Tag Archives: Trek

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Inspiro India Official

Blog | Inspiration | Travel

16 December 2017

Cancer survivor takes on an unprecedented pilgrimage to Mount Everest

The Unprecedented Pilgrimage to Mt Everest

 

Why do humans climb mountains, I have often questioned myself and have always struggled to find a reason for why one would romanticize mountains, why climb again and again and why have one on one with ‘Death Gods’?

 

It’s because the mountains never question or beg for answers.

You don’t need to prove yourself nor do you need any validation.

They are always there, standing mighty! Breathing, protecting and killing, accepting and what not!

And in ways, most of us can’t comprehend…

 

‘Listening’

 

Some would say passion takes you there, some say it’s their dream, some take it as an adventure sport.

 

Any reason is a reason valid enough for you to want to climb the tallest mountain in the world. I get asked the same question when I tell people about my journey. I still think I don’t have an answer to that. Everything just happened so fast that I still haven’t figured it out.

 

 

So let’s start from the very beginning!

A normal doctor, working in a private hospital in Delhi.

What made her climb a mountain?

 

It all started with my love for mountains when I got work in Shimla. Having survived blood cancer and chemotherapy for one year, I was completely lagging behind in my career. I had it all planned to go and work in the US and then cancer struck.

It was the worst phase of my life, bedridden for months, total loss of control and of course the brunt of treatment.

I survived it because my family was there. It’s was our fight.

And today I say it proudly, I survived what would have killed others.

 

 

I was an avid biker. Classic 350cc, the love of my life, independent brat, a rebellious kid I was all through, but soon after cancer treatment I met with a near-death accident due to my bones being weak. I almost fractured all the major bones of my body and today I carry three titanium rods from that event.

After two back to back life-changing events, what does one do to get back on track?

 

I was clueless, no plan worked out.

Shimla was the first place where I fell for the hills. Just pastime trekking helped me heal myself mentally.

Then came Leh and the opportunity to climb Mt Everest. I said ‘no’ at first go because I knew I was not physically fit to climb mountains.

Discussing over and over with colleagues they convinced me to go for the expedition to Mt Stok Kangri which is considered as the easiest peak to scale.

I was not trained in mountaineering at all and went stupidly for this. During the course, I fell sick and had to come back. But later, I was determined to climb and experience how it feels to be on the top of a mountain and to this day it’s one feeling I have not forgotten even after climbing Everest.

People usually say that how can you describe a feeling or a moment to anyone who is not there. I say you cannot describe it by words but by sharing the passion.

After this, the love affair with mountains became more strong. It’s like an addiction now.

I trained at HIM for the basics and did the advance from AMI.

After that, we went for Mt Mamostong Kangri in the Ladakh region, 6153 m. That peak was such a beauty that it just lets you go into a trance while climbing.

Next was Mt Saser Kangri 7672m and Mt Nun 7135m, both extremely challenging peaks. During these expeditions, I realised that I am a very slow CLIMBER and slow acclimatizer. I got to know how my body behaved with height and low temperatures. But is this enough for Everest I asked myself?

Being a doctor I was also responsible for the team, and being a climber I have to be responsible for myself too.

 

Until January 2017, I was not convinced with my physical fitness at all. Over a period of two months, I pushed my body, running 10 to 12 km in Leh in the winter mornings. Let me tell you not easy at all, but that was the only thing that kept me fit.  Of course a healthy high protein diet too.

Finally, the day came whence we flew to Kathmandu and that city was full of climbers from all parts of the world. And then the flight to Lukla, the most exciting flight ever. The plane actually nosedives. And then you get to see the first view of the mighty Goddess, what a feeling to see her!

 

From Lukla, it’s a 9-day trek to the base camp situated at a height of 17700 ft. 42 km of upslope and a little bit of down slope, adventurous suspension bridges, a crowd of fellow climbers, the hustle and bustle, the yaks and sherpas doing load ferrying is still fresh in my mind. Gradually you gain height and acclimatise which is getting very important. Plus you carry your own load of 20 kg all through the trek. By the time we reached Tengbouche my legs had already given up and I was seriously contemplating on quitting, but my team motivated me so much that today I am thankful to them for I wouldn’t have done the summit without them.

On reaching base camp one would find so many colourful canopies of tents that it doesn’t feel like that you are on an expedition. You interact with so many teams and climbers that they become your family for the next two months. It was an honour to meet the famous Swiss climber Ueli Stack who attained his peaceful end in the work he loved to do.

Then over next two weeks, we went for height gaining exercises to Kala Patthar and Pumori base camp, taking three steps at that height was a pain indeed.  I used to get breathless at night while sleeping and get up at 3 am to go out of the tent. One night I just saw a trail of lights in Khumbu icefall and it was just so mesmerizing that I forgot I am actually out in cold.

So first time when you cross the notorious Khumbu icefall it’s like an endless maze of walls of ice, I literally took 12 hours to cross that monster but I knew I have to cross it again and again. So there is a team called ‘Icefall Doctors’ who fix the rope and ladders across Khumbu and they are the reason one crosses Khumbu safely.

 

Base Camp, Mt. Everest

Crossing snake bend on Khumbu icefall

Climbing icefall to camp 1

Climbing Lhotse face

Camp 2, Mt. Everest

Camp 2 to Camp 3, Mt. Everest

Camp 3, Mt. Everest

Climbing Lhotse face en route Camp 3 to Camp 4, Mt. Everest

From Camp 3 to Camp 4, Mt. Everest

Camp 4, Mt. Everest

Enroute Summit, Mount Everest

So you do two to three cycles of height gain till camp 4 to adjust your body to the height and rarefied atmosphere. The cycle where I spent a night at Camp 2 at 21000 ft, I realised how hard it’s going to be. Camp 2 is like an advance base camp and in a flat space that it’s called a football ground or the silent valley.  After that, you ascend to camp 3 to 24000 ft facing a 75-degree climb and strong winds of almost 60 to 100 mph. The night at Camp 3 was sleepless. The swishing sound of oxygen cylinders the wind and the height, restlessness is all you feel. It’s painful to be at that height where you can’t even pee without being killed.

