Monday, October 23, 2017

Perfect weekend getaways - Manali - What, you must visit

Manali, just like many other cities, is just another city. Being a hill station, is what makes the places you have in Manali, differ from the ones you might find at other such places. Now, since the features are different, what I feel is that there's not too much to explore here in Manali, however, whatever that is there, it's worth spending time in.
Solang Valley can be one of the places, high above in your Manali Bucket-list, if you are an adventure lover, and infact even if you aren't, just think about the reason you're here in Manali - Snow?


SOLANG VALLEY 

Approximately 12 kilometres, from the Mall Road, as the taxi drivers tell you, Solang valley is THE spot, if you plan anything from Skiing in the ice to Parasailing, want to enjoy the beauty from up above the heights, with the help of the Ropeway which takes you high above near the mountain peak, or just plan to get your hands dirty in the white snow that appears like tonnes and tonnes of white crystalline particles of salt. You'll gets lots of snow if you are heading out to there at the right time, then you will definitely be lucky with lots and lots of snow covering the mountain sides, giving you ample scope for playing in there, building snow-man, if your hands are resilient enough to the extremely cold snow, because, you won't find anything to help you build it.




What's stunning is this white expanse of snow, something that covers the low vegetation cover majorly that of spiky pine trees, low shrubs of which are extremely dangerous, as the leaves turn into thorns once they dry up and if you by any chance happen to fall in the wrong place, you can get grievously injured.

Here are some helpful tips if you plan to go to SOLANG valley:

What to do:

1. Have ample clothing that suits the conditions. Water resistant fleece jacket should be your top priority. It's good to have woolen gloves though, you will anyways have to remove them whenever you want to play in the ice, you can't risk wetting them, or they'll be useless.
2. A much as possible, do try wearing trekking/hiking boots. At some point in time, I was regretting having put on regular sports shoes. There are vendors there who provide you with rubber boots on lease, that they claim will help you play safe in the snow, however these are just useless. The small shoes do in fact make the task harder if you happen to have tried this in thick snow as the snow will simply get inside the shoes from the top, and it will be much more uncomfortable than your regular sports shoes. Do ensure that whatever footwear you wear, it should have good soles to help you gain traction on the slippery snow. A great hack, as a friend, who had visited earlier as well, told, was to have your feet covered within long and thick layers of polythene bags, two if possible, which save your feet from getting wet, even if snow somehow manages to wet your shoes and the water seeps inside. The way it should be is, you wear your socks in your feet and, the polythene bags above that. A thought came to my mind, why couldn't I have the polythene bags cover my shoes, which was a bad idea, as wrapping polythene will make your footwear slippery, and you're sure to fall more often than normal or might get hurt as well - I was wrong, and luckily got off unhurt after thinking this brilliant idea.
3. Do carry a bag with some snacks and atleast a bottle of water. Water is important since you might spend time playing in the snow, which will make you tired and you'll need water. It's not that easily available there, unless, you are at the right spots, and then also, water bottles here don't come cheap.
4. Do rent out the sticks that are on offer there. These will come handy while walking through thick snow. You will need additional help as walking on thick snow could be tricky at times, especially when you are descending.
5. While you reach the summit, The Ski point, do make it  appoint to bargain with the vendors there. You can get them to offer you around 10 minutes of skiing course for almost half of the quoted price. You get to spend time on skis and you can also do para-gliding, which is costly, and non-negotiable, but is an experience of a lifetime, if you can spend close to 4000 bucks per person.
6. Do carry sun screen if you plan to be out there for a long time. White snow paired with extremely powerful sunlight can give you lots of sun tan, which will darken your complexion, just within a couple of hours.



