Monday, July 17, 2017

ShriKhand Kailash Yatra - 2017 - Experiencing the toughest trek in India.

Standing with a participant of Chhadi Yatra 2017 at ShriKhand Kailash, 2017

Hi,
This is the time of the year when you can hike the steepest treks and reach the mountain peaks, which are ice cladded throughout the year. July is the month when people take the arduous journeys to reach the Kailash peaks devoted to the lord Shiva, the Mahadev. 

Recently at the end of the first week of July, I did what I have been planning since last one year. Same month, last year, I hiked along a 17 kilometers trek to reach the Manimahesh Kailash in Chamba, and I enjoyed it so much that, then and there I wished of climbing to another Kailash Parvat(Mountain.)

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Manimahesh Lake and Kailash, July 2016
 I couldn't do it that time, because of unpreparedness of my body. That thought remained with me throughout these 12 months, and finally this month I reached the ShriKhand Kailash peak.  It has an elevation of around 5200 metres from the Mean Sea Level.  

Brief Introduction

Almost at 1000 metres higher elevation than the Manimahesh Lake(4300 metres,) ShriKhand Kailash is very much different in terms of the trek length, the steepness of the trek, the ice glaciers, and the connectivity with the world. 
A downward view up from close to Nain-Sarovar, Shrikhand Kailash yatra 2017

Shrikhand Kailash lies in the Kullu district of the Himachal Pradesh, and you can climb from three different locations.The other two being very difficult most of the pilgrims hike from Jaon in Nirmand tehsil of Kullu.

Preparations:

Please note that this trek is almost 35-40 kilometers long on one side, and it is near about 90 degrees ascend at more than 60% of the trek length, and this is the reason that this trek is known as the toughest trek of the India. 

Other may suggest that it is less than 30 or more than 40 kms, but mind that the hike is not on the smooth floor and neither is it straight. One has to climb the big boulders and serpentine ridges. Don't underestimate or overestimate. 


Do's 

  • Attempt only if you are in good shape and strength. If you want to attempt, please start running and other exercises months ahead.
  • Do not take the chance with the altitude sickness, it can take your life. If you are not accustomed to higher altitude the lack of oxygen can be a very big problem, therefore either must have already trekked up to elevations above 4500 metres or take 3-4 days night halts at different locations along this trek. These halts will allow your body to acclimatize to this higher elevation climate. 
  • Diamox is a must, because altitude is very high and you must not take chances with your body. Take one tablet, one day prior to the day you will reach the top. You may not need it if you already have been at such heights.
  • Take warm clothes with you, assume that it is a cold winter season up there, and it really is. 
  • Keep a cash of about 4-5 thousand rupees for buying the camping and food facility along the trek. 
  • Always keep a water bottle of about 2 litres with you, you will not get any water in the last 5-8 kilometers of the steep pebbled trek. You will get ice, but it does not melt in the bottle and it is harmful to eat it. 
  • Keep the dry fruits with you, such as almonds and cashew nuts, they are your light weight energy packs.
  • Keep the rain coat with you, also can take the umbrella, but that can become inconvenient to engage one hand to hold it, or resist the fast blowing winds. 
  • Sun-glasses and sun screen cream are also required, else just like I got it, you may get the sun-burn on your face.

Don'ts

  • Please don't litter the place with plastic bags or bottles, carry them back with you and dispose them in dustbins or give them to the local shopkeepers to dispose. 
  • Don't hurry, keep a pace which becomes a rhythm of your heart, whenever you feel uncomfortable with the breathing, please do take rest, it is not a competition. Have a sip of water, catch your breathe and then start again.

 


 How to Reach

To reach Nirmand, come to Shimla either via bus, train or Air-plane. Then go to Nirmand(very close to Rampur,) via bus or your private vehicle. Travel another 12 kilometers along a single lane road to reach Jaon. Jaon is a small village from where you can use only your feet. 
Park your vehicles at Jaon, a motor-cycle and helmet can be parked safe at the shop adjacent to the road, I paid 200 rupees. 

