Andharban Forest Visit

Things that I learned today, ‘you cannot be cool just by giving yourself a cool nickname and you shouldn’t emphasis others to call you with that either’.

The starting point for this Andarban ban trek was ‘Grand mother’s cafe’ in dadar but it was a place where no grandmother would want to eat. It was a modern dining place. At around 11 pm we reached well before the specified timing and met the fellow travelers whom I had already googled or facebooked 😉 I wonder if others do the same or am I the only vella? Prashant bought some water and I already had spilled some on my shoes before boarding :/  Prashant was tired as he was just back form the Kalvantin durg trek few hours ago. Two trek leaders were females and one male, named Dabby.

The bus seats were uncomfortable as I had to seat with straight back. It is always a pleasure to travel with Prashant as I get to know so many new things about books, economics, meditation, climbing or even daily soaps of which it was Frank Underwood’s discussion during the night. The drive was about 4 hours. When I woke up at about 4 am, I freaked out seeing the bus being driven in complete dense fog. Nothing was visible in the front or on the sides! It was a scary situation. The bus was being driven through a cloud at fast speed! I was keen to look for some reptiles on this trek but my wishes aren’t usually fulfilled. On the morning we were told that NDRF team is in the jungle and are fetching bodies of two guys who died in the waterfall crossing a day ago. The bodies must have ended up in the dam below. We had ropes to help us with the crossing but we never used them coz we are ‘khatron ke khiladi’. We just used it as a prop to take pictures 😉 The trek was good, not that interesting like portrayed on the website of the trekking company. Both the waterfall crossings were good enough to wash away small kids or drunk adults. The picture says it all. Towards the end of the trek the food that we had at

the local Mama’s home was very delicious. They served pooris, my favourite. We also had to waste lot of time waiting for the bus.

But the overall rating of this trek would be 5/10 with Mumbai travellers.


Vikatgad Peb

Monsoon is the best time to explore Mumbai and places around it (unless you aren’t caught in traffic). Since I shifted here two months ago, I wanted to get a break from the routine and go trekking. I found this Vikjatgad Peb, one day trek on Mumbai Travellers and registered it. I was new to this area so this would play a wonderful chance to meet new nature lovers and thrill seekers. As instructed I took the early morning local to Neral and reached about 50 minutes earlier than schedule. I was fascinated with the sight of the small bogies of neral-matheran-neral narrow gauge train on the station. Once all the trekkers arrived, we started to the base village of fanaswadi. Our breakfast (poha) and tea was scheduled there. We got to know each other and our trek leaders- Mayuri, Nitin and Mukesh during the introduction (we should have had a ‘Neil’ named leader too 😜).

Our local villager, for support during the trek was- Ganpat. He was a quiet and a muscular ripped guy. We started our climb at around 0930 hrs. admiring the greenery all the way. There were a few other trekkers in different groups. The climb was through mud, rocks and treacherous forest. Our lunch break was at a cave at around 1200 hrs. from where the view was amazing. We could see a huge dark cloud coming towards us and sweeping upwards to the mountain peak. It appeared like an upside down waterfall. The view was marvelous. It rained while we ate our lunch. Further the climb had narrow stairs and rocks for which we needed support to climb. This is the reason we should always travel with people who are well-known with the area and never explore on our own. You are not ‘Bear Gryllis’ remember that. I saw many, who trekked in their sports shoes and sandals and I pity them.
Further on the way we reached to the peak while the complete view of the valley was covered with the clouds below us. We were probably at 2100 feet elevation (I am not sure) and had to wait for a while to let the clouds clear up; but we could only get a small window to take a wonderful selfie with a GoPro. On our left the valley hid under clouds and the right side was clear majestic view. The sight was captured in many pictures and videos. On the way down we had an interesting sight of a bunch of people who were trying to take their dog back home. The poor canine couldn’t climb down the ladder, but eventually the guys held him and carried him like a bag. Further on the decent our trek leaders helped the same dog to cross another set of metal ladders. The trek descent was towards matheran’s dasturi naka following the railway tracks. To sum up it was a wonderful day to spend out in the green mountains, knowing new people and having a good time on a Sunday which usually is spent lazing around. Looking forwards for more such treks and adventures with Mumbai Travellers. Thanks for the Vada pav too!

