We were chilling one evening, cracking jokes (the usual), this time about the good old 90s. And then we started to imagine a trip like this – one with picnics, “Tu Hain Meri kirannnn” sung out loud, some gully cricket, old tape recorders and cassettes, Govinda dance moves, your favourite childhood candies and everything we just love and miss about the good old 90s. We woke up the next morning and decided, we’re doing it. So here you go! We along with The Goodwill Tribe are presenting to you the latest in our travel experiences – a trip designed to ‘Bring back the 90s’.
It’s an 8-day trip that will take you down memory lane in the hill stations in Uttrakhand. Travel with like-minded strangers and experience nostalgia as you share childhood stories. Go back to a time when all you cared for was collecting WWE cards, going on picnics, playing outdoors, watching cheesy filmy movies and getting lost in the pages of a book.
We’ve chosen to revisit locations that were popular back in the 90s and that’s why we are taking you to the beautiful hill stations in Uttrakhand. We will be visiting Landour, Mussoorie, Lansdowne, and Kousani; places that will enchant you with their simplicity and their splendid panoramic views of the Himalayas. Here’s a detailed version of the plan.
We promise you lots of fun and nostalgia with activities that will take you back in time and you can look forward to connecting deeply with each other through activities facilitated by The Goodwill Tribe. Practice your best moves for some retro dance nights. Turn strangers into teammates when you play gully cricket (hopefully with the locals). And lots of other fun activities! (Watch this space to know more).
The motto of our trips is for you to discover, explore and inspire. By coming on this trip, we hope you will discover the beauty of Uttrakhand, explore yourself and inspire each other through your unique stories.
Dates: 23rd to 30th September
Location: Landour, Lansdowne, and Kausani
Price: 26,900 INR (22,900 for first 4 trippers and 24,900 INR for next 4 trippers)
Simply think how astonishing it will be the point at which you finally climb up that long trek in the Gangotri lastly look at that dazzling view you’ve just seen in pictures or TV. You can absorb everything, take a seat for a considerable length of time and think about how mystical life can be, discreetly.
But just in one condition, you are enjoying all this alone. Yes, solo trip. A girl solo trip may sound a little strange and new concept in India but trust me in foreign it’s a hit trend. At least once in a life time, a girl should travel alone because, at the point when a lady travels, especially alone, she is creating an impression, one that says that she declines to be related with the generalization of ladies as delicate and unreliable. She is opening herself up to new encounters and openings—she doesn’t go to escape life, yet she travels so life doesn’t get away from her.
Being a girl, when your life is full of expectations and restrictions there’s an undeniable sense of freedom that comes from traveling alone, without help, rules or guidelines. Every day is a mystery for someone like a curious soul like me.
Travelling was always my most favourite adventure of life and I don’t think we need a reason to justify why. But no matter how long the vacations were, I couldn’t get a chance to travel in last 2 years. There were many reasons but most important was the lack of coordination and spirit among my friend circle. At last, I have decided to travel solo. Travel solo to Gangotri. Coming from the region of Uttarakhand, trekking is in my genes and there can not be any better place than Gangotri on earth for someone like me who loves mountains, heights, snow, solidarity, peace and of course adventure. By the way travelling solo is a complete adventure in itself.
As someone who is slightly introverted, I like the security of having a friend to talk to when traveling. But being separated from everyone else will drive me to associate with outsiders on an everyday premise, and figure out how to grasp ungainly welcome and pose more individual inquiries. When you’re all alone, it’s dependent upon you to request bearings and make sense of it. You’ll have a serious sentiment fearlessness when you know you’re fit for discovering things all alone.
I don’t want to rely on others for their opinion, I want to be comfortable in my own skin. I don’t think there can be any better way of coming out of my comfort zone and treat my self with everything I deserve.
The inspiration which is driving me to this thorough adventure is not my flighty confidence in religion, superstition of purging sins or legendary stories (considering Gangotri is an important part of Hindu mythology). I am more entranced about snow-topped Himalayas and about appearing a fantasy of being at the bank of Ganges developing out from a Glacier. I have already started envisioning that great photo of thin water stream of Ganges. As we move higher, change of scene into rich green valley will be genuinely overpowering. It’s hard to extinguish my unremitting interest about vegetation, fauna, water falls or about any water stream falling in transit now.
I want to heal myself from enough of playing the game of life. I want to sit on the peak of mountain enjoying the sunset forgetting all the chaos of life and find myself which was somewhere lost in the crowd of the metro city.
