Travel Blog by Prashanth M

A taste of Snow storm

July 27, 2012 by Prashanth | 4 Comments

PAYANIGA - A taste of Snow storm

“I’m disappointed that we were not air-lifted today”, someone in the group quipped while we were boarding the train back to Aberdeen at Inverness. Everyone laughed heartily on that comment and there was no sign of any disappointment, even though the two-day trip was cut short. Instead of disappointment, there was a sense of accomplishment of experiencing something of a lifetime. Our plan was to start on day one from Aberdeen and reach Aviemore by noon. Spend the rest of the day exploring Aviemore town roaming. And on the second day, take the bus up to Cairngorms mountain base station, then take the unique funicular rail to the peak. Then depending on one’s skill level go skiing, snow walking or just loiter around playing in the snow. After that come down to Aviemore and catch the 4.30 train back to Aberdeen. But plan remained as plan and except for reaching Aviemore on time on day one, nothing went as per the plan.

PAYANIGA - A taste of Snow storm
PAYANIGA - A taste of Snow storm

One of the challenges when travelling in a group is to make everyone arrive on time. And if that’s a cold January morning, it is much bigger challenge. Surprisingly all of us were 15 minute before the train departure time at Aberdeen rail station. (Probably our first clue about what to expect on the next two days!). Just as we settled down, the train started rolling towards Inverness – our first stop. We changed train to Aviemore at Inverness, and the scenery outside the window gradually started turning white (just the frost around Inverness) as the train rolled on westwards. We got down at Aviemore and there, snow welcomed us. Without wasting time we head out to catch up some lunch and decide on the plan next. While we were stuffing ourselves, the nature had its own plan. It started snowing heavily (our second clue) and only thing we could manage was to head towards Youth Hostel like a herd of sheep – with heads down. For rest of the afternoon and evening, we were confined to four walls of the youth hostel – watching the snow out of the window and we temporarily converted the youth hostel’s dining room as place for some games.

PAYANIGA - A taste of Snow storm

Next day morning looked promising with a bit of clear skies and no snow showers. We got ready quickly and there we were waiting for the bus to take us to the base station of Cairngorms mountains. We waited in the cold huddled in the lone bus shelter, as the scheduled time of bus passed by. 20 minutes later we go to know from couple of guys who were also waiting for the bus that if it gets this much delayed, that means there will be no bus. We quickly hailed two taxis to takes to our destination to the mountains. Half an hour later, we were excited at the prospect of honing our skiing skills at the peak but only to be welcomed by howling wind and plenty of snow. We were in for more disappointment as we learnt that the funicular train was cancelled due to heavy gale  up to speeds of 80 mile per hour at the peak. Not to be completely disappointed, we had our share of fun playing snowball, getting hit & wet. Tired and completely numb, as we huddled around the fire to get warmed inside Cas Bar,  we were in for another twist. Folks at the base station announced that they will be closing down and evacuating the station due to heavy gale picking up. With no means of transport to go back – no bus and taxis not coming back due to bad weather – we were completely stranded! As we took shelter from heavy snow and wind, moods varied in the group.

PAYANIGA - A taste of Snow storm

With 3 kids along with 14 adults, situation was quite tense. But thanks to the wonderful people of Cas Bar, they asked us to wait so that they can arrange to carry in their and other visitors cars. Kids and ladies went first and fifteen minutes later last five of us got in to the last vehicle going down to Aviemore. The snow storm was severe (though it may quite common for those people, it looked severe for us from the tropical countries). Visibility was very low due to wind and snow. It was white everywhere, and totally difficult to make out where is road. It took us close to an hour to cover a distance of 19 KMs to reach Aviemore. As we got down from the vehicle and looked back at the Cairngorm mountain, it looked as if it was a different mountain than the one we saw in the morning. The storm had completely changed the appearance of the mountain. When the group met again at the Aviemore train station, tension had long gone from everyone’s faces and there was a sense of accomplishment. With plans cut-short, we decided to take an earlier train instead. But there was more to the twists – all trains going towards Inverness were cancelled for the day due to gale and snow storm. But fortunately roads were open and we hailed the same two taxis that took us to the base station in the morning to drop us to Inverness.

PAYANIGA - A taste of Snow storm

We returned home half day early with nothing much going as per the plan. But with wonderful experience and plenty of stories to narrate for many days. Hope, I get to go back to Aviemore & Cairngorm mountain again and get to ride the funicular train.

