Sunday, August 9, 2015

My idea of Solo-Travelling

Trekking in the Sayadri Range  (Maharastra)February 2015
Some times I think that what if I can go somewhere and only come back when I'm broke .
I, take cash with me while spending it my way (not luxuriously) & then say to myself if more of the  cash is required in something I love to do than ,I justify myself by by saying these words that I read somewhere---
 "you can always make money , but you can't  always make memories  "

My idea of travelling is Not :-

1.Good Luxurious hotel
2.Tourist Spots
3.Getting Indian Food
4.Definitely not Tour Packages .

My idea of travelling is cheap ,descent hotel , trekking which allows you to see the beauty of the place and give you a 1st hand experience of the country's culture,eating the local cuisine & if I run out of money I will depend on Oats that I always take from my home (enough to keep you in shape with enough requirements needed for your body) & I make my own Itinerary , which is not basically an itinerary as I like to make plans on the way , spontaneous  ...random . So throw you itinerary and go with the flow.If the country is situated near the ocean or sea ,I don't mind to explore deep inside a I got my Advance Scuba license that allows me anywhere in the Ocean to dive. Definitely for accommodation I would prefer for Tents to sleep under 5 million stars rather than a 5 star  hotel and if that not possible then preferably home-stay .If the period of my stay is a long one then I would love to volunteer for NGOs ,some of them provides lodging & fooding for free.

You know what, it totally depends upon you whether you spend INR7000/- for a week in a place or just half of it .Its totally upto your approach to travelling .Yes , sometimes you can give a treat to yourself to stay at a luxurious hotel after a tough trek or a diving course.

Its not about the Money its about the experience & I say if you go to a place , take more time, explore , "live " the place .

Don't just go there , hop all the tourist spots and get back home .

Try to change your approach towards Travelling .I say "live it"
Try to go solo , there is an addiction I swear you will love it !
If you are flexible --- you will enjoy it..

Check on
My Nepal Earthquake Experience & Solo travel to Havelock (Andamans & Nicobar Islands) Experience in my Blog

Friday, August 7, 2015

We came, we saw, we survived!!

The day was delightful for us as we felt like celebrities when we left for the trek from Namche to Deboche, we were being filmed by a German-based crew. They were making a documentary movie based on Sherpa culture of Nepal and Jamling sir was one of their main attractions whom they bumped on suddenly the day before on his natal day. I guess you all know who Jamling sir is, the famous son of “the Tiger of the Snow” Tenzing Norgay .
They filmed us from the beginning of the trek and finally bid us adieu promising us to meet again at Mt. Everest base camp. We started happily taking few breaks, the elevation was high and we had small problems with the breathing, we crossed some breathless view along with a suspension bridge with lots of yaks in front of us but eventually reached the rest point in Khumjung where we hold the lunch for the daytime. But through all the way we experience snowfall but later it was raining and foggy. 10 of us with our sir were waiting inside the “Sherpa hut” for the lunch & suddenly the place started to shake. The shake was of a long one and was not about to stop. We had nowhere to run as we were in the banks of Inja khola (river in Nepalese), surrounded by mountains. We rushed out of the hut. It was sheer luck that rocks and boulders in the surrounding mountain didn’t come down. In a matter of few seconds, the nearby hut was in rumbles and after a pause the wall of our hut fell down as well. All our girls were numb, I was wondering that maybe the earthquake was in the mountains so the seismic disturbance was felt of high intensity & beside I didn’t mind the rubbles as it was made of stone and clay with a wooden roof so it will definitely come down. We got inside to have our lunch. It was amazing how the owner of the shop reacted calmly & still served us the tasty lunch. We relished the lunch, one of our fellow mates commented “earthquake best serve with lunch”. We had rice, dal, veggies and a nice pickle. I really cherish the veggies; it was so fresh and so tasty. We were about done when we got another shake. This time the Nepalese people were really scared & they started praying to the mountains goodness. This time it was  a strong. Our sir tried calling from his satellite phone, but it didn’t work out. As we were out in the mountains, we were all astonished, suddenly the earthquake happened, nobody knew the intensity and where the epicenter was, but we all felt it and knew that it was really bad. Along with us and Sir, we had along with us 4 Sherpas and 4 porters. These 4 porters were far ahead of us with our luggage. Sir gave us a green signal and we proceeded for our trek towards Deboche. We all girls were working for today’s trek as we would pass the famous Tengboche Monastery enroute Debouche where Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay offered prayers & took blessings from the high lama while going to summit the Unknown in 1953 .We have heard that the prayers that is chanted there are so powerful that one gets mesmerized by it .They say that Everest beer is also offered there.

While on the trek we met fellow travelers with whom we exchanged information regarding the quake & being clueless about what was going on. We pass through beautiful forest full of rhododendrons peeping from here and there. Our sir told us to keep close while walking and to be alert; if we sense a rock fall we should bend down. We saw some of the cracks in the pathway & finally at one point sir’s satellite phone got connected and we were informed that the epicenter was in between Kathmandu & Pokran with a 7.9 ritcher scale.

