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[100 Strangers Project] Stranger #9

Stranger #9

The driver who was always high!

The epic journey from Manali to Leh needs no introduction! Words fall short to explain the magic of this route.

Twenty of us (four Indians and rest foreigners) started from Manali early in the morning in a Tempo Traveler. Our driver seemed to be an enthusiastic guy, at least initially. It was only after we crossed Rohtang that we realized the danger of that enthusiasm! He would disappear at most of the pit-stops along the way, only to reappear after a while looking more happy and energetic! We kept wondering what he was up to all the time!

This journey is not the most comfortable drive in the world – spectacular, yes, comfortable, no way. This is not helped by the fact that some of the roads have drops to the side of a good few hundred metres. And yes, you can find those unlucky crashed vehicles covered with rust down the slope somewhere. To top all of this we had a rash driver who scared the hell out of us!

I somehow managed to make friends with him and tried chatting with him through the whole journey, nudging him to drive more carefully and preventing him from falling asleep!

I clearly remember a moment when his drooping eyelids closed while we were at a dangerous curve on the road! I was lucky enough to wake him up at the nick of the moment.

During our casual talks on the road I learnt that he was originally from Mandi village in Himachal. He had a loving family back at home and was making a living out of driving between Manali and Leh in summers, only to be jobless for the rest of the year. He would drive on these dangerous roads every day for four months!

At one of the pit-stops he opened up and shared with us the reason which kept him going – ‘smoking up’. He needed the constant stimulation to be on the road, enduring the treacherous journey-day after day!

Our crazy driver - Manohar!
Our crazy driver – Manohar!

Meet Manohar from Mandi, Himachal, our crazy driver during the epic trip.

Find more posts on 100 strangers project here.

[100 Strangers Project] Strangers #6, #7 and #8

Strangers #6 & #7

The pretty damsels by the lake

After the mind-blowing bike ride from Leh to Pangong we checked into a cozy homestay by the lake, refreshed ourselves and went for a stroll along the lake. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places in India. I’ve never seen a more peaceful and heavenly lake!
I left VJ with some of our new found friends and started walking by the lake all by myself, enjoying the peace and solitude. I was suddenly brought back from the trance by a pleasant voice asking me if I could take a picture of her by the lake. The photographer in me woke up with a startle! And for the next couple of minutes I took some of her portrait shots with the beautiful backdrop!
We chatted for a while, most of the time talking about the pristine beauty of the place! I found her to be a cheerful and happy person who wants to live her life to the fullest. A budding fashion designer, she is a free-spirited person.

Mallika from Chandigarh
Mallika from Chandigarh

Meet Mallika from Chandigarh whom I met while walking along Pangong.

The blissful walk along the lake continued after bidding Mallika a goodbye. I saw three kids immersed in a stone skipping game. I was reminded of 3 idiots 😉
Suddenly my attention was caught by a young lady who was sitting by the lake on a rock with a diary in her hand on which she was occasionally writing something. She looked like a poetess from the modern period and had a calm and serene expression on her face. I couldn’t resist talking to her though I didn’t want to disturb her work. She responded with a sweet smile. It turned out that she was indeed writing a poem about the surreal place in front of us! Writing was her hobby and it was mostly for her own self. When I told her about the 100 strangers project she got excited and readily agreed to be one of my strangers!

Saachi from Chandigarh
Saachi from Chandigarh

Meet Saachi Dhillon, a marketer by profession and a budding writer from Chandigarh.