Crawling in my skin

As always I was excited and looking for this trip to Mcloedganj and Dharmasala for this would be my last one before I move my base to Mumbai. I had it all
planned (meh). Our itinerary was planned just a day earlier. My friend Dillep was accompanying me this time. On the day one we’d start for Mcloedganj and have a fancy breakfast followed by bhagsunag waterfall and triund trail. The evening was planned for visit to local eateries and a casual stroll. The next day was planned for the visiting the Buddhist monasteries and Dharmasala stadium. But things usually don’t go as planned. I never thought I would have one hell of a story to tell after this weekend. When we reached Dharmasala we boarded a bus to McLoedganj and hit the Kunga and Nick’s Italian kitchen. We were famished, so started with waffle, fruit custard, omelette and bread toast. And we were all charged up!

The climb up the stairs towards Bhagsunag waterfall was beautiful. It was probably around 3 kms till we reached Shiva cafe. I had seen this cafe on the google maps. My plan was to walk the waterfall trail and try to reach the Triund peak. image005I never thought for why this was not the established trail to the peak. The trail was full of huge rocks and covered with forest on both the sides.


Jumping all the way

The measured distance from the shiva cafe to triund through the waterfall trail and forest came to about 2.45 km, which was a piece of cake.
There was plenty of water in the falls throughout the climb and the sound had a soporific effect on me. The water was crystal clear and as the place was less explored by travelers there was no litter. The smell of air was crisp and I could feel it inside my lungs. We crossed shiva cafe at 12 pm and crossing many small waterfalls and natural spas, we reached a huge upper waterfall at 2 pm. It took 2 hrs to climb 1.10 km so now you can get the idea how difficult the terrain was. imageIt was just the rocks and we were jumping all over them. The climate was chilled and on our back McLoedganj seemed smaller and distant.
We decided to step inside the fall for a bath. The water was freezing cold! I could feel it like  pins pricking my body. The end of the waterfall made loud noise, I gathered all my courage to get to the bottom of it but I did not, as I could not estimate the depth and it was friggin scary. The most important part of visiting a waterfall was to take a long exposure shot for silky effect to the water. I tried my hand for the same on chandrashila trek and couldn’t miss the chance in this one. The picture turned of reasonably good considering me as a rookie in processing of those raw files.
The decision to go further on the trail after that bath under the waterfall was the worst decision my irrational mind had ever made. We packed our wet clothes and I hung my towel like a cape on my neck and started the climb which was exactly right from the waterfall. We climbed for about 450 meters and came to a vertical wall. On the map it looked like we were just 1 km from the Triund peak but a vertical wall stood in front of us. I had my day pack with camera and some tshirts on the back and water pouch on the waist. I started to grab whatever stones and roots protruding out from the wall and climbed. I climbed to about 30-40 feet and saw that there was no scope of trying further. Dileep stood on the stones asking me to carefully come down the same way that I went up. I came to about 20 feet and tried to cross a huge boulder. I tried shaking it to check if it could bear my weight. Then grabbed the top of the boulder and tried to cross it. The boulder lost its stand and loosened itself from the mountain.
As I crashed down it felt like Lucille (Negan’s Lucille) beat the shit out of me.


NEGAN with Lucille

I still remember Dileep’s face when he shouted my name as I fell off. I landed in the heap of sharp stones and bounced on my back with my hands above my head. The boulder landed a few inches away from my arm. I blacked out for a few seconds until Dillep came to check my injury. It was all blood on my feet. Lying on my back I saw a Raven flying towards me to have a look. I wanted to figure out if it was a three eyed Raven or not, but then I realised it was a crow. The rocks had cut my leg just over the foot on the fibula which as about 10 cms long. There was a small cut on my left foot and right leg, and cut on left part of pelvic. There was blunt force of the rocks on my foot, tibia, fibula, ankle joint, metatarsals and abdomen.giphy

Luckily it did not shatter my bones or however I hoped it didn’t. I couldn’t open the zip of my bag. My energy was completely drained out! That was the worst feeling I had since the time I fainted in gym after donating blood 😐 a few years ago.
I asked Dileep to make a tourniquet out of my vest to stop the bleeding. We took a few breaths before trying to figure out what was to be done now. All we had to do was get back down, but DAMN! I couldn’t stand on my feet! I started to crawl using my hands and butt. Crawling thought the rocks, mud trees with thorns and what not. The first 450 meters took me 2 hours.”Crawling in my skin, These wounds they will not heal Fear is how I fall, Confusing what is real” Remember this song?


