Spiti Valley – The hidden Shangri la of Himalayas

Spiti Valley – The hidden Shangri la of Himalayas.

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Spiti Valley – The hidden Shangri la of Himalayas

In 2010, a few of my friends went out on a biking trip to Leh & Ladakh, but due to heavy rains in Leh, they ended up visiting Spiti valley. Very recently, I happend to watch some footage of their trip and that’s when I realised I wanted to see Spiti with my own eyes.
By the time we decided (me and my wife) to go on a trip to Spiti, it was just 1 week from the day we actually took off.
We didn’t have enough time to plan an itinerary or book hotel. We just took off. I’d say it’s always fun going on a trip with an unwritten itinerary.

We flew from Bangalore till Chandigarh. This is the second time I visted Chandigarh. I love this small very well planned city.
We should have booked toy train from Chandigarh to Shimla earlier, hard luck! tickets were all sold out.

We had to drive to Shimla instead. We stopped for brunch at one of the hundreds of Pujnabi Dhabas we came across. The parathas we had here were so yummy!

Shimla was, as expected, way too crowded. Traffic jams slowed us down big time!

We reached Kufri at around 4ish in the evening, we were in a dilemma whether to go for a horse back ride or not. Horse back ride would take anywhere around 2-4 hours, we chucked the plan and drove ahead towards Narkanda.
We left the crowd behind in Shimla, and got to see the beauty of the Himalayas onwards. These roads were just heavenly.

Narkanda
On our way to Narkanda

We stayed at a decent hotel in Narkanda. ​Narkanda is a small town, at an altitude of around 2700 meters and hosts a Ski resort. I would definitely reccomend a stay here rather than in Shimla.

Our trip was all about our journey on the unpaved roads, scary bridges, dam construction sites, along the beautiful apple farms, rivers, streams,high altitude mountain passes and low valleys with an unplanned itinerary.

I can try to write about my experience about the journey, but believe me there’s no substitute for being there.

From Narkanda, it took us around 5 hours to reach Sangla Valley. We found this place to be so scenic, we decided to stay here We spent sometime in the evening hiking around. We found peple to be very hospitable people here. We stayed in a Hotel but we could also see a few tents hooked up in Apple farms, we should have rented tents instead but we’d already booked a room (at Cafe 42). I’d also suggest, if possible drive till Rakchamm and stay in Rakcham, which is an hours journey from Sangla towards Chitkul.

Our next destination Chitkul, the last village on the Indo-Tibet border. Okay, rather than explaining about the journey in words, i’l better post more pics.

Chitkul
On our way to Chitkul
After our visit to Chitkul, we by-passed Reckong Peo and drove towards Puh (or Pooh). FYI, there’s a military base in Pooh, which hosts a movie theatre. Most probablt you could watch a Bollywood movie here, if interested.
Pooh
Pooh

Along the Sutluj and Spiti rivers, drive only gets better and better (and deserted roads) onwards. We visited Nako and Tabo monasteries along. Both these monasteries are a ‘must visit’.

Tabo Monastery
Tabo Monastery

We reached Kaza, in the evening. Electricity was out for the last 2 days. A blessing in disguise. If you love stars, you have to watch the Night skies from this place. There’s no way I can describe this place in words.
Look at this – http://spaceexp.tumblr.com/image/107251685431

Kaza
Kaza The Shangri La

Kibber is an hours drive from Kaza and happens to be world’s highest village.

Kibber
Kibber – Highest Village in the world
Key Monastery
Key Monastery

We could’nt go further. Due to a snowfall, Kunzum pass was closed. We had to take a detour back towards Reckong Peo.

Reckong Peo
Down town Reckong Peo

Our drive towards Sangla from Reckong Peo was quite a bit of an adventure, it was almost getting dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. That’s when we got to know the road ahead was closed due to a landslide. There was no turning back, we had to take a detour on a narrow muddy road which took us deep into the woods. It was pitch dark and we kept driving in the night. We reached Sumdo at around 10 PM, some one suggested us we could stay at Tapri Government guest house. By the time we reached Tapri it was midnight. ‘Never again we’l take such a risk’ – we told ourselves

From Tapri, we passed lush green Jalori Pass, towards Kullu. Kullu to Manali along Beas was fun a few years back. But now, I feel it’s a little too commercial and crowded.
We spent a couple of days around Manali, we also made it to Roghtang Pass.

