Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reporting from Leh – 14th July 2012

Day breaks really early here. Woke up @ 5:30 am. We were just tidying up the bags when we received a knock on the door and in came our trek mate Kamal. Athletic guy…. We soon got talking and came to know ‘bhaisaab Marathon daudate hai…..’ (now I know why he looks athletic….). This quintessential marketing & sales guy had also written a novel. That’s what really inspired me to write this blog. He made a very pertinent comment….. says Kamal, “yaar, I thought I would meet interesting people if I come here…. In today’s world, if someone is ready to spend 40K (the approx cost of our trek including air fare) then the destinations would be Bangkok, Pattaya, Singapore, Dubai…. So it would be really a character who would choose to come here in the mountains to climb 20000 ft” . The two characters listening to him nodded in unison. :-)

We then went for an acclimatization climb to Shanti Stupa which was close to our guest house. We met 3 more trek mates there. You get to see a really good view of Leh from Shanti Stupa. If the sky is clear then in fact one can also see Stok Kangri, our ‘Lakshya’. We were not lucky though as it was cloudy.

Shanti Stupa - The acclimatization climb

The Stupa

View of Leh from Shanti Stupa & the clouds covering Stok Kangri in the distance

We returned to the guest house and went to the market. Bumped into Hari there. Another athletic guy and I started wondering then that perhaps 8.5 kgs I had lost before wasn’t good enough. :-)

We had lunch @ the guest house. By this time, almost everyone from the IndiaHikes trek group had assembled. So, spent some time introducing ourselves. It was, of course, gonna take some time before we remembered each other’s names and trades. So the communication was in universal language….. i.e ‘esmile’ :-)

We finally met the “Brahma”, our trek leader, at around 5 pm when he came to collect our medical certificates & declarations in order to ensure that he had permit for all of us. He said that he would be back in a while to brief us on the trek and next day’s action plan. Thus we broke. Some guys went shopping and Hrishikesh & I went to Jeevan Café to have a cup of tea.  Its another good eating joint located on the Karzu Officers Mess – Shanti Stupa road (now you know how vague I can get so don’t ask me again…ok?) :-)

That ‘a while’ of Brahma was after 5 hours…. (when I was a kid, they told us that one day is like one second in Lord Brahma’s watch….. our Brahma was definitely faster then….what say?..... :-) jus kidding….) by that time everyone was done with dinner and almost in bed, after all… most of them had flown to Leh that day and were really tired, so….you know, you don’t expect to have a briefing @ 10:30 pm….

A quick briefing (which lasted for an hour) and we were fast asleep…. Maan….was really excited to start the trek the day after…….

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reporting from Leh - 13th July 2012

On 12th July night we reached Delhi and then spent the night on T3 as our flight to Leh was @ 6:30 in the morning the next day. T3 is a huge terminal for sure and certainly the best in the country and at par with better terminals in other countries. It remains to be seen however how much international traffic it can attract. I hope it will.

At the time of boarding the flight to Leh I felt as though I was travelling abroad. 80 % of the flight consisted of foreign nationals. It was good to see, as the region attracts so much attention globally and sad to see as well that in spite of being part of our country so few Indians travel there. Perhaps the cost of air travel is prohibitive and that is the reason….! However, it was certainly one of the best routes to fly on and you get a bird’s eyeview of fascinating Ladakhi terrain, barren mountains interspersed with snow capped peaks. It’s said that this terrain is part of Central Asian landscape. It’s a cold desert and then you see a distinct green patch in this barren landscape and that is the oasis called Leh.

The Oasis - Leh

We landed at Leh's Kushok Bakula Rinpoche airport. This is an air base @ Air Force station and so passenger flights are permitted only in the morning. Now that tourist influx is quite high so the airport is in real need of expansion. That is what I sincerely feel.

We took the cab and went to Shanti Guest House @ Chanspa road near Shanti Stupa. This is where IndiaHikes had made our arrangements for the 14th. We reached a day early and decided to take a chance. Apparently rooms were available for 13th & the lady too was quite co-operative so we didn’t have any problems. In fact we got a welcome drink too. We got the 1st test of altitude as we huffed & puffed to reach our room on the 2nd floor. I was really tired by now as we didn’t get to sleep @ Delhi airport the earlier night. So I just dozed off in the next 10 min.

