Tag Archives: North India

TRIUND: The Implausible Affair

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#HimalayanTREK #INDIAfromAbove #TRIUNDforLOVE

Yep, that's him (Felipe of Vagamundeando) camping in front of the Himalayas Photo by: Felipe Villegas Munera

Yep, that’s him (Felipe of Vagamundeando) camping in front of the Himalayas
Elevation: 2895 meters above sea level
Photo by: Felipe Villegas Munera

Originally, no idea. It was a fellow backpacker I met in Rishikesh, Felipe (travel writer for Vagamundeando) who invited me to take this trail. I mean, I was in Dharamsala for spiritual reason; not to indulge myself for some touristic activity. Nonetheless, Googled it and, voila, okay, it was a NO but days after seeing my friend’s picture, somehow gave it a go. No pressure, but I had to take some trial treks for me to complete the entire trail. It was my first time to go beyond 2000 meters above sea level.

Something to conquer the fear of heights...

Something to conquer the fear of heights…

The thing about mountains, they are too high and my fear of heights was just impossible to conquer. It was like Earth eating me. Also, with asthma , precautionary measures should be strictly observed. Slow ascent and always listen to my body. From what I have heard, the trail can be done for one day (back and forth) and it was easy. The word “easy” was subjective though and it was about to be tested.

Trial trek to Triund

Trial trek to Triund

It was on the fourth day (in Dharamsala) that I have decided the inevitable climb. It actually happened on the 18th, the day before my departure to New Delhi. Fourteen grueling days of trying to reach the peak. We had to take things slow and sweet, raveling in the beauty of togetherness, lush green view and soulful sunset. We tried different paths from our hostel only to be disappointed in the middle of the ascent. My breath became too short, dizziness attacked me. At some point, I told him, I can’t do it, he will have to do it alone. But he had more confidence in me than I had for myself. I can’t let him down. I can’t disappoint my trainer.

Triund what? just another trial trek lol

Triund what? just another trial trek lol

It had to happen. We have booked our tickets to Delhi, and before leaving, we had to do it. The inevitable and impossible hike to the Indian Himalayan Ranges for one day! We started with breakfast, lol. I thought, it had to be something I like, since it might be my last meal. And at exactly 8:30AM, the walk (I will always remember) started.

So I had my lovely guards while doing a trial trek. When they saw me from the forest, they followed me until the first tea house.

So I had my lovely guards while doing a trial trek. When they saw me from the forest, they followed me until the first tea house.

The trail began in the little tea house in Dharamkot just beside the Dhamma meditation center, but since we lived in Mcleod, we still had to walk at least 1kilometer (from our short cut). From the starting point, we had to pass through a forest, couple of tea houses and the rocky death road. We passed by a commemorative rock where an experienced mountaineer had died and we were almost at 2500 meters. And yes, the view was stunning, but I was just too scared to pander. I mean, I was not scared to die, it was more of “my parents doesn’t deserve a cold lifeless body,” thought. So here I was, walking, focusing and sweating. One little step at a time.Like meditation.

Off  to the mountains! Photo by: Ville Kananen

Off to the mountains!
Photo by: Ville Kananen

NO TALK! Photo by: VK

Me to him: NO TALK! Shut up. U go ahead and I’ll met you there!
Photo by: VK

Then we met a local tourist. He had map and itinerary in his hand, Triund was just part of his four day ascent. He was supposed to literally cross the Indian Himalayas to meet his friend. He was maybe in his forties, healthy and was excited to reach 6000 meters. While I was catching my breath. Life was unfair, lol. Then there were couple of more tourists descending, telling us it was a short trek, maybe 1-2 hours more while were walking for almost 2 hours. After another two hours, some tourists said just an hour, but after an hour, nothing yet. Hopeless. Doubt started creeping into my system. Finally, after four hours of endless walking, I saw the peak. Almost there. Maybe an hour more. Himalayan lunch as remuneration. Off I went, steeper and more dangerous now.

Took us 4 hours to reach the top. Rough rocky road Photo by: VK

Took us 4 hours to reach the top. Rough rocky road
Photo by: VK

See those rocks? Photo by: VK

See those rocks?
Photo by: VK

And there I was, teary eyed when I saw the snow mountain, half covered by clouds. Darn, Himalayas, too close. The cold breeze cloaked my fragile body. Hunger came in. A revolution of emotional and physical nuisance erupted. There he was, holding me and shouted, “ we made it.” And yet another whisper to inform me that my shirt was drenched with sweat. , Arrggggh, I had no extra. Well, he got one, so yeah, that number 23 was not only Jordan, LBJ  and Beckham’s, it became mine, my Snow mountain jersey.

