Saturday 31 December 2011

Wish You a Happy 2012

May the dawn of 2012 bring you what you aspire and strive for. Year 2011 has been good for me in most respects - be it work, travel or in various other things.

A Dawn in the Beautiful British Columbia

I do hope that 2012 would brings to me as well as to those of you who like traveling new and more avenues of travel.

This is my last post of 2011 writing from Canada. I fly on the very first day of 2012 to Beijing and hope to see the Great Wall of China there.

I would blog about the visit to Canada and China as soon as I get the chance to write these posts.

Happy traveling!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Boxing Day in Canada

I went to the Oakridge Mall in Vancouver today for seeing what happens on a Boxing Day. Well it was dissappointing as neither did I see huge ques nor fabulous discounts. Most discounts were in the order of 40 to 50% - but these discounts were already in place even before Christmas! Such discounts are common now round the year in India!

Boxing Day Shopping

As far as crowds were concerned - it was no different from the previous week. Except for one store where I saw some que outside, all other stores had normal rush - or the lack of it - in this mall.

Compared to this the 'Apple' Store had ques outside the store even before the Boxing Week.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

I wish all the readers of my blog and friends across the globe a Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas

I am writing this small post from the beautiful British Columbia in Canada. All places here- be it houses, streets, markets or malls -  are lit for the Christmas festivities!

Saturday 10 December 2011

Accommodation at Renuka

This post is subsequent to my earlier post wherein I had stated that I would write about the accommodation scenario in Renuka.

Renuka in itself has only one hotel and that is 'The Renuka' managed by the HPTDC which is a Himachal Government enterprise. The closest private hotels to Renuka lake are at least three kilometers away and therefore at least in location no hotel can beat The Renuka.

The Renuka hotel has two wings - One is the newer wing as can be seen in the photo below. It has good looks from outside and the bath and toilet facilities are modern. This wing also has the dining hall and the kitchen. But then the good points about this wing stop here. No mediocre architect also would have aligned the wing in such a position that the rooms do not face the lake! That is the travesty of the modern India. People do not know how to make rooms!

Newer wing of Hotel Renuka
Compared to this the older wing was built nearly 60 years back (that is where I stayed) which gives you the best view from all rooms (as well as if you sit outside the rooms) of the lake. I would give 10 out of 10 for the positioning of the rooms.

Older wing of Hotel Renuka
You can see the lake (see the photo below) right from where you are sitting throughput the day. The older wing actually was a Forest Rest House earlier and only later became Hotel Renuka.

View of the Renuka from my Room
The rooms in the older wing have very high ceilings compared to the new wing and have 'roshandaans' or high windows for light as well as cross ventilation of air so that even in summers one may not require an air-conditioner despite the fact that Renuka's altitude is not very high.

High ceiling Rooms
I would definitely recommend the old wing for staying because of all the reasons cited above. The only problematic thing in the old wing is that the toilets are 'Indian' in all rooms except one. Also in the hotel rooms though the TV with satellite facility is there but it hardly works (though this was a boon for me as I prefer not to watch the idiot box when I go out of Delhi).  

Boat as flower pot at Renuka

An interesting use of the boats that have now been discarded is that they have been turned into huge flower pots as can be seen in the photo above as well as below. The boat shaped flower pots in the photo below are not boats but are side attachments of a boat. These were diesel boats that used to pollute the lake.

Side attachments of boat as flowerpots at Renuka

Boating facility (only pedal boats - which is good for the lake) is available here though I feel it is expensive (Rs 300 to 500 for half an hour).

The food at the hotel is decent and not very spicy. The best bet for breakfast is 'Aloo Parantha'. I stayed there for six days (normally people stay either less than 24 hours!) as I wanted a leisurely holiday. Therefore, I found the menu 'limited'. The 'Sabudana Kheer' was prepared well.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Renuka - the Reclining Woman

In beginning of October this year as there were several holidays I decided to hit the mountains and as usual I decided not to go to too touristy a place. I went to Renuka lake located in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. One has to take National Highway 72 from Ambala till Nahan. This distance is about 85 kilometers. The road condition is good and one enters Himachal at Kala Amb. After this one has to take a Major District Road till Renuka. Nahan to Renuka is about 40 kilometers. Some stretches of the road is not good but overall it is not bad.

It took me about eight hours of normal driving to reach Renuka from Delhi. At Renuka I stayed at hotel Renuka which is run by Himachal Tourism Development Corporation. The advantage of this hotel is its location as this is the only hotel located right next to the Renuka lake as one can see from the picture below taken from my room.

View of Renuka Lake from my hotel room
I will blog about the accommodation in another post. This is the biggest lake in Himachal situated at 672 meters above sea level and is named after goddess Renuka. According to the mythology this is the birth place of Lord Parshuram son of Renuka.