Trek From Jao to Shrikhand Kailash
Intial 8 kilometers trek from Jaon up to the Barathi Naala forms a sine wave, with ups and downs, and is mostly gentle. The 90 degrees ascent starts and ends at Kaali Ghati after a distance of about 10-12 kilometers. 
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View Barathi Naala from the trek reaching up to Thachru, Shrikhand Kailash yatra 2017

This is the most difficult part, as considered by many, but thankfully you get to rest at the local tent shops and also can take a comfortable night halt at Thachru, at about 8 kilometers up from Barathi Naala.  

Boards suggest it only to be a 5 kilometers of hike, but the legs and mind suggest differently, not less than 8 kilometers. You will not get any phone signal till Thachru, so inform your loved ones well in advance.  

Signal may or may not be there at Kaali-ghati and Kunsha, the halt point at further along the trek. 
I got JIO signal at Kaali-ghati and Thachru only, not at Kunsha. 

From Kaali-Ghati, at around 3900-4000 metres elevation, you have to take a descent of about 2-3 kilometers to reach Bhim Talai at about 3700 metres elevation. 

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Temporary tents and camps, on the way to Kunsha, Shrikhand Kailash yatra 2017
With other so many sine waves of ups and downs, another 8 kilometers takes you up to Bhim Dwar at around 3800 metres of elevation.  After the Bhim Talai, Bhim Dwar was my second halt. 
In between, you can take a night halt at Kunsha, where there is the possibility of getting signal into your cell phone. 
One can climb up to Parvati Baag which is at higher elevation at around 4200 metre. They charged us 300 rupee per person for night stay with one time meal at night. 
Inside a typical temporary tent, on the Trek to ShriKhand Kailash - July 2017

They gave two blankets, but if less people are there, you may get three or four also. At least two night halts are must for the acclimatization.

 Up to Parvati Baag one can find the carpet of the grass and flowers, but above that the mountains are covered with stones and pebbles up to Nain Sarovar. Start early in the morning from Bhim Dwar or Parvati Baag. 

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A bright moon shining upon the white clouds  at 4:00 AM on 9th July 2017 - Shrikhand Kailash Yatra 2017
I and two of the new found friends, Naren and Rahul, we started at 4:00 AM in the morning from Bhim Dwar, the moon was shining bright, and the clouds appeared as if the Inder-darbar from the old DD1 serials.

At around 5:00 AM I reached at Nain Sarovar. Please mind that I have done a number of treks in Himachal Pradesh, so time is a relative term here.

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Nain Sarovar - a close view - ShriKhand Kailash Yatra 2017
It depends from person to person. After Nain Sarovar starts the most arduous part of the trek. Very steep, narrow and glacial with deep gorges on both sides, stoned and curved path tests your balance, acrobatic skills and mind strength. 

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Keep the water at your hand's reach and keep taking the sips. You don't know how fast you get dehydrated at heights, so make it a rule to take another sip after 15-30 minutes. 

A click with newfound friends - Shrikhand Kailash Yatra 2017


 Clouds and rains are very common part of the climate up there, so wear the raincoat whenever needed. To have the video experience of the Kailash, please watch the following videos.


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Descending from Shrikhand Kailash

Keep a stick in your hand if possible, reason is that the knee joint may give you a pain that you have never felt before. Just as the ascent is at 90 degrees and along the stones and glaciers, the descent can be more painful than the ascent. 

Reason is that while descending the knee coil has to bear a force of almost three times our body weight. 
A hand stick helps a lot in such condition. You won't reach anywhere near to Jaon on the same day. Take the night halt where-ever you can reach, either at Bhim Dwar, Bhim Talai, Kunsha or Thachru. 

Take two or three night halts if you can't descent fast, it is okay to listen to your body. Reportedly, last year 4 people died, and in the year previous to that 6 people have died. So, don't play around, it is not the place. 

Just keep hailing the lord Shiva in your head, keep saying JAI SHIV SHANKAR, BUM BUM BHOLE, JAI BHOLENATH..
JAI BHOLE
SANJAY KUMAR SHARMA

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Visit to Gompa at Sharabai, Kullu, June 2017

Hi,

Whenever I visit a temple, or monastery, I feel like that lost soul trying to find the purpose of the life. I don't talk to many people, I simply go there, sit for a while, and just try to breathe the air. Each new visit helps me a bit more when it is a peaceful place with not much of the crowd around. 