 

Camp 4 at 26000 ft is known as the death zone, it was creepy.  We faced the mighty Lhotse incline, I was facing health problems already and was sitting down at every three step using more of my oxygen. Then suddenly out of nowhere, an oxygen cylinder comes rolling down and hits one of our Sherpas in the leg and we had to bring him down with a broken leg. Such mistakes which cost you. Once you reach camp 4 and realize why it’s called death zone, you can actually feel death in the air. Bodies all black and blue with climbing gear are lying behind rocks, no one cares like it’s a common sight to see. No humanity no emotion and no respect for them. Climbers crossing over them and then leaving behind the ones dying is something haunts you for long and scares you to the core.

After coming back to base camp there was a moment I thought for what if something happens to me, will I also be a reference point for others in future just lying out there.  But then I thought I will die doing something I liked and wanted to. So why regret?

After this we did two more cycles and before final summit window had a total rest and recoup. Prayers were done to evoke the ‘Sagarmatha Goddess’ for her blessings before the climb. It was all getting surreal now.

But the weather Gods were merciless and it was the worst climbing season ever. No ropes were fixed till summit and all were getting anxious over a failed season this time. Our team left in wee hours of May 17 morning halting at Camp 2 directly. Next day we left for camp 3 and the weather got bad, 100 mph blizzard and we were stuck, but after the blizzard died out we moved on to the next camp. Ideally, camp 4 is a stopover for 6 hrs and then you leave for the summit, but again the blizzard started and we were stuck there for two days without food and depleting oxygen. Few cylinders were stolen and then half of our team had to go down and it was decided only the strongest will climb. I was a weak member but then I went against team leaders’ decision to go for it for I knew I came so far and either I die here or go back after summoning. I was foolish I think now, such impulsive decisions can cost your team members lives too, that is what I learnt. So on the night of 20th May, a team of 8 left and it was one of the hardest things I have done till now. I felt jumping off planes is easier.

 

Then after crossing the famous Hilary step, the dangerous rocky patch where an inch here or there and you freefall to darkness. I started hallucinating I thought a fellow climber wants to cross over and I let off my safety anchor and suddenly my sherpa holds my backpack and shakes me asking what the hell am I doing? I was like oh my gosh! that was so real and a slight wind would have grown me into Nepal or Tibet dead. At t50 m from the summit, I could see what I was training for all this while. It’s just there now in front of you and it took me 50 minutes to reach on top and I was blank when I got on top. There was no thought, no chattering in my brain. Complete emptiness. Then I felt the wind saying you did it and am not making it up, it really did. Then I dropped to my knees and knelt before the Goddess,  thanking her for considering me worthy of this view. Tears roll down my cheeks and freeze. I asked myself is this what you wanted? I sit there for 20 minutes looking at the 360 view and vast expanse of clouds and other peaks. It was a sight imprinted. I make a call to the base camp at 8 am exactly 13 hrs later that we have done it, feeling a relief!

A few minutes later after clicking necessary proof pictures, we start descending. The most difficult part.

 

As the descent starts, we reach camp 4 and two of my team members became snow blind and one started having frostbite in his fingers. We hardly managed to reach camp 3 as everyone was so tired that we could hardly walk. I being the leader had to make them reach safely even though I did not have one percent energy left. 72 hrs without food crushed your body, it was like walking in the desert but of snow and during daytime it’s as hit as 40 degrees. Somehow we dragged ourselves to camp 3 and had to spend another night without food. Next morning we made our slow descent to camp 2, the condition of patients was worsening and I was worried that one might lose all his fingers. I also started having frostbite in both my feet and when I took off the shoes the whole skin peeled off. Finally, a call was made to evacuate three patients and me from camp 2 to base camp by chopper. It cost me 8000 USD to sort and if it’s from camp 3 then 24000 USD which is more than the whole expedition cost for a 5 member team. Meanwhile, we heard the sad news of Indian climber passing away. All through expedition we saw dead people dying and sherpas leaving them back. So now all these bodies have become reference points. Camp 3 and camp 4 are full of human shit and pee. We have to take care of this peak before it becomes a tourist centre. I mean we are climbing to worship a Goddess but this is what we humans do there.

 

Reaching base camp was the time I realised that I am back alive with the whole team safe and no major medical problems. The three patients were sent to Delhi and rest of the team trekked back and finally, we flew to our home country.

As soon as I landed in India there was this sudden withdrawal or sadness that what now?

Even though I was busy with presentations, I was sad. I felt like I left a part of me there.

 

Understanding that it is a mountain withdrawal, I was diagnosed with anxiety and that my cancer was back in stage 1. But I was not sad about it because I felt that I did something which I would have never even dreamt of.

People often ask me how was your experience? What did you feel? How was it like on top of the world?

I am often left speechless because of that, I was at the top.

What is the point of sharing my story? Even though you have been through hell in your life you should never think that you can’t do it, it’s not about Everest, it is about your ‘mind’.

Whatever adventure you do, find a connection to it, don’t do it just because you have the time and money for it. Relate to it. Feel connected to it. I see a lot of youngsters who go for trekking without training just to get good pictures. Get educated and train well before you go for it. Any mountain can turn on you!

Summit, Mount Everest

Photos by drmkaur_

 

What did I learn from climbing?

Mountains have the magical power to heal you. I have had chronic depression and climbing mountains have been of great help. If you go into mountains and don’t come back changed then you never connected to that mountain. They are a form of God on earth and always respect them. Don’t have any ego while climbing. Respect the traditions of culture followed there.

After recovering from cancer I got addicted to adventure, I jump out of planes, I climb mountains but still am scared of water. After my accident till now, I have not ridden a bike or a car. We all have our fears to conquer. We all have the guts to do it and that’s what I do and want everyone to do it.