Reflections in the Lake

One can take a walk of the whole circumference of the lake, which would be a little over three kilometers. All around there is dense flora and a wild life sanctuary. Additionally boating facilities are available.

Two suns - sunset at Renuka Lake

The sunrise and sunsets, cloud permitting, could be beautiful.

The Renuka lake is supposedly having a shape of a reclining woman. As the shape is not visible at ground level I first drove several kilometers gaining altitude and then even trekked to get a glimpse of this reclining posture. With little bit of imagination mixed with reality (see the photo below) one can see that the shape of the lake is that of a woman reclining.

The Reclining Woman - Renuka

Unfortunately, the size of the lake is shrinking due to silting and weeds especially on the eastern side of the lake. The local authorities must take steps of rectify this else a beautiful place like this would one day cease to exist.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Death of a Town - Confirmed

Recently I had gone to visit a friend in Chirawa again. Chirawa is in The Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. The last time (three years back) I had gone there I had seen several beautiful old buildings constructed in the old style with drawings on its outer walls. I had that time itself predicted in my blog Death of a Town that these bautiful buildings will soon vanish.

I got this confirmation this time as I saw that most the the old buildings that I had seen just three years back were no longer there. Very few old buildings remained and these were also on the verge of being demolished as can be seen from the photo below. In this photo you can see an old house but in front of that house what you see as a vacant plot was also an old building with paintings that has been demolished.

An Old Painted House in Chirawa
What replaces these beautiful buildings is the ugly so called modern glass buildings as can be seen in the photo below.

The New Glass Buildings Replacing the Old Beautiful Houses

Probably the photos above as well as in the earlier post would serve posterity purpose only. What a sad state.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Beautiful Sunset

Sunset at my Farmhouse
This beautiful sunset photo was taken recently when I was vacationing at my farmhouse so that I could be away from the Diwali madness of Delhi. One can never expect such beautiful sunsets in Delhi.

The skies were absolutely clear and unlike Delhi no haze or smog was there. Of course, I would have loved it even better if there were some clouds during sunset as then one can watch the changing colour of the clouds! 

Friday 28 October 2011

Pray Without Effort?

You see the waterfall in the photo below that I have also mentioned in one of my earlier posts (Nature) and a temple complex can also be seen in the foreground. The stoutly devoted ones make the effort to get out of their cars or any other means of transport and walk the very short distance to pay their obeisance and also to donate some money.

Waterfall with a temple in the foreground

What I also noticed was that the pujari (temple priest) of this complex has put a contraption right on the railing of the bridge so that those who do not have the energy, time or inclination to stop and walk to the temple can at least donate the money right on the road! Notice the metal box next to the temple flag. The metal box has a slit for the money to be inserted and also has a canopy so that the money is safe from the elements specifically rain. The priests seems to be a real innovative person ensuring a steady income!

Innovative Donation Box Next to the flag

The temple and the waterfall are approximately nine kilometers before Renuka on the Nahan-Renuka Major District Road in the district of Sirmour in Himachal Pradesh.. 

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Festival of Lights

Diwali Lamps at Home

Well the festival of lights, Diwali or as some call Deepawali, is here and I have gone away from Delhi to be at my farmhouse away from the noise, pollution and traffic jams that is synonymous with Diwali in Delhi. Yes the lighting is fine as I have at my home.

To all those who celebrate - Happy Diwali!!! 


Recently I had gone to the Sirmour district in Himachal on vacation. I crossed this beautiful, clear as ice, waterfall. The waterfall is between Nahan and Renuka, approximately nine kilometers from Renuka.

A Waterfall

And then I encountered heavy rainfall and within minutes a dry rock bed became a furious water channel containing lots of silt. It was a reminder as to what kind of havoc nature can bestow on us if we destroy the vegetation wantonly.

Immediately after Rainfall

Sunday 9 October 2011

Puran Singh Da Dhaba - Revisited

In the last week I had to cross Ambala twice and what better food, if you are a non-vegetarian, than that of  Puran Singh Da Dhaba which of course I had both the times!

The food was as delicious as it was during my first experience. See my earlier post on the Dhaba for greater details.

Keema Kaleji, Mutton & Chicken Curry and at Puran Singh

The slight difference is that the mutton curry prices have gone up slightly but that is to be expected what with the general inflation.

The eatery is open only from seven in the morning till four in the evening.

What the Dhaba needs to do on an urgent basis is to renovate its outer and interiors as it seems that it has not even done white-washing for quite some time.

As it is the nearby dhabas which also claim to be the authentic ones are now advertising that they have been visited and recommended by the famous duo of Rocky and Mayur of the 'Highway on My Plate' fame.  

Sunday 18 September 2011

A Painting or a Photo?