Ahuh, tears fell down! Darn, I was alive! Photo by: VK

Ahuh, tears fell down! Darn, I was alive!
Photo by: VK

"The snow glows white at the mountain tonight...Let it go" Photo by: VK

“The snow glows white at the mountain tonight…Let it go”
Photo by: VK

Yes to lunch and the chilly afternoon of just gazing at the stunner. VK had an idea of crossing to the snow, another 4km walk. I had to say BIG NO. I was in no position to do another ascent. We were contented to have our noodles and enjoyed the moment along with other tourists and campers. The state of solitude and gratefulness. “Muchas gracias.”

Happiness came back! Ahuh ahuh! Triund what? Photo by: VK

Happiness came back! Ahuh ahuh! Triund what?
Photo by: VK

"It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."  Photo by: Felipe Villegas Munera

The Dhauladhar mountain Ranges View from Triund
“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
Photo by: Felipe Villegas Munera

**Did I say this trail was almost free? Ahuh and yes, it was easy to follow. Prepare for expensive food on the way. And if planning to camp, cost around $10USD/night/person. This can also be paired with other endpoint around the Himalayan ranges. No need to hire tour guide.

Special thanks to Felipe and Ville for the photos used in this entry 🙂

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Holy Waters of Ganga

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#ThePilgrimageWithVK #ChasingWaterFools #MyBikiniKindaLifeInIndia

What is India without one of the world’s largest and most polluted body of water? Okay, enough with polluted. The sacred river to the Hindus. This holy river starts from the Himalayas and crosses to the Indian soil until Bangladesh and associated with relevant Hindu ceremonies. Honestly, before heading to see the Ganga and experience its holiness, I had so much hesitation. I have heard stories of traveler dipping and getting sick. But as soon as we got out from the bus and landed in Varanasi, my energy changed. It went bad. The stingy, noisy and over crowded holy city just took away my sense of ME.

The Devil face excited to experience Ganga

The Devil face excited to experience Ganga

Strolling around Varanasi Photo by:VK

Strolling around Varanasi
Photo by:VK

From the bus/train station, we decided to stay near the Ghats to witness the Pujas. We took a rickshaw and paid about 60 rupees for both of us. The interesting streets of Varanasi teeming with people and things being sold greeted us.And yet again, got scammed by an Indian man who said he owns a hotel and near Vishwanath temple with clean ac rooms, wifi and cheap. I knew he wasn’t telling the truth. But hey, I was not alone.Yes just upon arrival in the “hotel”, it was clear that, he was not connected with the hotel and asked money from us because he “helped” us. Oh my Indiaaaaa! Whatever. The room was so so, AC room with toilet at 750 rupees. Non AC with squat toilet 300 rupees. Took the AC, it was just too much for me…I mean the place.

One of the Ghats in Varanasi

One of the Ghats in Varanasi

Too much exhaustion, I ended up snoozing to dreamland while VK had to get us food in the dark alleys of Varanasi. Yeah, at least I got to be a patient for awhile.

The next day, I gave it a try, a stroll and hopefully a dip in the holy river. Not until I got to experience the hottest event of my life. Forty three degree Celsius even before lunch! It was just crazy! So we ended up hanging out somewhere that served a very special and authentic drink.

This where the late afternoon puja happens

This where the late afternoon puja happens

The Bhang Lassi experience. A yogurt milk drink with weed! Okay no, not for me. VK tried it. Not a fan of weed, I mean, I don’t do weed. Not my thing. So I was there to witness and document it. Plus, I wasn’t ready to take too much Indian bacteria. I was dealing with tummy problem already. It wasn’t that bad according to VK. Things went slow. The Cannabis side effect.

That greenish drink is the legendary bang lassi

That greenish drink is the legendary bang lassi

Ganga and the Hindu Pujas are synonymous. So we wanted to see it across the river. For a fee of 50 rupees each we can paddle to the other side, take dip and then watch a puja. Was I ready? BIG NO. I was dealing with tummy issues and the hotness of the place. So I skipped it, but he went. Or so I thought. He ended up hanging out with a bunch of locals selling weed, which was according to him overpriced and smelled like horse shit. Wow, now that was new!

Missed the Puja, but not totally. The view from our AC hotel room

Missed the Puja, but not totally. The view from our AC hotel room

So nothing happened in Ganga. But I was eager to feel the energy of the Ganga river. Yeah, the safest way to do it, was where all the pollutants do not exist. Up in the mountains. But the Himalayas were yet far from my sight. Rishikesh, another sacred city.

RISHIKESH, INDIA

Located at the foot of the Himalayas. This town is also known as the YOGA center of North India. Two birds in one trip. Or so I thought. Yes, it was my spiritual decision to reach this town based on recos and purpose. If I didn’t make it in Varanasi, maybe I can do the Ganga holy dip here. And I just didn’t do the dip. It was splendor.