 

That nothing is impossible. To make your dreams reality you have to take that first step out of your comfort zone. Nothing comes easy, but then you alone have to take that step and you alone have to make that journey to live your dream. There will be many hiccups. But there will always be a way out for that.

Take chances, make mistakes, let go of the pain, that’s how you grow. Be not scared of failures. You have to fail in order to practice being brave. It’s your journey, you might get lost in the way, but you will reach your destination if you have the will. There will be the hell lot of problems in your life, how you handle them and come out alive makes you your own superhero. Climb your own Everest. Be your own Superhero!

 

As my favourite quote says, ‘A valliant coeur, rien d’impossible!’ which means, ‘For a brave heart, nothing is impossible!’

Excerpts by team member.

 

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Blog | Travel

11 December 2017

Traveller of the Week: Tanya Khanijow

Tanya Khanijow started travelling and learning photography in 2016, she started off by expressing herself through her content on social media one frame at a time.

A traveller, blogger, vlogger and content creator, she loves to travel and find her self in different places every now and then. ‘What really drives me and encourages me to keep going is a never-ending need to explore and see the world’, says Tanya.

Tanya Khanijow

 

Tanya has always liked travelling from early childhood from the time her dad got posted to a new location, courtesy Indian Army.

Through the Indian Army, she has had the opportunity to stay at some of the most pristine locations in India. ‘I’ve changed as many as nine schools. And to be honest, I loved it. It provided me with a new perspective on a place, and people when I was as young as 3-4 years. I learned early on in life, the value of travelling and change’, she says.

 

During her college days, Tanya would find herself making plans on the spur of the moment to travel to different places. She would save her monthly allowance and hustle to travel. She has travelled in local trains, public buses, rickety mountain vehicles,  the list is endless.

 

Tanya has always loved the natural environment more than the comfort and education imbibed in a classroom. With that started her tryst with travel.

Not a full-time traveller yet, she spent 2017 working as well as travelling, intending to travel full time from next year.

Also a spontaneous traveller, she doesn’t plan the destination or things to do in advance. If she sees there is free time available on her calendar, she takes seconds to decide the best place for the time and plans economically by booking cheap flight tickets, she then skims through blogs and web resources for a brief basic idea of the culture, geography and differentiating factors of the place.

5 must-visit locations according to Tanya would be, Alappuzha in Kerala. The backwaters of Kerala are beyond beautiful and one must experience village life and a little by the water lanes. ‘Try living with locals and riding on a slow-paced boat instead of a motorboat. And don’t opt for a houseboat. Houseboats are large and can only traverse in broad canals. You’ll miss out on the village life experience’, stresses the travel junkie! Her next pick would be ‘The Himalayas’, right from North to West to the East, the entire stretch of the Himalayas is beautiful and unique, she personally feels, people who have not experienced it have missed out on something so far. Right from Uttrakhand to Valley of Flowers, Roopkund Trek, treks like Kareri lake, Bhrigu lake, Parashar lake in Himachal and recently the eastern side of Himalayas in Sikkim, it has always left her awe-inspired. Next is the white salt desert of Runn of Kutch – ‘One word, WOW! It’s beautiful, unlike anything. Especially the sight of a full moon during the night against the white sand’, she says.

 

Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

enroute Udiapur

Pondicherry

Alleppey, Kerala

Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Bhrigu Lake, Himachal Pradesh

Udaipur, Rajasthan

Vashisht, Himachal Pradesh

 

Khanijow travels with a lot of camera equipment and instils everyone to have a dedicated space or compartment for everything whilst travelling. Sunscreen, mosquito repellent, paper soap, sanitizer and tissue paper are must-haves.

Battery pack, tripod, selfie stick – very useful commodities for travelling solo, especially if one is worried about running out of battery without a source of power for hours.

 

A big fan of chasing after sunrises and sunsets, she really enjoys waking up early and catching the morning action. It goes without saying, she loves travel photography and also her new found love for making videos.

 

A pretty impressive figure, 18 states have been covered by Khanijow along with a few international trips to countries such as China, USA, London, Aruba and Bhutan.

 

‘I think every lesson that I’ve learnt while travelling has been life-changing. But if I’ve to pinpoint one if you travel, you will change your life forever, for good’, is one life lesson she has learnt whilst travelling.

Words by Harpreet
Images by ©Tanya Khanijow

 

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Blog | Travel

2 December 2017

Exotic visual tour of Indian marvels | India in Pictures #002

India is a country where various dynasties have conquered and vanished through the centuries, but the beauty still remains in the form of architecture, food and people themselves!

Cultures, traditions, celebrations and manifolds of landscapes make every corner turn into a new discovery, be it a local or visitor!

Here is a series of visuals by Creative Heads from all over the country.

 

Banke Bihari Temple, Vrindavan // ©Ankit Kumar

 

Nandgaon, Uttar Pradesh // ©Mohit Tejpal

 

Dal Lake, Srinagar // ©Nissar Rafiquee

 

CST, Mumbai // ©Yash Sheth

 

Sam Dunes Jaisalmer // ©Tanvi Sharma

 

Pahalgam, Jammu & Kashmir // ©Manali Jain

 

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh  // ©Abhishek Kumar Singh

 

Bhabha Valley, Kinnaur // ©Ashish

 

Kochi // ©Ravinder Singh

 

Munnar, Kerala // ©Rejish

 

 

Featuring series of inspiring images by Creative Heads from all over the country as ‘India in Pictures’.

 

Rules to submit for ‘India in Pictures’ here .

 

Check out our previous series of inspiring images here – iidailyinspiration#147

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Blog | Travel

27 November 2017

Traveller of the Week: Neer Patra

Neer Patra has always been on a travelling spree, right from his school days in Varanasi to his graduation from Allahabad and then pursuing an MBA from IBS Hyderabad.

Originally from Odisha, Neer is an Investment Banker living in Delhi for the past 6 years. He has always wanted to visit as many places as possible in his lifetime which also happens to be his goal for now.