My crawling and limping route till McLoedganj

I knew this was gonna be a treasured memory. I crawled and crawled, took a few breaks on the way. My wrists and shoulders were giving up. My pant was completely torned because of my crawling. Luckily I had a spare shorts which I could wear on top of it. It was around half past 5 when we passed from this beautiful section of waterfall.image
Look at that face! I see ‘regret’ written boldly on it! The regret was not of what happened to me, but that trauma that my friend Dileep went through because of me. At times I was involuntary shivering so I wore three tshirts. We were without any winter wear or raincoats (another blunder). Soon it was dark. Around 7 pm we were still far from shiva cafe. I had one led flashlight and Dileep used it to find a way to get down from the rocks without getting wet and falling. The rocks were huge and we could not estimate the distance, however Dileep could jump his way down but it wasn’t for me. Jumping down he raised hands above his head, I lowered my legs on his palms and then he lowered me down. This was done quite a few times. I wish I had a GoPro on my head to document the extent a friend can go to help out a friend in need. On the further way down, we engaged ourselves in various talks to forget the situation. My pituitary gland was at max work secreting all that adrenaline for me. Thank you ‘my pituitary’. We reached at shiva cafe at 11:30 pm and disturbed the guys who were having a late night party. They helped us out and fed us some cake and juice. There we opened that tourniquet to check out the cut. It was deep and painful. Now from shiva cafe there were three friggin km long steps to get us back to McLoedganj and that took us another two hours. With this we happily came back to McLoedganj😅.

What if that Boulder had landed on my hand or leg? What if that fall had triggered a rock slide? The boulder came off. “What if” the question still remains, and that’s a boulder sized IF. Well I neither want to complete the question nor answer it. We were traumatised both physically and mentally. As I began to heal I could hear the sounds ‘deshi basara’ in the background 😜 (again some self praise) So when I heard about my broken rib I thought would I be hung on a rope harness like Bruce 😅.
No one is gonna applaud my gusto but I would rather end up getting whipped when I tell someone this story. There is a different high (the oxycodone types) when you come back from a killer situation. Cheating death gives you a high that can’t be compared to any other shit.. Trust me.
But I am curious, how could I tolerate all this pain? Read More

Doctorates, Down-Dogs and the Challenge of Self Talk (Guest Post)

Fit Is a Feminist Issue


The day I submitted my PhD dissertation was also my 95th day of a self-imposed 100 day yoga challenge. I had never intended to complete both tasks in such quick succession. Indeed, the fact that I actually completed either task at all feels like a happy, but surreal surprise. Despite the five and half years spent researching and writing my dissertation, and the nearly four years of dedicated yoga practice, my accomplishments still surprised me. The reason being, I am a serial under-estimator. A career denial-ist. A seasoned veteran of negative self-talk.

It wasn’t actually until I developed a daily yoga practice (alongside Buddhist meditation classes I had been taking for years) that I became aware of the stories I was telling myself about myself, and began to see how these stories were holding me back. Negative self-talk usually accompanies an activity with which you might feel pride or success…

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Auli Skiing Trip

I remember, I was very excited for my upcoming skiing vacation to Auli, Uttarakhand. Auli is a small town near Joshimath. The place is easily accessible by motor road from Haridwar.

My five day camp was organised by Trek the Himalayas. The meeting point was Haridwar, where we were picked for the onward journey. I left by the roadways bus from ISBT, Delhi at 8 pm and reached at 02 45 am. I waited near the entrance of the railway station for almost 4 hours as our pickup was to arrive at around 6 am. All this time I couldn’t help but notice people sleeping happily all over the railway station in chilled weather. Meanwhile towards the dawn, my fellow members of the camp made their arrival and all five of us boarded our jeep to Auli.

