Karthikswami of Kanakchauri

Kartikeya is not very popular like his brother Lord Ganesha and not frequently worshiped by everyone. He is the Hindu god of war according to Indian mythology. There are very few temples of Kartikeya in India. One of them is in Uttarakhand. It is a 3 kilometer uphill trek from Kanakchauri village of Rudraprayag district.

I reached Kanakchauri from Rudraprayag by bus in the month of April 2018. There were very few hotels in Kanakchauri. I stayed in Mayadeep Holiday Home. There was no other tourist at Kanakchauri then. I talked to the attendant of the hotel. He arranged a local guide for me who was a boy of 18 years, and had just appeared in the State Board Higher Secondary exam then. For watching sunrise from Karthikswami temple we started at 4 o’clock in the morning.

The sky was starry. The Milky-way galaxy and innumerable known as well as unknown constellations of stars were clearly visible. I felt spellbound watching the sky. It was absolutely dark. We were going through the dense woods. Different types of eerie sounds could be hard. Unknown nocturnal birds were making strange sounds and insects were shrieking. I asked the boy if there was any chance of ferocious animals to come across on the way. He replied very casually that cheetahs and bears could come out. I asked with doubt if they were deadly, he informed occasionally they attacked. I got very much scared. I kept on talking with him and made sounds with my walking stick so that no animal did appear. I had heard that all animals were afraid of human.

My guide

Gradually the day light started coming out behind the mountain range of the eastern side. I could not reach the top on time due to my weak legs and heart. But I saw the first rays of sun from the staircases of the temple. There was haze but still the mountain range was visible all over. I felt very much grateful, I bowed Lord Kartikeya for appearing in front of me, took few snaps, then came down. Coming down was easier, and we met few local devotees and ponies carrying loads who were going upward then.

Mt itinerary (Ladakh)

Kolkata- Delhi- Leh- Delhi – Kolkata.

Nubra ( Diskit Monastery – Hundar – Turtuk)- Leh – Thiksey monestary – Pangong Tso – Hemis monestary – Leh – Shyam Valley ( Shanti stupa – Hall of Fame – Magnetic hill- Gurdwara Pathar saheb – confluence of Indus and Zanskar river-Alchi monestary – Likir Monastary – Lamayuru – Leh – Chumathang – Tso Moriri – Leh .

I planned Ladakh trip in the second half of April. Going by road, that is starting from Srinagar and end at Manali or vice versa, and at the same time spending 10 days within Ladakh to go the main points takes at list 18 to 20 days. Taking so long a vacation was not possible for either my son or for me. Secondly fare of Delhi -Leh flights remain quite affordable from November to April . Renting car is also cheaper during this period. They give 15% discount. Hotels do not open till the end of May but there are few home-stays that remain open all over the year. Within Ladakh roads are kept open all over the year. There are several military camps in different strategic places and being a border region army trucks ply allover the year from those places. One can see plenty of snow and a different kind of beauty this time. Temperature is also bearable during this period.

We stayed in Sia-La guest house. In 2013 it was affordable for us. The home-stay owner and his wife were very congenial. Being off season there were only two foreigners there in the home-stay. So they gave us a lot of attention. They arranged our SUV. The driver was very good and helpful. My son had primary altitude sickness, he had to take Diamox tablet and kept on drinking a lot of fruit juice. We managed the trip comfortably with the help of our driver and the local people wherever we went.

My itinerary (Lakshadwip & Kerala)

Kolkata – Chennai – Cochin (Ernakulam ) -Lakshadweep – Cochin – Munnar -Periyar- Cochin -Kolkata

Lakshadwip was my childhood dream destination. I made a contact with the local agent of SPORTS, an agency that conduct cruise package for Lakshadwip. We bought train tickets to reach Cochin and air tickets for coming back from Cochin to Kolkata. I included Munnar and Periyar in the same plan. I wanted to go to Aleppy by backwater but my son was not interested in it as according to his opinion after a cruise tour to Lakshadweep it would not be a worthy one to enjoy.