 

Neer Patra

 

Neer also wants other people to travel and explore our beautiful city, a reason why he started sharing images from his travels on social media. He also admits not everyone can visit every place, so he makes it a point to showcase them through photography. He doesn’t mention or portray himself to be a traveller or a photographer. He hardly takes his camera out when visiting a town and steers away from mentioning anything in his social media bio.

 

‘I think leaving for one place and then reaching another, where everything, people, culture, food everything is different from your last visited place and that’s motivation enough for anyone to go to new places and explore more’, says the explorer.

 

The cycle continues, it is deep-rooted in him since childhood which is why he can never stop exploring new places in the world. A thought vested in him during the times he’d visit his hometown twice a year whilst his father was posted in Varanasi, the entire 24-hour train journey passed through 3 different states. A long 6-7 hour road journey by bus crossed multiple villages. The constant travels to his hometown and his very first trip as a student to Chittaranjan, a small city in Bihar is where his love for travel was born! ‘If you talk about my very first trek or encounter with mountains, it was my schools days of grade 9 when I was NCC cadet and went to Dhanlauti in Uttarakhand for 11 days of trekking and camping’, he says.

 

Though not a full-time traveller, Patra loves his job and makes it a point to travel twice a month. Not so fond of travelling in big groups, hiring a travelling or trekking agency for his expeditions is a strict no-no. He loves travelling solo or with 1-2 people only if need be which is a personal choice as well.

He does admit travelling with a group to be good fun,  as one meets like-minded people which also helps in minimizing travelling expenses. ‘But I feel like going solo gives me a lot of confidence and helps me to believe in my own ability to make decisions. It makes me feel more independent’, says Neer Patra.

 

‘I always believe a well-planned travel cannot go haywire especially when you keep going to mountains, you have to have A or B plan ready’, says Neer. It makes a person mentally and physically strong to take on the challenges to be faced in the mountains. Sometimes a spontaneous trip may end up in emptying one’s pockets, where a planned trip is more budget friendly.

 

The traveller shoots with a Nikon D810 with a wide angle lens of 14-24 mm. He also likes to use his 85 mm lens which makes a part of his must-haves for travelling. A medicine kit, headlamps, GPS, some dry fruits and vitamin bars are a few essentials to carry along!

 

Patra loves trying local delicacies, learning their language and the culture and story associated with the place.

He has travelled to more than 20 states of the country and wishes to explore the northeast region of India. He is travelling to Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh next month, ticking off two states from the northeast!

He also deems Kerala and the ‘Seven Sisters of India’ to be a must visit for all the travellers out there, not to forget, Norway and Greenland if you’re planning an international trip!

 

Taj Mahal, Agra

Varanasi

Zanskar River

Nubra Valley

Chadar Trek

Key Monastery, Spiti

Stok Kangri

Varanasi Assi Ghat

Chadar Trek

 

One of many interesting stories during his travel was during his recent expedition to ‘Stok Kangari’. Not sure if he’d be able to reach the top, he was told by many locals that he’d be the first one in this year to climb in the month of May. Where half of the climbers returned half way from the incredibly tough trek as said by the locals, he kept going only because he was travelling solo with a local guide and porter-cum-cook!

‘It wouldn’t have been possible if we had come here with a group because in the mountains, most of the time you end giving up only because the fellow trekker has given up’, said the local guide to Patra once they were on the top!

 

Last but not the least, ‘The world is beautiful and you cannot see everything in your one life’, is what Neer Patra has learnt from his years travelling around the country.

Words by Harpreet
Images by ©Neer Patra

 

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Blog | Travel

20 November 2017

Traveller of the Week: Prakriti Varshney

Prakriti Varshney is a 22-year-old adventurer whose physical state resides in the Delhi plains but her soul lingers throughout the Himalayas. According to her father’s retellings, she has always been the one with the fiery adventure streak. Brought up against the typical feminine norms, her father acknowledged the latent strength in her in the early years itself. He moulded her into a self-sufficient human, and she owes a lot to him for this.

 

Prakriti Varshney

 

A graduate in Fashion and Apparel Designing, Prakriti realized during her very first work experience with a start-up that this is not her cup of tea! Living a life with a mundane, robotic routine is not what she desires. There was sufficient money but always a restless mind. Overworked, she was in a perpetual dilemma “What am I grinding myself for?” and she couldn’t find a suitable answer. That’s the day she quit a life with a routine to start a journey without a specific road-map.

 

Adventure and Exploration are the two terms that drive her to do things-let it be about trying a new cuisine or learn about a new form of art.  Her first solo trip was to Spiti Valley on a shoestring budget. The trip covered a span of 8 days on a budget of mere 4000 rupees. She carried along certain essentials like a tent and a sleeping bag, commuted in roadways, hitchhiked from one village to the other and interacted with new people around. It was a phenomenal experience for her.

Her next planned trip is to North East for a month starting next week, followed by two months, January and February in Leh and Ladakh. She prefers travelling solo because then you’re all about your own self and at your own ease.  She loves solo trips because she can have her own plan of action and there is no room for friction due to disagreements. It is certainly risky to travel alone, but the liberating experience is worth the risk.

 

Prakriti is a full-time traveller. On being asked about her first and foremost confrontation with her family regarding her profession, she did reveal that apart from her survival in harsh climatic conditions, her parents were worried about her safety when she planned her very first expedition, to which she agrees to some extent. Being a girl, one has to face some sort of unnerving experiences every day, and hers was a decision to travel thousands of kilometres away from home.  Her priority is not to tick off the places on her bucket list but to travel to learn, grow and absorb whatever is out there. She is open to change and doesn’t necessarily follow a schedule during her travels. She mentions, “If I like a place more than the others, I might decide to stay for a longer period to satisfy my soul than to keep following the itinerary.”

