will happen again, and it will get worse.”

The others say:

Why don’t you leave or why did you stay for so long?  -A well-intentioned question but often a very simple approach to a very complex and layered issue.

It is not so simple to ‘just leave’!

Abusive relationships don’t start out with a black-eye. They too start out with passion and promise. She is thinking that the real him is the one at the beginning of the abusive cycle, the real him is the one who is so profusely apologising afterwards .

“Only someone who’s walked in their shoes can fully understand the complexity.”

To judge someone, to say “why doesn’t she just leave” is inappropriate.

It is about education and it is about awareness. October is the domestic violence awareness month and today is Deepawali- the festival of lights.

May this month and day bring awareness and light into each one of your lives.

Love and peace,


“Amma why do you have to run?” or sometimes it is  the “Amma why do you have to trek?” question that I  hear from my still sleepy toddler who doesn’t want to let go of me and just wants to cuddle up!

The few moments just before a run or a trek is the worst time to explain to anyone or yourself the reason behind doing it. So if my baby wants to, I take him along and after a few of these outings he doesn’t ask me these questions so much anymore. He just gets it and I too get the answers because of him.

I learn from him the joy of running. He never seems to want to walk when he can run! He runs around in pointless circles when he is happy. I who have forgotten it in the years that passed from childhood to adulthood seem the only one who needs to re-learn.

“Nothing else exists, only the climb.” – This one-liner by Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner  sums it up for me. You could even morph it to “Nothing else exists, only the run.”!

There is nothing like pushing your physical boundaries to make your brain and body vibrate in the same frequency…to keep you focused on the present. Every time my brain tells me to give up, to let go, there is a stronger voice that tells me ‘You can, so keep going’.

Trekking or running has a way of making every thought that wants to pull you down seem mundane and stupid. For example,

Me: “Am I not good enough for his Awesomeness that he treats me this way?”

Mountain/trail: “M’lady would you just effing get on with what you are doing? If you stop you are going to collapse in the middle of nowhere!”

Me: “Aaah why do I do this to myself? I should just give up and hit the road in a AC car.”

Mountain/trail: “Move Dufus move. Else you are sure to hit the road, literally and figuratively!”

and so on…you get the

I wouldn’t win an award for the ‘fittest /most athletic person in my street’ award even. I am not an expert runner or a trekker. But I don’t give up. I better myself every single time and feel a sense of exhilaration, a sense of achievement.

Running releases a neurotransmitter called Serotonin which is responsible for mood regulation – ever heard of a ‘Runner’s high’?? This is what makes it addictive and also good for you!

But analysing it and attributing the exhilaration that we feel to a few chemicals zip-zapping in our brains , somehow diminishes it.

After a long run or after reaching the summit, everything seems right with my world. There is peace. This feeling is strong enough to make me go back again and again and again….

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Now, that is why I do what I do.

At the top of the snow covered summit, his breath came out like steam, releasing some of the heat from his body and mind into the cold mountain air. He made a strange, albeit stunning picture. Matted flowing hair, broad shoulders and rippling muscles and those magnetic eyes. The scar in the centre of his forehead seemed almost like a third eye, that which made people fear him, some revere him and some even worship him! It tickled him no end that people would want to worship him. It was from them that he wanted to escape now. Ears yearning for the music of silence, he seemed to have found the perfect spot, away from the maddening crowd, on the summit of this snow covered mountain. He could see snow as far as his eyes could roam, a beautiful white carpet. Serene, he thought and the quiet that his mind craved for.Planting his Trishul in the crevice between the rocks, through the snow, he surveyed what he thought was going to be his home for some time to come….

From a distance came the mooing of a cow and Shiva turned in blazing anger…the peace and quiet he so craved for was still out of his reach. A cow, meant human settlement close by and so he knew he had to move quickly out of this place. His strong legs carried him down in a flash, he saw the cow guilty of breaking his solitude and it seemed to sense his pulsating anger and ran..Shiva ran behind it..and he then saw another hill top, another seeming end to his search for solitude and decided to camp there, a place that came to be known as Kedarnath and the place where he had left his trishul glinting in the sunlight was called Kedarkantha..


It was to Kedarkantha that I trekked last month and oh what a trek it was! (Don’t I say that about every trek in the Himalayas?!)

What you are going to read next is my best effort at a succinct recap of our trek. So here goes..

