Quirky Silk Route

It was a pleasant journey along the silk route on the treacherous terrain of Sikkim. It was a journey to be cherished 🙂 Sikkim is a gorgeous heavenly place for any nature lover. We went to Sikkim from Darjeeling in a car & by far it was the most cherished drives of my life so far.

It’s a uphill climb all the way as you are gaining altitude, the nature all around is picturesque with gentle calm refreshing breeze blowing and it rejuvenates you from within. The best part is not just the tricky terrain with sharp and unexpected turns, but its the smart-ass signs all along the route 🙂

This road was built by the BRO – Border Road Organisation & they are notoriously famous for the liberty they take in writing some quick-witted one liners all along the way. The treat to the eyes begin with the natural landscape and the view of the 2 river Teesta & Rangeeth meeting, you can view this from high up the mountains. BRO never fails to keep travellers amused along the way, considering the dangerous terrain and they help the civilians by cautioning on road safety.

Even after all these years i still remember few quotes painted all along the highway, few of them are:

  • This is a roadway, not a Runway.
  • Ply, do not Fly.
  • Be soft on my curves 🙂
  • Drinking Whiskey, Driving is risky.
  • Reach home in Peace, not in Pieces.
  • Its not a rally, enjoy the valley.
  • Life is short Don’t make it shorter!

These quick-witted notes all along the way do perk up your life & you cant wait to set foot in Sikkim.

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Twilight Rendezvous

I am a big fan of fresh air at a serene location. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometers off the coast of Continental Africa are few islands sprinkled like pebbles in the ocean. The Mascarene Islands are a delight to any nature lover. And if anyone has not appreciated the beauty of nature up until now, then seeing these immaculate islands –  will definitely be an eye opener.

Few weeks before i set off to these islands, I was slightly apprehensive about the fitness routine I was following at the Gym. I read few blogs on the internet and one of the best suggestions was to go running. Excersice after a few months becomes integrated into your lifestyle, it becomes a default part of your regime & feels natural. Sometimes few people feel good only after a workout 🙂

When i read this blog about inculcating running when on vacation it sounded like fun! When you have running shoes – you can run in any vacation spot you are at. You dont need a gym per say – but just a road or field where you could have your daily dose of cardio.

Good for me that i read this – for I saw quite a few historical locations around the place during my morning run! I went to a beautiful river, a nice sugarcane field, a lovely mountain – it was bliss. 

  

 When I was at Vacoas – I was told about this beautiful park named ‘Parcours de Sante Fin’ – I went to see it without any preconceived idea whatsoever, as to how it might look – but when i saw it I was speechless – The lawn was perfectly manicured. The railings a beautiful form of art, and i met very warm people who greeted me with the sweetest sounding Bonjour 🙂

  

 I put on my Asics Running shoes – every single morning and did at least 3x400mts run, crunches and lunges. I savored the sweet pain post my workout & looked fitter as the days went by. I am glad i read that blog about not missing cardio while on vacation and my romance with Dawn at Vacoas is definitely an event to remember.

Looks like I am waiting to go on another vacation to get some cardio 😉

Good Samaritan – Be one!

Raise you vibrations to attract the good, and only the best will be filtered your way.

When travelling, one has to be vigilant at all times. You got to keep your bags in check, your documents and the currency you are carrying. Not to forget, the constant improvisation on the ever effervescent contingency plan.

Before I set off for my first Solo Trip, I was a nervous wreck, I was freaking out. For the first time in my life I experienced ‘Cold Feet’. I now understand what the Brides, Grooms, Parents-to-be or anyone else feel when they have a panic attack. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t eat, I had constant headaches days before my travel.

That’s when my friend KK came to my rescue, he said “Nam, don’t worry! You will be fine, you have traveled before and its gonna be a walk in the park for you. Just relax, breathe and GO!” Honestly I dint believe a word of what he said, for I was thinking of almost cancelling my ticket! Yes! I panicked probably because I was travelling to a non-English speaking country for the first time ever. KK said “Just be positive, and only the good ones will come your way. Be good and you will attract only good people. But stay vigilant and be street smart”.

I finally relaxed and took it one step at a time, I remembered to count my blessings and keep looking for the good. And many Good Samaritans came my way! From my first pit stop at a transit in KL, I had encounters with amazing good hearts. Yes good people have good souls, you can sense it, it feels good – very good to be around them. I met a person from Switzerland who was in KL to see the Petronas – we soon became friends as she was also a solo traveler, we shopped and had lunch together. We had a fantastic time.

When I reached my destination I had several encounters with Good Samaritans. This travel taught me many things, one of them was that there are angels all around. Look for good and you will find it. Help comes in various unexpected ways.

One morning after breakfast i saw that a couple left the restaurant but they dropped their Subway card on their way out. I knew this was a lifeline, I handed it to them and they were grateful for the gesture and asked me what my plans were for the day and instantly tore off a bunch of sheets from their immaculately filed travel file and gave it to me. To this day I don’t know how I would have managed that day ‘without’ that info. It was so detailed and it was ‘absolutely necessary’ and the universe just filled the jigsaw puzzle for me. I was overwhelmed.

