Highway highs!

Well after we left Rumbak and Hemis we decided to make some time by travelling in a car for a change and not walking. This meant two things, one we cover more places and second we stop losing weight. Yes the 5 days in Rumbak saw a 2 kg weight drop :D and don’t you think I am complaining. Anyways, one Gulzarbhai came with his Innova to pick us up from Zinchen where we waited for him for a while. Gulzarbhai was a Kashmiri who was living in Leh. Conversations with him were of the most interesting kind, we had a buddhist Ladakhi as a guide, a Kashmiri muslim as a driver and you just know you are in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and so you know where the conversation is headed! Some really wonderful things came through but that is for some other day. Today I will just share a few pictures from Zinchen to Khardungla via Leh, all pics taken whilst we reached the so called Worlds Highest Motorable Road Khardungla!

As we left Rumbak and started approaching Leh. Do notice how the landscape keeps varying!

As we left Rumbak and started approaching Leh, the landscape was something like this. The Poplar trees indicate human habitation. Its only where humans live that there are trees, or else major part of the region is totally barren.

Some roads look a tad like you are in Kashmir!

Some roads look a tad like you are in Kashmir!

That is the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh, we are about to enter Leh and I love the contrasts in this picture!

That is the highway that connects Srinagar to Leh, we are about to enter Leh and I love the contrasts in this picture!

Leh is a dusty town, fast becoming touristy and a hub like Manali as more and more tourists alight here and make it a base for the activities to explore the Ladakh region. But amidst the chaos and wires and markets are also some views you don't want to miss out on! :)

Leh is a dusty town, fast becoming touristy and a hub like Manali as more and more tourists alight here and make it a base for the activities to explore the Ladakh region. But amidst the chaos and wires and markets are also some views you don’t want to miss out on! :)

Then as we leave Leh and start climbing Khardungla here is an aerial shot of the town with Shanti Stupa high up ensuring peace in the little town!

Then as we leave Leh and start climbing Khardungla here is an aerial shot of the town with Shanti Stupa high up ensuring peace in the little town!

and then as we leave civilsation behind and head for higher, colder stiffer, difficult curves of Khardungla!

and then as we leave civilsation behind and head for higher, colder stiffer, difficult curves of Khardungla!

The tallest peak in this picture is Stok Kangri, we lived 5 days near its base in Rumbak. Looks a fair distance away doesn't it?? We covered this distance in 5 hours of driving!!

The tallest peak in this picture is Stok Kangri, we lived 5 days near its base in Rumbak. Looks a fair distance away doesn’t it?? We covered this distance in 5 hours of driving!!

One more of the same!

One more of the same!

Then the winding road takes us higher and higher!

Then the winding road takes us higher and higher!

When the clouds make way for the stark blue sky it looks that much more pretty!

When the clouds make way for the stark blue sky it looks that much more pretty!

The first check point on the way to Nubra Valley via Khardungla is at South Pullu! where huge ice cubes had formed thanks to the extremely chilly winds that came from this direction! It was unbearably cold to stand out here!

The first check point on the way to Nubra Valley via Khardungla is at South Pullu! where huge ice cubes had formed thanks to the extremely chilly winds that came from this direction! It was unbearably cold to stand out here!

I did say huge ice cubes right!? This huge as big as a brick!!!

I did say huge ice cubes right!? This huge as big as a brick!!!

As the road turns white read of snow its only the military convoys that cross us. During the peak tourist seasons they have traffic jams here. Thankfully we came in the peak of winter and there were no tourists! :D

As the road turns white read of snow its only the military convoys that cross us. During the peak tourist seasons they have traffic jams here. Thankfully we came in the peak of winter and there were no tourists! :D

Just another turn, just another picture!

Just another turn, just another picture!

When the distance boards are not on the floor but have to be hung up higher as snow might just cover up the floor signs.

When the distance boards are not on the floor but have to be hung up higher as snow might just cover up the floor signs.

and then... finally...

and then… finally…

the summit or pass... all passes in Ladakh are called La and hence this is a pass on Khardung mountain so Khardung la...

the summit or pass… all passes in Ladakh are called La and hence this is a pass on Khardung mountain so Khardung la…

Khardungla is a gateway to enter the Nubra Valley and also the life line to Siachen posts, the worlds highest battle ground. Khardungla is kept working all year through so that the military has continuous access to resources.  More picture and stories from Nubra in further posts! For now its Julley! :)

Khardungla is a gateway to enter the Nubra Valley and also the life line to Siachen posts, the worlds highest battle ground. Khardungla is kept working all year through so that the military has continuous access to resources.
More picture and stories from Nubra in further posts! For now its Julley! :)

All set for the jungle!

