During our trip around India, we spent two days riding our motorbike in some of the most remote regions of Manipur. The hills in the south-west of Manipur is home to Paite tribes. We drove through Paite territory as part of our ride from Imphal (Manipur’s capital) to Aizawl (Mizoram’s capital). The drive goes through a ‘highway’ that has no layer of tar for several kilometres. Electronic communication is of little use since there is very little mobile phone signal and absolutely no 2G/3G/4G signal at all. Yet, the Paite tribes maintain a communication channel mainly through word-of-mouth and through their limited BSNL mobile phones. You’ll be surprised how fast word spreads from one village to another. Here is one such intriguing story.
I have done numerous small trips of few weeks to months duration as a solo backpacker and group trips when I was single. When I got engaged to Hari, most of our conversation was around the trips and treks we planned to do. After much deliberation and plan we did our epic India 360 trip. A big thing off my bucket list. I look back at the difference between the two sets of trips and noted some interesting differences.
While all our posts use narrative in third person (they) or in first person collective (we), this is a story written from Hari’s point of view, since he went through the following experience. Ocassionally, we also share posts that have Priya speak or at least write an intro in first person.
25 days into India 360, I lost my smartphone. I carelessly left it behind on a bus and realised the folly only an hour later in the hotel room. During our trip, the smartphone was a phone, Internet connection, reference book, compass, etc. 65 days still remained until we could return to Mumbai, where we could get a duplicate SIM card. SIM cards are only replaced in a phone number’s home zone. I could have got a new smartphone and used it without the SIM, for other purposes like camera. But it didn’t make monetary sense to buy a smartphone from a showroom in Uttarakhand, when an online purchase can be much cheaper. So I decided not to buy a new phone until we reached Mumbai for our first break after the northern Himalayan leg. In this post, I will narrate my experience of life of travel without a smartphone for a little more than 2 months. Continue reading
In geography / geology during our school days, we often learn about different types of stones. It makes us wonder why they call diamond the hardest stone, or if it is a stone at all. It looks so different from all the other stones around it. A few weeks before our Gujarat trip, we saw an old documentary (The Diamond Empire) on diamonds, which spoke about them being artificially priced high due to the monopoly of De Beers. But the monopoly was broken several years ago, and nobody heard of a glut in the diamond market or any significant fall in the prices. It was intriguing. And then there we were in Surat. So after calling a few people in the family who are diamond merchants, they generously arranged for a factory visit for us.
India 360 made us travel to some really remote places. So remote that there were no tar roads, day-long electricity or phone connections. Travelling so remote can often lead to home sickness or apprehension. However, some wonderful-natured locals can go the extra mile, making you feel at home, however remote that place is from your own home. One such example was experienced by us at Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh.
Kedarnath is one of the four char dhams, or the four biggest abodes of Lord Shiva. Kedarnath is also the origin of river Mandakini and is the toughest of the four dhams to reach.
Trekking to Kedarnath involves an ascent from Gaurikund (6200 ft) to Kedarnath (11100 ft). It a part of the greater Himalayas. The path is full of snow and needs to be constantly cleared. The trek is challenging enough for the initiated. The uninitiated often give up soon after they start and use the services of a doli , porter or a horse to carry them to the top.
Duing summer, the entire trek is without any settlements except at the summit, 16 kms from the base. Most of Kedarnath village moves downhill before the onset of winter. When the trekking route is opened in the summer, the village doesn’t shift back overnight. the process is gradual. During the first week of the trek, only a few transits are created along the 16 km route. Some are army camps and some are convenience stores set up by the villagers, who are among the first to relocate. It is at one of these convenience stores that we heard this amusing conversation.
Guy 1: Oh my God1 That was tough, man!
Guy 2: This local says the trek hasn’t even started yet !!
Guy 1: What !! We have covered quite a bit. More than 5 of the 11 km in the trek and have been walking forever…At least 50% must be done, right? (sounding half dreaded and half hopeful)
Local: But sir, so far the walk has mostly been flat. The ascent will start shortly.
Guy 1 and 2 (in chorus) : Was that flat ??
Guy 1 (exasperated): Forget it. Let’s drink something..
Guy 2 ( Looks at the over crowded counter): They’ve got Lassi.
Guy 1: It’s freezing! Why would you drink Lassi now?
Guy 2 (pondering and agreeing): Hmm.. true. So what should I get?
Guy 1 (without hesitation): Let’s get a COOL DRINK.
We (giggling and whispering between ourselves) : Altitude certainly messes with the brain !!!
We visited Gumbaz, Tipu Sultan’s final resting place at Srirangapatana, across the Cauvery river from Mysuru in Karnataka. The main chamber of Gumbaz contains the tomb of Tipu Sultan, his father Hyder Ali and mother Fakr-un-Nisa. Around the main chamber are laid various graves of Tipu’s brother, sisters, brothers-in-law, Tipu’s wife, children and sons-in-law. Every member of the Tipu family has at least a headstone inside the lawns of Gumbaz. Srirangapatana is just 16 km from Mysuru. So on a busy day, tourist operators and taxis bring in hundreds of visitors to Gumbaz.
As we were walking towards Gumbaz’s main mausoleum, a father was walking out with his two young boys after having visited the monument complex. The youngest boy, about 5 years old, looked very troubled. A conversation ensued as he hesitatingly asked questions of his father. We reproduce the conversation in its original form in Hindi along with English translations. Continue reading