Akhil and I, pic credit: Ankush Rouhan. June 2017

Yesterday was fun, and very nice to meet Ankush and Akhil again. I am holding a guitar in the picture above, oh yes! I can sing! please watch some videos here if you like. 

 Visiting the Gompa at Sharabai in district Kullu was suggested by them only, whom I said good bye in the morning.  We tried to make some plan together, but nothing seemed feasible, so I went on to spend my day alone by wandering these sites I hadn't seen yet.
Gompa, Sharabai Kullu, June 2017, clicked from the main gate entrance to the complex.

Reaching the Gompa at Sharabai

As the name suggests the Gompa is on the right bank of the river Beas in Sharabai(pronounced as Shadabai or Sarabai). Sharabai is the place just at a distance of 4-5 kilometers from Bhunter along NH-3(earlier NH-21.) 

Main gate of the whole complex, outside view, Gompa at Sharabai, Kullu, June 2017

From Sharabai a  metaled, single laned road of length not more than two kilometers links it with this Gompa. 

Inside the Dechen Choekhor Mahavihara Monastery, Sharabai, Kullu

When I reached, the monastery was closed for the lunch hour in the mid noon. Few lamas( I guess the students,) draped in their dark red robes, were chatting on the outer gallery of the dormitory. A young couple(I assumed) was seated in front of the closed main door.

I removed my shoes at the steps rising to the varandah and sat on the smooth floor with my back supported by the big column. 
Mr. Tarun Goel has written very good details about this Gompa, and others in Himachal Pradesh, so please visit the link for details.
I will write only what I observed there.

About five minutes later, couple started to leave, I stood and I requested for a click of myself, and he complied. 

Sanjay Kumar Sharma at Gompa at Sharabai, Kullu, june 2017


Again I sat for next half an hour, observing few lamas moving from the left building to the right building or the other way around.

Left building clearly was a dormitory, but the right one, I couldn't comprehend. In front the big lawn surfaced with green grass all over it and with few rows of planted shrubs was initially empty at my arrival. 

Main gate, a click towards the exit, Gompa complex at Sharabai, Kullu, June 2017

After few minutes, few visitors and few workers sat with different purposes. Some were eating lunch, some taking pictures, and few others just chatted. 

Toward the last ten minutes of that half hour, a big family had also arrived in the varandah, they carried some good cameras and all related stuff. At last, door at the right of the main temple was opened for visitors. Others two, one on the front face and other on the left, remained closed.

Inside the Gompa

Inside the Dechen Choekhor Gompa, Sharabai, Kullu. June 2017

Everything was decorated in the bright colors. In front of the golden statue of Buddha, small wooden tables were arranged in straight lines meeting to form a rectangle with the front leg missing. 

They carried some pooja stuff which the lamas would use while the Aarti or pooja hour in the morning and evening. 

Inside the gompa, Sharabai, Kullu, June 2017. 

Buddha is seated with a black colored bowl(rice bowl as they say) in his left hand, held at a space from his right  foot resting on the left leg. Right hand simply rests on the right knee. His curly hairs are arranged to form the precious bun at the top (Ushnisha.)

Adjacent to Buddha are the two small statues and next to them are two bigger ones. One of Padmasambhava on his right and Tara Devi on his left. Latter I didn't know about, the lama attending the visitors told me. I know a bit about Padmasambhava more by visiting the Riwalsar lake, the monastery and the 37.5(some say 36 ) metres high statue of him

I took a glance at the wall paintings similar to I saw in most of the other tibetan monasteries in Himachal Pradesh, and stepped out of the door. 


My next destination of the day would be the Nature park at Mohal, and then the Triyogi Narayan temple at Diyar, both in Kullu district. Let's leave them for the upcoming posts. 

Thanks for the visit!


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Jhatingri to Bajaura via Diana park, Kamand and Kandhi - on motor-Bike.

Hi,

Visiting Dev Pashakot was a fueling experience. Then I came to know that there is a road that diverges from Jhatingri and connects it with the Diana Park and further with Katindhi and Kamand(IIT Mandi.) This was a wonderful bike ride. Please read on for full story.