Nilgiri Thar

After finishing our Lakshadwip package we went to Cochin Inter-state bus stand and caught a bus for Munnar at 3 PM and reached there in the evening .There are quite a number of hotels in the mall and road side food stall. Munnar is a small hill station in Western Ghat range. Anaimudi is the highest peak of Western ghat. There is Eraviculam National Park. There are several places to visit. The whole area is covered with tea gardens and Sandalwood forest . We stayed 2 nights in Munnar and booked a car for local sight seeing.

Then we went to Periyar. There was local bus service from Munnar to go to Periyar, but we hired a car. The journey from Munnar to Periyar was pleasant due to the scenic beauty. Periyar is also a very nice place with a reserve forest, lake and spice market. We stayed in a home-stay there.

My itineraries

How I plan my trips and why.

I love to travel since my childhood. My parents were also fond of traveling. I started traveling with my parents at the age of 4. Every year I would travel in different parts of India. I traveled most of the tourist destinations with my parents which are now very common like Kullu-Manali- Shimla or Andaman or Kashmir or Kedar-Badri etc. My father used to bring brochures from different states’ Tourism Development Corporation and made plans accordingly. At that time there was no internet facility. I used to be his assistant and adviser in this matter. After 1984 I could not travel due to some unavoidable circumstances.

As soon as I became a bit free from the burdens of life, I resumed regular traveling since 2009. The passion for travel, which had been suppressed since a long time, got a small vent. I started traveling alone since 2015. Now a days I travel once or twice a year. I can not manage enough leave and resource to travel more than that. I don’t make short weekend trips. My travel duration is two weeks normally. When I go to a region I try to cover places as much as possible not making the schedule too hectic. I have to depend on public transport and I visit mostly in Himalayas where the weather and the road condition are unpredictable. So I keep one or two buffer days. I also plan in such a way so that I come nearer to the boarding point gradually.

Corbyn’s Cove Port Blair

I do not want to travel to very difficult places and do not try to trek because of my arthritis. But if one goes to Himalayas he/she should be mentally prepared to walk a few kilometer daily because there is no system of auto/tuktuk or rickshaw for covering short distances specially in the small villages. If someone really loves to travel then it is always bearable and enjoyable.

Chatham Saw mill

I plan to travel mostly in the off seasons so that I can get less crowd and can get off season discounts making spot bookings in hotels. But some places have fixed time schedules like Valley of Flowers, Manimahesh or Amarnath. One has to visit them within a fixed period of the year. People of Himalayas are still simple, congenial and honest in comparison with plain, though I never faced any problem anywhere till date by the blessings of Providence.

Bon voyage

Colourful Khirshu

I came across this name while planning my Tungnath trip, so I decided if everything went smoothly according to my plan I would visit Khirshu. Khirshu is a small village in Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. It is for those travelers who prefer off beat destinations. I came to know that buses for Pauri ply from Srinagar in regular intervals. I reached Srinagar from Rudrapayag and caught a bus for Pauri. Pauri is the district town of Pauri Garhwal district. I took a shared Jeep from the jeep stand to reach Khirshu from Pauri.

There is a GMVN tourist rest house in Khirshu. It is hardly half a kilometer walk from the main road where the shared jeeps drop their passengers. It is a good and peaceful place. There is a forest behind the rest house where many types of birds can be found. One can say it is a bird watchers’ paradise.

The range of Himalayas and snow peaks can be seen from Pauri and Khirshu, but I was unlucky. There was forest fire all over the hills at that time. At night fire could be seen in the far away hills. In some parts there was natural fire, in some parts it was man made. Locals put fire in the forest to increase their grazing field or making land for cultivation. The whole atmosphere was full of smoke and haze. No peak was visible, but still Khirsu seemed very beautiful with it’s natural beauty and every garden was full of different types of roses. Chirping of birds woke up everyone in the morning. It is a good place for some days repose.

Adorable Kaudiyala.