She lists down some of her favourite destinations from India: Spiti Valley – Closest to heart, this land has everything to offer, from larger than life landscapes to exquisite art to never dying culture to the sweetest and kindest people.  Even after 6 rounds in the same year, it always feels like something more to explore. Auroville – A place where in the middle of chaos, you will find calm. If you seek serenity and fun together, this place is a must. Ride a bicycle, do meditation sessions, chase butterflies in the botanical garden, try different cuisines, grab some eateries & head to the beach to witness the spellbinding sunset.

Uttrakhand – The state is a wholesome package for travellers. It is famously termed “Devbhoomi” (the abode of Gods), for Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath maintain that chaste aura. Whitewater rafting and Yoga in Rishikesh, legendary Ramjhula and Lakshmanjhula, serene blue lakes in Nainital, presence of wild animals in Jim Corbett National Park, around 500 species of flowers in Valley of Flowers, and land of some of the highest mountain peaks in the world – Nanda Devi, Kamet, Hardeol, Chaukhamba, Trishul- in short, a pit stop for most of the adventures you seek.

Kanyakumari – The southernmost point of India surrounded by sea on three sides, the place offers one of the most scenic sunset and sunrise views.

Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh – It is a spot known as the highest paragliding site one would never regret having a bird’s eye view.   Her travel essentials include her LifeStraw (not when travelling in the Himalayas), a diary and a pen to journal her excursions, sunscreen lotion, a waterproof bag, and of course her camera and earphones. Prakriti enjoys the most her moments of solace. She could sit in a corner of the road for hours and observe everything that is around her. She is also fond of meeting strangers in unknown places, with a myriad of stories and experiences.  She hasn’t travelled around a single state in an exhaustive manner as of now but has covered certain towns, cities and even villages in around 17 states so far. She has planned to cover two more in the next two months. She feels it is essential to roam about every niche of a state to be thorough with it, and not just pay a visit to certain famous tourist spots. Although she has been to Dubai and Oman in her teenage years, she has decided to take up international travelling only after she has explored sufficient amount of her own country.

 

Travelling has transformed Prakriti’s core as a whole. According to her, it is an essential method or resource for learning which teaches you what you cannot grab through books. Bonding with strangers, having faith in your instincts to trust, give in to the universe, and never give up even when you fall apart. A lesson she abides to is “We can go way beyond our limits.” She recounts an anecdote of her visit to Shrikhand Mahadev, one of the toughest pilgrimages in India. During the initial phase, she made her mind to give up due to incessant exertion and injury in her knee, but she was determined to complete her journey. The sight of the 72 feet tall Shivling after the commencement of a tedious journey was definitely something to vouch for!

 

Chandertaal Lake

Bir Billing, Himachal

Chandrashila Top, Uttrakhand

Kanyakumari

Langza, Spiti Valley

Last light, Kanyakumari

Mane, Spiti Valley

Mt. Dronagiri, Uttrakhand

Spiti Valley

Trekking in Himachal

 

Varshney shares an interesting tale from one of her travel adventures.  “While I was in Spiti Valley for two months, August-September, I decided to hike to Key Monastery which was about 14 km from Kaza. After walking for about 6 km, I witnessed a splendid view at the turn of a road. I remained frozen to that spot for almost two and a half hours. I was unaware of the curiosity I created among passers-by, until a couple passing by on a motorbike decided to halt. They too were on the way to Key Monastery. At first, they thought that I might be taking a break due to exhaustion, but they saw me sitting at the same spot while returning hence they stopped by and asked.  I burst out laughing and had no answer to their query! They even offered a ride back to Kaza but I was completely embarrassed by now.”

Words by Laveena Behl
Images by ©Prakriti Varshney

 

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30 October 2017

Traveller of the Week : Kamya

Kamya is a 25-year-old travelling hippie who has been on the road for 2 years. She studied economics and has a strong interest in development economics, which she wants to combine with her love for travelling to make a difference in society. She is interested in issues of waste management and environmental awareness. She has always been a traveller, “From a young age, I used to walk off into the forests and explore new places, coming home late to a scolding from my parents,” she says. Though she is Indian by origin, she was born and brought up in the UK, and now considers herself a universal being.

 

Kamya

 

Travelling over the long-term has allowed her to explore herself and forge her direction in life. After studying economics at Warwick University, she decided to take a break to give some time to herself and that’s when she started off with her first trip to South East Asia. Now, travelling has become her way of living.

 

Kamya has been mostly travelling solo for the past two years and prefers it to travelling in groups because it allows her to expand as a person. A full-time traveller, she sustains herself by online tutoring and working in the places she travels to. The traveller partly attributes her nomadic nature to her parents, who moved house every year or two when she was a child. She hasn’t faced any objections when it comes to her lifestyle.

 

Travelling for Kamya goes both ways, planned and spontaneous. She does a meticulous research about the place she wants to visit and prepares an Excel sheet which helps her book things in advance and save money. Once she is in the place, she is open to changes, “I’ll spontaneously change my itinerary depending on what feels right, but it’s good to know a lot about the place to be able to make informed decisions and go beyond commonly traversed routes,” she claims.

 

 

Out of all the places she has travelled too, she suggested these give as those which were most memorable:
Spiti And Kinnaur: “Travelling through Spiti and Kinnaur is no easy task; the roads are some of the most dangerous, but the scenery is mind-blowing,” she says. Travelling here has made her fearless, stronger and humble towards nature.

 

East Java: Indonesia has everything: vast jungles, gigantic waterfalls, and volcanic craters. Mount Bromo and ljen Crater were places that she found particularly unique.
Switzerland: “This is probably my favourite country on earth,” she says. It’s so small which makes it easy to get around, and has tons of hikes, lakes, and mountains.

 

Tuscany: She fell in love with the rolling hills, soft sunrises and vast fields of grapevines. “The wine here is the best I’ve had,” she says. It’s a scenic place with clean energy.

 

Khao Sok National Park: This is a huge national park which is only accessible by boat. Here you can stay in wooden huts in the middle of the lake, hike in the jungles, and rent a kayak.