DSC_0219

All the wildlife enthusiasts patiently wait whilst their papers are being checked at the entrance of the Ranthambore National Park. Apparently and increasingly it appears to me that more foreigners visit our jungles than Indians. I guess the lure of watching a tiger in its natural surroundings is a lot more attractive for them than us. Not that I am complaining, for these tourists are a lot more disciplined and appreciative than a lot of Indians we encountered during this trip.

Monkey’s eye view! :P

DSC_0022

In the twilight hours we reached the biggest fort in India, Chittorgarh Fort unfortunately we couldn’t manage to see much of the fort or get a guide as we were late and the fort had closed down, however, a temple complex that over looked the city was open and we joined the numerous mischievous monkey’s there who were gazing the city and its lights!

Whether you can spot the monkey’s in this picture is a completely different matter altogether!

Of Kings and their subjects!

DSC_0011

At many times my naive mind used to wonder, especially when I was not such a keen history student how did some people in the desert become so wealthy, why did their subjects stick around those kings in those deserted plains where growing anything for self was tough, where water was scarce, where the sun was harsh and the terrain unforgiving. Over a period of time after reading a lot on wikipedia and the internet I have understood how the silk route used to work and how the people who lived in the desert benefited.

Eventually many Rajput kings also joined forces with the Mughals, where in after a war the territory would be owned by the Mughals but all the loots would be given to the Rajput’s who would many a times be the leader of the armies. No wonder the Rajput’s are still so proud about their weapons and their bravery. No, I am not judging anyone, I am sure the Rajputs did need the gold as their territory was not very fertile and they had to arrange for things that only wealth would buy.

Another very important thing I have noticed is that since the Kings were above their subjects and no one could actually question them, they lived life as per their whims. Not one king we heard about on the trip had less than 8 wives. If some king actually had one I guess he was not important enough for the guides to mention him! We even came across one guy Takhat Singh who had 58 queens and 59 children! Still no where near the Dhritrashtra figure though! :P lol

Some of the stories, anecdotes and ways of life of those ages are …well… lets say of another era… I guess we at times cannot comprehend some things.

Above is a shot of the Umaid Bhavan Palace, now a luxury hotel managed by Taj, though the king still stays there using some 20% of the property with the rest being converted into a pretty mean and expensive hotel. The shot was taken from Mehrangarh Fort, the Umaid Bhavan Palace is one of the last built palaces among the royal complexes in India. The king’s palace simply outsizes the houses of the subjects!

Green Shoots!

DSC_0327

I would like to compare the happenings to India to the above picture. For as long as I can remember I have always run from politics, the idea of India even at times seemed silly when I saw riots, rampant corruption, apathy by political leaders. I even dreaded going into such debates and discussions for I used to find myself drained and depressed in the end, nor did the discussions ever solve anything.

This time though, I see/feel hope, like these green shoots growing in the field above, our country seems to be in a mood to grow a different crop altogether this time. It seems a new breeze is blowing, a breeze of change! For a change we have a party that has given a lot of hope atleast to me!! The journey will be long and a lot of hard work will be required. But as they say that if you sow it right, you will reap it well! :) (okay I just made it) :P

Lets hope for a better, greener, prosperous India. The above picture I am sure is the result of the hard work of that man and the green shoots are inspiring hope in him for a lovely harvest soon! :)

Baffling…

The selection policy off late is baffling really…

Why is Vinay Kumar played ahead of Shami Ahmed?? Beyond me…. unless the selectors feel that its better that Vinay is bashed about more in such conditions and want to protect Shami from losing his confidence there is no reason why it happens.

Why Ishant can’t be released from the ODI and Test team and allowed to play Ranji away from the limelight is beyond me. His confidence must be in tatters after the Mohali mauling and it would only make sense to send him away for a while. He is 25 and might still become useful if he can learn to convert potential into performance.

Why Zaheer is not in the Test team against the West Indies is another shocker!! Selectors are also saying that he is in very much in their plans for South Africa and yet they ignore him against the West Indies. Would you not atleast make him play one Test and check it out if he is fully fit rather than directly allowing him in a Test in SA?

It is completely beyond me how the selectors are going about their work as far as the bowling is concerned.

I also seriously hope that MSD does not alter his theory of 5 batsman in Tests. With Jadeja now out though his resolve on this issue will be really tested.

To consider that West Indies will be no match will be foolish, I actually think if West Indies bat well, it could be a close series.

I hope Sachin’s retirement is downplayed by the team atleast and they focus on playing. As much as Sachin has been a joy to India, Sachin’s joy is in India winning and lets hope the team can focus on just that.