It was a dream team for me. what with my besties Polly, Myc + wifey and Yashu joining me on this trek!

As always we chose IndiaHikes to go with on this outing of ours as well.

Day 1:

We landed at Dehradun late in the night and headed to a hotel called ‘Mandakini’ – clean, with hot water. No frills. (The cab driver had this to say of the Ghadwali people, recording it for posterity ‘Soorya asth tho Ghadwali mast’ 😛 )

Headed off for dinner at a wonderful place called Kumar’s. Amazing paranthas,dal-chawal, rajma, paneer…veggie delight. Thanks to Polly for finding this gem.

We also had wonderful strawberries with anardana masala – a must try if you ever happen to visit Dun.


Me and Polly were riveted by an old bookstore and ear marked it to visit on our way back to Bangalore.

Day 2:

We were to meet all our trek mates at the railway station and me and Myc were the proud transport co-ordinators 😛

So we left all the other lazy bones behind and headed off to the railway station at around 6 AM and managed to round up most of the trek participants and co-ordinate transport by around 8 AM..except for one lady whose phone had gotten switched off. This gave us some anxious moments but she turned up at the nick of time and we were all glad to get going to Sankri which was to be our first camp.

We reached Sankri in the evening and had yummy food along the way. A few of us had nausea while travelling the winding mountain roads and my lactose intolerance flared up pretty bad as we gained altitude. A word of caution to anyone planning to trek in higher altitudes –  your weakness and vulnerabilities are at their worst. So try avoiding salads/any uncooked food. Also for people like me, avoid milk/maida products.They can play havoc with your digestive system.

Day3:( Sankri – 6400 Ft to JKT – 9100 Ft)

Slept through the raging wind and rainfall to wake up at 5 AM. Stomach upset worsened. Met up with our on-trek doc Atul. he suggested antibiotics and I wanted to run in the opposite direction. He then gave me lomotin and enterogermina tablets and this coupled with diet brought the stuff under control.

A wonderful breakfast of eggs, bananas and bread butter jam. (I hogged several peoples’ share of bananas since I couldn’t eat anything else.) Incessant rainfall and our chances of starting the trek looked bleak, when suddenly the skies cleared up and our trek leads Ravi, Chaman, sanju and Ram Mohan decided to start to trekking.

I will always remember the military style pep talk by Raj Mohan and especially the words of Chaman – ‘Himalay jab thappad detha hai, tho uski goonj sunai nahi dethi hai’ as he referred to the Uttarakhand floods last year and urged us to do our bit in cleaning up the mountains.

A few minutes into the trek, sun started playing hide and seek with the clouds again and in some time, we were hit by hail storm. Me being the snow-newbie, thought it was snowfall as the small hail stones settled down like snow in crevices and tree tops. This was a totally unexpected change of weather and we got reports that there was snowfall at our next campsite ‘Juda-ka-talab’. I love trekking in the rain and the news of snow fall just egged me on to reach the next campsite faster.

We reached Juda ka Talab in around 5 hours and here my dreams of seeing snowfall came true. The campsite turned into a fairyland, a very cold one though, for which many of us were under-prepared.

The night sky was a beautiful one..I have never seen so many stars at a time ever!


JKT snowfall – on the ascent

Day 4:  (JKT to KK base – 11250 Ft)

Woke up after a very restless night. The snow jackals had come to our camping grounds in search of food and the three dogs which had followed us from Sankri had tried to chase them away and there had been howling and barking through the night..

Our shoes had frozen, the laces were standing up frozen as if in high alert! It took us quite a while to tie up our shoes!

As always food with indiahikes was awesome and we had our fill of pranathas and black tea and headed off for the short trek to the KK base camp.

the trek was relatively easy and most of us completed it in 2-3 hours. No further snowfall and the skies remained clear.

KK base camp will always be a wonderful memory. i had my first snow fight and made my first snowman. Slid down snow slides and had the maximum fun ever.


We had our lunch and after a bit of rest, we were taught to pitch tents, use ice axes and other stuff. we then headed off for a trial walk till the winter base camp which was almost another 3 hours climb up and back. This walk really helped us acclimatize faster as at higher altitudes, we are always advised to climb higher and sleep lower.

