Friday, November 23, 2012

THE LADAKH CHRONICLES

Ladakh- A dream destination. It was planned and cancelled in 2010, planned again
in 2011 to be cancelled once again. And as always the best trips are those which
are planned at the spur of the moment without any plan. It finally happened this
August.

After getting reprimanded in the office one Friday, sitting with a beer in my
hand with two friends near a deserted lake at 3 in the morning, a friend says lets
go somewhere. "I’m not in a mood to go to office and want to go somewhere
desperately".  within few minutes it was decided we all are taking a week off from our
respective offices.

A rough itinerary was planned:

1: Delhi - Jammu(via Pathankot)
2: Jammu - Srinagar
3: Srinagar - Kargil(via Sonmarg, Zojila Pass and Drass)
4 : Kargil - Leh(via Zanskar)
5 : Leh sightseeing(permits)
6: Leh - Nubra Valley(Hunder via Khardung La)
7: Hunder - Pangong Tso
8: Pangong Tso - Leh
9: Magnetic Hill, Leh palace, Shanti Stupa
10: Leh - Tso Moriri
11: Tso Moriri - Sarchu
12: Sarchu - Manali(via Barlach La, Keylong, Rohtang Pass)
13: Manali and Kullu
14: Kullu - Delhi

Next day we decided we will get all the gear necessary for our bike ride for an
upcoming experience. With Internet it is difficult to expect surprises and get an
expression of an awe and there is exhausting detail about every possible thing and
place, so we decided it’s better to keep our knowledge to minimum and explore the
place realistically than virtually.

We started from Delhi at 5 in the morning, and kept taking some short breaks.
The first stop was in Karnal where he had our breakfast. The next big stop was
Hoshiyarpur for Lunch, typical Punjabi lunch. After riding 600 kms for 14 hrs we
reached Jammu. We took a room and ordered our dinner and retired for the day. It
was an ass breaking ride and gave us an idea of things to come.

Next day we were supposed to leave the hotel at 6 in morning but due to non-
availability of water we got late by 2 hours. So, we decided to delay the breakfast.
After some stoppages we reached the beautiful city of Srinagar after 8 hours of
riding and traversing more than 300 kms. It was short but comparatively difficult
ride as it was hills all the way.After reaching Srinagar we tried to explore the city a bit.
A walk around the Dal lake is a must along with a shikara.

 Day 3 marked the beginning on real test. Ride through what are called
as ‘Himalayas’ and the views were captivating. On this route there is heavy
presence of Army and large number of military trucks lead to severe jam at
Zojila Pass though we had a lot of fun at Sonmarg indulging in fun activities like
paragliding.

Similar routine was followed on days that followed and it was real fun and
adventure. Riding an average of 400-500 kms everyday and for 8-10 hours a day
was not easy. But the biggest problem was AMS(Acute Mountain Sickness). It’s a
kind of breathlessness, nausea which you experience when suddenly exposed to
high altitudes. It first struck us at Zojila Pass, it is a terrible experience and makes
you feel helpless.

A lot of people prefer to go through the Manali route but it is a lot more rugged
and difficult and you have to face severe AMS because of sudden exposure to high
altitudes getting exposed to high altitude terrains from the second day when you
are not acclimatized can be a spoiler. When we reached Leh, it was a sigh of relief
as the first frontier was captured, it was no less than a war as we had to cross
so many streams with freezing water and most of the times we didn’t know how
deep they run. The various pass we encountered were slug fest and the bike taking
a fall was no big deal. We encountered some riders who were stranded in middle
of nowhere because of mechanical failure in their vehicles. Landslides and trucks
falling of the cliffs seemed to be the most common sight.

After some extensive riding for 3 days we reached Leh the capital of Ladakh passing
through might hills, passes, crossing a number of streams, rivers, roads with mud,
black snow and sometimes riding on so called roads. But the ride to Ladakh is full of
picturesque views and serene valleys and raging rivers.

Ladakh: It’s a heaven on earth with unparalleled splendid beauty, diverse, distinct,
unlike any place of earth. Ladakh is encompassed by mountains in all directions

accompanied by grasslands, barren desert and countless streams. Ladakh remains
cut off from rest of the country for most part of the year. Ladakh is also known
as ‘little Tibet’ because of the cultural similarity which it owes to its proximity to
Tibet.