Potato farm and Dhauladhars further back, On the way to Diana Park, Mandi, HP, 2017.



Planning at Jhatingri

Jhatingri, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, June 2017


Jhatingri is just about 4-6 kilometers from Tikken. There was no initial planning of going to Bajaura via this route connecting Diana Park, Katindhi and Kamand to Jhatingri. I used to watch this mountain ridge visible from my home village, but wouldn't know that a road exists on it. 

What I could see from home was a mountain running parallel with the mightier Dhauladhar peaks at its back, and the small town of Padhar and its valley that lies in visible(from home) base of the mountain slope. Most of the mountain slope are without trees in this visible part of the mountain. Today, I would see it all from a very very close distance. 

From home, I would be looking in a northeast direction, but today I would try to locate my home by looking in the south west direction from the ridge itself. 

A sight towards south-west, where my home lies in one of those mountains. I would have spotted it, if a  telescope was with me. Clicked from the road to Diana Park. 

I inquired about the route from the policemen I met at Jhatingri. All I needed to know was that the road was metaled, because a motor-cycle doesn't really need a double lane road.  Jhatingri is a kind of small mountain village with few shops and surrounded by mountainous pine trees forest.

Take few eatables and water if you are on a cycle, because for next 20 to 30 kilometers shops are very much scanty, and also no natural water is available. Reason is that road is almost on the ridge, so you will meet almost zero number of springs or water streams. 




Buy some trekking Gears:

Reaching Diana Park 
It was a very beautiful bike ride, the road is single laned, but thankfully there are almost no vehicles running on this route, so you will enjoy the solitude on wheels. 

At start the road, surrounded with the oaks and pines, runs below the ridge mostly on the southern slope of mountain. But then After about 3-5 kilometers, the forest gets thinned out and you get the view of the two valleys on the two sides of the mountain ridge.


Don't remember the name of this beautiful village, on the way to Diana park from Jhatingri, mandi (H.P.), 2017

 Road elevates to mountain ridge itself and you experience a totally new kind of scenery. 

Until you reach Diana park, at places you witness few clusters of houses surrounded by fields with the potato plants or other vegetables such as cauliflowers etc. Barot valley is famous for its potatoes and apples also.  Please have a glance of the mountain ranges and the valleys in the following video.
Jhatingri to Diana Park, view of Dhauladhars and Padhar valley.


Diana Park

Diana Park's name is attached with some legend that tells that a war between the Devtas and Demons(Dayan-> diana) happen at this place, so from Dayan it became Diana. Also a conjunction point of the three roads, one have many options for further destination. 



One road  connects with Jhatingri, other to Padhar or Drang, and third one connects with Katindhi and to Balh, latter via a left diversion from a half kilometer distance along the road to Katindhi/Kamand. You can eat snacks and have drinks at the slate roofed local dhaba located adjacent the junction. 



junction at Diana Park, Padhar, mandi, HP, India, 2017


After Diana Park, the road is similar until it starts to descend at its last stages near to Katindhi. 

Kamand

Soon I was at Kamand, where I rested a while for taking lunch at the local dhaba. Remember to wear the full sleeves because the sun-rays can burn your skin, as they did to my arms' skin. 

I realized this at Kamand, because while you are running on bike, you get these cool gust of winds, and you don't feel the burning. 

It was near to 3:00 PM and sun was still high, but I moved on and climbed the mountain on two wheels to reach the top place called Kandhi. 


Kandhi

In between I crossed few places such as the Tihri, and shayari, which I and Tarun Goel have visited for the famous temples - The Adi Brahma of Tihri and Kundakari narayan of Shayari villages


Stopped for tea at Kandhi, near to Bajaura, Himachal, 2017

Kandhi is having few homes and one or two tea stalls. Surrounded by Pine trees, it provides the pass from one side of the mountain to the other. In less than 30 minutes, you can descend the road to Bajaura. Tonight I would visit my two friends from college, Ankush and Akhil. 

We celebrated our meeting at Akhil's place in Sainj by singing songs till 12:00 PM. 