Stranger #8

The lady who made the most delicious thukpa

The last pit-stop for the day arrived and we stumbled out of our cab. It was at an altitude of whopping 4500 metres(~15,280 feet)! We had arrived at Pang, the world’s highest transit camp.
At such an altitude and very low oxygen levels, walking for even a few metres can be a herculean task! Such is altitude sickness!
Needless to say, our bodies were tired and minds numb with mountain sickness but we were also constantly mesmerised by the surreal landscape. Being suckers for a good cup of chai (tea) we decided to enter a small, dingy hotel by the road. It was named after its owner. After having an amazing cup of chai and relaxing on the beds provided we decided to order a thukpa. It’s a Tibetan noodle soup, inspired from China. After about ten minutes, the owner of the hotel herself came out with a bowl of steaming hot thukpa in her hands. And it was one of the most delicious soups we have had till now! The taste still lingers in our mouths 🙂
The lady seemed to be satisfied looking at us enjoying her simple dish. We thanked her immensely for rejuvenating our taste buds!
After a short conversation with her, I realised what a hard-working lady she was! She was originally from a village near Leh called Choglamsar which is around 100 kms from Pang. She travels to Pang during the summers to set up her hotel for the travellers. With an ever-smiling face she serves the tired and wasted travellers! She has a son who studies in Delhi and is proud of him. She says life in the mountains is not easy. Still, people have found a way to live in these harsh surroundings.

Sonam Pangri from Pang
Sonam Pangri from Pang

Meet Sonam Pangri who runs a small and cozy hotel in Pang.

And this is VJ enjoying the thukpa!

VJ enjoying thukpa - definitely not a stranger! ;)
VJ enjoying thukpa – definitely not a stranger! 😉

Find more posts on 100 strangers project here.

15 Inspiring Travel Quotes Through My Lens

Travelling is one of the most affirming things we can do to ourselves. Although I’ve been travelling as much as I could since my college days it’s only been a year or two since I’ve realized that it’s my passion.

Travel makes me happier. It inspires me to be a better person. But what inspires me to travel?

Many a times it’s the great words of world travellers that inspire me to go places. As Kate Douglas Wiggins puts it, “There is a kind of magic about going far away and then coming back all changed.” I’m also lucky to have a life-partner who shares the same interest too! I guess we inspire each other to travel more. 🙂

I’ve always been a sucker for a good quote. Here are some of my favourites about, arguably, my favourite topic – travel.

To depict them I’ve used my photographs from our travels so far.

Let these quotes bring travel inspiration to your life as they do to mine!

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Near Rohtang pass, en route from Manali to Leh

educationGata loops, en route from Manali to Leh

Free heart

Outskirts of Leh

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Murren, Switzerland

184-IMG_2555Taking a stroll in the streets of Leh

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En route to Stok palace, Leh

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One of our favourite places – Mont St. Michel, France.

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Along with our new found friends at Pangong lake, Ladakh

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Kaveri Trail Marathon, Ranganathittu, Mysore.

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Atop Eiffel tower, Paris

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En route to Hemis monastery, Leh

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Annecy, France

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Thiksey monastery, Leh

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Tibetan breakfast, Leh

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World’s second highest motorable pass, Taglang la

Hope you enjoyed the quotes and pictures as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

Feel free to copy the images and use them as you want 🙂

Do you have any favourite travel quotes that you find inspiring? I would love to hear!

[100 strangers project] Strangers #4 and #5

Stranger #4

The ever-smiling nurse from Italy

I was entering our home-stay after a blissful walk along the Pangong lake when a loud and cheerful voice greeted me saying she knew who I was and that she was happy to meet me! I was taken aback. I’d neither seen this smiling stranger before, nor was I a world-famous personality! Perplexed as I was, I greeted her back and tried not to sound thoroughly surprised and asked her how she knew me. For a while she kept me waiting and then she revealed that it was VJ who had met her earlier and told her about me! She knew that I was a doctor. And for the next couple of hours we chatted endlessly. She told me of the health-care system back at her place in Italy and that she was a nurse in a psychiatric care unit. It’s indeed a challenging job!
She was traveling across India with her husband.
What surprised me even more was the facts she revealed about her husband. He was an avid cyclist and had cycled across north India extensively. He was actually cycling from Manali to Leh right then and was expected to join her soon!
The following morning we bid adieu to her and the beautiful Pangong!