Way better to enjoy the spiritual river

Way better to enjoy the spiritual river

We went by train to the pilgrimage town of Haridwar but I didnt really bother to stop by. My goal was the hippie town. From Haridwar train station, the bus stand was just across, maybe a two or three blocks walk. We paid 600rupees each for a train sleeper seat. It was a grueling and grilling 18hour train ride. Believe me, the journey was worth it. We arrived early in the morning and was greeted by a beautiful and cold sunrise. Sorry not in the mood to take pictures. I was just reveling the moment. We were seated in the local bus on the way to Rishikesh with our new friend, the Aussie Timmy. It was literally following the waters of Ganga.

Small town but confusing for someone who was tired and no concrete plan. We were three now. We want to stay in an ashram but there were too many. We didn’t have the energy to go around asking. So we ended up getting a place from where the rickshaw dropped us. Yeah we still had to take the rickshaw from the Rishikesh bus station to the backpackers area. It was because of my idea that maybe, the further we go, the cleaner the water. India to me: Seriously?. We stayed near Laxman Jhula, a popular yoga and backpackers hub. We got a room from the main road for 500rupees per night for three people with toilet. No wifi. Who needs it when there were so much to do.

The Ganga spirit

The Ganga spirit

Food was amazing but not too cheap unless we eat raw. Like eating veggies straight from the market. Or meeting a bunch of hippies who live in the forest for like a lifetime. And I am not describing the Indian Babas. I’m talking about foreigners roaming around and telling stories about how they found meaning in life while visiting India. And yes. decided to stay in India, for good. Couldn’t blame them. I, too was falling. There was something pulling me towards the freezing waters. The fast current didn’t stop me to take a plunge and whispered my little prayer. Was it my imagination? I was totally enjoying the cold water. I was rejuvenated. Enchanted Ganga.

Yeah, India, here comes my bikini!

Yeah, India, here comes my bikini!

Everyday Ganga day! despite the freezing water

Everyday Ganga day! despite the freezing water

So what happened to the yoga certificate? Gone. I was too busy meditating and meeting people while hanging out at the river.SOLO. Yeah me time. A lot of it. My company? Timmy was busy walking to the other side. While VK finally met his guru. Indian Baba. He was busy hanging out with him. I wasn’t into it. I met my meditation teacher in Bohdgaya. Not interested in someone who doesn’t share the same values as mine. But I was happy he found what he was looking. Guess that’s love. Happy for someone else.

View from The German Bakery. overlooking the Ghats and ashrams of the other side

View from The German Bakery. overlooking the Ghats and ashrams of the other side

Solewandering. Walk to the otherside

Solewandering. Walk to the otherside

A little bit of yoga

A little bit of yoga

This could have been my paradise. But something happened. India, you never failed to scare me. I was doing my usual afternoon Ganga immersion when there were others. An local guy and a foreigner woman. Well, we started friendly. Conversation about life, relationships and labels (background). Until out of nowhere one baba came by and joined us talking about marriage. He was telling us, he fell in love with the other woman. And here came this guy, asking me to marry him. Goodness! This wasn’t my first time to be asked but it was scary and weird. We, women walked out. That was it. I needed to move. There was no way I’m hanging out here for long. I made my decision.But I couldn’t find my teammates. I knew somehow he was with his teacher maybe meditating in the cave. So I decided to speak with Timmy, and voila, we were going to the same destination, Dharamshala. To meet the Dalai Lama!

VK's teacher and yes, a French man who has been visiting India since God knows when Photo by:VK

VK’s teacher and yes, a French man who has been visiting India since God knows when
Photo by:VK

Goodness, India, it was not about the destination, nor the journey anymore. Not even the experience. Not just the people but most especially, their stories. The woman from Ukraine who have been living in the jungles of India for the past three years. Relying on friends’ help and the ashrams. Or the unlimited babas who were trying to convince me to go with them. Arggghhh. But the one that touched me was the story of the Russian woman who fell in love with India. She has been staying in India for twenty years and renews her visa every year. The only way to get a residence visa is to marry a local. Well, she has been asked so many times. She told me, her favorite reply was, “don’t bullshit me.” Why? Because most if not all of these men wanted to take her to bed. SEX. According to her, most Indian men see tourist women as porn stars or easy. She was speaking in a subtle and calm. While I was secretly hating that idea. The stares, eagerness to ask for facebook contact and the unwanted conversations. Oh dear India.

It was an honor :-)

It was an honor 🙂

Notes:

Varanasi

  • train and bus station are just facing each other
  • The Pujas are held every afternoon around 6pm
  • AC double room ranges from 750-900 rupees per night
  • rickshaw from stations to the Ghats cost 50-80 rupees per trip
  • Street food is recommended from 40rupee dal to expensive meals
  • 2-3 days stay should be fine

Rishikesh

  • Haridwar is the nearest railway station
  • bus to Rishikesh leaves every 30mins
  • tuktuk from Rishikesh station to Laxman Chula cost 200 IDR per trip
  • have a prebooked ashram, hostels etc
  • Food 100IDR per decent meal
  • water rafting adventure is available priced at 800rupees per person