There is no shortage of natural wonders as well as other human made structures.
Here are a few must visit places in Ladakh:

Leh: Leh is the capital of Ladakh but sparsely populated. Leh has some famous
Monasteries and largely Buddhist population.

Shanti Stupa: The beautiful Shanti Stupa was opened by Dalai Lama. Shanti Stupa
is the most important attraction in Ladakh.

Khardung La: Khardung La is the highest motorable in the world. For every motorist
it’s an achievement to drive on this circuit.
Pangong Tso: Pangong Tso is the surreal blue water lake stretching from Spangmik
to China.

Nubra Valley:Scenic vistas, barren deserts, bactrian camels, lush green orchards,
Nubra valley has it all to awestruck you with its serenity and grandeur.

Magnetic Hill: 27 kms from Ladakh, Magnetic hill attracts a number of tourists for
anti nature phenomenon it exhibits.

Hemis National park: Hemis national park is the second largest biodiversity park in
South Asia. The national park is home to numerous species of mammals nearing
extinction. The park has more than 200 snow white leopards. Near 400 yr old
Hemis monastery is also located in this park.

Tso Moriri: Tso Moriri is another high altitude lake in Changthang, though less
famous than Pangong Tso, it is full of splendid beauty.

Zanskar: Zanskar is one of the most unexplored and isolated place in the country.
Zanskar is very famous among adventurous enthusiasts. Trekking, Rock climbing
and the white water rafting are very popular here. Quaint old monasteries, raging
water bodies, mighty Indus, free fluttering flags and no civilization in sight, this is
what describes Zanskar. It’s a place where you feel at peace with yourself.
There are many options in terms of places to eat. There are many restaurants,
cafes, road side stalls, variety of cuisines. But the most popular cuisine is Tibetan.
Tea is made from yak’s butter and Mo-mos and korma are a specialty here. Though
Indian cuisine is available but not at most places as ladakh is similar to Tibet and it

shows in its culture. In monasteries you can go and hear the amazing chants that
cast a spell on you. Or see the yak dance where men dressed as yaks sway to the
beats of music and the women try to control them. Ladakh’s food and culture is
completely different and it could be a bit of problem if you are a vegetarian.

The most unforgettable moment for us was when we heading to Tso Moriri and
we were about 70 Kms from Tso Moriri, my bike gave up. It won’t start, there was
no mechanic for another 70 Kms and by the time the bike got back in working
mode it was pitch dark and we had lost the way,perhaps the reason they advise
not to travel at night when in Ladakh. So, we were left with no option other than
camping in middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow clad mountains not knowing
if any wild beast will come and attack us, no food and it was cold, too cold to
camp. Temperature somewhere in -20 degrees and we didn’t have great camping
equipment. That was a night we didn’t sleep but we got to explore a completely
different world, people completely cut off from everything in the world. People
living in Changthang are called ‘Changpas’, they are a nomadic tribe living in the
harshest of conditions. During the night we chanced to meet one of the Changpas
who understood Hindi. He took us where he lived and helped us set a camp there.

Changpas migrate from one place to another with their livestock's, living the
nomadic life. The next day was spent with them, learning about these extremely
simple people, living far away from all the complicates of this monotonous world.
Changthang is like a vast plateau with huge grasslands enclosed by huge
Himalayas, it is like you have entered a vast cathedral of silence. But a day with
Changpas is not enough to understand what their lifestyle. Why they still live in the
most uninhabitable of conditions is difficult to understand? Maybe they want to live
in these conditions only. I would love to visit this place again and spend more time
with this tribe and experience their way of living. This little experience with the
Changpas was the most memorable part of this wonderful journey.

The 10 days I spent in this barren splendor, snow clad mountains, mighty passes,
ravaging rivers or in short the heavenly Ladakh are the most amazing days of
my life with each day imprinted in my mind as if it happened yesterday. The bike
ride to ladakh is a must. It’s a place to let go of your inhibitions and explore the
unexplored in this pristine, serene, extraordinary, primeval world.
It’s rightly said you do return from ladakh but your soul is left wandering in
beautiful passes of Ladakh which makes you to return to this place again and again.