Marhi
Marhi
Around Spiti
Around Spiti

Around Spiti

I got so used to traveling around Spiti that I felt like I could just go on and on. I felt like I should just stay back. This trip, to me, was was such a physical and spiritual gain.

I’d like to end this with a quote that I’d read somewhere-
The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask

Our travel map –
Chandigarh-Shimla-Narkanda-Solang-Sangla-Chitkul-ReckongPeo-Puh-Tabo-Nako-Kaza-Kibber-Key-Sangla-Jalori-Kullu-Manali-Rohtang-Vasisht. (Kunzum Pass was closed due to heavy snow)

List of Hotels that we stayed in-
Narkanda
Hotel Old Thorns
Price- 700 INR
Address: Behind Narkanda Main Bus stand, there is a board behind temple about the hotel.
Sangla Valley
Cafe42
Price- 1000 INR
https://www.facebook.com/Cafe42Sangla
I suggest if possible stay at Rakchamm.
Hotel Rupin Riverview
Rakcham Sangla, 9816686789, 9418092894
Pooh
Govt Guest house, 5km from highway uphill
Price- 1100 INR
Kaza – Hotel Deyzor
Price- 1500 (We paid 2k for 2 days – off season rates)
Address: Near BSNL Office V.P.O., New Kaza, Himachal Pradesh 172114
Phone:094 18 402660
Tapri – PWD Guest house
Price- 500 INR
Adress: Tapri 1km from highway downhill.
Vasisht-
Price- We paid around 2000 for 2 days
Best place to stay in Manali.
Address: 500 meters from Vashist hot water springs on main road

in the lost city of Machu Picchu

A visit to Machu Picchu has been on my wish list for more than 15 years. To be precise, when I read Tinin – Prisoners of the Sun for the first time, I was a school kid back then, I’d dremt back then to see the Incas, Temple of the Sun, and the Llamas of South America.

It all started when I came across Machu Pichhu travel deal by Gate1 travels on livingsocial.com. Iknew it was a risk to book a trip to Machu Picchu in March (the rainy season), but I booked it anyway.

Andes_Landscapes
Andes Landscapes

Amazing landscapes around the Andes of Peru

Our first few days in Peru was around the Andes, Urubamba and Cuzco. There’s much more to Peru than its ancient Inca artifacts. From the soaring peaks of the Andes and the lush Amazon Rainforests and Spanish colonial cathedrals, Peru has it all, the allure of the ancient and mysteries.

On the big day, we travelled in the luxurious Inca rail till Machu Pichuu. When we reached Machu Picchu it was drizzling and very cloudy in the morning.

Misty_MachuPicchu
Misty MachuPicchu

But the mist on the mountains added drama and mystery to the Inca site. We were lucky enough that the longer we stayed the more the sky started to clear up! And eventually WOW what a view!!!

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Totally awestruck to stand at the top looking over the ruins and the Andes Mountains.
This site certainly is worthy of being one of the seven wonders of the world!!! The magnitude of the accomplishments of the Inca people is simply overwhelming.
Below are a few scenes from Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire in southeastern Peru. Standing at an elevation of about 11,000 feet in the Andes, this is an amazing travel destination as well.
Peru Collage
Peru Collage

Peru Tourist Visa for Indian Citizens in US

Important Update as on June 2017 – Latest news:
Indian citizens with US visa (and few other visas) which has validity for more than 6 months, do not need Peru Visa. Check this press release on Indian embassy website. http://www.indembassy.org.pe/english/media/2017-14-exemp.html