Elusive Tigers…

Not any more… :D :D :D :D

Warning : Over exuberant, gloating post ahead. You might need shades to protect your eyes from the shine my preening feathers might throw up !!!! :mrgreen:

To get the record straight, this was my 8th safari of 4-5 hours in Tiger country spread over a decade & 3 national parks that finally I managed to spot my first tiger in the wild :D :D :D :D :D

They say the fruits of patience are quite sweet and I can now understand, after roaming about on rocky bumpy roads for so many times finally I met the big cat and how…. I didn’t just spot it from a distance… She came to greet me as near as 5 feet from my jeep !!!! :D :D :D

On day 2 of our trip in the morning we were lucky to spot a leopard, which is claimed by most as even more elusive than the tiger :D (pics later) somehow though, I have been lucky, I have spotted a leopard two times earlier on foot !! In Gir and Sheoganj both :D This was the first time I saw it from a jeep. The tiger however eluded us in the morning, apparently the biggest male in Ranthambore T-24 as the guides identify him had perhaps run whole night and it left our driver and guide completely confused where it was, there were way too many pugmarks and at many places we could see pugmarks going in one direction and simultaneously returning the same day. Normally female tigers have a territory of around 10-12 sq. km. as per the guides in Ranthambore but Male tigers have bigger territories, 20-25 sq.km, T-24 apparently, the biggest tiger in Ranthambore has a territory of almost 40 sq. km!!! As if it was not a difficult enough possibility to spot a solitary tiger in a 40 sq. km. area that the guide announced that these males mark their entire territory every 2-3 days and as per him T-24 doesn’t feel nice without checking out atleast a couple of other female tiger territories every 2-3 days. After trying for 2 hours, eventually we gave up on tracking T-24 and ventured into shooting the jungle and the deer and other birds.

The afternoon though was lucky, Kanhaiya, our guide came to our hotel to pick us up after lunch at 2.30 with news that we have been alloted route no.4 where a tiger was spotted in the morning and it was also reported that the tiger was resting near some caves. Now that was good news, normally tigers walk about and roam a lot in the nights, however around 9-10 in the morning they find a place in shade and near water and laze. Some are so lazy they do not even wake up or move an inch till evening. So off we sped straight to the spot the Tigress was spotted. On the way we learnt that the tiger that we were off to watch was not a tiger but a tigress. Now she was no common tigress, infact, she is the most photographed and documented tiger in India.

She is a legend in herself, The lady of the lake, Machli, T-16, Park ki Naani are some of the names that she is known by!!!! BBC had made a documentary on this tigress which was first spotted in 1997 in Ranthambore, today almost all the tigers in Ranthambore are perhaps her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She once was a very very strong and ferocious tigress that ruled the most beautiful parts of the Ranthambore park that had 3 lakes and the picturesque Rajbaug. She is believed to have killed as many as 8 crocodiles thanks to having the 3 lakes in her territory. Today though, the territory has been taken up by Sundari, her youngest daughter and Machli has been left with perhaps the smallest of all territories among all tigers in Ranthambore.

We reached the spot where she was first spotted and in about 15 minutes saw first movements from her, although quite far, I spotted her move and was thrilled to bits…

page

But after a couple of minutes of spotting her from a distance she disappeared in the bushes and our driver Shambhusingh reckoned she went and sat in the ‘nullah’ (a small stream of water, behind the slope) I considered myself fortunate enough to see her even from such a distance and was thrilled that I had my first tiger pics :D

Eventually after 20 mins of waiting our guide and driver insisted we leave the area and take a trip around in another tiger’s area and also photograph the jungle, I was kinda not keen to move from there but they advised we would come back here after a while nearer to 5pm when it would be relatively cooler and the tiger might start moving again. We saw some very beautiful parts of the forest with red algae infested lakes and all but somehow my mind was just not into photographing anything else and I just wanted to go back to the place where we had spotted Machli.

Eventually when we reached there, unlike earlier when we had the tiger just to us, this time the front row was already taken by 3 canters and 5 jeeps already waiting and I was already cursing my driver beneath my breath that we were the farthest and no chance to get a decent shot. Besides me were two foreigners who had lens that were atleast 2 feet long and I was already getting a complex of sorts about how wonderful their pics would come and how pale my pics would be.

However, watching tigers and keeping patience is not everyone’s cup of tea. At 6 the park closes and everyone has to be out, so as the clock struck 5.30 the canters had moved, all jeeps too gone and with them the 2 feet lens just 2 jeeps left, us and another govt. guests who didnt have to follow the 6 pm rule. (snobs I tell ya)

We were sitting and clicking Lapwings and Tree pie’s when suddenly the driver of the other jeep spotted movement, Machli, returned from the ‘nullah’ half her body was wet. She again sat on the slopes and tried to go to sleep and we thought that was it. She was not coming any more near. Then as our driver picked up, she is being troubled by some fleas or flies or bees… who are not letting her sleep and then again the tigress started moving this time towards a road. Our driver who was pretty experienced took us further ahead to a crossing he reckoned she would come out from and lo….

DSC_0224

This pic was taken when she came out of the bushes and was watching the jeep behind us… YES YES YES !!!!