We went to the market in the evening. It was kind of acclimatization walk cum trip down memory lane. Went to the same café near Axis Bank ATM where we had been before (during our bike ride trip in 2010) and had adrakwali chai. Did some window shopping in the market and then while coming back we stopped by @ World Peace Café and had some really well made, hot, chicken momos. I couldn’t resist the temptation to sms my friends and tell them that – ‘cool, pleasant weather, garam garam chai, and delicious, hot, chicken momos….. this was “life”….!’ In short I was high on life then. Needless to say I received quite a few interesting retorts…!! :-) 

On my part though I’ll recommend this place as one of the good eateries in Leh. You get quite a variety here and the quality of food is good. If you are walking from the market towards Chanspa area, its located at a corner where you take a left turn to go to Karzu Officer’s Mess and then to Shanti Stupa. [guess that is as vague as one can get….  :-) ]

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Stok Kangri (July 2012) – Idea & Preparation

We did Dzongri trek (Sikkim) in November 2011. Climbing upto 14000 ft was something. Then in Jan 2012 Hrishikesh said, “Let’s do Stok Kangri”. "Naam bhi kabhi suna nahi hai….ye hai kidhar bhai....." was my 1st reaction. Then I realized that its located near Leh in Ladakh and we had perhaps a glimpse of it during our bike ride through Leh in 2010. It’s a 6 thousander i.e. more than 20000 ft. Definitely daunting.

Stok Kangri

The thought remained a thought almost till April and then we finally decided to book the air tickets. 1st step, I told my boss about the plan and the dates on which I was planning to trek. Once I got the green signal, we booked the tickets. Booking the air tickets was a guarantee that we would definitely go to Leh.

Once the tickets were booked and then started the real preparation.

We bought 60 ltr back pack, head torch, trekking pole & other required stuff. I also ate Arjun’s head over whether “Action Trekking”, the brand of shoe we are so accustomed to wearing in Sahyadris will be good enough for this Trek to Stok. Finally I bought “Head” shoes (Quechua equivalent) which is considered fit for High Altitude trekking. Borrowed glares from Uday and a crepe bandage, few medicines and a mug from Sudeep.

I was weighing a healthy 82 Kgs then (on 2nd May to be precise). Having trekked fair bit in Sahyadris (Western Ghats) I knew what it was to carry extra weight while climbing. So I set myself 1st target and that was to reduce 10 Kgs in 10 weeks. Kaydese ye commitment facebook status bana diya so that I could stay motivated to accomplish it.

Next 10 weeks, I religiously did cardio exercises @ Talwalkar’s (running on treadmill, stationery cycle, stepper & cross trainer). Target was to burn minimum of 600 calories every day. We also did Plus Valley trek & Rajgad-Torna trek. Besides almost all other Sundays (at least 6) went to Sinhgad (close to Pune) with 12-14 kgs back pack and on one Sunday climbed it twice with the backpack on. On 2 other Saturdays I went to BMCC ground in Pune and ran 12 laps (close to 5.5 kms).

I declared that I would not drink until I summit and followed that resolution firmly without giving in. I also followed a daily routine (controlled diet) –

8:30 am –     Breakfast – idli sambar (3 idlis) & chai,
11:30 am –   Biscuits & chai,
1:30 pm –     Lunch – 1 Roti, Legumes & Dal,
4:30 pm –     Biscuits & chai,
6:30 pm –     Evening snacks ( as available in the company canteen including vada-pao),
8:30 pm –     Dinner – 1.5 Rotis, vegetable

Company canteen prepares sweets on Mondays, Thursdays & Saturdays, so ate those sweets. Also went to McD and Pizza Hut. But overall I ensured that I did not overeat. As a result, on 12th July when I boarded the plane to Delhi I had lost 8.5 kgs. Couldn’t achieve the target of 10 Kgs but still it was no mean achievement. I was fitter, slimmer and hungry to climb Stok Kangri...

(This post is written by Amogh. To be continued...)