As we reached the Tengboche Monastery, it was already closed. We examined the damages over there and once more we felt two aftershocks. The structures there were all loosely built with stones and clay is laid over it. We started out our phone connections, I attempted to contact my parents, but it was not reachable. We sensed the seriousness of the earthquake only after reaching Tengboche. The upper parts of the Monastery were visibly damaged. There were more structures in and around the monastery which were also badly damaged. Our next destination which was 10mins down in the valley near the river was also damaged so, sir took the decision that we will stay here tonight as it was the safest place as for now, we will get the information regarding to move ahead or not from the trekkers that will come from base camp. We proceeded to check for lodges there, in one lodge we found the there were boulders on the bed and later we decided for a lodge made of plywood, it was more dependable. During that time, the 1st and foremost priority was our safety. It was in the dining hall of the lodge were we received information regarding the earthquake, as here the trekkers came for rest after trekking from base camp and other nearby regions. These people, whom we met, had all 1st hand experience of the earthquake. In the altitude there we were in, we didn’t have access to television nor proper phone connection just the satellite phone and the passing people. We heard that Lukla, Namche, Pheriche were thoroughly damaged and there was an avalanche in the base camp. We were given 24 to 48 hours to be alert.

 Finally, we girls went outside to search network and call our respective families. It was going to be dark & finding network in -5 degrees Celsius was a struggle and above it, there was snowfall. Finally we got the line and told the parents that we were safe. My father was relaxed after hearing my voice, as in television, the scenes that were depicted was horrible about which we had no idea about.

When we came back to our lodge we got to know that one of our Sherpa Dzonbo’s houses in Thame was destroyed and he have to leave us and get back home. We girls collected some money and gave for his aid. At first he hesitates to take it,but we insisted .Language was the barrier for us and the Sherpas. They were learning English. Angputti was one of the intelligent among them as she can speak little English and little Hindi. Mingma was the cute one .Mingma and Aungputti were cousins. Bikas was almost fluent in Hindi in compare with the others. Apart from the Sherpas being simple, honest & hardworking they are selfless and very sweet & definitely the unsung heroes.

Today we realized the significance of what sir told us while we were boarding flight from Katmandu to Lukla (the place from where we started our trek) .He said “throw away your itinerary as nothing here happens by plan”. I think the same goes for life too.

That night after dinner and chatting among ourselves, we were about to sleep when another earthquake came and we rushed outside. Our sir already told us to pack the essentials in our backpack. So that if we fall asleep and earthquake comes then we get the backpack and run.

The next morning the weather was little clear & the whole areas was covered with snow , the clouds put up its curtain little by little and we saw patches of snow clad mountain literally face to face with us. The mountains were so very near to us and they were so huge, but we girls only had one thing on mind that we desperately wanted to go to Everest Base Camp (EBC). Our next stop was to Dingboche, as far as we have heard there was not much damage in Dingboche, only some trails leading there have been damaged, but still people were going forward. It was one and only chance for us and as it was getting delayed we were losing hope .But we still hope. Hope that something good was about to be.

We 10 girls were selected from “Fulfill your Everest Contest” (an extension of the Star Channel’s show “Everest” produced by filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker) sponsored by Star Plus Channel, Fair & Lovely (FAL) Foundation & Hindustan Unilever associated with Mercury Himalaya Explorations (MHE) among 7,500 applicants from all across India in 3 levels of selection procedure & our prize was to the Base Camp of the World’s highest Mountain’s with “The” Jambling Tenzing Norgay. It was to commemorate 50 years of the Indian team that summit Mt. Everest in 1965.

Tengboche has  a huge open space and people who were coming from the base camp and nearby areas were putting up their tents for the night, we heard that 1500 people died in Kathmandu(KTM) , 18 dead & 6 missing in the base camp , foreigners were running back home , the base camp was declared closed for 4 days , in Gorakshep lodges(the last trek stop before the base camp) were damaged and in the meantime we witness helicopters making rescue service to and fro from base camp literally every half an hour & later got to know that the trail to Dingboche was totally damaged. We met injured trekkers from Pune who saw the avalanche with their naked eyes & a Sherpa who ran all the way from Gorakshep to Tengboche told us their experience & how frightened they were. We girls had one idea that if foreigners were rushing back then we have more places to stay in the forward trek .But again at 12.52pm another earthquake struck and in front of our eyes the remaining monastery collapsed with some other structures. Death tolls kept on increasing and 72 hours alert was given .One of our Sherpa Mingma and Aungputti home were also damaged, so Mingma left early morning and Aungputti stayed with us. We can sense the tension in their face. We all knew that EBC is not going to happen this time but still kept our fingers crossed & finally Jamling Sir came and gave the final judgment .It is always as it does  only when the mountain calls , you can go .”

All of us were devastated and broken down, because every one of us sacrificed something or the other just to be here ,but the best part was that we were safe .EBC was not a dream for us literally , it came by chance and the passion wouldn’t have grown much if we would easily get in there . But the earthquake made us realized otherwise. For me Mount Everest was a dream but after doing my BMC, from HMI, Darjeeling, I knew that talking about Mt. Everest and conquering it was two very different/difficult things, but this opportunity was a gem for me ,a “god-gifted” I must say.