Author Bio: Ashwin Sharma is an avid traveler working with Cheapoair . He
loves traveling and is a foodie. he loves to interact with people of different cultures
and love to explore the new places. he is currently working to promote low cost flights to India.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

kashmir ladakh trip


Kashmir and  Ladakh  are the two distinct lands with different  natural settings and landscapes, separate  in their own ways  and cultures, languages  and  people. however  one thing  keeps them united,it’s  the  exceptionally  vast  natural beauty  and  grandeur which they are known for. ladakh  and Kashmir tour  package  is a  great respite  for  all nature  and  adventure  lovers , this single state  is a blend of  cultural traditions  flourishing over the centuries in the remote part of the world, covered  with high mountain passes  and rolling green meadows,shimmering lakes,historical monasteries, spectacular  landscapes, Ladakh  and  Kashmir  tour  package  can be enjoyed  by everyone be it young or old married or unmarried.

Kashmir tourism and people of Kashmir have always welcomed the tourists from all over the world with open arms and warmth which they are known for,the valleys of Kashmir with it’s un matching beauty of green mountains,apple orchards,flowing streams and historical Mughal gardens for many years have attracted tourism from all over the world.our Kashmir family tour packages are specially designed for everyone's needs,Whether it being the honeymooners or the families planning their trips to Kashmir or the people in search for adventure and excitement in their lives and the busy corporate travelers who want a break from their hectic schedule. Kashmir has emerged as a favorite tourist destination for everyone. Kashmir has got a lot of widely varied destinations and beautiful landscapes from other places in Himalayas,the other best part of Kashmir is its cool weather,where you can enjoy your summer holidays or get away from the heat and crowd of the busy city.the valley of Kashmir boasts of great tourism attractions and has seen a lot of growth as a booming tourist place in India.the excursions to pahalgam,gulmarg,sonmarg,yousmarg,Mughal gardens,Srinagar city, visiting these places are the highlights of a Kashmir family tour package. The city of srinagar has lot of luxury hotels and houseboats. We provide hotel and Kashmir houseboat booking to our dear guests,we take care of all need of a busy traveler and let them only enjoy and relish the splendid natural beauty which god has bestowed upon Kashmir.
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Gulmarg pride of kashmir



Gulmarg is a mountain valley.gulmarg has been on my mind since i was a kid.it is a small valley covered with mountains,it has been famous for huge snowfalls in winters.i remember as a child going there in the month of December or January in jeeps the tires were covered with thick iron chains and seeing huge walls of snow as we drove from tangmarg towards gulmarg,the people were enjoying and playing in the snow.in the recent years the gondola has been built there,it is a longest cable car a rope way in Asia.it starts from gulmarg and then goes up to kongdori which is named as 1st phase.then this cable car goes high up in the mountains and reaches affarwat this stop is called 2nd phase,from here the views are very good.the whole valley of gulmarg and distant villages can be seen.In the month of august with couple of friends we started off to gulmarg early in the morning .we took our packed lunch which consisted of dishes usually made of mutton and chicken.as we drove out from Srinagar city within 30 minutes we were on highway which leads to gulmarg.here i could see the plain road and tall willows on each side of road,this sight is refreshing and charming.i could see from the window the apple orchards,the green apples hanging on the tree branches.As we reached tangmarg there were several tea stalls which serve tea and snacks.from the tangmarg the distance to gulmarg is app 12 to 14 km but the road is uphill and it twists and turns around mountain there are some sharp bends on the road which makes it difficult for the driver.As we drove higher i could feel the cold breeze coming from the pine trees.the air is cooler here than in Srinagar.both sides of the road are covered by thick pine and fir trees.when we reached gulmarg I could see a green cup of meadows with grazing horses.the market is near the taxi stand with few shops.the horsemen proceed towards the taxi's to look for the new customers.we left the car and began to walk towards the gondola station.it was merely ten minutes walk and soon we reached the gondola ticket counter.I purchased the tickets and went to platform from were gondola starts.the gondola is like a glass cabin it accommodates around four to six person.we went inside this cabin and soon it got shut by itself.As it took us higher i could see the green woodlands beneath us and small huts of gypsies,beautiful panorama can be seen from here.