This is a photo that I had clicked when I was travelling in a double Decker bus from Aylesbury in the Buckinghamshire  to Oxford on route A418. It was a rainy day (it had snowed earlier in the morning in some parts near Aylesbury) and I had clicked this photo just for the heck of it.  It was taken from the front window pane and since the pane had rain water blurring the vision it was much later did I realise that it gives the impression of a painting. The photo was clicked most likely when I was passing Thames town.

On a rainy day in UK

Saturday 10 September 2011

Importance of Time

It's hopeless what I am asking for:
Time can't be put back to an hour
At which it has been once before;
That's something no earthly power
Has ever managed, to be sure.

Time runs along and flies away
And won't come back until doomsday,
And I well know it isn't right
To ask if Time could halt its flight
Or else if Time could speed its way.

- Cervantes

Sunday 21 August 2011

Kharapathar and Giri Ganga

I try and visit locations which are normally not frequented too much by the tourists and so I went to Kharapathar and Giri Ganga. Kharapathar is a small village about 85 kms from Shimla in the Pabbar valley and has scenic snow capped views, green dense forests, orchards and wild flowers.

Giri Ganga Resort, Kharapathar

I stayed at the Giri Ganga Resort run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) - a state government enterprise. The rooms are decent and give good views of the valley and the peaks.

View of the Snow Capped Peaks

Wild Flowers

Next day after a hearty breakfast I decided to take the trail leading to the source of Giri Ganga. The trail is approximately six to seven kms from the hotel one way. I packed a knapsack with water, snacks, chocolates etc  and started at Nine in the morning. The view on the trail is very good and you get a panoramic view of the snow capped peaks. If one wants one can drive right up to the top but if you are interested to do so make sure that you have a 4x4 with a high clearance vehicle.

Deodar Forests

The last one-third of the journey not only have denser forest but also the rocks are huge (some several hundred feet long). The path is along the pines first and later deodars and full of wild flowers.

A Water Snout on the trail




 The Giri Ganga temple complex has five-six small temples of Durga, Shiva etc.

Giri Ganga Temple Complex

Durga Temple at Giri Ganga

The point where the Giri Ganga reemerges (presumably it originates at Kuppar peak and then vanishes and reemerges here. Also known as Giri, it later on merges with the river Yamuna. The actual point is quite hidden and most people presume the larger concrete pond to be the place instead of the actual one (photo given below)

The Source where the Giri Ganga Reemerges (presumably) 
The temple complex does not have even a tea stall leave aside any place to eat so it was just as well that I had carried some stuff with me. During pilgrim season I believe several pilgrims do visit the place so it is important that either a private enterprise or the state government comes up with a place to stay and as well as some eateries.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Dhosi Hills

Dhosi Hills or Dhosi ki Pahadi as they are called locally are situated about eight kilometers from Narnaul, a small town in Haryana on the Delhi - Singhana - Jhunjhunu route. Narnaul would be approximately 150 kms from Delhi. After crossing Narnaul (towards Singhana) one takes a minor road on the left approximately five kilometers after crossing the town and go further 3 kms to the base of the hills.

Interesting Rock Formation to Climb

I decided to climb the hills for the fun of it one winter morning as in summers the rocks would be too hot to touch. I reached the foot of the hills by car at around 7 AM and parked the car and started to climb on the path initially and later on as it became too boring to stick to the path I started randomly to climb and find my own route including some interesting rock climbing as well.

View of the Dhosi Hills as you approach from below

Sunrise as seen after climbing some distance on the Dhosi Hills

As per some sources (I am not vouching for the authenticity of the same) Manu Smriti, Vedas and Upnishads were written in and around this hill. The famous Chavan Rishi Ashram is located here. The ashram gives the looks of a fort.

Chavan Rishi Ashram

The area around the Ashram and the temple is in a depression with the hill walls all around and there is a pond where the water therefore gets accumulated from the whole area.

Remnants of a 500 year old fort built by Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya are still visible at several points.

Fort Walls

The view that I got from the top of the Dhosi hills of the villages down below as well as the nearby areas was worth the climb.

A village seen from atop the Dhosi Hills

Would you like to go there?

Rock Climbing anyone?

Saturday 30 July 2011

Sunset at Mandi

This beautiful red sky sunset was at a place called Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, India.

Sunset from the balcony of my hotel
Mandi is a small town with a population of just about 60,000 persons. It is located at a height of about 2461 feet above sea level. It can be quite hot during day time even in early winters but nights are cool to cold in winters. From my hotel not only could I view the mountains all around but look down upon the river Beas as the hotel is located almost at the heighest location in Mandi.

Tarna Devi Temple, Mandi

The temple of Tarna Devi situated atop the Tarna hills is quite famous here but when I went there to see this ancient temple there was not much ancient looks to it as the people who manage it has painted it in gory colours and it did not appeal to me at all. Of course the only good thing reaching the temple site was to get views of the town and nearby areas from another angle.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Meeting the Legend - Sir Chris Bonington

Yesterday I met the legendary mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington. I got to know that he is coming to our campus couple of months back and since then I was eagerly waiting to meet him. When he arrived on the campus he pleasantly surprised me by saying – so you are the mountaineer here.