Have a look at some inspiring travel books:


thanks for the kind visit!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Visiting Dev Pashakot temple Tikkan(Chauhar Ghati)

Hi,

Last time, when I went to the chauhar Ghati, was in April of 2016. That time we climbed the mountain rail track(haulage way) from Jodinder Nagar to Barot via Winch Camp

This track is the only one of its kind in the whole world. Then we walked fourteen kilometers along the road from Barot to Badagram. The stay at Badagram and camping at Rajgunda was done respectively on the second and third night of this trip. On the last day of the trip we trekked from Rajgundha to Bir-Biling-the world paragliding station, where one of us glided in the air. 

Check the links given above for all of these past stories.  Today, I am going to share with you the story of my visit of Dev Pashakot temple in Tikkan. Dev Pashakot is known as the PAHADI WAZIR (mountain minister), who does the justice. Dev Hurang Narayan and Ghaddoni Narayan are the other famous Devta of the valley.


Dark green mountains visible from road to Tikkan, Chauhar Ghati, Himachal Pradesh, 2017


Reaching Pashakot Temple

I started from my home, and reached Joginder Nagar where you meet the national highway from Mandi to Pathankot. Go 14 kilometers towards Mandi and then take a left turn from Ghatasni to reach Tikkan. 




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The road is single lane but metaled, and surrounded by the pine trees all along. You first cross the Uhl river at Tikkan itself. 


Bridge on river Uhl at Tikkan, Chauhar Valley, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, 2017


At Tikkan ask locals for the location of the temple, you can go by feet to reach the temple at 2 kilometers distance, or you can opt for the road diversion and then walk down from the road along the half kilometer of concrete footsteps. 

This temple is not the main temple, you have to trek further up along the hill to reach the main temple. But let's keep that one for another day. 

Reached just outside the temple of Dev Pashakot, Tikkan, Chauhar Valley, Himachal Pradesh, 2017


Temple is at the bank of the uhl river which contains the transparent water. Being at depression, you can not look at the peaks, but can sight the villages on the slopes of mountains at an elevation angle of more than 60 degrees. 

Temple was closed, no priest or anyone, except two other visitors who came after me. We talked a little bit, our faces peeked from between the gate bars to get the closed look inside the temple, but it was dark in there, and nothing much was visible. 

Temple walls mostly made with woods were adorned with other things like red flags, garlands and the goat and sheep's horns. Watch the video for visual experience of temple's outer appearances.

The serenity of the place is addictive, you can feel it in the video itself. 

Taking a Dip in Uhl's divine water.

Just a few metres away is the crystal clear water of the Uhl river, which can be muddy in the rainy season, but today Sun was shining bright and water was totally inviting. 

First I thought not to go inside it, but then I couldn't resist and all alone, I practiced a little swimming after a years of gap.

The water was cold, but I enjoyed it. Early, I get tired by swimming, but the river was shallow and I would easily touch the river bed 3 feet below the water surface. 

I tried to shoot the video of myself swimming with my cellphone, but couldn't. However I captured the beauty of the river in my handycam




Have a look at some inspiring travel books:



Thanks for the kind visit!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Panarasa to Tunga Mata - Single Day Trekking

Hi,

Here I come after a gap of almost eight months to write another short trek story. In september of 2016, I told you about our four day trip to Manimahesh Kailash in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. The story of Manimahesh Yatra was told in four parts, you can visit all parts by going through the part 1 link given here

Recently, I visited few new places in Kullu and Mandi district, and in this post I will tell you about a single day trekking from near Panarasa to Tunga temple in Mandi district. Last time I had heard about Tunga mata temple was from my friend and avid traveller Mr. Tarun Goel, who had written about his trekking from Parashar to Tunga

Reaching Panarasa. 

Parashar to Tunga trek looks like a gentle walk to me, but the one that I and my friend Mr.Vinod Sharma took was a very steep one. Reaching Panarsa is very much easy. I reached there on my motorcycle via the national highway, which connects it with Manali and Chandigarh at its two far ends. 

One can also opt for the airways as its distance from Bhunter, the place with one of the only three airports that Himachal has, is less than ten kilometers. After reaching Panarsa, take a road that diverges upwards to reach a village named Sharan. 