Day 5:(KK base to KK summit – 12500 Ft)

Woke up at 4:30 AM to a brilliant starry sky. Saw the frozen water near the toilet tent and all thoughts of brushing my teeth fled from my mind.



Changed into trekking gear, packed our bags and wore our crampons and headed off for breakfast. at 6:10 we were all ready and raring to go. we all got another talking to from our beloved Chaman on being late by 10 minutes – “Hum kya joker lagte hain aapko?!”

He was right of course, as the snow would start to melt and become soft as the day progressed and our window for climbing the summit was only till 11:30 AM.

The first ten minutes of summit climb, I felt the altitude and found it very difficult o breathe. I had forgotten to take my diamox the day before..maybe that was the reason. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, but plodded along for a few more minutes and felt much more better.

The summit climb was a teaser – every time we thought the summit was in sight, it was just another mound/hillock that had to be crossed and we had hours to go before we reached the summit.


After another 4-5 hours of gruellingly steep climb and also using ropes for the steeper part of the climb, we reached the summit and what a feeling it was! we were all hugging each other (maybe because of the unbearable cold as well :P), congratulating each other and oh! just feeling elated and on top of the world. (thanks Jiya for the ‘go Priyanka go’ mantra every time I even felt like stopping..)

After lot of photographs and description of the other summits nearby, Chaman told us the story of the KK peak that you read initially. he said that his great grandfather used to see a red cow run by whenever he climbed the summit and for a moment i could almost see it too.


Getting down was the most fun. No wonderla can come close to sliding down a few hundred metres on the Himalayan slopes! Special thanks to Chaman for making sure I lost any fear I had of sliding down those seemingly endless, steep slopes 😛

We were back at KK base camp for lunch and headed off to JKT in an hours time. On our way down I saw and experienced what a trickster the Himalayan mountain side can be. The same paths which were covered with snow, were today green and small rivulets flowed everywhere. There were little flowers blooming, drying pine cones on the ground and JKT was green and warm and sunny!

I felt grateful to the Himalayas for letting me see two of its guises in a single trek – each one more beautiful than the other.



JKT on the way back!

We had dinner around a camp fire..lot of chit chat and went back to bed and woke up to another gloriously sunny day. A couple of our socks and gloves had dried off. We hung our trek pants on our trek poles and they dried off in a few minutes. You tend to really appreciate dry clothes after trudging along in partially wet ones for a couple of days!

The embers of the campfire still burned and we had our breakfast and chai around it.


We got down to Sankri in the laziest fashion possible , enjoying the scenery , each others company, eating the rhododendron flower stems and cleaning up the mountain side as we climbed down. (the Forest officials take plastic disposal very seriously and we were warned as we had not strapped on our eco-bags- where we were supposed to collect the waste, not that any of us were littering, but felt good to be scolded for all the wrong reasons!)

Back to Sankri, amazing food again (simple clean healthy and I guess the mountain air contributes quite a bit!). Developed a bad cold by the end of the evening and slept through most of the evening and night.

Day 6:

Woke up another bright day. Had our chai and started to Dehradun. had some yummilicious paranthas on the way and stayed in a beautiful guest house called Darsh residency aka Sardarji ka guest house.

Friendly staff and great service. great value for money. Thanks to our four 16 year old trek mates!

We freshened up and went to the old book store. Met with the wonderful lady who owned the place.It was nice to deal in books with a person who was also passionate about them. we had dinner at a wonderful chinese place and headed back to our guest house.


Day 7:

Flew to Bangalore and reached home at around 8 PM. Back to my wonderful baby and the lovely family and that my friends completes my trek.


I have to mention the two eleven year olds and Mugdha and Ashish and Atul who are veteran trekkers and who were an inspiration to all of us.

P.S 1:

Also Naina, our cook. He was the same one who had accompanied us in the Kashmir trek. His cooking is the best!

P.S 2:

The three dogs that accompanied us from sankri to Sankri!

P.S 3:

The fun loving bunch of sixteen year olds…you made us feel young again!


I think I should stop now..oh! but..

P.S 4:

The mysore (co) sisters who blew us away with their determination and stamina.

P.S 5:

Polly you are a hero for attempting this trek and finishing most of it.


P.S 6: are my trek sister. You know I love you 😀


I think I should really stop now…


So close yet so far..the KK summit

Photo Courtesy:

Yashaswini and Raghavendra

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