Help comes in various forms, every single day we need to remind ourselves that, ‘The Best is YET to come’.

Golden Mantra: Do unto others what you would have them do unto you!

The Great Wall – 万里长城

My father is extreamly passionate about history. He had a strong affinity towards the rich culture and heritage of the Ming dynasty. As a child I would often hear stories about the Great Wall of China. When I was 7 years old, the playground in my school looked massive, an endless expanse! You can imagine my shock when I heard of a fortified wall that was tens of feet high and boasting to measure 10,000 miles long!

The Great Wall at Badaling.

My dad filled me in with the details about the disciplined soldiers, the watch towers, the famous silk route, and the wall being an important trade route. The most important aspect he emphasized upon was the fact that this was a wall to keep off the invaders & avoid attacks from the northern tribes.

I guess what Paulo Coelho says in ‘The Alchemist’ is in fact true. The Universe does conspire in you favor and helps you achieve what u truly desire. When I used to see pictures of travellers on the Great wall – I used to always wonder when would my turn come? I always fancied being on the Great Wall with a lot of delight.

When I reached Beijing it was the most magical feeling ever, because the Great Wall at Badaling was just an hour away by a very posh and convenient train ride costing just 6 Yuan!

China is amazing with tourism, the connections from the metro to the bullet trains is a seamless transition. I ventured on the Great Wall alone and I had the most beautiful time ever. The weather was perfect! Temperature ranging around 8 – 14 degrees and I was secretly thanking the universe for such a wonderful chance to be at the Great Wall.

When you are up there you can’t ignore the fact that, tremendous effort was taken to build it – for every feet of the wall is precise. This great fortification built of Stone, Brick, Earth & Wood all along the norther terrain of China. The grandeur is mesmerizing. I was filled with awe and wonder, as to how this great venture was humanly possible.  It really is Something!!!

This Wonder of the world scaling the endless mountainous terrain of northern China is intimidating and inspiring. I would strongly recommend a visit to the Oriental Mainland China – as you will cherish it forever.

Aries at HuaShan 华山

Aries are the pioneers of the zodiac, a cardinal sign full of rigor, enthusiasm and energy. This fire sign denoted by the ram is apt, as the ram is unafraid  to enter new unknown terrain and excel in the conquest. Need a new kick-start for a new idea you know who to get in touch with! The ram likes to scale heights and is usually scaling the mountains. Maybe that’s why we three musketeers from different countries ended up at Huashan, to scale these majestic peaks. Michael from Germany, Nimrod from Israel & me from India were climbing up HuaShan with a relentless strong will to hike up all the way and back.

IMG_1706 A pretty steep climb at HuaShan

Hua Shan is one of the 5 sacred mountains in China, has a long history of religious significance. The terrain is quite tricky with vertical climbs and it could be quite exerting even for a seasoned climber. Off late, my fitness regime had taken a hit, and although i knew going up HuaShan involved climbing, I dint really expect what was to come:)

To reduce slips and to ward off unforeseen danger, there are meticulously carved steps with railings and chains for support all along the way. While climbing HuaShan one cant help but appreciate the effort that was taken, to enable the climb with comfort and ease.

The view is breathtaking and weather very pleasant, as you will be hiking among clouds. There are cable cars to reach the peak too. But we chose to climb all the way up. Throughout my climb I met many people who warmly greeted us with Ni Hao & would encourage through sign language us to climb further – they would flex the biceps and tell us to be strong 🙂 You can have a pit stop at various cafes along the way.

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At the South Peak – the highest point.

We climbed up the west peak to a monastery, where we camped the night and in the morning we trekked to the Death Trail – a 50cm wooden plank that is mounted perpendicular to the mountain wall. This trails enjoys a reputation of being the Worlds most dangerous hiking trail. It’s a 2 way traffic up here on this narrow plank, and your safety is in the harness and you have the control as you got to hook the clamps as you cross this wooden plank.

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The famous death trail – Its a 2 way traffic up here! 😉

The view from here is magnificent and gorgeous. You do feel a sense of accomplishment while you have done this climb. It is definitely a must visit while in Shaanxi Province. Its one of the highlights of visiting this section of Mainland China.

We took a bullet train from Xi’An to Huayin, just outside Huayin station we had a wonderful meal and set off to the base of Huashan in a cab. On the way back there is a free bus service from the base of Huashan to the city & we took a bus back to Xi’An as we missed the last train in the afternoon by a few mins.

Back in Xi’An we had sore muscles for the next 10 days. That was by far the most beautiful pain & I loved it because every step I took reminded me of the arduous climb and it brings a smile right back even now 🙂 Aries – the Ram belongs to the mountains – Did we 3 Aries pick Huashan, or did Huashan tempt us to scale it?