 

For Kamya, 5 must-haves whilst travelling include her tea bottle, her waterproof bag, extra debit cards, her Sennheiser HD25 headphones, and camera. She shoots with the Sony A6000 and the 16-50mm standard lens that comes with it. “It’s a good idea to carry two or three cards with you in case you are stuck, because getting money in a foreign country is extremely difficult,” she says.

 

Kamya lived in Banglore for two years and has covered a lot of South India during that time. Her favourite place in India is Himachal. She likes to spend a lot of time in one region to explore it fully rather than trying to cover as many places as possible. Internationally, she has travelled mostly around South East Asia and Europe.

 

Atrani, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Dolomites, Italy

Grimsel Pass, Switzerland

Ijen Crater, Indonesia

Kinnaur, India

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Dolomites, Italy

Luang Prabang, Laos

North Bali, Indonesia

 

Travelling has transformed Kamya in a lot of ways and one of the most important things that she has learnt is to forgive, forget, and let go of things. “We often get caught up in unfulfilling activities, people, and ideas about ourself. Always being on the move means there’s no space to hold onto things which don’t serve you.” She says that long-term travel has taught her to be herself and not worry about other people. “It has taught me that I have everything inside me and that I am completely in charge of my experience of life.”

 

For now, Kamya is planning to stay in Himachal during the summers to work a campsite and a waste management system for the villagers and to work abroad for the remaining time.

Words by Swati George
Images by ©Kamya

 

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21 October 2017

Chandernahan Trek: A Hidden Paradise in Himachal Pradesh

Intrigued by an Instagram post on Chandernahan trek, our adventurous traveller friend Harish Sharma was fast to elope into the throes of beauty at Chandernahan. With backpacks, a childhood friend and a cooked up story about leaving for a friend’s sister’s wedding to convince his parents,  Harish left home with quite an itch in his feet.

 

He boarded an HRTC bus from Shimla to Rohru and the journey was filled with bumpy rides, unplanned night stays, the random surprise of a new company, and unknown paths.

After a bus to Rohru, then Rohru to Chirgaon followed with another two-hour journey from Chirgaon to Tagnu village, they commenced walking to a nearby village called Janglikh. That is where they had to start trekking for Chandernahan via Dyara Thach and Litham.

 

It hadn’t been a smooth journey as it is, with collapsed bridges, long walks, heavy rainfall and unplanned delays. It had already been half-past five in the evening and the villagers recommended that they stay the night there as they can’t reach Dyara Thach the same night. Being the rebels they are, Harish and his entourage started trekking right away and they were glad to have done so as the trek up was lush with greenery and the beautiful landscape enveloped them with magnanimous streams of water flowing down the mammoth mountains. The dense forest with deodar trees and the green meadows were worth the trouble.

Finally, they reached Dyara Thach around 8 pm and set camp with packed paranthas from Chirgaon and a sky full of stars. That’s everything they needed to devour!

After a well-deserved slumber night, they started out early the next day to reach Litham and yet again, everything around left them spellbound. It was no less than the landscapes they see in the movies, except it was even better to experience the cool breeze and the raw beauty of nature, in reality, the trek seemed easy and upon reaching Litham within two hours, they got into a conversation with an amiable Shepherd with interesting stories to tell. He guided them further to reach Chandernahan. That 2 km trek was a steep climb up the mountains and took them about an hour.

 

 

Finally, Harish and his friends reached Chandernahan and what they saw from up there can’t be put into words, they say. At an altitude of 4000 metres, they were surrounded with snow in the month of June. Except for beautiful brooks flowing with a delicate magnanimity, there was nothing to touch their own sweet solitude.

 

There are seven lakes in Chandernahan and mostly, the people of the valley walk on the frozen lakes barefoot and never go beyond three lakes because of a religious belief that all their Gods originated from these lakes. When Harish and his friends went to the frozen lakes, there was nobody to see if they went without shoes but they decided to respect the beliefs and launched into the lakes bare feet.

They were like kids running and chasing each other on the glacier with feet all bare and well, it was indeed fun and adventurous.

 

By noon that day, they had found and enjoyed all the lakes, breathed in the stupendous view, filled their lungs with air as pure as it gets and finally, decided to head back.

 

The journey back was as eventful and tiring as before, or even more. But this time these boys were taking back what they had come for. An experience where they followed their heart, treated their eyes with everything heavenly and satisfied their souls.

Words by Aishwarya Choudhary | Photos by Harish Sharma

 

Check out his full feature in July’17 Edition of Inspiro India Magazine issue#40 – Download Free.

 

 

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16 October 2017

Traveller of the Week : Akhtar Shaikh

Akhtar Shaikh, a simple human being who seeks happiness in the little things in life, loves to see the smiling faces of people when they see him like a twinkle in the children’s eye when he holds their little hands! ‘Connecting with nature, open skies, green boulevards and streams of water, birds chirping, colours of the mountain and the diversity in the culture of this country attracts me’, says the traveller.

 

A creative thinker, Akhtar loves to ride his Royal Enfield Classic motorcycle and has been an enthusiastic biker for 10 years now. A lover of creative forms of art, music, travelling and riding his motorcycle, he says, ‘I put my mind and soul into exploring new places and meeting new people and witness new culture, their living, food, personalities and all that while I ride to these places’.

 

Akhtar Shaikh

 

Riding solo is not only a sense of freedom for the happy traveller, it also helps in self-healing and self-development. Riding has not only been a hobby or a source of transport to move from one place to the other, it has also developed into a passion over time. Riding his 535 cc Royal Enfield Classic changes his interpretation of being a just a biker!

 

The traveller prefers travelling solo, group travel prevents him from self-reflecting which is vital in improving himself.

Riding solo is not only a sense of freedom for the happy traveller, it also helps in self-healing and self-development. ‘There’s a certain beauty in riding alone and engaging into your possibilities are limitless’, says the rider.

