Annapurna Trek Experience # 2

The trek to Chomrung, the next day took me through thick pine and bamboo forests.  The 9-hour strenuous trek became all the more difficult because of the steps that were 12-to-18 inches high each.  Of course, all strain in the Himalayas is worth the pain. This time my fruit was a  magnificent glimpse of the Annapurna-Hiunchuli-Fishtail mountain range.

And of course, the Himalayan weather is allowed to change its mood as it very much did the next day.  Half way through the day it began to rain. We were told that the path ahead had even heavier rains and that it was snowing Deurali onwards. In fact, a heavy snow fall 3-4 ago was followed by a major avalanche and had made the route to ABC inaccessible. Hoping that the weather would improve and the path would open up, I decided to continue.  Just a day away from MBC and ABC, the weather conditions deteriorated further.  Heavy snow fall and another dangerous avalanche had blocked the trekking ridges.  Those who were stuck on the other side had somehow managed to come back, a few of them limping with ankle and knee injuries. It was anticipated that it would take  a few days for the weather to improve.

I had to return. I had a view of the mountains which would have been clearer if the weather cooperated. I could have had an even closer  and clearer panoramic view. Anyway, it was a tough trek and in the end I am grateful that my ankles, knees, heart and energy supported me commendably.

 

ABC Trekking -# 1 Excitement Ahead!

Come 16th November, I will be out for for my next expedition. This time it will be a a trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) in Himalayas in Nepal which will last till 26 Nov 2018. The Annapurna region is regarded as one of the best trekking destinations on the planet.

Three years back, in end April 2015, I planned for this expedition. But just a week before I was to leave, there was a severe earthquake in Nepal, killing almost 10,000 people. All tourist activities were closed. Next 3 years kept me busy in other expeditions like Drive from Road to London, solo drives to Iceland, Yellowstones in USA and Candian Rockies. I am now attempting to trek ABC again. Like the trek to Mt Everest BC, again I will be trekking all alone, of course with a Sherpa as a guide.

I wish the various authorities consider the energy level as a criteria to assess the abilities of a person rather than the age. Some of the initial challenges I am facing are due to my age factor of 73+. I expect to resolve these issues in the next 2-3 days and be ready to commence my journey on time.

I hope to share my excitements and anxious moments with you as I keep moving.

In the meanwhile I certainly need your good wishes and blessings for smooth completion of my dream.

Thrill – India Playing Pak at Sharjah

“Pushpa, quickly get ready!  I have come to pick you up to watch the second half of the cricket match.  India is all out for 125.  I am surrounded in my portion of the stadium by Pakistan fans and they were at their loudest in supporting their players.  I was the lone Indian supporter and got carried away to oppose them.  To prove my loyalty, I have placed a friendly bet that India will win…200 UAE Dirhams each with a few of them.  It is 2 to 1 in India’s favour.  India is going to win this match.  It would be interesting to watch.”  I rushed home during the innings break to take my wife to the match.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to field.  They demolished Indian batting stalwarts like Ravi Shastri, Srikkanth, Vengsarkar, Gavaskar, Amarnath, Madanlal, and Viswanath.  Only Azharuddin and Kapil Dev were the major contributors.  Imran Khan, Pakistan’s ace bowler was merciless in his pace and had 6 wickets to his name.  India wound up for a paltry 125.

Driving a distance of over 20km in about 20 minutes from the Sharjah Cricket Stadium to Dubai, we were back in time before the second inning began. It was Friday, 22 March 1985, the weekend holiday.  Anand (my son) developed Mumps and Pushpa stayed back with him.  Meeta and Seema were with me all through the match.

Pushpa resisted my insistence, “How can I?  Anand is unwell. Anyway, why do you want me to watch a match which we are certain to lose.  Just 2.5 runs per over?  Easy for Pakistan to win. ”

“No.  Just watch.  I have a strong feeling that we are going to win today.”

Anand was asleep.  When I continued to insist, she had Kannan, our part-time helper come over and joined me to the match.  I collected the money to pay for the stakes, in case India loses.

My boss was one of the of Committee members of the Sharjah Cricket Association and could manage to buy VIP seats.  We had lunch at the stadium and there were some cricket players in the buffet queue too.  Javed Miandad was just ahead of me with a friend.  He said aloud, “I am going to blast India today.  If we don’t win today, I will not return to Pakistan.”

Back on our seats in the stadium, all the Pakistan fans around us were mocking me.  It was all in good humor.   I knew some of them well.  I handed over the bet amount to one of them, Mr. Jhumkawala.

Soon, India started getting wickets.  One run out and two great catches by Gavaskar.  Miandad came in to bat, struggled and could not get a single run in 15 balls.  Frustrated, he tried to hit a lofty shot and was out for a duck!