skiing in gulmarg
winter in gulmarg

soon we reached the first phase we went down & there is a restaurant where we had refreshments and tea.then again we went inside the cabin and it took us higher and higher soon i could see the tiny gulmarg.we were passing through the clouds and we reached on top of the mountain as we stepped down from the gondola there was a sharp wind and cool air there were also patches of hard snow which had been left unmelt by the sun. we cleaned our hands with the snow and began to eat our lunch it was very tasty and we enjoyed eating it in such a lovely place it was a great feeling of joy.we could see lots of mountain peaks around us and below far down lay gulmarg.after finishing we went back to the gondola cabin and it took us straight down to gulmarg what a experience it was.soon we went in to the golf course,gulmarg has it's own golf course were golfers come to play it is small but beautiful.there is also a old church nearby so we visited these places on horses and we had a good time.later in the evening we drove back to Srinagar.on your Kashmir trip itinerary mark on gulmarg as important place to visit during your Kashmir valley tour.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kashmir Travel

From the ancient times to the present times  people don't stop talking about the beauty of Kashmir whosoever sees it once becomes bound to speak and appreciate this beautiful mystic land.The valley of Kashmir also called the pirvar (the valley of saints and holy men)  has been a famous tourist spot for people who love to see natural beauty these people come from far places for Srinagar Kashmir tour. Kashmir has all kind of scenery ranging from green hills,pine forests,fresh water lakes,snow covered mountain peaks,verdant meadows,streams with ice cold water and wildlife.there are places with rich culture & background the heritage mughal gardens and shrines of Sufi saints make Kashmir a important place to visit on the map of India.
hazratbal shrine
the dal
One of the most famous places in kashmir is the dallake.it has the houseboats where tourists stay.these houseboats are like houses built on water.while staying on a houseboat you can do lot of activities like go for shikara ride and water ski or jet ski,you can also do ballooning in zabarwan park a beautiful new park made on the foothills of shankracharya hill.Kashmir tour can be enjoyed from the month of april to august,rest of the months the temperature drops down and if any one wants to see snowfall or enjoy skiing in gulmarg then the months of december to march are ideal for the tour.Kashmir is a great retreat for everyone,there are some beautiful valleys in kashmir like pahalgam,gulmarg,sonmarg,manasbal,and yousmarg.these places are so beautiful that they will not let you go away.the famous boulvard road in Srinagar is a lifeline of city it is a busy avenue on waterfront with lots of shops and showrooms selling kashmiri hand made goods.

shalimar bagh
when you are going for Kashmir trip if you a non-veg you should try the cuisine of wazwan which is a tremendous combination of dishes made of mutton it consists of around nine dishes made of mutton.it is usually cooked on wedding and in big parties.the people of Kashmir are very friendly and helpful.since more than a decade Kashmir is gaining a momentum to became a best travel destination in India.there are some new hotels and resorts emerging the infrastructure is getting better and improving day by day.and government is trying to invite tourists by offering them discounted packages and other benefits.we offer tours to Kashmir and ladakh one of our best selling package by the name of Kashmir ladakh tour covers both the important places to visit in Kashmir & ladakh.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kashmiri architecture at a glance


What is Kashmiri culture and heritage?I want to shed some light on these topics.As we know the culture and heritage are the back bone of every community of people or society.today we have a post here which describes the kashmiri architecture since the ancient times.the tourists coming for their Kashmir valley tour should visit these places. 


The Himalayan valley of Kashmir has been the abode of human civilization from times immemorial. The concrete and abstract aspects of Kashmir culture have been shaped by the impulses of human civilizations that developed in and around it.the continuous waves of human migrations brought in a new ideas that reflected themselves in manners rituals, traditions and architecture. the ancient chronicler of Kashmir kalhana while praising Kashmir, states that Kashmir had from ancient times had saffron iced water, high dwelling houses and grapes that were common here were not to be found even in paradise. The architectural pattern of Kashmir shaped by religious persuasions, that motivated rulers to choose religious and administrative buildings to reflect their majestic idea of power. The domination of Kashmir by Hindu kings up to 1339 century,Finds clear manifestations in the architectural monuments that have survived.the Muslim rule saw the spate of new architectural ideas that were being imported from central and west Asia however the old forms were never abandoned altogether instead a symphony of old and new features reflected itself in the monumental heritage  of Kashmir making the valley culturally rich and intellectually fecund. Some of the most prominent architectural specimen and monument of great art that survived have been briefly described below.