Kaudiyala is a small village on Badrinath Road or National Highway 58. It is 40 kilometer away from Rishikesh. It is famous for adventure tourism like river rafting, rock climbing etc. On my first solo trip I came across this place when our shared jeep broke its leaf spring here for 3rd time and was impressed by its beauty. I had breakfast here and roamed around for sometimes while the driver had been busy for repairing.

I planned to spend here one night in April 2018 when I was coming down to Haridwar to catch the train. presently Haridwar and Rishikesh have become too much crowded. I came to Kaudiyala from Pauri. There is a GMVN luxury tourist rest house which is at the bank of the river. I wanted to do river rafting but could not because it was organized only in the weekends as they informed. I was not very much interested for it so I did not make further inquiry in other places. River Ganga is very clean here though wide and in full force. At some places it is quite deep. It takes a sharp turn here towards Rishikesh after Devprayag.

The colour of the water was greenish blue then. One can spend hours here watching the panoramic beauty of the place from the garden of the tourist rest house. I roamed along the river in the evening. It is a very suitable place to spend leisure time. There are few hotels, trekkers camps etc for stay. Since early morning the roadside restaurants remain opened till the late night for the travellers who take a break here on their journey to Chardham .

Pobitora, a lesser known abode of Rhinos.

Pobitora is mainly famous for its great Indian one horned rhinoceros. Pobitora has exceeded its rhino-bearing capacity and is overpopulated. Besides rhinoceros, the other animals are leopard, wild boar, barking deer, wild buffaloes etc. Assam’s Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to more than 2000 migratory birds and various reptiles. It is located 30 km east of Guwahati.

Lazy Rhino

We made a plan to go there a day before coming back to Kolkata in the end of our upper Assam trip. Pobitora Wild life Sanctuary is about one hour journey from Guwahati. So we started early in the morning.

There was a Ganapati temple on the way to Pabitora. We visited that place. We reached the sanctuary and had breakfast there. There were few hotels. In one of them we ordered our lunch, so that we could have it while coming back. They possessed their own ponds from which they took out live fish for their guests.

We hired a jeep for the jungle safari. There were many rhinos who were quite lazy even to look at us. Some were grazing in the field. There were many wild buffaloes also, with few types of migratory birds because it was not the proper season to visit Pobitora. I took some snaps there and came back.

We had our lunch with country chicken curry and fresh Ar ( a type of cat fish) curry and came back in the afternoon.

Heavenly Harsil.

Harsil is a quaint hamlet in Uttakashi district at an altitude of 7,860 ft. Its beauty is still unspoiled. Spending some days here can rejuvenate mind as well as health of a nature lover.

I went to Harsil from Gangotri on the way back to Uttarkashi. I came down from Bhojobasa in the morning and caught a shared jeep which was going to Uttarkashi from Gangotri jeep stand. It dropped me on the highway at the entrance of Harsil. There were few staircases and then crossing a bridge on the river Bhagirathi I reached Harsil.

GMVN tourist rest house is in the interior of the village. It is located at the bank of the river Bhagirathi. I kept my luggage in the room and went to the backyard of the rest house beside the bank of the river. I sat there for a long time. The beauty of the place was addictive. In the month of May the water was muddy due to the fast melting and breaking of huge ice blocks from Gangotri glacier at its source. There were woods on the both side of the river. Snow peaks could be seen from there.

I roamed around the village in the afternoon. There were many apple orchards with very tiny green apples on them. I found young shepherds with their flocks of sheep coming back home. Village dogs were following me, they looked handsome, as many tourists would feed them biscuits they were expecting some food from me too. I was scared, one local rescued me from them. As the manager came to know that I was from Kolkata , he offered me egg curry in the dinner, which I denied. I met a family from Gujrat, all of them looked very morose including their children. Only the man said “hello” to me when the manager introduced us at the time of dinner. At that time no other boarder was there in the guest house.

Harsil is the gateway of several trek routes. One can reach there directly from Haridwar or from Uttarkashi. There are few hotels and road side restaurant at the market place. I wanted to visit Nelang from there but could not manage the permit.

