Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Grand Himalayan Exile | Updates

I have been asked by many friends and colleagues to post updates of my Himalayan adventure so that they could track my movement. I will update this post as and when possible throughout the next 3 months.

16th June 2013, 0630 PM Bali Local time - Bali, Indonesia
Bali was much better than I had anticipated. There are quite a few good non touristy locales. Staying in a hostel in Sanur right next to the beach. Returning to Chennai on the 20th. Looking at spending the next few months gathering my thoughts, journal logs and video logs.

28th May 2013, 0630 PM IST - Jammu, Jammu and Kashmir, India
CHANGE OF PLANS !! The Himalayan exile is now extended into Non Himalayan terrain as well. Heading to the beaches of Indonesia for the next 3-4 weeks - Starting off with Bali. Jammu-Delhi-Kolkata-Kuala Lumpur-Bali !
Just reached Jammu after a 45hr ride from Leh - easily the longest single ride of my life. Spent 2 nights on NH1 in the taxi amidst scary conditions of the core elements of nature (snow, rain, landslides, lightning!). Leaving for Delhi tomorrow early in the morning.

25th May 2013, 1115 AM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
Pics uploaded - available below. Return journey finalized. 5 days of road travel from the 27th of May to reach Pune on the 1st of June - Includes 30+hrs of bus/taxi and 40+hrs of waitlisted train journey.

22nd May 2013, 1230 PM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
For a change, I am doing nothing for the next few days. A pleasant 'do nothing' time in Leh with books, coffee, mint tea and smoke ! I am getting to terms that this lovely trip is nearing its end. It is not easy to accept !

20th May 2013, 0221 PM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
Nubra valley was lovely. Crossed Khardung La (5602m), apparently the highest motorable road in the world.. Rest for the next few days before Pangong lake. Should be leaving Ladakh before the end of this month.

15th May 2013, 0900 PM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
Just came back from the Lamayuru to Chilling hike. It was beautiful. Crossed Konzke La pass (4950m) and DunDun Chen La Pass (4620m) - Both of them really challenging because of snow on the pass. We were the first ones to cross the pass this season - intense route finding in knee-deep snow. Luckily, the guide was superbly experienced and took us home safely on a non existent trail. I was joined by an Israeli guy named Ofer. Easily, the toughest snow conditions I have ever faced in my life - Thorung La pass (5416m) in Nepal made me walk 9hrs on snow but was not as risky as this one.
Nevertheless, a very beautiful hike - Rural Ladakh is outstanding. All the nights in the hike were spent in small rural villages with less than 7 families. Simple peaceful life.
Planning Nubra valley next - Should be leaving Ladakh in less than 10 days.
I am getting a feel that this exile is going to be extended beyond the 3 months that i had initially anticipated.

07th May 2013, 0830 PM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
Starting an 8 day hike tomorrow. This one is guided because of the high altitude passes that are covered with snow. Would traverse from Sham valley onto Markha valley - 3 passes between 4600m and 5000m. This one is going to be demanding because of snow on the passes as well as the high altitude. I am very well acclimatized - hopefully there should not be any high altitude issues. Fully geared with crampons, sleeping bags and adequate winter clothing. Should be good fun ! Next update on my return.

04th May 2013, 0140 PM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
Back in Leh after a wonderful hike in Sham valley. Rural Ladakh, mountain passes and solitude - i cant ask for anything more. Couple of days rest in Leh before i head out to either Nubhra valley (along the LoC with China - exactly where the Chinese have pitched up tents) or Zanskar region. I'm lovin it !

30th Apr 2013, 1100 AM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
Leh is stunningly beautiful and delightfully peaceful with hardly any tourists around. It is still early spring and hence it is pretty cold too. Climbed up to the Shanti Stupa yesterday - the altitude does make easy climbs slightly difficult. Slowly getting used to the altitude. Doing another Stupa today - These climbs are helping me acclimatize faster. Starting a 5 day hike in Sham valley tomorrow. I am getting a feel that one month may not be enough for Ladakh !