Hindu architecture     


Shankracharya temple.
this old Hindu temple is made on top of the hill on the banks of dallake called takth-e-sulimaan.before visiting this temple one has to climb a long flight of three hundred stairs.the road to temple from the bottom of the hill is very scenic it is a drive through thick pine forests,very good views of dallake & Srinagar city can been seen once you reach on top of the hill.lot of hindu devotees who come for Kashmir trip go and visit this temple early morning for darshan.they distribute offerings like flowers and sweets.

Pandrethan.
The small hamlet of pandrethan is located three miles from city of Srinagar on the pahalgam highway road.at present it’s only attraction is a well preserved medieval temple behind the willows on the left hand side of small road.the temple measures 17’6 square externally and belongs to the (mandapa type)it’s open on all the four sides.the unusually bold projection of pilasters which support the pediments of the porches is a great improvement upon the earlier stage,as the boldness of projection and the retirement of the connecting walls afford a great and pleasing variety of light and shade.the roof is of the usual pyramidal type but it’s monotony is relieved by an ornamental band of dentils which divides it horizontally into two storeys.in the upper section of the pyramid are four trefoil-ed ventilation apertures which remind one forcibly of similar niches in the architecture of gandhara.


Naranag temples:
A beautiful drive from Srinagar to kangan on sonmarg highway when you will drive along sindh river,villages and corn fields you will reach a small village of kangan and you have to take a left turn and you will drive through a less traveled road and reach wangath the gypsies or gujar huts will be seen on the nearby mountains the sheep's grazing on fresh mountain grass and the river flowing rapidly straight you will drive and the road will disappear as you will reach the village of naranag.there is a group of six temples located within an enclosure wall.the principal temple is a square of 25'this one has two entrances opposite each side.a large quantity of lime has been used to built this temple.the ceiling is built of circular courses of kanjur stone.outside the north western corner of the peristyle is the large spring,it's cool delicious water contribute to some extent to its sanctity. 
 

Muslim architecture

The coming of the Muslim marked a new beginning in the architectural style of Kashmir. The spread of Islam in Kashmir influenced every walk of life and architecture was not an exception. The influx of Muslim Sufi saints and different persons of craft brought new architectural designs and styles to Kashmir. Persia was already the hub of synergism and different styles and features had already developed there.with the establishment of close contacts between Kashmir and Persia architecture imbibed the features of different schools developed in Kashmir. The Muslims in Kashmir were initially too few to initiate an architecture of their own.they therefore utilized the materials of disused Hindu temples for construction of their mosques.example may be  cited of the mosque of madina sahib.some of the buildings that best illustrate the architecture of Muslim period in Kashmir are:

Khanqah-i-mouhalla:
it is a seat of a holy Persian saint who came from city of hamdaan.to spread islam in kashmir at that time. situated between the third and fourth bridges on the right bank of river jehlum.when shah hamdan entered Kashmir to preach islam the ruling monarch ,sultan Qutub-ud-din in his honor constructed a suffa was later on converted into the khanqah by sultan sikander.it has some beautiful wood carving and paper machie work on its walls and pillars.


Jamia masjid:
the old masjid in Kashmir made of wood it is a unique piece of Muslim architecture it got burned three times but it was built every time and every time it looked as perfect and new as ever.The original conception and erection of jamia masjid is attributed to sultan sikander who laid its foundations in 1398 and completed it in 1402.
 
Hari parbat fort.
is a fort situated on the hills of hari parbat near mukhdhoom sahab shrine,Akbar laid the foundation of this fort as army cantonment for his troops this fort still stands erect there is also a beautiful almond garden near it.

In our Kashmir tour we take our guests to these places so they can have a good knowledge of Kashmir history and culture.

