Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hatching my yatra plans

This time, cribbing over my travel plans!

For all things that I am made up of, there's a small percentage of a wanderer. Thanks to my dad's service in the Army, I probably inherited this trait from the regular postings that took place from time to time. Also, this helped me visit a number of places, see different cultures and traditions, ways of life and hear different languages, though, this has been mostly peripheral, because of the nature of accommodation provided to us.

Ever since I grew up, and my dad retired from the Army, I have sort of, lost the free chances to travel to places. Though, once in a while, I still hatch up plans to visit some places, but nothing has been a really great one. A tour of just a day or two, once in a couple of years isn't enough to satisfy my hunger for travel, and thus, plans keep hatching and I keep on sort of sidelining them, for the crunch of free time that I don't get enough from my current life, going to office, commuting (which, in Delhi is a big chunk of one's time) to and fro and sleeping. One such travel plan that I have been postponing for a couple of years now is a real trek. Around three years back, I stumbled upon something called Chadar Trek that happens in the extreme conditions of Leh, in the upper parts of Kashmir valley. A trek, which used to be a necessity for the locals living in the Zanskar region of this remote area has over the years, turned out to be a major tourist attraction, thanks to a number of tour operators who have been conducting tours and guided treks in this region.

What attracted me most were the spectacular pictures of the region, captured by both, the trekkers and other photographers, showing the snow laden high vertical walls of the Zanskar Valley, at the bottom of which, flows the Zanskar river, that happens to freeze in the extreme winter months of January and February, making a natural white highway for the people to trek on. And this is what the locals call - Chadar (a blanket). The splendour of the region is the marvellous spans of white ice and the picturesque landscapes with towering high mountains that go on and on and on.

Don't you think pictures like these literally force you to visit a place like this, atleast once in your lifetime? Picture from here
The real attraction lie in the stunning pictures that you get to see from a number of sources, that force you to imagine how breathtaking the real thing would be. I agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, or even more than that, however, it's just a picture. You have to see the real thing to get the real experience of what it actually is. And for a dormant travel junkie like me, who loves adventure, this trek appears to be the real deal to satiate my hunger for travel. The only other thing that I would like to do except doing this trek, is to click thousands of photographs enroute. Yes, I do like clicking dozens and dozens of photographs, to keep a memory of what I did and saw, and though, I don't really share my personal stuff online, there seems to be no harm in probably sharing some of the best captures from the trip.

And how about a landscape like this towering snowcapped mountains and a frozen river in the bottom. Picture from here
Talking by experience of travelling in hilly terrains, again, thanks to my dad's posting near Jammu, I would like most of this travelling to happen on surface, preferably by a car, either a personal one, or a hired one. The reason for this is the fact that generally the hilly terrains are quite picturesque, with a gorgeous waterfall somewhere, a huge cliff somewhere else, and a stream of river with crystal clear water flowing over those round pebbles of rock, at some other place will make you want to stop by and spend some quality time there, which, is not possible if you are travelling by air, and even when you do so by surface transport, by a bus or train, as the latter ones just let you have a glimpse of the thing, and make you crave for it, when you have no control whatsoever to stop for a while, take a look and move further.

For me, for this particular travel plan, however, there's just a small-big problem. Most of the travel is supposed to be by air, since the upper regions of the Kashmir valley are quite inaccessible in the winter months, mostly because of heavy snowfall forcing the only roads to be shut down for traffic, thus causing days long traffic snarls on the already narrow and dangerous roads. Leh, being the nearest airport will be my destination by flight, and beyond that, it's all upon the tour operator to pick me up, arrange for my lodging and travel to and from the trekking destination.

Anyways, I am hoping that maybe, by next year, I will be quite happy enough to share with you all, pics of my trip to the marvellous Zanskar valley, something that I've been longing for for quite some time now. While writing this, I am now thinking of looking to nail the travel plans, make the flight booking to and from, book the trek with the tour operator, and then, wait for the time to come, while making myself physically fit to take this difficult trek that will challenge my limits. A great place to start looking for domestic airlines can be, and I think I should start looking for something for my plans as well, since, booking early gets you the sweetest deals on airlines and hotel bookings.