With Sir Chris Bonington

Later in the evening he gave a public lecture at Taj Ambassador on “Everest – Peak of Achievement”. The lecture was based on Sir Chris’s experiences as a member of the Norwegian Everest Expedition’s successful ascent of Everest in 1985 to illustrate leadership, teamwork and motivation.

Sir Chris Bonington's lecture on Everest A Peak of Achievement

After the lecture over drinks we discussed some other climbers also like Jon Krakauer, Anatoli Boukreev and others. Another bonus was meeting his co-climber friend Dr Charles Clarke who is an accomplished mountaineer and has written several books on medicine – more specifically on high altitude medicines. He was the medical officer in two of Bonington’s Everest expeditions - 1975 Everest SW Face and 1982 Everest, NE Ridge, Tibet.

With Sir Chris Bonington and Dr Charles Clarke

Britain's best known mountaineer, Sir Chris Bonington has led and been on 19 Himalayan expeditions, including 4 to Everest which he climbed in 1985 at the age of fifty, and has made many first ascents in the Alps and greater ranges of the world.

His most important climbs are:

1st ascent Annapurna II (26,041 ft) 1960
1st ascent Nuptse (25,850 ft) 1961
1st ascent Central Pillar of Freney 1961
1st ascent Central Tower of Paine (8760 ft), Patagonia 1963
1st ascent Old Man of Hoy 1966
Leader of successful Annapurna South Face Expedition 1970
1st ascent Brammah (21,030 ft) 1973
1st ascent Changabang (22,520 ft) 1974
Leader of successful Everest South West Face Expedition 1975
1st ascent, the Ogre (23,900 ft)1977
1st ascent Mount Kongur, Western Xinjiang, China (25,325 ft) 1981
1st ascent Shivling West (21,250 ft) 1983
1st ascent West Ridge, Panch Chuli II, Kumaon Himalaya, India, 1992
1st ascent The Needle, Greenland 1993
1st ascent Rangrik Rang (21,499 ft), in the Kinnaur Himalaya, India 1994
1st ascent Drangnag Ri (22,312 ft) in the Rolwaling Himal, Nepal 1995
1996 Reconnaissance Expedition to Sepu Kangri (6956m) in Tibet
Leader of 1997 British Expedition to make the first attempt on Sepu Kangri
Leader of 1998 British Expedition to Sepu Kangri
1st ascent Danga (24,776 ft) in Nepal in 2000

He has got several awards: Knighthood, CVO,CBE, Hon. DSc, Sheffield, Hon. MA, Salford, Hon. DSc., Lancaster, Hon,. Fellow, Lancashire Polytechnic, Hon. DCL University of Northumbria, Founders Medal Royal Geographical Society, Lawrence of Arabia Medal of the Royal Asian Society, Livingstone medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

Sir Bonington has authored of 15 books; he has presented and appeared in many television programmes. His books are: I Chose to Climb (autobiography, 1966), Annapurna South Face (1971), The Next Horizon (autobiography, 1973), Everest South West Face (1973), Changabang, Everest the Hard Way (1976), Quest for Adventure (1981), Kongur - China's Elusive Summit (1982), Everest - The Unclimbed Ridge (with Dr Charles Clarke, 1983), The Everest Years (1986), Mountaineer - Thirty Years of Climbing on the World's Great Peaks (1989), The Climbers (1992), Sea, Ice and Rock (1992), Great Climbs (1994), Tibet's Secret Mountain (with Dr Charles Clarke, 1999), Boundless Horizons ( 2000), Chris Bonington's Everest (2002), Everest Expeditions (2003).

Tuesday 31 May 2011

Oxford or Cambridge

Recently when I was reading the ratings of the universities in UK I noticed that Cambridge has taken over Oxford this year.

Personally, if asked where I would like to go again between the two cities Oxford wins hands down. I have already visited Oxford thrice though I have gone only once till now to Cambridge.

Though both the cities are beautuful in their own sense, Oxford is more lively what with more student population and nearly forty colleges - all having majestic building architecture. The residential areas of Oxford are also more bautiful than Cambridge.

Radcliffe Square, Oxford

The night-life and the city centre in Oxford is much more livelier than that of Cambridge. Oxford is more known for Arts whereas Cambridge is more known for Sciences.

King's College, Cambridge

Thursday 21 April 2011

Indian Pond Heron

Today for the first time I sighted the Indian Pond Herons at my work place. Normally, there are several birds that I see on the campus but this was was the first time that I noticed these ones.

Pond Heron

Pond Heron  - a closer look
 There are several migratory birds also that do visit the area especially in winters.