  

 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

kashmir travel packages

Kashmir travel packages.
it is a series of tours we operate in Kashmir,the valleys of kashmir offers some of the beautiful natural views.we operate many treks and adventure tours, one of the trekking which i personally like is gangbal trek it is a famous trek to a high altitude lake which is tucked in mountains,below i have written an account of one of my trips to this lake. though i have visited it several times yet every time it seems new to me and its beauty of blue waters draw me nearer and much nearer to it.it is truly a peaceful paradise.

A calm breeze flows from the surface of the lake and goes into the trees, the melting snow glacier located on the harmukh peak feeds the big lake of gangbal in kashmiri called nundsar.the mount harmukh being the second highest mountain in Kashmir is famous in kashmiri folklore and ballads and songs of kashmiri pandits.the mighty harmukh stands on the bank of gangbal lake its shining snow covered peak reflect in the  bright blue colored cold waters.the beauty of this lake is amazing a person who will visit here once will never like to leave this place.

In the earlier days the Hindu pandits of Kashmir used to spread the ashes of their dead in this lake,this lake was very sacred to them the waters of this lake they treated like (gangajal) the water of Ganges so this lake came to be known as gangbal.After of the departure of Hindu pandits from Kashmir in 1992 this lake became hidden in chapters of history and the local people were afraid to climb there because of some heavy presence of military in some areas on the way to lake.the only mortals to visit this sacred lake were shepherds who take their large herds with them in search of green pastures.they used to feed their cattle on the green fresh grass and amuse themselves in fishing brown trout from the lake.

resting on the banks of lake
time passed and some foreigners began to visit this lake they started from Naranag in morning and by evening they reached this lake,soon the lake became famous among the people coming from outside India.they liked the trail and went to visit this lake for three to four nights a short trekking trip.with the advancement of these trips the military camps were removed and the local people were also interested in visiting this beautiful lake.today lots of people like to go their and witness the calmness and beauty of gangbal.

The good time to go for gangbal trek is from the month of July to September.to start this trek you need necessary things like fuel, food items,tents,sleeping bags, good hiking shoes,sandals.horses can be hired at naranag which is a small hamlet used as a base camp for this trekking.On reaching the village of naranag you can stay there overnight or start climbing budsher it is a steep mountain with lots of uphill trail.there is no water on budsher so you need to carry it with you.climbing budsher is very hard and tiring  it takes around five hours to reach on its top.the views from the top of this mountain are fabulous, green mountains everywhere.far down below you can see a tiny white line which is a huge river that flows through naranag.on the top of the budsher there are some gypsy huts,you can buy milk or bred from them.after crossing the budsher mountain the walk will be plain you will not get tired any more you will walk across small brooks of cold water coming down from melting snow and meadows with wildflowers of different hues. The landscape is simply like a fairyland place never seen and never touched before.during your walk you will meet lot of gypsies and shepherds these people travel with their families and herds of cows,sheep and goat.
gangbal lake

gangbal lakes seen from the mountain

bathing in ice cold water of gangbal
gangbal lake calm and tranquil
 
After crossing many meadows & little streams you will at last see a huge mountain with a glacier on it’s top. This beautiful mountain is very huge.On going towards this huge mountain you will see a small lake this beautiful lake is fed by a huge stream which comes from gangbal lake.after passing this lake you will go further towards the mountain and when you climb on some boulders and pass the river after few minutes walk you will see the vast blue colored lake of gangbal.this lake is so beautiful that when you will look at it first time you will stop thinking for some time.on the other side right opposite you stands the mighty harmukh.this lake has plenty of trout fish in it.there is a lot of plain ground near the lake where you can pitch your tents and enjoy your dinner outside and look at the shiny top of harmukh it’s gleaming snow reflects moonlight in the lake below.

The next day you can walk around the lake you will see the different shades of water when you will reach near the bottom of mount harmukh the lake is very deep there it looks scary.you can also visit some shepherds and enjoy salt tea with them.the water of the lake is fresh and cool it comes directly from the melting glacier on harmukh.this place is great for photography.you can take some beautiful photos here.next day you can come down to naranag.it will take only few hours to reach there.and from here you can drive to Srinagar.so ends this trek one of the famous short treks in  your Kashmir valley tour