28th Apr 2013, 1230 PM IST - Leh (Ladakh), Jammu and Kashmir, India
The boat house stay in Srinagar was lovely. After a 15hr picturesque journey across J&K, I am now at Leh. Reached here 1AM last night - Staying with a very nice family here at Leh. The ride from Srinagar was awesome - Srinagar, Zozila Pass, Drass (The second coldest inhabited place on this planet), Kargil and then Leh. I would have never thought i would ever cross these places - heard them during the war more than a decade back. Everything is peaceful nowadays and J&K Tourism has done a good job in promoting these as tourist destinations.
Planning to get acclimatized to the altitude of Leh (3500m+) over the next 2-3 days. Will start a hike after that.
I am in love with J&K - It is rightly called 'Heaven'. This surely is not going to be my last trip to 'Heaven'.

25th Apr 2013, 1230 PM IST - Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India
In heaven (Jammu and Kashmir) for the first time in this life ! First a 7 hr bus ride from Dharamshala to Jammu and then a 11hr shared taxi ride to Srinagar. Local Srinagar sightseeing today. Off to Gulmarg tomorrow - maybe a couple of days there. Should be in Ladakh in less than a week - It is a 15 hr shared taxi ride from Srinagar. If all goes well, I am planning to spend 4 weeks in Ladakh. Also planning a long hike in the Ladakh/Zanskar region. Some bad news - no prepaid roaming in J&K - no new SIM cards in J&K - So, no phone contact for the next 4 weeks. Will be out of internet reach too once i leave Srinagar - Hopefully, I should be able to post another update before i leave Srinagar.

21st Apr 2013, 1115 AM IST - McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh, India
In McLeod Ganj for the last six days. Day hikes keeping me busy. Planning to do the 4 day hike upto Indrahaar Pass if the snow clears up - Will wait a couple of days. Heading to Jammu and Kashmir in less than a week. Completed 50 days on this trip !

13th Apr 2013, 1220 PM IST - Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India
In Dharamshala. Hectic travel to reach here - First, a 10hr bus ride Bhutan to Siliguri, then a 36hr train ride (that was 26hrs late) to New Delhi, and finally a 13hr bus ride from New Delhi to Dharamshala. Going to take a couple of days of rest right under the 'Inner Himalayas' before i head out further north.

08th Apr 2013, 720 PM IST - Siliguri, West Bengal, India
 Just reached Siliguri after a 10hr bus ride from Bhutan. Will be starting my 32hr train journey to Nayi Dilli in 12 hrs - Now, this is some travel !! Had to cut short my Bhutan trip due to immigration issues - I was not allowed to exit alone into Assam from Eastern Bhutan - hence had to return back to Siliguri. Apparently, Bhutan feels that I am not safe 'alone' in the eastern part of my home country - In hindsight, I do agree with their decision. My plan was indeed risky.
Would spend a few days in New Delhi until I figure out the next leg of this journey (The Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh / Ladakh / Tibet).
This is just getting better everyday !

31st Mar 2013, 145 PM Bhutan Local time - Thimphu, Bhutan
It rained yesterday and all my plans were washed away. Went around Thimphu today - it is a beautiful little town. No traffic signals all throughout ! The immigration office was closed and so were most of the other establishments. Future plan will be decided tomorrow - would be chilling out for one more day. Smoking is banned at public places and sale of tobacco products is illegal throughout Bhutan ! 200% duty applies on getting in tobacco products. Alcohol though is freely available.

30th Mar 2013, 500 PM Bhutan Local time - Thimphu, Bhutan
Reached Thimphu - the largest city in Bhutan. I am in love with this country. One month here is going to be enough for this lifetime ! (it is probably smaller than the smallest state in India). Exploring options of doing a road trip + day hikes or do the classic 10 day gruelling Jhomolhari trek + a smaller road trip. Whatever be the case, will out of touch after the next 48 hours or so - will be heading to rural Bhutan towards the east (Thimphu is not strictly urban though - everything is relative !). Would be crossing some wonderful passes over 4000m on the way/on the hike.