 

Travelling wasn’t full-time spree, ‘Initially, I used to travel on weekends or 1-2 days for an extended weekend and complete my rides. However, now I am fortunate and have the liberty to plan and travel as much as I can and whenever I can’ adds the solo rider. His family has been an immense source of inspiration and believe in him more than he himself would. A great support system and understanding from the domestic front have actually allowed him to perceive his passion and endure his dreams!

 

My family has been the most important source of inspiration and their Belief in me is more than myself and in fact that their complete support and understanding has actually allowed me to perceive my passion and endure throughout.

 

A planned traveller, everything ranging from servicing his bike, finalising the route and booking accommodation is a must. A checklist helps to minimize any breakdown and helps in a hassle-free trip. The traveller does believe impromptu trips to be a challenge for oneself and thrilling as well. Offroading into most of the hilly terrain of Maharashtra, Goa and Bidar come under the spontaneous trip category for Shaikh!

 

Akhtar has covered Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Goa, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Kerala.

Topmost locations worth every traveller’s while according to Akhtar are Leh, Spiti, Jammu, Rann of Kutch, Uttarakhand, Old Goa and Rajasthan.

 

 

The motorcycle traveller also directs in investing in a riding jacket if one’s a rider or a nice weatherproof jacket to keep oneself warm and cosy along with cash, camping equipment including a tent, good sleeping bag, water bottle, outdoor chair, a stove, kettle and maggi. Not to forget a good mobile phone for photography and videos, a GoPro or DSLR will do too!

 

‘Never ever give up and keep trying’ advises the rider! A lesson he has learnt during years of motorcycle trips, he also believes ‘Happiness is only real when it is shared’, a very famous quote by Christopher McCandless.

Words by Harpreet
Images by ©Akhtar Shaikh

 

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27 February 2017

Traveller of the Week : Ravinder Singh

Meet Ravinder Singh, once a lawyer who devoted his time to working for NGOs in the past is now a full-time traveller. The 29-year-old travels the country without money, his first trip being around 12 years back when he drove from Delhi to Mussoorie on his birthday in a Maruti 800. He loved the air and the people, the excitement behind travelling motivated him to travel even more says Ravinder. His mother initially being hesitant behind the whole idea now understands and accommodates his being.

Ravinder Singh

 

Ravinder travels solo and also with friends. A spontaneous traveller by heart, Singh chooses to plan his travels well in advance for his photography shots.

He also loves making people, he says ‘I’ve always believed people make places so when I meet them I can see where they are coming from and you can learn so much from them’.

To our amazement, Ravinder has visited every state in the homeland! He says he never travelled abroad because he wanted to see India first. Ticking off all the states on his bucket list, he now plans to travel to Nepal and Bhutan by walking.

Lok Tak Lake, Pangong Tso, Pondicherry, Goa and Jaisalmer make on top of his 5 must visit locations’ list!

 

 

 

The wanderlust soul advises to carry a sleeping bag, camera (any camera for that matter), a good pair of slippers, a sturdy backpack and a good pair of earphones for travelling and staying outdoors.

One lesson Singh has learnt from his travelling expeditions is to not panic and to stay stress-free. Some things are out of control says Ravinder, he has experienced an earthquake in Manipur and was also stuck in Chennai flood. He has also spent days with the Maharashtra drought affected farmers.

The vagabond’s stories don’t end here, he has also been invited by the Tripura’s royal family for dinner when his roommate along with a girl who joined them for dosa, posted a selfie on facebook regarding Ravinder’s moneyless travels. The girl happened to be the sister of the inviter!

 

Images by ©Ravinder Singh

 

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6 February 2017

Traveller of the Week : Radhika Sharma

Meet Radhika Sharma, a 23-year-old commerce graduate from Delhi University and our ‘Traveller of the Week’. Radhika was born in Amritsar but brought up in Delhi and now works as a Business Analyst. She likes investing money in her travels rather than saving in bank accounts. All in all, she has taken 16 trips in the year ‘2016’ out of which one was a solo trip and the other one was her very first international trip.

Radhika Sharma

 

 

Inspiro India: What motivated you to travel and tell us about your first trip?

– I’m from a family which worries a lot about their girls. Hence, half of my life was spent within the four walls of the room, with them I worried about it too.

Until I decided to step out with my friends on the New Years of 2015 to Corbett. I remember it was early in the morning and extremely cold, we took a jeep to spot tigers, our expectations were set but chances were we might not be able to see even a single tiger except deers and monkeys, but to our luck we spotted dancing elephants, four tigers in a row and a perfect surrounding due to mist. This is how it all began.

Inspiro India: How do you prefer to travel, solo or group?

– Nothing specific as such, if I have my friends or family to tag along they join me, else I plan to travel solo. I have done extensive travelling with my best friend. She stays in Hyderabad. So when I visit her we travel around Southern India and when she comes back to Delhi, we travel the North.

 

Kedarkantha Trek

 

Inspiro India: Are you a full-time traveller? If yes, did you face any problems in terms of travelling or even with family?

– Well, I don’t know if travelling every weekend counts as a full time travelling. In September, I went on a back-to-back trip for three weeks. The challenges I usually face are extreme tiredness which was accompanied by the evil eyes of my parents. Although they do support me in the end because they’ve seen how happy I am when I travel.

 

Inspiro India: Are you a planned traveller or more into spontaneous trips?

– Both I would say since I am a budget planner, I try to find the cheapest possible accommodations and commute. But last year, I remember travelling to Mussorie without any gadgets or backpack or cash (due to demonetization). I had my cell phone and power bank and no plans or idea of where to go.

 

Kedarkantha Trek
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

 

Inspiro India: How many states have you covered in India? Any International trips you’d like to mention?

– Last year was my very first International trip I took to Malaysia. It’s a really beautiful country with amazing people. This year I plan to go to Indonesia (booked), Italy (booked) and Bhutan.

As far as the states of India, I have covered fourteen states spread across North, South, East and West.

 

Inspiro India: 5 must visit destinations to travel according to you and why?