After having a sad & quiet dinner, we were surprised to meet Peter Hillary (Edmund Hillary’s son) who came in our lodge searching for our sir and his friend. We heard that he was on a trek with his friends, it was a King’s College Reunion Trek (60+age group).They were headed for base camp but had to return from Gorakshep because of the earthquake. We chatted and he invited us to their place nearby. We went there after our dinner, had a good time and finally bid goodbye with a final aftershock later. We were all fed up of the earthquakes.

The following morning we heard a bad news, one of Peter’s fellow trek mates whom we came across last night, had a cardiac arrest early morning and was announced dead. The whole atmosphere was full of grief and we went to give condolence. Afterwards in the evening a black helicopter came to take the body. It was really sad. The weather was clear today with some sunshine and we managed to see Mount Everest, Lohtse, Nuptse & Ama Dablam.

For the next day the plan was placed, morning we will reach Syanboche via Khumjung village and we will be evacuated by helicopter to KTM, but after that no such plans as in KTM hotels are not taking visitors. We should either try to get plane tickets for Delhi or reach Delhi by road crossing the Nepal border .But the question was how was the condition of the road?

Next morning at 4.30am we started our trek to Helipad destination Syanboche and reach there on time, on the way we witness the disaster done by the earthquake, villages after villages were damaged .It was heart wrenching to see how Mother Nature could show her anger among its most simple and honest people on Earth. We finally reached the destination and went inside the lodge to get fresh and some hot Wai Wai was served, in the meantime we waited for our Helicopter .We heard the Indian Embassy was worried for the 10 Indian girls stranded in Nepal, we were already in papers & MHE was trying for our evacuation ASAP, besides we had done our homework and we had our travel insurance. You never know when some things come out to be handy. But the worst turnout was, because of the bad weather the Helicopter couldn’t land .So it was schedule for the next morning at 6am. In the evening we had our 1st encounter with the television since 19th April and we saw the realities, the dreadful avalanche in Base camp and how the houses in KTM fell just like that, the International Airport was a mess, whether we will get a ticket to Delhi or not was a doubt, now I can realize why my parents were worried so much. These disturbing images took smile from our faces and we were desperate to go home, no doubt that we were equally sad as we will miss all of us as we shared a collective dream and was a collective survivor of the natural disaster but we all knew that “we will go back strong”.

The next day the weather was cloudy and we were waiting in the open space with some other foreigners, whenever we hear the hovering of the helicopter we become happy as a lark, but we only did hear but didn’t see it, but finally at one precious moment it found its way through the clouds and our savior the big Russian Mi-17 Chopper landed. We sense a kind of relief .At that very moment something very special happened .The porters with whom we haven’t interacted in the long trek as they were always ahead of us in the trek honored us by giving Khatas (the Tibetans scarf).It was so emotional moment for us that tears rolled down our cheeks. Later we bid goodbye to those porters, Aungputti , who stayed with us till the end, even if her home was damaged and Bikas .Finally we landed in KTM  & the press was waiting for us. In the airport we came across many foreign planes .We saw our Indian Air Force’s huge helicopters and plane in the Tribhuvan International Airport .It felt as if someone from home was waiting for us. They contact our Sir & gave the airplane number but something went wrong , finally Sir with his contacts managed to get us 10 air tickets of Air India . It was very hard moment for us to leave Sir, it felt something as if “the end was abrupt .I didn’t thought that this would end like this .ABRUPTLY!”But Sir was like a God sent, if we weren’t under his guidance, maybe like the other passengers we would have been stranded here for days. We could see these days Sir was only thinking about our safe dispersal to Delhi. At the time when the International Airport turned into a railway station, no hotels accepting travelers and people putting up tents and sleeping outside the Airport, Sir managed to get the earliest possible tickets, even though he had a family in Darjeeling & property in Nepal that were damaged. But he kept us as his 1st priority.

With heavy hearts and tearful eyes we bid goodbye to Sir. After much delay as there was traffic in the air, we reached Delhi. We meet with the sponsors, made a toast of champagne for our safe coming and the very next day I had my flight back home to Guwahati. It was a very difficult moment for us in the Delhi airport as we were bidding goodbye to each other. Not knowing that will we meet again, but will surely miss this. We were strangers at first but became close as sisters at the end of the journey .Now I was all by myself on the flight to Ghy. I had mixed feelings, I literally didn’t know what to feel about, a kind of confusion stirred in my mind, a dream was half-fulfilled, met so many beautiful friends, happy to come home, but in my heart there was still pain for the people of Nepal. Because it was the Nepalese people who suffered the most in the earthquake. Their homes were gone in seconds, districts were flattened in minutes but on the other hand, I came back, I survived with an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget. My landing was at 10 am but my father was waiting for me in the Airport with a bouquet of flowers since 8am.

I asked him “why did you arrive so early?”
He hugged me and said “become a parent then you will know!”


                                                                                                                Moramee Das
                                                                                                             A survivor from Nepal earthquake
                                                                             All Women Indian Team Member to Everest Base Camp                                                                                                                (One of Jamling’s Angels)