I’d been looking forward to go on a vacation to Machu Picchu since a long time. Ever since I booked my tickets, I’d looked over many articles on Machu Pichu, Inca and other stuff, but overlooked gathering enough information on Peru tourist visa. I ended up sprinting in the last minute to get my Peru Visa.
To start with, it was pretty difficult to understand all the information they’ve put on official Peru Conuslate website, and there is’nt sufficient information on the Internet about Peru visa. I’ve shared my experience here, so that it’l help others-

I reached NYC Peru consulate at 10 am with all my documents. The consulate was almost empty. I submitted the documents at the counter. After a couple of minutes, to my surprise they declined to process my visa. They gave me a letter which said, NYC Peru consulate would process visa only if you are a resident of NY state. Since my residential address was in Pennsylvania, I had to go to New Jersy Paterson consulate to get my visa processed.

I immediately travelled to NJ, and reached the consulate around 1PM. Eventhough the consulate was open will 1:30, they did not process my visa that day. They said it was just too late.

I ended up applying leave the next day to get my Visa done, and had to drive all the way to New Jersy from my home in PA.

Important Information:

  • Every consulate has it’s own jurisdiction for processing visa (http://imgur.com/fTNxacX) Peru consulates have a list which says, if you reside in a certain state, they’l process your visa only at certain consulate locations.
  • Eventhough the consulate is open till (around 1:30 PM), you have to be in the consulate atleast before 10am. (If you reach the consulate by say noon, they wont process visa for you on that day)
  • Consulate is usually open on one Saturday in a month. (Please call and verify)

Documents for a tourist visa :

  • Application Form (Refer below for instructions how to fill one)
  • Valid Passport
  • Round Trip Air Ticket
  • Hotel Reservation, Tourist Package Reservation
  • Bank statements – 3 months
  • If you’re in US on a US-visa, then you need an employment proof letter (Refer below for instructions how to fill one)
  • Proof of residence in USA – State ID card / Bank Statement /
  • Passport photos – 2 Copies
  • Application Fee – 30 USD in cash

Process:

  • Not technologically advanced process though people are very helpful
  • They take a photo on their digicam
  • Wait for 1-3 hours in the consulate
  • You’l be given a 60 day Multiple entry Tourist visa (full-page visa sticker) on your passport

How to fill Application form:

  • You can download the application form from Official Website – http://www.consuladoperu.com/
  • Form is called – FORMULARIO DGC-005 SOLICITUD DE VISA
  • Fill only the General information section according to your passport
  • IMPORTANT– For Permanent address, give your US residence address.

Sample Employment Letter :

To Whomsoever it may concern,
This is to certify that LastName, FirstName with Emp #EmpID is employed with CompanyName on a full time basis since 12/18/2006.
He is deputed to USA effective 06/23/2014, designated as YourProfession in US Work Address. His approximate gross salary is $Salary per year.
LastName, FirstName is currently residing in the following address as per our records: US Residential Address.
This authorized certificate is being issued for the purpose of approving the vacation plans from 03/16/2015 to 03/24/2015.
For CompanyName,
Sincerely,

Dope Shope trip @ Himachal Pradesh

Continued from my previous post —
Baraat was a total dance dhamaka, I never felt any jetlag. All the mishaps in the last few hours were behind me. We had loads of fun. Post Baraat, the food was a-mazing.
The next morning after the wedding, is when the 5 of us Sunil, Shaz, Kumar, Charan and me started off our Uttarakhand trip.
Our trip from Roorkhee to Rishikesh was in a local bus. We then hired a Tata Sumo for our remaining trip.
Drive along the Tehri lake was quite an experience. The small trek along the river and hot noodles we had on the banks of Tehri lake was a nice experience. We stayed overnight at Uttarkashi dowtown.
The next day was our big trek day. The dayara bugyal trek. Our drive till the foot hills of dayara bugyal was a scary one. I cant just forget the moment when our trek guide played the devotional Shiva songs as we drove past Ganges gorges. Trek was a little tiring. But it was worth it. The views of the Himalayas from top of Dayara bugyal was quite a stunner.
Other highlights of our trip was our visit to the Uttarkashi temple. Ganga snan in freezing temperature, rafting in Rishikesh, night out roaming around Ram jhoola and lakshman jhoola, dinner at Buddha bar and our foodmadness at honey hut.
The best part of our trip was our visit to a cave in the mountains near Rishikesh, a cave which’s home to Naga sadhus.
By the time we reached the caves, after a brief trek, it was already dusk.
The yogis offered soup of herbs for all of us.
We had carried milk n sugar for the sadhus, and they prepared kheer for us which tasted very nice.