– 1   Sikkim: This will always stay close to my heart as this was my first Solo travel. Sikkim is so beautiful and peaceful. I went to Zuluk which is again close to my heart because of its serenity especially the Zig-Zag route. You would not get any networks here and no hotels, only homestays.

2   Horsley Hills: Horsley Hills a small, not so famous place with viewpoints. the view is breathtaking. The wind blows at these viewpoints all the time.

3    Kedarkantha: This was my first Summit and first snow experiences where the temperature dropped down to -7 degrees celsius. We camped in snow, set bonfire, ate maggie noodles and sledged in the snow. It was amazing.

4   Triund: Triund is another place close to my heart. There were shooting stars and galaxies and camping and amazing sunset and even more beautiful sunrise.

5   Kasauli Hills: Kasauli is a really quite place and the best attraction here is Gilbert’s Trail where the sun appears all orange and disappears all at once.

 

Udaipur, Rajasthan

Kasol, Parvati Valley

 

Inspiro India: 5 must haves for travelling and stay outdoors?

–  1   Power Bank

2   Cash (Many places do not have ATMs. Some ATMs run out of money or might be out of order.)

3   Water

4   Cellphone

5   Hand Sanitizer

 

Inspiro India: What do you enjoy most when travelling?

– It will definitely be the nature and escape from the city life. The cherry on the cake in travelling is meeting amazing and kind people. I feel so happy when someone in an unknown place helps you out of kindness. This is the most surreal and beautiful thing.

 

Prashar Lake, Himachal

Prashar Lake, Himachal

 

Inspiro India: One life lesson you learned from travelling?

– Honestly, I haven’t pondered over it but I believe what we see and learn from our 9 to 5 jobs and getting accustomed to a routine or limiting our horizons will never be bigger than the life experiences someone gains through travel. You realise how limited you have kept yourself and in what conditions you have lived your life till now. You discover a bit of yourself, you realise your weaknesses and strengths, your bonds with other people grows, you become more confident and after all this, you realise, that the small petty issues of life are not really issues, in the end, life is bigger than that.

 

 

Images by ©Radhika Sharma

 

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28 March 2016

Living Double Decker Root bridge by Asutosh Kashyap

During the midst of the year 2014, I went through the episodes of NatGeo Covershot, there was a task at the double Decker root bridge and according to the words of the contestants that task proved to be one of the toughest trekking task they have ever went through. So those verses stroke my mind to visit that natural phenomena ( the living bridge) . I waited for my exams to get over, and thus it ended and my urge was more to go for that tough route. I was very confident. It was a working day, I started my journey early morning, my driver said it’s a four hours journey surpassing the capital of Meghalaya. We went off towards my destination with music and negotiations with the driver, his experiences in driving and places he visited. I got to know that he was a driver at our Honorable Chief Minister’s Vehicle. We continued, the journey was pleasant because of the weather and the safe drive way roads and I would like to mention the beautiful natural beauty that we passed by. And by mid-day we reached Cherrapunjji.

 

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The place is beautiful, very beautiful indeed. Now ,there, we have faced a problem. It was the time tourist come across from all over the world and we were into a situation where we were out of hospitality and even food. We weren’t familiar to their environment. For another 3 hours we searched for a place to stay. We only got luxurious hotels costing 6000 bucks in Indian currency for only a day. We thought of sleeping inside the car. But while returning to a safe place for parking car we found a lodge, it seemed to be a normal lodge. I had asked a 2 bedded seat, and it costed me a 1000 bucks for a day, and I paid the bill, and at last I could take sigh of relief. We ate our dinner with two bottles of beer and some chicken wings. And the day ended with early night sleep. The very next day we were prepared, we started our journey at 5 o’clock in the early morning. The journey to the bridge in the car was very tricky, the route was pretty stiff and very dangerous on the hills of Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The environment was humid and comparatively colder. We had to put our car on top of the hill and we needed to walk downstream on the khasi hills towards jaintia Hills. The walking journey was totally on foot for atleast 5 kilometers. After few rounds on the khasi hills we reached the actual route towards Living root bridge, and the only way to reach there was to go through slippery steps

 

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But my confidence was much more than my phobia. I was dressed very casually and carried my camera, with some equipments and my wallet and my phone inside a small hand bag. I was walking and walking alone on the woods of khasi hills, and I could figure out lot of reptiles, amphibians, birds, etc during my walk through those slippery steps. And I was walking and walking, and world was not coming to an end. I climbed on a rope bridge, and again I was walking ahead with lot of water I consumed as I was exhausted walking for 3 hours. At one point, I was at the side of the khasi hills, I could see the jaintia hills on the other part and with the tiny water flow I figured out the root bridge and I was shocked and was totally petrified if i would be able to make it? Or this is my very last journey. With all these thoughts, I continued walking again. I reached an end where two rope bridges were in front of me and there I surrendered. I was exhausted and my whole body was in pain and sweating like my morning bath. I sat on a rock and was literally sleeping, then after some passing minutes, a short man with a dagger wearing very less clothes came from those rocks. I got real scared and the big knife frightened me more. I was shivering, he came towards me and spoke something in khasi and he mentioned root bridge, I directly said Yes! Without a thought in my mind, he waved me to follow him to the direction, I followed him but still I was little afraid. And after more than one and a half hour journey I reached my destination, and trust me this was triumphant. I took some shots and had a bath in the stream beneath the bridge.

 

Image00005©Asutosh Kashyap

There, I negotiated with two foreigners – one from Australia and the other one from England. The village where it was located was Tyma Village. The people were very friendly but they didn’t know English or Hindi, they just knew Khasi. After some negotiation, I packed myself to get back to my car, the same journey repeated again and this time it was tougher as it was upstream, spreading all my energy on my feet.I walked along. At last, I came to my car and counted the steps, it was like 8000 steps in one way and like 4.64 kilometre into the woods . It was real exhausting, The bridge was made up from a rubber tree roots Ficus elastic. And ,thus,I returned to my home with memories.

You can find more of his work here: Website