Thursday, November 12, 2009

CLOUDS OF CHAUKORI, HIMALAYAS

Cloud watching was of great interest when I was a kid. Father used to show us various shapes in clouds, a pouncing Lion, an elephant trunk and head, profile of a bearded man etc etc. I used to be amazed. Slowly that habit vanished as I grew older.
But when I go th the mountains, far from the madding crowd, things are very different, watch sunrise and sunset, ( God willing and weather permitting), keep on looking at the dazzling peaks far away, spot all known stars at night, study plants and try to recognize them from books, look at birds etc.
If it is cloudy, specially if cloud is forming , try to find out various shapes and see them changing and vanishing.
Here are some photos of clouds, taken during sunrise. The peaks were covered with cloud  and could not be seen. So we looked the other way after a bed rum. These photos were captured by my nephew Arnab and my younger brother Ujan.
The last photo is my prized collection. It was shot randomly..but later when I looked at it, I suddenly realized as if Goddess Nanda Devi has streched her hand to bless us...Amazing feeling 
















Goddess Nanda Devi  streching her hand to bless us.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NANDA KOT




I have been planning to upload some photos of great peaks in Nanda Devi range. I had mentioned names of some of the peaks in my Blog on Nanda Devi.
Here is another beautiful peak Nanda Kot. You cant miss it while travelling in Kumaon. The chisel edged flat face peak is so prominent from all places!! Unlike Nanda Devi, which is very difficult to see from most places, Nanda Kot is always visible form all the places.
Before proceeding further let me introduce the peaks around Nanda Devi. When you travel in the Hills, no one including locals can tell you the names, simply because they never  bothered to know.
The picture below shows the peaks and the names. Click to enlarge

The picture below is taken from Choukari and you see this view from the tourist lodge all day. Note the chisel edge characterstics of Nanda Kot 

SUNRISE
The pictures are arranged as the sun moves up from the horizon.
1. Before sunrise, the sun is still below the horizon, the tourist lodge lights are on. Nanda Devi twin peaks are to the left and Chisel edged Nanda Kot to the right.

2. the first rays on the peak.

3. Sun spreads

4. Now the lesser mountains have received sun, the lonely Oak tree is also glowing in early morning sun.

5. A  zoomed up shot

AS THE DAY ADVANCES
6, 7, 8







SUNSET

9. photo was taken a day earlier, when there was no bright sunshine






10. Evening is setting in

11. The crimson color is developing

12. This photo was taken some times in 2005 , when cloud started building up.

OTHER LOOKS OF NANDA KOT
The peak looks different as you travel away from Choukari towards west. But it maintains its chisel edge. These are few samples, shot far away from Choukari.


This photo was shot from Kausani, quite far away and with 500 mm zoom. The peak came out of the cloud for seconds only.The peak infront of Nanda Kot is Nanda Bhanar ( to be confirmed from authentic source)







CLOSE UPS


As explained under Nanda devi, close ups are quite deceptive, they look good in photo, or through telescope. You wont see this without optical support.
SUNRISE

LATE MORNING

SUNSET








Tuesday, October 13, 2009

THE KUMAON SOJOURN AND RUM STOP.

(DOUBLE CLICK PIC TO HAVE AN ENLARGED VIEW)


I have traveled in Kumaon numerous times during last two decades. Early winter and early spring are my favorite time. A small place called Choukari has been my  main destination’ I go to Choukari to see Nanda Devi Peaks. Nanda Devi, worshipped as Goddess throughout the hills, is very elusive, very difficult to see as it is surrounded by mighty peaks, known as the jewels of Nanda Devi. They are Nanda Ghunti, Trishul, Devisthan / Mrigathuni, Maiki Toli, Nanda Khat, Nanda Kot, Nanda Bhanar, Panwali Dwar etc, all rising beyond 22000 ft.
Choukari is the only place where you see Nanda Devi clearly through a slot in between the other peaks. (Provided the Goddess Nanda Devi is pleased with you) Of course, you can see from Gadwall side, but it looks so different.
In Kumaon you can't miss the dome shaped Nanda Devi main and the pointed Nanda Devi east.
There is nothing in Choukari. The tourist lodge is the only place where you can stay. If it is packed, you are in trouble. Normally when I travel, it is empty barring a few omni present Bango santans.
Year after year it has been like a dream. Early morning when it is still dark, have a "Bed Rum" (the kitchen staffs don't get up so early to make bed tea) and rush to the nearby hillock wading through tea bushes, fix up camera and wait for the sunrise. Then you see, in Surjo Ghosh's language " Tushar shubhro giri shikhar-e hathat Rakta pat", on the surrounding peaks.
Then there is nothing much to do, take a drive through the pines to Thal (of Corbett fame "Man eater of Thal") on the bank of Ram Ganga river, eat some freshly fried trout, buy 2 kg female goat meat (male goats are exported to the plains for us) and come back to tourist lodge. I being a privileged person and a family member of the staff, the meat will be cooked for all unofficially.
Or you can go to Patal Bhubaneswar, or to famous Gangoli hat Kalika mandir. If you are there in March end and during Nava ratri, you will lose count of the animals that are sacrificed continuously on Astami day.
The view during sunset is equally mesmerizing.
In the afternoon have Pakodas and rum and watch sunset. (Once in a while tea with Pakoda is equally good). Nights are usual, menu is the same since time immemorial, set by me and my brother "Garam Garam Patla bangla khichudi, Makhon ba deshi ghee, lot of thin alu-bhaja, Panch phodon ba kalo jeere sombora diye." ..... Well it has become an official menu “ Bengali KhichiDi”. (Old Monk continued).
If you are interested in star gazing, it is the ideal place. After dinner at 8 PM latest, you can go out to the courtyard and enjoy the stars and the planets. I love it.
But only go out if you believe in what the local people say; that the Leopards only lift dogs, cattle etc and never human beings. (Another story, when some one by mistake kicked a bunch of lazing leopards, and they run away.)
We stop at or give night halt at many places like Jageshwar, famous for 1400 yr old temples and the best Cedar forest and hot Luchi with PahaDi Dal, or in Binsar sanctuary, where there is no electricity, or Kausani, Almora, Mukteswar, Ranikhet etc. (Another story)