As the night progressed, we smoked ‘chillam’ with Sadhus.. (Chillam with fresh n pure Cannabis grown in the Himalayas).
In no time, we were so high on cannabis. I just could not get a control on what was happening out there. Someone just whispered in my ears, it’s time for you to medidate. And I started medidating.
And then the ‘Homas’ started, sadhus recited Shiva chants sitting around the homa-kund (fire). The ‘damaruga’ n ‘shankh naad’ n chants n ‘Shiva hymn’ echoed through the himalayan mountains. I was not in an involunatry trance anymore.Everytime I remember that exact moment, it send shivers down spine.

It was bitter cold all night. The sadhus never slept, they kept medidating all night.
Early morning when I woke up in the caves, I was in my normal senses and I could feel the chillness in the air which hit me harder now. I was like ‘where was all the shivering and cold last night’.
We took blessings from the Sadhus and trekked back to our normal-world. Our time at the gufa was simply out-of-the-world literally.
What a trip this one turned out to be!

In a couple of days, I was back in Bangalore. 9-5 office hours. Job. Boring!

An Epic Travel – From Boston to Roorkee

It HAS to be one of the craziest travel experiences EVER !! coz it involved a travel distance of 12,000+ kilometers half way across earth, a travel duration of over 2 days, and on all modes of transportation – air, bus, train, taxi and walk.

Unfolding it from the beginning-
I alway end up dragging my office work untill the very last minute.  My journey started off from Hopkinton (my work location in US). After I finished off my last minute office chores, my colleague dropped me at Logan Express Bus terminal (Framingham, MA). It was a 45 minute ride from Framingham to Boston Logan Airport. I was reminded by the ticketing crew that I made it just in time, and should be cautious in future to arrive on time.
Advice taken! (as always).
I was like phew, everything went just clock-work.

My flight itinerary was a funny one though, Boston-Heathrow-Kuwait-NewDelhi (Thanks to my employer’s ‘book the cheapest airticket’ policy).
Even though I had a tough time fighting off cattle class passengers at Kuwait airport, none my flights got delayed.

I reached New Delhi on time, and I had already booked a train from Delhi to Roorkee. Now, all I had to do was pick up my luggage, hire a taxi, reach railway station and board train to Roorkee. As simple as that.

By the way, did I mention why I was heading to Roorkee instead of Bangalore? ..
So as to attend my friend’s marriage in Roorkee. 🙂 ,, and obviously many of my friends too were traveling towards Delhi / Roorkee on the same day.

It had been six months since I’d met my friends, n I was a little too eager to meet them all.. I took a shuttle from International airport to Domestic airport. Shaz, one of my close friends was supposed to land in Delhi airport in an hour. So, I was like let me meet Shaz in Delhi only, have a small get-together and then let me go to the railway station. I had enough time for that.

#Kirik1- For some reason my Cell phone stopped working.

At 9 am, I met Shaz, his flight had landed on time. After a little chat, we decided to have breakfast together. In the mean time I called up cell phone customer care from Shaz’s phone and got my cell phone fixed.

Shaz said he would accompany me till Railway station since I had lot of luggage to carry., and more over his connecting flight was at 2pm. By the time we hired a taxi, it was already 10am.

#Kirik2 – Crazy Traffic Jam, we managed to reach railway station only by 9:55am. My train was at 10 am. We hurried to the platform, train had already started moving slowly, I dint have time to verify my seat, and my seat was showing as ‘empty’ on the chart so I got into the train,, .. Bye bye Shaz, thanks a lot I shouted as I waved at him, more or less like a DDLJ scene..  I put my luggage under my seat, and sigh.. I was like, Thank God, made it just in time… again!