My experience at Bharmor (Himachal Pradesh )

Bharmor is a small hill town in the district of Chamba and the starting point of Manimahesh Yatra. Bharmani Mata is the goddess of the place. One should visit Bharmani Mata before visiting Manimahesh. She is the Shakti of Manimahesh Shiva. So after reaching Bharmor I visited Bharmani mata temple, it was accessible by car as well as by foot, I took a shared jeep to reach there. At Bharmor HPTDC hotel I met a congenial doctor couple who visited Bharmor thrice with the intention to go to Manimah by helicopter, but every time for some reason they missed it. They also accompanied us to Bharmoni mata temple. They are still in contact with me. There is another temple in Bharmor which is called Chaurashi temple. It is said that the temple was built 1400 years ago, it is at the center of the town. There was a fair during that time when I visited Chaurashi temple.

Bharmani Mata Temple

In the premises of the Chaurashi temple there were several small temples. Chaurashi means eighty-four. I visited Shiva temple, Ganapati temple and few other temples. I took several photos of the temples and the idols. When I entered the Narasimha temple I asked the priest if I could take a photo, but he denied, I bowed and put a ten rupees note in the donation box and came out.

Temple Fair

A wicked idea came into my mind. I thought I must take a photo of Narasimha from outside zooming my camera lens hiding behind the eyes of the priest. I took the photo. Then a strange incident happened. I could not take a single photo after that in the temple yard. My camera showed that the memory card was full. I remembered that I had forgotten to clean the memory card of my camera before this trip. One can say this was a coincidence. But I was scared. How could I take photos after this, the main part of the journey was still left for which I had been craving for long ago.

Shree Narasimhadev

Eventually I found a man with a computer doing photo editing in a shop in the market. I asked him to clear out my memory card. He did so, though I lost some of my photos of Bharmoni mata temple. I felt relieved and thanked God that if it had happened on the way to Manimahesh, it would become a disaster for me as I could not get even a single snap of the places till I reached Dalhausie. Manimahesh was one of the most difficult pilgrimage and I could not think of going there for the second time in my life at this age.

After that experience I never try to take a photo of any idol where taking photo is prohibited. One may call me superstitious but I am not ashamed to say that I am superstitious when I am traveling to Himalayas and I do not want to take any risk with anything. If I don’t take a photo of an idol it does not matter much to me because my intention is to see the places and the beauty of the nature. I keep the images of those gods in the memory card of my mind with due reverence. I consider Himalayas is itself a god. Going there is always a pilgrimage to me.

Tranquil Tso Moriri

The month of April is not the proper season to go to Ladakh specially to Tso Moriri. Initially I planned to stay at Korzok village but our home stay owner at Leh dissuaded me to do so. We reached Chumathang at 4 PM after visiting Hemis Monastery. Chumathang is known for its hot springs. It was quite a bright afternoon. There was a government guest house but the caretaker probably could not expect guests in the month of April, so he was not available.

There was a motel but it was still closed for guests. I requested the owner to arrange a night shelter for us while having tea and snacks from his shop. He cleaned a room for us. There was a well equipped attached bathroom but the water pipe was blocked due to ice. Rooms were built on a land between the river Indus and the hot spring. The owner comforted us saying that they would supply water as much as we needed from the hot spring in buckets. They did so, but water was always too hot to use immediately. The room was cozy and the food, they served, was good.

In the early morning we started for Tso Moriri as our driver told us that there would be more slush and mud on the way back if we delayed. The road was empty and mostly covered with snow. No one was there. Neither tourists nor local people. We were spell bound to see the white snow all over and the clear blue sky.

Reaching Korzok we saw frozen Tso Moriri. I was feeling blessed. It seemed to me that all those beauty was only for me that nature had unfurled there. I felt mesmerized in such unexpected serenity and tranquility. There was no sound, it seemed that life has stopped in the midst of the frozen valley. My son, our driver and I were only there, no one else. Far away from the place there were few nomadic people on their horse back. could be seen.