The most essential thing, in this marathon drive of 1200 km in 4 / 5 days, is the  "Rum stop". (Something like pit stop in Formula -1 Car racing). In one liter Biseleri water bottle put 60 to 100 ml Old Monk only and shake, keep it handy near the handbrake for the navigator and occasionally for the driver. The rum stops on the road are fixed places decided long back. Normally it will be in a place where there will be a culvert, pines, Cedars, wild oaks and Rhododendrons, a cool breeze to make you feel "how wonderful is this life!!!! What is love after all!!!! etc."
TYPICAL RUM STOPS
 AMONG CEDARS




 AMONG PINES (Don't miss the culvert) 





AMONG MORE CEDARS ( Near the milestone)


Or it will be just before approaching a difficult stretch, like a thousands of feet deep gorge where the river is flowing, or the clearance between the tire and the road edge is barely a foot etc. Once we saw few red things down on the river bank thousands of feet below. 
We stopped our car to investigate , what were those red dots.
We asked a passer by, with a head load of fire wood “ What are those red things down below”?
He peeped down, looked at us, gave a “ ya I know” smile and said “ Oh , those are the parts of a red car which fell down right from here last year, even it took 3-4 days for the police and other Government organization to recover the bodies. Drive carefully . You city people are no good in hill driving”.
Isn’t that damn scary??? 
"Yes of course" we concluded

 So I must get out of the scare. Applying management principle of Panchatantra, " Byatha-karang, sukhar-thaya kantak-e naiba kantakam." Means To remove a painful thorn (stuck to your foot) and to feel good, you need another thorn to remove it) ( So I should create a situation which should be scarier to divert my attention from the red dots. It is simple, Take Rum stop. No sooner did you take few sips of water, concentrated with few tea spoon of Old Monk, than the scary thought "Oh, God, what have I done, I have taken a drink, will I be able to drive ? etc!" will make you scarier and make you drive very very carefully.
"Oh God I have taken a drink I must drive carefully...Oh God I have taken a drink I must drive carefully...(like Ram -nam jopte jopte), this thought will scare you so much that you will forget the red dots and it will land you safely at a comfortable stretch (with Culvert, pine, Cedars, wild oak etc etc) for a rum stop again.
Of course if it doesn't work in some really dangerous gorge, take the handy bottle kept near the hand brake, take large gulps and say at the top of your voice (both you and the navigator, who is my younger brother always or vice e versa), "JO BOL-E SO NIHAL, SAT SHRI AKAL" and step up the gas slightly. These are well tried and they work really. Try it yourself and see. I have tried in Korea too. (But remember in 1000 cc water and Old monk must not exceed 100 ml, else red dots will have companion of your car color)
TAKE A RUM STOP HERE TO FEEL MORE SCARY ( on the culverts)
The river is close to you on the left and will go down

IF YOU HAVEN'T TAKEN A RUM STOP AND NOT SCARED, TAKE A SHARP TURN AT OTHER END OF THE ROAD AND YOU WILL BE WITH RED DOTS. 



Amen,
Stopping at Bageshwar for Pan and Jeelapi is a must.  ( Another story)



Ushnish Ghosh

Sunday, May 31, 2009

NANDA DEVI

Nanda Devi twin peaks are the most sacred peaks in whole of Kumaon and Garhwal region of India. She is worshipped all over the place. It is not visible fully from most of the places. Because it is surrounded by high ridges running to a height of 20,000 feet and the ridge is dotted with + 24000 feet peaks.
The ridge is called the necklace of Nanda and the peaks on it are called the Jewels of Nanda Devi. Some of the jewels are the famous peaks Trishul, Nanda-Ghunti, Devisthan, Maiki-Toli , Nanda Khat, Nanda Kot, etc.