#Kirik3 – Shaz calls me in 10 minutes, and says I had boarded a wrong train. #wtf . To make things worse, I was traveling in the exact opposite direction.
Everyone in train were trying to help me. I almost  had a thought of pulling the train chain .I eventually got down in the next station, at Faridabad with a 40 kg luggage with me.

#Kirik 4 – I had only 100 rupees with me, no debit card either.
Shaz hired a taxi till Faridabad so that we could come back to New Delhi together. This meant he’s gonna miss his connecting flight.

#Kirik 5 – As I waited for Shaz , my phone battery said 2% remaining. I was literally kicking myself for getting into such a situation on a sunny hot n humid day, that too after my 32 hour flight.
Kumar my other friend had landed in Delhi by now. I called him up, and asked him to hire a taxi till Roorkee from Delhi.
Shaz reached Faridabad, and we decided to take a local train till Delhi Railway station.

#Kirik 6 – Local train experience!!  Close to hundred people in a bogie. What an strenuous experience, a couple of days ago I was chilling out in US, now I was hanging on to my life with 40 kg bags on my shoulders in an overly crowded local Dilli train.

#Kirik 7 – Kumar missed his connecting flight.
Shaz and me reached Delhi railway station at 3ish. Baraat in Roorkee starts in 5 hours. We were still in Delhi.

When I saw Kumar at the railway station with the taxi, it was such a huge relief. I put my luggage in taxi, gave a big hug and we travelled towards Roorkee.

We reached Roorkee, just a few minutes before the Baraat started.

I met all of my biing friends, the Wildriders..

Wow, only now I could say ‘Alls well that ends well’

Shaz’s quote at the end of it – If all these hadn’t happened we would’ve missed so much fun, well what should I say.. lol

Winter Trekking Tour

Third time in a row, I'm going back to India completing US onsite and a trip is being planned with WRs. In 2011, it was Thailand trip. In 2012, we went to Indonesia and Singapore. This time it's gonna be the Himalayas.
I'm not flying to Bangalore this time, I'm directly flying to New Delhi and then to Roorkee to attend P's marriage.
We have booked a package tour after Ps marriage.

The tour guide's description about our trip is as follows:
Tour Type : Winter Trekking Tour Package

Tour Duration :- 5 night & 6 day { 29-12- To 4-12-013 }
Group Strength :- 6 adult Only
Tour Plan :- Haridwar+Rishikesh+Sari+Deoriya Tal+Chopta+Tungnath+Chandrashila4000mt Top & Haridwar End.
Transport Type :- Offer – Max/Bolero+/T. Sumo/Tavera/Zylo
Message To – Mr. Sunil Bhushan , Hi I am Vijay Sharma { Travel Planner } Ultimate Fullpower Adventure Company Uttarakhand Tourism. K. Pass Is now close. This trel plan Is Very enjoyfull & about nature life here. you must do this trekk with us. we have something special. i hope your soul like real adventure. thanks. Holy Ganga Travel Company. http://www.travelrishikesh.in
Offer Price :- !! 31,800/- !!   5,300 @ per pax offer only.

!! Visit On :- www.travelrishikesh.in !!

!! We are waiting for your Response !!

!! for more Package's please visit !!

!! http://www.travelrishikesh.in !!

!! We suggest you to book well in advance to help us make best arrangements for you !!

!! Please revert or feel free to call undersigned for any further clarification !!

!! Best Regards !!

!! Vijay Sharma !!

( Travel Planer )

!! Contact : +91 – 9837468358 , 9410105559 , 9927726950

!! Land-line No : +91- 0135 – 2430417, 2440998 !!

!! Holy Ganga Tourism Company : SINCE 1987  – By :-  !! Pt. Kishan Lal Sharma !!

!! http://www.travelrishikesh.in !!

!! Top 10 + Packages for Uttarakhand  & Himalayas Historical Indian Mountain Trekkingt Places !!

!! http://www.travelrishikesh.in !!