29th Mar 2013, 1045 AM IST - Siliguri, India
Crossed over to India after a long rickety bus ride across Nepal. Crossed the border at Kakkarbhitta (Nepal) - Panitanki (India). Easiest border crossing in my life - No documents !!
In West Bengal for the first time ! Leaving for Phuentsholing (Border town - Bhutan) in an hour.

24th Mar 2013, 215 PM Nepal local time - Pokhara, Nepal
19 days and 210 Kms of hiking in the Himalayas in Nepal - Annapurna Circuit complete. The best hike ever !
Now in Pokhara (Nepal). Should be in Bhutan Himalayas by the end of this month.

18th Mar 2013, 1130 AM Nepal local time - Jomsom, Nepal
At Jomsom (~2800m). Crossed Thorong la Pass (5416m / 17770 ft) successfully - lucky to have had excellent weather. Might be the highest point i will ever hike in my life. Now descending into civilization - should be in Pokhara in 8-9 days.

11th Mar 2013, 500 PM Nepal local time - Manang, Nepal
@3500 metres - Manang - 2 nights from today for acclimatization.

3rd Mar 2013, 445 PM Nepal local time - Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Trekking Permits, Pashupatinath Temple and BoudhaNath Stupa. I am all set - will be on the trail tomorrow. Updates will be less frequent from now on.

2nd Mar 2013, 820 PM Nepal local time - Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Went around Kathmandu - Durbar square and Swayambhu Stupa. Should be on the trail in 48 hours.

1st Mar 2013, 630 PM Nepal local time - Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal
Well, Nepal just seems to be an extension of India! Chaotic, order-less and oozing with energy !

1st Mar 2013, 715 AM SGT - Changi Airport, Singapore
I am all set ! Goodbye Singapore. I can't believe I am saying this - "I will miss you Singapore !"

26th Feb 2013, 5 PM SGT - Singapore
Just about 48 hours to go ! I can feel it now !

Related posts:

The Grand Himalayan Exile

The Grand Himalayan Exile | Gear List

The Grand Himalayan Exile | Pics | Best of Bhutan

The Grand Himalayan Exile | Pics | Best of Nepal


Bhuvan said...

All the best.

Minomonmon said...

Take care!!!

Bhuvan said...

All the very best, S has got V to join S in A

Bhuvan said...

lovely, had been eagerly waiting for updates, all the very best.

Brijesh said...

Ja Simran ja, jee le apni zindagi ...

Now while after Kajol I may have limited interest in seeing you run, I do look forward to living vicariously through your posts. You have an awesome time. Keep the update posts and pics coming and ALL THE BEST TAMBI !!!!

(And if you do get near anything close to the menace that Graham Bell started, do give me a ring)

videofreak said...

Well Done

R Athmanathan said...

@ Bhuvan aunty: Thank you! Good to hear the 'V' news.

@Minomonmon: I will - thanks !

@Birju Bhaiyya: Dhanyavaad - will ping you when back in civilization. i'll surely post updates as and when possible.

@Videofreak: Thank you !

Bhuvan said...

great will accomplish your set goal. Well done

Malenada Huduga said...

Hi Athma,

Happy to see your adventures updates :-). Please do upload some clicks !! . All the very best for your next Leg (The Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh / Ladakh / Tibet).

Take Care...

Umesh Gopal

R Athmanathan said...

Thank you Umesh - I am in Himachal Pradesh now - would be heading to Ladakh after this. Have to figure out the route yet.
Hope you guys are having fun !

BaNgster.. said...

Take care athma and keep posting updates..cheers

R Athmanathan said...

Thank you Bangster ! May i please know your real name? Sometimes it is better to know who is wishing you well !

Brijesh said...

Great trip man. Amazing pics from your what i can see is a super amazing experience. Keep it going !!!

R Athmanathan said...

Birju Bhaiyya - Indeed. It was a 'once in a lifetime' trip - have learnt so much on this trip.. It has been very fulfiling.
I am actually looking at extending this exile to non Himalayan terrain as well :-)