There are enough writings on Nanda Devi in hard copy and on Internet too. One can read a lot on expedition to the top, trekking to the Nanda Devi sanctuary (the place between the base of the peak and the ridge), and the great beliefs associated with this powerful Goddess of the Himalayas, why no one sets foot on top of the peak and just stops few feet below the peak. (Except 2 persons, who died later. It is a popular belief that the Goddess was angry with those people.)

There are few places in Kumaon, from where Nanda Devi is visible to the maximum extent. From other places you can see part of it; at least the tip of the unique dome shaped Nanda Devi main, will be visible.

I am not a mountaineer and no longer a trekker. I only travel where my car can go and a little trek around the tourist lodge is enough for me.

I have traveled more than 20 times or so since 1992, just to have a glimpse at the majestic Nanda Devi peaks, my magnificent obsession. The tourist lodge manager says I am the luckiest person to have seen Nanda Devi during most of my visits.

I am grateful to the powerful Goddess and like a great mother; she has always came in front of me even it might have been for a few minutes in some of my trips.

For the last so many years, my routes in Kumaon are fixed. I take the same routes, sleep in same tourist lodges.

My blog here will be limited to photographs of Nanda Devi, from Kumaon side. Nanda Devi looks very different from the Garhwal side and will not have any resemblance to what you see from Kumaon.

I travel during a fixed time of the year i.e end November to 1st week of December and again in last week of Mar when the Rhododendrons are in bloom and tourist lodge tariffs are still under winter discount. The sunset and sunrise photos are taken in different years and are always in end Nov - or Dec. That's why they look the same. In March it is normally cloud covered and rarely I saw the color on the peaks.

I am posting few photos from my collection, as the peak looks the same during the same season of the year.

THE SUNRISE
You get up very early when it is still dark and pray for a cloudless sky and with great apprehension peep through the window. If it is cloudy retire back to bed else wrap yourself in blanket or dress up and go out. It will be bit dark and Nanda Devi will be whitish due to snow, before sun rise. You are happy that you will see the color when the first ray hits the peak.

1. You are waiting with camera , peaks look dull white, sun will rise from your right ( not from the east) , keep watching. The peak on the extreme right is Nanda Kot.

2. The sun hasn't yet peeped from the east, it is still darkish where you are sitting and also the foot hills. And here are the few seconds, when the peak light up in crimson red



3. The sun is still below the horizon as the sun ray spreads on the peaks, changing from crimson to Orange.

4. Same shot taken from the same place a year earlier, but in end November with a different camera. The color is not exactly same.

5 The Orange to yellow transition is difficult to capture with the type of camera I carry. Or I am so engrossed with the view that I forget to capture. I shall look for the golden yellow peaks from my collection and post later. The sharp peak to the left is Panwali Dwar , a lesser peak.

6. Nanda Devi, bright sunny morning, and view normally seen by the late risers. Now it is time to relax with more tea and after viewing other peaks from the hillock near by. ( Other peak views will be up loaded separately.)


THE MID DAY

The mid day is meant for driving around or go down to the valley, on the banks of Ram Ganga river to buy some goat meat or trout fish . Or simply bask in the sun looking at the peaks or reading books or sleep.

7. Early noon photo of Nanda Devi, in post winter time the area has more snow cover.


8. This photo is taken from a different place. As you drive through the Kumaon the view of Nanda Devi with its surrounding changes significantly. Each view is unique and enjoyable.

THE SUNSET

Sunset view is as breath taking as the sunrise. In fact the range becomes more colored in the evening. The following 4 pictures were taken within 6 minutes from the beginning to the last photo.

9. Sunset on Nanda Devi, the peak has started changing color. Panwali Dwar peak to the left

10. Nanda Devi range, Sun is close to the western Horizon, peaks are becoming orange. The chisel edged peak to the right is Nanda Kot

11. Sunset continues on Nanda devi

12. The crimson color will soon vanish as the sun has already gone below the horizon.

THE CLOSEUPS


The following two photos are extracted from high resolution photos. It is just to give a feel. The actual views are different and the peaks don't appear as close as they appear in photos. This is mainly because of using high zoom lenses, which don't represent normal eye lenses.


13. Morning fire on Nanda Devi main and also on Nanda Khat peak, in front of Nanda Devi

14. Evening fire on Nanda Devi main and Nanda Khat peak, in front . devoid of sun in the evening..



THANKS

Special acknowledgement to my younger brother , Ujan. We always travelled together in our numerous trips to the Himalayas.