We crossed Rishikesh, followed by Shivpuri from where white rafting to Laxman Jhula begins. It’s an amazing 16 long kilometres of rafting in the chilled water of Ganges. The road kept bending beside the river as we drove higher and higher. We stopped at Byasi for a cup of tea and aloo parantha. It was a long morning, especially for me. Back on the road, we crossed Devprayag, where Bhagirathi meets Alaknanda. The road further was curvy and especially scary where we could see the gravel from the landslides on the road. The speed of our car was almost 15-30 kmph. We passed Srinagar, not the J&K one, where the Alaknanda hydropower station was located. Further down the road we reached Rudraprayag, where Alaknanda meets Mandakini. We had to follow the road which went along Alaknanda. Next town on the way was Karnaprayag, where Alaknanda meets Pindar River.  A few kilometres ahead was a town with a funny name – Langasu. I tried to do my facebook check in there to remember the name, but couldn’t do that because of the poor gps signal. As we reached Nandprayag I dozed off for a few minutes and missed some beautiful scenery. In next few hours we reached Joshimath.

Our eyes were wide open as the layers of mountains receded and snow covered peaks emerged. The 16 km long road from Joshimath to Auli was surrounded by never ending greenery. In the last 6 km the first sight of snow on the roadside came into sight. We reached our destination Hotel Shail Shikhar heritage. The place was good with the cooking tents in the yard with a dining area and rooms around it. We had our evening tea and snacks and met our tour guide and the hotel administrator. We were strictly instructed to follow the time table for our skiing tour guide.

The first day started with a long walk from our hotel to the GMVN from where we got the first view of the skiing slopes. We had to walk up to the slopes to a hut which had all our skiing gear. The hike in the snow to the top was beside the ITBP’s camp.  All we could see was white snow everywhere. The view of the Nandadevi peak with Roopkund and Junargali to its side was mesmerising. As we got ready with our Alpine skies made in Austria and Head skiing shoes for the briefing, it started to snow heavily. The view was amazing. We started to practise and it was a wonderful experience. All of us went falling in the snow and it was fun to see everyone laughing and again getting back on their feet and keep trying.  The day on the slopes ended at 2 pm and we walked down to our hotel. We were served with nice and warm food and a spicy advice to be on time for lunch daily. We spent the afternoon sleeping in the warm and cosy bed. In the evening another group member joined us. She was late by one day.

The next morning I was more excited as I was after my guides to allow me take the ski lift to the top of ski slope. After a few hours of initial skiing when he saw that few of us were making ‘S’ and ‘A’ correctly, we were allowed to walk towards the artificial frozen lake. The best part of skiing was the speed at which we came down the slope and the worst part was carrying the skies on shoulders and walking up the slope again.

It was a wonderful sight to see the small kids of 3 to 4 years skiing skilfully. We were especially awestruck to see the practice of the Indo Tibetan Border Police Jawans on the expert slopes for the upcoming skiing event. We saw guys snowboarding in style, Jawans carrying hot tea kettle in one hand and a tray of glasses in other.

At the hotel in our spare time we watched the TV in the dining room and chatted about the days activities. The next day we took the chair lift and practised skiing near the start of the ski lift. After an hour of practise we took the ski lift to the top. I wanted to take the ski lift from so long! I had seen it first at the Badger pass and Manali. The view from the top was hypnotising. I stood there gathering all my confidence to get down. I started to glide and gained speed in a jiffy and crashed! My skies came off and I landed in a very awkward position. I got up and completed my downward journey. The second time I fell off mid way on the upward journey from the ski lift! I slid down the slope twice on that day. We took the ropeway to Joshimath and had a late lunch there. In the evening it snowed heavily.

The next morning we could see a sheath of fresh snow on all the peaks surrounding us. Next day we got up at 06 30 am to view the sunrise with Nandadevi. In the night temperatures were five degrees below zero, as the water stored in drums had a layer of ice on them. The potholes on the road with water were frozen. The peaks around Nandadevi with the sunrise seemed whiter with fresh snow everywhere. We had a nice breakfast of bread toast and omelette before leaving for the last day of skiing. We met Ajay Bhatt, the coach of Indian junior skiing team and had a nice interaction with him. He was very happy to see our enthusiasms in the program. The coach had planned the last day perfectly. There was two hours of skiing on the slopes culminating with a nice group photo and a snow fight.

In the evening we left Auli and stayed at the hotel Himalayan abode over night at Joshimath. The hot water in the shower was blissful. We had our same jeep the next day to take us back to Haridwar. The complete trip was made remarkable by the beautiful place and people who were part of this week long adventure.


(Feb 2015)

Towards the slopes crossing the ITBP camp

Towards the slopes crossing the ITBP camp

Fresh snow on the peaks, from the ski slopes

Fresh snow on the peaks, from the ski slopes

frozen lake

frozen lake