Around the score of 40-45, they lost their fifth wicket!  Gavaskar was in a mood to entertain the crowd.  He had taken 4 catches and every time he put the ball in his pocket after taking the catch.  Around the score of 85-87 they lost 3 more wickets.  At the score of 87 for 8, my Pakistani friends started handing me the bet amount before walking out.  They lost 2 more wickets at the same score!

All Indian supporters were enjoying their best.  We were carrying a large Indian flag.  The Bollywood super star Rishi Kapoor was in the balcony adjacent to us.  He borrowed our flag and was waving for a long time.  The flag never came back to us!

What a match to win!  Well-worth the efforts to bring Pushpa!  With pleasant memories we got back home. And Javed Miandad to Pakistan!

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa  Edited By : Meeta Kabra

Yellowstone National Park #6 – Wildlife

Oh! What a place! Yellowstone National Park.
Here is a glimpse of the wildlife we found.  Bisons were in plenty.

 

 

Bison

Beautiful yellow and grey deer were also found in very close proximity.  As some of the places we could walk with them

 

 

We were lucky to that suddenly a Coyote (Wolf Family) came in from front of our car (left top picture)

 

We could see a herd of deer passing through a pond in an absolutely disciplined way, as can be seen on picture at left bottom

 

 

Bears just on roadside welcoming us near Jasper. Bear was less than 10 Mtr from us. I was tempted to go out of the car and have a selfie!

Yellowstone National Park #5 – Geysers

One of the main reasons we came to Yellowstone National Park was seeing the Geysers, and they did not disappoint. The anticipation was enough. My goodness, when it erupts…

We saw many geysers. Two were prominent amongst them. One was called Old Faithful. It started with a steaming hole. There are chairs kept around it in a circle around 100 metres in radius. A computer program estimates the time of eruption, with a ten minute margin of error. Everyone sits down, and soon enough, the show begins.

Slowly, the hole begins to throw water out. It faked out three or four times, when the fountain only reached about the height of a full grown man. But then, it started, and didn’t stop. It reached a height of at 200-250 feet, spewing hot water and steam from its mouth, water flowing everywhere.

 

 

Sulphur Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park #4

Our jet-lag had got us by the tails. We all woke up at different times. All of us woke up before 5 am. The plan was wake up at 6:30, but our bodies were still in Mumbai Time!

After breakfast and checking out, we sat in the warmth of a fire that had been set up. There is nothing quite as soothing as the warmth of a fire, the crackling sound it makes, the randomness in its designs and patterns. It really calmed us all down as we waited for a van to take us to the rent-a-car.

Ruhi and I browsed through their cars, and finally settled on a Ford Escape. Owing to its huge trunk, comfortable seats, and – most importantly – in-built navigation system, we thought it was perfect. The person at the counter happened to be from Goregaon, so we got chatting. Delightful person. He took me through it all in Gujrati, which I understand, but can’t quite speak much.

I turned and the engine purred to life. We were on our way. At around 9 a.m., we set out to White Sulphur Springs, on way to Yellowstone, USA.

 

The road was mostly flat. If you live in India, you have never seen this much flat land in your life. There were no mountains for miles. The ground was brownish-yellow, but I suspect that if one goes in the correct season, it would all be lush and green.

 

 

 

As we got closer, the view got better. The mountains started coming in, and with them, the snow. There is nothing like the feeling of snow: its shining white colour, the cold it brings along with it, the warmth you get from the inside… one can never get enough. I hadn’t expected this. By my plans, we were to come back up north via the snow, but I had not anticipated this beauty at all.

 

 

 

There were vast stretches of road where we were the only car on the road. No one else seemed to want to be here, and that really surprises me. It was also sort of soothing. We had a little joke in the car where we would start clapping and cheering when we saw a car.

 

All said and done, the car ride from Calgary to White Sulphur Springs, Montana, U.S.A. was about 10 hours. Adding to that the eleven hour layover we had at Heathrow Airport the previous day, and the two nine hour flights it took to get here, it’s safe to say we were all tired out of our minds.

 

The Motel we stayed at, Spa Hot Springs Motel, was special.  It had three pools with pure natural sulphur spring water, each pool set to a different temperature. The lowest was 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

We got into our swimming suits and to the pools. You will never have a more soothing experience in your life. I don’t know what it is – the high temperature or the Sulphur, but my God, such a refreshing experience.

Tiredness if any vanished.  It was so good, for a moment I considered changing our route so that we could come back to this place on our return route to the Canadian Rockies. Alas, that cannot be. We have better things planned for the way back. More exciting news to come!