What not to do:

1. During months with heavy snow, the pine trees, leaves of which are thin and sharp, as the pine trees get covered with lots of snow the leaves get buried under this snow and turn into pricks. There are two possibilities. One is, you might get stuck in snow, which looks like solid from far away, but is actually burying a pine tree underneath and has lots of space within. Another possibility is you getting injured by the pine leaves converted into pricks, and believe me when I say it hurts, and hurts very bad. Since there’s a big possibility of getting injured by these pricks, please do carry something to take out those pricks as soon as possible for you or these might turn very bad.
2. Do not pick up the gum boots on offer. These will make your life nothing short of a hell, of you do. These are supposed to aid your walking in snow, but their short length and useless design will ensure that you will get stuck with this liability, since you have to give it back to the person who rented it out to you.
3. If you are wearing enough winter clothing, woollen inners, jeans, and waterproof fleece jackets, you need not rent out the dangris (full body waterproof jackets). However if you do rent them out, it’s good and will help you play quite freely in the snow.
4. Please please please do not leave your litter thre in the snow. Since this is alpine region, covered in snow for a long time of the year, and is an attractive tourist destination which attracts tourists from across the country and continents as well, it’s a responsibility shared by all of us. We need to keep this area pristine and as natural as it could be.
5. It’s not a good idea to have infants or very young kids with you while you are visiting Solang Valley. Do make sure that you do not have your very small kids with you here.

Since it’s already late October, you might want to plan up your holidays in Manali this winter season. The best time should be from December to February. While visiting there in December, you can get lucky enough to be able to watch snowfall, things might get tricky, as mountainous tourist destinations are notorious for price spikes during extreme winter season, which sees prices of essential commodities skyrocket as transport routes get clogged due to heavy snowfall/landslides, often caused by heavy rains, making lives of tourists hell.

How to Reach Manali

Manali has a limited accessibility when it comes to reaching there. The only mode of transport to reach Manali is by road onoy, though there are other modes of transport which could be used to reach a point near it.

BY AIR
The nearest Airport is at Bhuntar, in Kullu, which is around 50 kms from Manali and around 10 kms from Kullu city. Bhuntar Airport, also known as Kullu Airport can be reached from some major airports in India like those of the metro cities, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, as well as Chandigarh, though, seems private operators are either not really interested in operating flights on this route. Only Air India offers flight services to Kullu Airport.

BY RAIL
Though Manali is still inaccessible by train, the nearest major railheads are at Una, Kalka, Chandigarh, and Pathankot, but you still have to cover a large chunk of travel by road only.

BY ROAD
The best and the only option to reach Manali, there are quite a number of options including Luxury buses run by Government and Private operators, as well as private cab services to Manali. Manali has a good road-connectivity from Delhi, Ambala cantonment and Chandigarh, and ample overnight bus services ply connecting these major points to Manali. Usually an overnight bus service from Delhi to Manali can be taken which passes through Ambala, Chandigarh and other small towns like Bilaspur, Mandi and Surendranagar. The 570 km distance from Delhi to Manali is covered in around 13-14 hours by HRTC (Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation) Volvo buses, which includes two stoppages, one during the night to allow passengers to have their dinner, and then early in the morning to have tea and early morning breakfast.

Finally, the group. All of us have got considerably tanned walking and playing through the white expanse of snow, and appear darker after completing the trek up and down.


The next post will take you to one more of the liked destinations which you might find worth visiting.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Upcoming series

This year has been a great one for trips. I've been in a number of trips this year, If I start counting, there has been the Nainital trip that ended in the beginning of the year, then trip to Manali twice, then a trip to Vrindavan, then China, Rishikesh, and the recent one to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, in Katra, Jammu. The upcoming series I will be sharing these trips with you.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