Rafting at Kaudiyala, Uttarakhand

April 28, 2011 by Prashanth | 2 Comments

Last one in the guest posts series – by Mridula Dwivedi. Mridula, a professor based out of Delhi is an avid traveler. She shares her rafting experiences in this last of the guest post series.

Rafting at Kaudiyala, Uttarakhand

In the last two months I visited the Rishikesh region twice. The first time I went with family and as our daughter is small we could not do rafting. The second time I was part of a large group and we were staying at Rimo Expedition’s campsite just opposite the KMVN Kaudiyala. The campsite has tent style accommodations and rafting was the main activity.

We did rafting on two days of our 3 day stay. On day 1 we took it easy as we had arrived in the morning itself. On day 2 we rafted from Devprayag to Kaudiyala and on day 3 we rafted from Kaudiyala to Shivpuri. I sincerely wish we could have completed the entire trail till Rishikesh on day 3 but we were short of time as we were taking the Shatabdi Express in the evening from Haridwar.

Rafting at Kaudiyala, Uttarakhand

This was my first try at rafting and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. The good folks at Rimo took us on a mild stretch on the second day. The stretch from Devprayag to Kaudiyala is calm and ideal for getting introduced to rafting. So what do you have to do when you go rafting? Basically we were given a life jacket, a helmet and a paddle each. You put on the life jacket and the helmet and assemble to listen to the instructions by the experts who are going to be present in each raft. Usually 6 people plus an expert go in a raft but I guess they can take 8 plus the expert as well. I liked the instruction given by Gunpalji a lot. His first few lines were, “agar instructions nahin follow karoge tou bahut paani pilaunge” (If you do not follow my instructions I will make you drink a lot of water).

Soon we were in the rafts and on our way to Kaudiyala. While we were going to Devprayag by bus I was clicking pictures of the Ganges from the moving bus. It was quite an amazing experience to go back all those 30 kilometers sitting in a raft right in the middle of the same river. Also rafts have a safe bag in which you can keep your camera. They let you take it out in calm waters and click pictures.

Rafting at Kaudiyala, Uttarakhand

On the Devprayag – Kaudiyala leg the highlight was being able to get into the river in the placid waters. What happens is that when the rafts enter calm water they let you hold the rope attached to the perimeter of the raft and get into the cold water. It is great fun. We did it many times. But as the water was calm we had to paddle a lot. We started rafting at 11.00 am and we reached Kaudiala at 4.00 pm and literally wolfed down our late lunch!

Rafting at Kaudiyala, Uttarakhand

On day 3 we were rafting from Kaudiyala to Shivpuri. This stretch involves going over a few rapids. The most interesting one we faced is called the Wall. Here the water rises quite high like a wall in front of you and at that point you feel you are paddling for your life! Getting wet is a certainty and being thrown out into the water a high probability. After the wall every other rapid feels easy.

Part of the instructions is also about how to indulge in a water fight with other rafts. If you lift your paddle in a particular way while crossing another raft at a close distance, you can drench them thoroughly and the experts are quite good at it. Be it the water fights, going through the calm waters or crossing a rapid, rafting is a smashing experience.

Photos by Mridula Dwivedi

On Clay: Wayanad & Elephants

April 20, 2009 by Prashanth | 1 Comment

We had completed almost three fourth of the safari and had to stop because of a traffic jam. It took us few seconds to understand what was happening. There was a herd of wild elephants which were crossing our path. Or to put it in a correct way, we were crossing their path and had to wait for our turn.

Read the full story on Clay – A Tryst with the Pachyderms.

A small write-up on my experience with the wild elephants in Wayanad is published on Clay (an acronym for Club Mahindra And You!).

Thanks Lakshmi for publishing the write-up.

Travelling on the bus top #2

December 14, 2008 by Prashanth | 4 Comments

I had posted couple of photos taken from the bus top – journey between Hosagadde and Kargal in Shimogga district.

During my last visit to Sharavathi valley (in Feb’08, we trekked from Kanoor to Nagavalli) we did that again. Same bus, same driver-conductor duo, but for a longer distance. We travelled on the bus top from Nagavalli to Kargal this time.

Mridula’s post reminded me of these photos taken in Feb. And that means, it’s time complete that long pending trek log. And also it’s time to go on a trek :)