I took this pic :D :D :D Me me me…. After all these many years of searching the tiger decided to pay me a visit :D Then after checking us two jeeps she started ambling towards our jeep and our voices started to become low toned shrieks with my wife and son whispering in shrieks almost she is coming so near so near so near so near and then she came to almost 5 feet close to our jeep before she changed her track and crossed our jeep from the front side and went into the bushes there and fell to rest again !!!!

DSC_0223

Look at that 17 year old, does she look like an old tigress in the evening of her life. Well I am no tiger expert and I can never tell. This pic has her playfully raising her tail and her tongue out as if she is coming to play with her Daddy ! :D

The biggest quandary for a photographer and a wild life enthusiast I guess is to decide whether to observe with his eyes or to capture with the lens. Although Machli was kind enough to let me do both, when it came ambling towards our jeep I held by son tight and watched it and then as my wife pulled my son back I got enough time to click loads of shots :D :D here are some of them :D

DSC_0230-002

That is when she came real close… apparently our driver spotted her whilst ambling that she was hurt in her left fore limb which we only saw later when we saw pics in our laptop in the evening.

DSC_0225

Walking oblivious of us, after all, she is the queen of these forests.

DSC_0230

Traces of having taken a dip recently are quite visible here…

DSC_0237

That gives you some idea of how near she had come and mind you this is when she started going away… she was nearer than this… we were thrilled while she was around. Cat caught my tongue was what literally happened to me… I just kept clicking it…

DSC_0242
it was only after she went away that I realised how vulnerable we were if she decided to give us a royal lick :D but well so far I have understood these animals are a lot more kind then we humans are and she didn’t change that understanding of mine at all.

DSC_0249

The moment it went into the bushes you could see how difficult it is to spot a tiger… see how easily it camouflages itself. :)

DSC_0258

And then it went back to its favourite pastime in the day… Sleeping, Hobbes, I am sure you can completely related to this… :D

PICS Courtesy: yours truly ! :D :D :D :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

excerpts…


~~~

He joined the army soon and in the army he was one of the brightest, fastest and strongest cadets. He was marked very early for commando training and he always topped almost all challenges thrown to him. His physical capacities amazed a lot of his colleagues and superiors. He grew fast, his reputation faster. The military Brigadier’s earmarked him soon he was the pride of the Kumaon regiment. He unusually displayed a lot of expertise in climbing. He was sent for a special course in mountaineering and skiing to Gulmarg. His climbing skills and his abillty never numbed even in the most chilling cold weather. His decision making would be unwavering and his judgement would not be clouded admist adversities during training. Soon he was selected and recommended to join the Special Frontier Force (SFF).

~~~

Post the gruelling training of SFF he was recommended by the SFF Col. Mr Bindra to Brigadier Naresh Kumar popularly known in the Army as “Bull”

~~~~

In 1983, Pakistani generals decided to stake claim of the Siachen Glacier by troop deployment. They placed an order for Arctic weather gear from a supplier in London, unaware however that the same supplier also provided outfits to the Indian army. The information was leaked and the Indians got the air of the Pakistani plans. Indians acted fast and mounted their own operations. Aided by the recently returned team from Antartica, the army ordered 300 suits of the arctic gear and operation ‘Meghdoot’ was launched with the Bull at the helm of affairs. Whilst Pakistan’s plan was to capture the glacier by April 17th, the Indian army launched its operation in march and captured 3 posts by April the 13th.

~~~

However in 1986, Pakistan’s Brigadier at that time Pervez Musharraf launched an assault in response and managed to initially capture a post that the Pakistani’s named ‘Quaid’ which was at 6500meters which was the highest point in the Siachen mastiff. It was a very strategic post at it gave a clear view of the other two Indian posts and the Pakistani’s could easily snipe at the Indian’s from that post. It was virtually an impregnable fortress with ice walls, 457 meter high, on both sides.

~~~

Naib Dara Singh of Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry led the charge, two missions earlier had been aborted, once due to some trouble with the rope in the night and another due to a communication failure. Eventually Dara Singh made a daring suggestion of climbing in the day time, there was heavy snow fall forecast that day and Capt Vikram and Dara Singh managed to convince the Task Force Commanger Bull to give them the green light to carry out this dangerous mission.

Naib Dara Singh led 160 other members including Vikram and they climbed the 457 meters crawling from trench to trench lobbing hand grenades and eventually charged with a bayonet.

~~~

Dara Singh deservedly was awarded the Param Vir Chakra the highest Gallantry award in India. Today the post they won is known as Dara Post which is the highest battle field in the world.

~~~~

In his memoirs, former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf states that Pakistan lost almost 900 square miles (2,300 km2) of territory that it claimed.[19] TIME states that the Indian advance captured nearly 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) of territory claimed by Pakistan.[20]

~~~~

The sour Musharraf returned… in 1999 in Kargil…