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Franca from Italy.

Meet Franca, the cheerful and bold nurse from Italy.

Stranger #5

The horseman from Beas nala

It was our first pit stop en route Manali to Leh. We got out of our cab and were mesmerised by the beautiful landscape around us. Beas (Read as Byas) nala is the place before Rohtang pass where the river Beas flows in the form of a stream and forms a gorge. We were busy having a yummy bread omlette by the river when this man approached us with a hesitant but innocent smile and a horse bridle in his hand. He asked us if we wanted a horse ride around the place. I’m generally not an animal friendly person and wasn’t keen on the ride. He lingered around us for sometime and I started making a conversation with him.
He was born and raised in the same place(Beas nala) and has never stepped out of it all his life! I was astonished to realize that some people end up never leaving their home all their life and grow up to being more and more comfortable and losing the sense of exploration. But again it’s the circumstances which dictate these things most often. And of course, people are different. During the conversation I realised that he was a contented and simple man who earns his living by offering joyful horse-rides to tourists in Beas nala.

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Life here is simple and quiet….but very tough!
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Kabal Ram

Meet Kabal Ram whom we met during that epic journey of Manali-Leh!

Find more posts on 100 strangers project here.

Lake hopping in Bangalore

Are you exhausted after a hectic week but running out of things to do in Bangalore? Don’t have enough time to get out of the city but want to have a relaxing time? Want to do something different? Read on…

It was the last day of 2013 and my feet were itching (as usual :P) to go somewhere! I started pestering VJ. His twin brother AJ came to his aid and suggested something interesting out of the blue! Without a seconds thought he said, “Why don’t we go on a lake hunt?”. Yeah, now that’s what I call a ‘cool’ idea! The days were getting hotter in Bangalore and some cool breeze and a lazy walk along a lake was such a refreshing idea.

So, I quickly did some googling and short-listed few of the lakes we could visit. I knew that almost each area in Bangalore has its own lake.

Lakes in Bangalore
Lakes in Bangalore

But I was thoroughly surprised going through the history of lakes in Bangalore. The 262 wetlands that existed in Bangalore in 1962 had declined by a whopping 58 percent by 2007. And that many of them have vanished in the past few years!
We made a rough plan and set off!

1. Ulsoor lake:

Our first stop had to be the most famous lake of Bangalore. It happens to be the nearest one to our home as well. For me Ulsoor lake is like an oasis in the middle of the hustle-bustle of the city! Though it needs more care and maintenance it is still a beautiful lake in the city-centre.

Ulsoor lake - an oasis in the city-centre.
Ulsoor lake – an oasis in the city-centre.

The park adjacent to it lacks maintenance. But the jogging track is good. In the morning you can see army personnel doing kayaking which looks good. There is a boat club which operates in the evening hours. Part of the lake is covered with sea-weeds. Avoid going there during the Ganesh visarjan period to save yourself from the unsightly look.

Ulsoor lake - A beautiful lake which needs more care!
Ulsoor lake – A beautiful lake which needs more care!

Make sure you go there early to catch the sunrise! You can also make it a day trip by combining it with a visit to the nearby Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, have yummy breakfast at either MTR (Indiranagar) or the Egg factory, Ulsoor. For lunch make sure you go to Bobby da dhaba for some lip-smacking parathas!

2. Sankey Tank:

Our next stop was one of the most popular and well-maintained lakes in Bangalore and a walkers’ delight! It’s one of those few lakes which has resisted the time and damage caused by human settlement. Calm, serene and well-maintained.

Sankey tank - Calm, serene and well-maintained lake.
Sankey tank – Calm, serene and well-maintained lake.

Best time to go would be before 8.00 am and after 6.00 pm as it gets too sunny during the day. The lake is huge and the jogging track round its circumference is more than 1.5 kms which is well laid and fully connected.

Sankey Tank - A walkers' delight!
Sankey Tank – A walkers’ delight!