Please ask the locals, they will guide you very well along this single lane 8-10 kilometers road.
This is the last village that road can reach. From here starts the trek. 

Trekking up to Tunga Mata temple.

As we reached Sharan, we parked the motorcycle under the shed of an apple tree at the edge of the apple orchard which lie at the bottom of the village. There are plenty of orchards to see if one wants to see along the road.



Apple Orchard at Sharan village, Himachal Pradesh.

 


Perhaps the most famous in the area is that of Sukh Ram- the former union communication minister of India.
Sukh Ram's farm house surrounded by his apple orchards in Panarsa



The apple orchard and the farmhouse of Sukh Ram has a very good road connectivity. Recently Salman Khan is said to have visited this farmhouse. After coming back from Tunga we would  also reach the farmhouse to overlook the house and apple trees which were guarded by a 5 feet fence. 

Trek from Sharan village starts in a steep manner. After crossing the houses, apple orchard and lastly a govt. primary school building, one would embark on a wild trek. There is this oak trees' jungle between Sharan and other village at higher altitude along the trek. 

Children of Khalwash village have to walk down along this jungle to reach the primary school at Sharan. I shot a short video at Khalwash to show you the whole scenery around the village. Please have a look.




The serpentine beas river and the white Pir Panjal peaks, both are visible in this video. After witnessing a very fine craftsmanship of two craftsmen, who were carving out the images of Hindu Gods on the wooden doors and pillars that were to be erected in the nearby under-construction-temple, we climbed on to the remaining trek, more steep 6-8 kilometers of Deodar surrounded dangerous trek. 


Sitting on the Roots
Reason I call it dangerous is that the path is not much defined at places and can be slippery if it rains. The last one kilometers through this jungle is very much steep and the dense jungle makes it a bit scary if you are alone. One has to be careful of the snakes, we spotted two snakes along the trek.


Jwalapur - view from Tunga Mata Temple trek.

We had started our trek from Sharan at 10:30 AM, and at 2:00 PM our trek merged with the trek that comes from the Jwalapur. After the merge, only one more kilometer was left, and we were welcomed by a herd of goats and three dogs. They were harmless, and walking by them, we sat under the tree shadow to eat the paranthas that we carried in our bag, since the morning. 


At Tunga Mata temple.

Now that we had regained some energy, after short climb we reached the top of the mountain where resides the abode of the goddess Tunga. 
The gate was made of woods. Watch the video for complete view: 



Toilets are next to gate. At top four stone-wood-slate huts with no man were standing. We visited them after visiting the main temple. Two of them are shelters for night stay. One at the centre was locked and the next to it was empty except it contained the musical instruments called Karnal and Dhantura. Also hanging on the wall was the hairy outer goat skin. 


Tunga Mata temple. 

The main temple is very small, large enough only to let two people sit in a lotus posture. Black colored(painted perhaps) stone idols(statues) stood supported by the wall. Take a look in the video itself. 

One can look over ridge like trek that goes to Parashar lake. The Parashar lake ridge which carries green grass with no trees is very well visible from the temple. Apart from this, one can have a good look at the Pir Panjal peaks. 


Buy some trekking Gears:


From here one can opt for another trek up to Parashar, which will be a gentle walk of about 8-10 kilometers. Or can walk down along half an hour trek to a road that extends itself from Jwalapur to the village nearest to the temple. 


When Vinod tried to converse with the temple priest, I tried to make another video of them.  

Soon after, clouds started pouring, and we took our bodies into the shelter inside the hut. It stopped after about half an hour and it was already 4:15 PM. We started back, but stopped at the tent made by the Gaddi(Shepherd), one who owned the goats and dogs. 

Sahil, his name, made the tea for us. He used the goat milk, which was available to him in abundance, as the number of the goats was near to 50. He was from the Jwalapur region, but he would stay with the goats in this jungle.  

He talked very high about the goddess Tunga, claimed that his goats are safe when the goddess is happy with him.  We thanked him for the tea and took the leave, walked the same way back to Khalwash and Sharan. 

This was a wonderful one day trek, easy for people with good fitness, but can be tough for people with bellies. 

Have a look at some inspiring travel books:


Thanks for kind visit!