मैं बरगद का पेड़

मैं बरगद का पेड़, खड़ा हूँ यहां पुश्तों से।  इंसानों की कई नस्लें देखी हैं मैंने, जाने कितने सावन बदलते देखे हैं, सदियाँ बीत गयी हैं यहां खड़े खड़े।  एक समय था जब मेरी छाव की ओट में गांव की चौपालें सजती थी, पंचायतों के कई अच्छे-बुरे फैसलों का गवाह रहा हूँ मैं, अनेकों सही-गलत फैसलों को चुप - चाप खड़े - खड़े सुना है मैंने। समय बदला, मेरी उम्र बढ़ी तो मेरी जटाओं ने मुझे संभाला, आखिर बुढ़ापा सबका आता है और बूढ़ा होने के बाद कोई भी सहारा ढूंढता है, जो मेरी जटाओं से मुझे मिला है। आखिर हूँ तो बरगद का पेड़ ही। मेरी विशाल टहनियों पर अनेकों झूले लटके देखे है मैंने, और इन झूलों पर अनेकों बच्चे झूल-झूल कर बड़े हुए हैं मेरे सामने ही, और एक बार जब बच्चे आते थे मेरे करीब, तो मानो मेरा बचपन लौट आता था, उनके झूलों का वजन उठाना मेरी विशाल शाखाओं के लिए बहुत बड़ी बात नहीं थी, अतः, इन बच्चों को झूलते देख मेरी भी शाखायें झूम उठती थी, फिर कुछ बच्चे ऐसे भी होते थे जिन्हे झूलों पर आनन्द न आता था, उन्हें तो मुझपर चढ़ने में मज़ा आता था, और मुझे भी इन बच्चों के करीब रहने का एक अच्छा मौका मिल जाता था।
समय और बदला अब मै बेहद बूढा हो चला हूँ ।  इंसान मुझे बूढ़ा बरगद कह कर पुकारते हैं, शायद, इसी वजह से अब मुझपर कोई झूले नहीं हैं। न ही कोई चौपालें लगती है, और न ही मेरी घनी छाँव के तले पंचायतें सजती हैं। बहुत अकेला - अकेला सा हो गया हूँ मै अब। अब मेरे तने के करीब, इंसान अपने पूजने वाले भगवानों की मूर्तियां फेंक कर चले जाते हैं। अब जा कर समझ आने लगा है की जब भगवान् की कोई औकात नहीं है - जो मूर्तियां यह इंसान इतने गर्व और प्रेम से ले कर आये थे, जिससे भगवान् का प्रतीक समझ कर पूजा की सालों तक, उस मूर्ती के पुराने पड़ते ही उसे बूढ़े बरगद के पास फेंक कर चले गए, तो मुझ जैसे बूढ़े बरगद की किसे ज़रूरत? आखिर इतना विशाल हो गया हूँ की इन इंसानों की तेज़ी से बढ़ती सुविधाओं की मांग की राह में रोड़ा बन रहा हूँ शायद। जो हज़ारों इंसानों को एक जगह से दूसरी जगह ले कर जायेगी। आखिर ऐसी महत्त्वपूर्ण चीज़ के सामने मेरी क्या औकात? आखिर मै कौन होता हूँ इंसान की प्रगति को रोकने वाला? आखिर मैं किसे कहाँ से कहाँ ले जाता हूँ, जो काम यहां बनने वाली रेल गाड़ी करेगी?
मै तो बस खड़ा हूँ यहाँ सदियों से एक ही जगह फैलता हुआ अपनी मौत का इंतज़ार करता उन पुराने दिनों को याद करता जब मेरी छाओं के इर्द गिर्द इन इंसानों के पूर्वजों की सारी ज़िन्दगी घूमती थी, रात को मै उनको आराम की नींद, दिन में झुलसा देने वाली गर्मी से आराम, तो, पूरे गांव को और राहगीरों को मेरी ठंडी छाव में बने कुएं से ठंडा मीठा जल मिलता था, पर अब वह सब इंसानों के लिए ज़रूरी चीज़ें कहाँ रह गयी हैं? कूआं तो कब का सूख गया है, तो राहगीर भी नहीं आते गर्मी के मौसम में कुएं का ठंडा पानी पीने और मेरी ठंडी छाव में कुछ देर आराम करने। आखिर मै एक बरगद का पेड़ ही तो हूँ। खड़ा हूँ यहाँ सदियों से, इंसानों की कई पुश्तें देखी हैं मैंने, अब इन्हें मेरी ज़रुरत नहीं है, सो, कल काट दिया जाऊँगा। क्योंकि मेरी जटाओं ने मुझे सहारा देने के लिए इन इंसानों की धरती पर कुछ ज़्यादा जगह ले रखी है।

मैं बरगद का पेड़!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Indoor Air Pollution - Getting rid of this menace