!! Corbett National Park A Conservationist's Heritage – "The Freedom of the Forests" !!

!! http://www.travelrishikesh.in !!

!! HONEYMOON PACKAGES :- Honeymoon Tips – Ideas – Packages !!

!! http://www.travelrishikesh.in !!

New Hampshire during the fall

This trip has to be one of the most scenic n romantic trip so far.
Deepthi and me drove around New Hampshire in our Nissan Altima. We drove along the famous Kancamagus highway, to the top of Mount Washington, walked around Flume Gorge and stayed on the foothills of Mount Jefferson. The best part of the trip was the fall colors. We stopped where ever we felt like, no hurries and tight schedules like our previous few trips.
A couple of pics I'm gonna upload, but believe me it's a paradise out there in NH, especially during the peak season of fall.
Mt Washington foothills
Near Mt. Washingon

Mount Jefferson View Motel
Our cozy cottage on Mt. Jefferson valleys

Flume Gorge Parking lot
My Nissan Altima at Flume Gorge parking lot

Our Jam Packed NYC tour – Logbook

20th Sept, Friday:
Goof up, there is no MBT from Westborough at 12:10 am (Its 12:10 am, so it’s now a Saturday and not Friday night and as per weekend schedule there is no train at 12:10 am. And I kept telling myself Friday night is a weekday and kept looking at a weekday train schedule – Dumbo me Duhh !
Savior Pradeep, told me he would drop me to Boston South station, at 12 midnight.

Mega bus:
Depart Boston, MA, South Station – Gate 25 on September 21, 2013 02:15 AM arrive New York, NY, 7th Ave & 28th St. at September 21, 2013 6:45 AM

21st Sept, Saturday:
06:45 am: At Dunkin Donuts
07:30 am: At GRAY LINE NEW YORK VISITOR CENTER to collect NY Pass
08:15 am: NBC Studio Tour
10:30 am: New York Sky ride
11:30 am: Empire State Building Observation Deck 86th Floor
12:30 pm: The Museum
01:00 pm: Looping around in the MBTA
02:00 pm: Clipper City Tall Ship Cruises Manhattan By Sail
04:00 pm: Blazing Saddles – Cycling around Freedom Tower
05:30 pm: Punjabi Food
07:00 pm: Returned Cycles
07:30 pm: Madame Tussauds New York
09:00 pm: Times Square
10:00 pm: Rockefeller Center – Top of the Rock
11:15 pm: Lost in New York 145th Street oops!
11:45 pm: Check in at Harlem YMCA

22nd Sept, Sunday:
08:15 am: Check out from Harlem YMCA
09:15 am: Statue Cruises towards Liberty Island
10:15 am: On the Crown of Liberty Statue
12:00 pm: Battery Park, Caricature
12:45 pm: Charging Bull, Wall Street
01:00 pm: NY Stock Exchange
01:30 pm: Bagels at Dunkin Donuts
02:30 pm: Brooklyn Bridge
03:00 pm: Kal Ho Na Ho Park
05:00 pm: Parathas near Brooklyn
06:00 pm: Central Park Tour
07:00 pm: Bethesda Fountain and Bow Bridge
07:30 pm: Crazy tired walk from 72nd Street to subway 68th Street
08:30 pm: Dinner at Baburchi
09:30 pm: Washington Square
10:00 pm: Last stretch of walk from 42nd Street towards Mega bus Terminal

Mega bus:
Depart New York, NY, 34th St between 11th Ave and 12th Ave on September 22, 2013 11:10 PM arrive Boston, MA, South Station – Gate 13 at September 23, 2013 3:25 AM 

03:30 am: South station Bus Terminal
06:50 am: South station Commuter Rail Terminal
08:00 am: Westborough Station
08:15 am: Home sweet home..

Did I mention already?
Deepthi's birthday is on the 23rd of September. 🙂

By the time clock ticket 12 in India, we would be on top of NYC Liberty statue.. on the Crown to be precise.. This, I had planned long long back because there's a 4 month waiting time to get a NYC Crown ticket..