Take a walk, breathe easy, hear the chirping of the birds and go home completely relaxed.
It goes without saying that Malleshwaram and Sadashivanagar are some of the most charming localities of old Bangalore. And if you are a foodie (like me!) do not miss having breakfast at Veena stores (they have the crispiest vadas I’ve ever had!) or Halli mane (some nice dosas and Mangalore buns). We did both! 😉

3. Madiwala lake:

Our third lake for the day took me by surprise as I had no expectations from this one. In fact I was skeptical if we would even locate the lake easily. Little did I know that it was one of the biggest lakes in Bangalore. It’s also called as the BTM lake garden which is at one end of this huge lake. There is a well-maintained garden with children’s play area.

Madiwala lake - beautiful and pristine.
Madiwala lake – beautiful and pristine.

Also there’s a boating club which offers pedal boats in the evening hours. Entry tickets are nominal at Rs. 5 with no extra charges for cameras. Surprisingly many different types of water birds can be seen in the lake making it a popular spot for photo-walks. We thoroughly enjoyed the discovery of this beautiful lake!

Madiwala lake
Madiwala lake

How to reach this lake? It’s located in BTM Layout 2nd stage and can be easily reached if you know BTM area well. If you are new to South Bangalore, just reach BTM 2nd stage and look for 29th main road. This road connects the BTM main road and Bannerghatta Road. Keep going towards Bannerghatta Road via 29th main and you will reach BTM lake garden.

4. Agara lake:

This lake was once a serene nestling spot of migratory birds but eventually became a dump site of garbage and a hub for nefarious activities. Sometime last year in an attempt to restore the lake’s lost glory, about 400 volunteers responded to the call of Save Agara Lake Group to clean up the lake and its surroundings. So during our visit the lake was relatively clean with a walking track along its length.

The rejuvenating Agara lake.
The rejuvenating Agara lake.

The lake is under strict vigilance by the authorities who do not allow anybody between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Agara lake
Agara lake

One can find the iconic Calm, serene and well-maintained statue beside the lake facing the road.

Children-Globe-Rooster statue in front of Agara lake
Children-Globe-Rooster statue in front of Agara lake

Agara Lake is one of the rare natural lakes of Bangalore which hopefully will get back its charm!

5. Kaikondrahalli lake:

This small and pristine lake which is located off Sarjapur road is another example of a lake which was on the verge of extinction, but was revived due to the efforts of the people in the neighbourhood. Once a dumpyard, it is now the darling of the neighbourhood! There is a well-made walk-way around the lake.

The recently revived Kaikondrahalli lake
The recently revived Kaikondrahalli lake

Something about this lake was very impressive and when we came back home I searched for more info. about the lake and was thoroughly surprised to read about the community involvement in rejuvenating the Kaikondarahalli lake. To showcase this, the Stockholm Resilience centre has recently produced a short film titled ‘Kaikondarahalli Lake-The Uncommon Story of an Urban Commons’. It shows the story of how a group of engaged citizens in Bangalore transforms a polluted urban lake into a co-managed, healthy ecosystem with rich biodiversity, to the benefit of all in the neighborhood.

Kaikondrahalli lake serves as a model feat
Kaikondrahalli lake serves as a model feat

It was mid-noon by the time we decided to call it a day. We were tired but happy at discovering such peaceful and refreshing places in Bangalore.

Apart from these there are many more lakes in Bangalore like the lake in Lal Bagh garden, Nagawara lake(with Lumbini garden), Hebbal lake, Hesaraghatta lake(which received water last year after nearly six years!), Varthur lake(which totally lacks maintenance), etc.

Healthy lakes are not only the sources of recreation but are also important ecosystems that should be respected and cared for. Let us be responsible citizens and save these ecological clinics.

After all, sometimes it is that simple and quiet walk along a lake in the neighbourhood is all that we need to unwind!

Which is your favourite lake in Bangalore? Any recommendations for me? I would love to explore!