An important phenomena trending these days, and sufficiently so, even on online shopping sites is something called an air purifier. I bump upon one being advertised everytime I visit an online shopping site. Seeing something like this so often, I became interested in knowing what exactly is an air purifier and why is it required? I know the air outside is polluted, but why do I need one at my home? Is this really required? What exactly it purifies, since apparently the quality of air within my home is not as bad as one we see and read about everyday in news.
As I searched through the internet, I came to understand why almost every major consumer electronics brand is focusing on something like an air purifier. Appears what I was thinking was not correct. The air within my home is not as safe as I was expecting it to be. As I looked into this more, I came to understand what exactly is indoor air pollution, what are the common pollutants that I should be aware of, what are the health problems that are caused by these indoor pollutants and how can I keep my home safe of these indoor pollutants affecting my family's health.
So what exactly is indoor air pollution? We all know what pollution is? More often than not, we all must have heard and associated pollution to be an external problem. Air pollution in your city, water pollution of the rivers and so on. Coming to our homes, pollution that is within the confines of our homes is what indoor pollution is. I was shocked to learn that as early as in the year 1992, the World Bank identified indoor air pollution as one of the four most critical environmental problems being faced globally. One of the articles I read about this stated that this problem affects both rural and urban areas. While rural areas have a variety of different causes of air pollution, that include use of traditional sources of fuel including wood, charcoal and cow dung cakes. Other sources that contribute to indoor air pollution include agricultural activities, including storage of grains and livestock feed. Also, a shocking revelation that came up was the soil too was an important source of air pollution, as it naturally releases a gas called radon. A very critical air pollutant that is very strongly related to be Lung Cancer, being a radioactive noble gas. Other major pollutants include pesticides, tobacco smoking and asbestos among numerous others.
Urban areas are not very safe when it comes to indoor air pollution. While there are some common reasons, including tobacco smoking and often, asbestos, urban homes have a number of other causes of air pollution. These include pollutants like volatile organic compounds that originate from numerous solvents and chemicals used in the daily use products including deodorants and perfumes, hair sprays and cosmetics, paints and varnishes, air freshners, insecticides and such. Growth of molds and mildew during rainy seasons too are a cause of indoor pollution.
So how to get rid of this problem? Understanding the potential health problems that are there as a result of indoor air pollution, I sat down to find a solution. Found a few, and here are some starters to help everyone:
1. Clean the indoors regularly. This is something that can help reduce this problem to a large extent.
2. No Smoking Zone: Make your home a no smoking zone, if anyone does smoke there. You do not want passive smoking affect the health of your loved ones.
3. Introduce indoor houseplants that help purify air: Apart from giving your living room  a beautiful and fresh makeover, houseplants like garden mums, spider plant, dracaena, ficus/weeping fig, peace lily, snake plant, aloe vera can help you clean the air indoors and eliminate dozens of dangerous chemicals out of your home’s air.
4. Eliminate odours rather than hiding them: Your living room smells damp, and you don’t really like the smell there. What you do, reach out to that can of room freshner, and at the click of a button, you get pleasant smelling air running down your nose. That’s what you shouldn’t do. Just try to find out why your room smells that way, and try fix the root cause.
5. Get rid of that moisture: Molds growing within your house during, say, the rainy season are also a great cause of indoor air pollution. Just try to locate and eliminate the cause of this moisture seeping in and fix it.
While I looked on, I came across something called bags of charcoal, which, I knew was being used to purify water in a number of water purifiers. However this came to me as a surprise that charcoal can also help absorb dangerous fumes etc. from the air to make it clean. While looking for the charcoal bags, I bumped across a new product from Asian Paints called Royale Atmos, a product that is said to help purify indoor air. The product appears promising, since it contains activated charcoal. You can take a look on the advert here. To know more, you can check the site - https://www.asianpaints.com/atmos.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Picture of the day - September 13

Over the course of time, I have clicked and collected a lot of pictures from a number of outstation trips I've done in this year, any of which I haven't been able to post here. So, I think it's time I started posting those photos right here in my blog, for someone who might get inspired to take that camera out on the trip they've been long postponing.

Picture of the Tawi river, clicked somewhere near Jammu (Jammu & Kashmir, India)