From venturing to the Northern Himalayas solo I need to love sentiments of delight, a sunny day, an unmistakable sky, a city, a grin from an outsider, an odor I was attached to… . I need to love in such a large number of structures past individuals or creatures. I need to love love.
Travelling solo as a girl won’t just give me certainty and autonomy, it will likewise show me to love myself. As ladies, we have a tendency to receive a propensity to contrast ourselves and other ladies, maybe notwithstanding contending with them. This is not at all solid, nor will it help us to develop, yet solo travel has a method for helping you to relinquish these inclinations to contrast yourself as well as other people. You soon discover that there are such a large number of various individuals out there on the planet – distinctive body shapes, diverse identities, diverse hair hues, skin hues…. etc. We are on the whole extraordinary. Embrace your individuality.
Ladies who travel solo – for any xyz reason, for whatever they detract from it, for whoever they meet en route, for whatever they miss back home, encounter a change that is just unbelievable. I need to encounter the same since it isn’t a modifier or a word found in the lexicon…. it is a sentiment opportunity. Of disclosure. Of self.
Travel, because in the end we only regret the places we didn’t go to…!
My decision to travel to Leh-Ladakh for ten days with a bunch of random strangers had many beginnings. There was the first, half-minded decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the third long beginning, composed of paying for the trip, shopping and packing, and mentally preparing myself to do it.
There were a few things which bothered me; like what will happen to my dark oversensitive skin when the direct UV rays of sun would fall on it, then there was worry about acclimatization, the horror stories of how average people like me find it difficult to adjust in such high altitude with limited oxygen supply.
Like a well trained corporate employee, I asked my supervisor if the dates of my travel would suit our work calendar and he said, “Go ahead” in an instant. I felt unprepared for the trip but decided to do it anyway.
And the Journey Began
A day before I was ready to fly, I medicated myself and started preparing my body to acclimatize quickly.
I boarded the 9:35 am flight from Terminal 1D of Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. “Boarding complete”, I listened to the announcement and the flight took off.
It takes hardly an hour to fly to Delhi from Leh. The aura of magical Leh started flashing through the window of the flight. The view of snow covered mountains from 35000 ft above the ground was a privilege.
Landing and Drive to Home Stay
As I landed, the brown mountains grew taller, and bigger, and opened the view of a grayish valley with a lining of greenery around it.
Leh Airport, now known as Kushok Bakula Rimpoche is a simple airport with a common terminal for both arrival and departure. After collecting my luggage, I proceeded to the exit gate with my trolley bag and found a warm and smiling Ladakhi gentleman holding a placard with “The Bing Bang Trip” name written on it.
I boarded the tempo traveler and the fifteen minutes drive from the airport to the home stay seemed quick and easy. I wasn’t feeling any altitude sickness as yet which gave me an instant boost of confidence.
I dragged my travel bag to my room situated on the second floor of the house. I started panting on the first floor itself, a little more than usual. I felt tired as if I was carrying a thousand bricks on my shoulder.
After meeting the trip organizer Chandrabhan, I went straight to my room where my roommate Shweta was lying on the bed like a log. “Hey,” she said in half sleepy tone. “Hello,” I replied back in excitement. “I am sorry but I am too sleepy, I had a long flight,” she said and went to sleep.
I felt tired too, and tried to rest, but couldn’t do so. I came out of my room and the open terrace area gave a clear view of mountains and a water stream flowing within walking distance to our home stay. The view felt like as if the valley was embracing me.
Meeting the fellow Trippers
After some time, one after the other, the follow travelers came out of their room; met and greet each other. The group of ten strangers formed small clusters and started talking to each other.
After that, there was a formal group activity where everyone introduced themselves which served as an ice breaker for us. Each tripper was unique in its truest sense.
There was this girl from Punjab, Saru, who loved making customized gifts for her friends, another fitness freak girl “Yash Babbar” who talked about her dream of opening a restaurant and how she managed to stay with a name which sounded like a “guy’s”. My roommate Shweta, was an “NRI”, living in Dubai and who flew down especially to do this trip.
Then there was Sumit, an IIT and IIM passed out high pod, who could play thirty-five musical instruments. Then there was Kamlesh, who talked about his journey from being raised in Mumbai and then moving to California and then coming back home. Another tripper Sagar was a twenty three-year-old photographer and aspiring film maker whose first short film was already featured in different parts of the world.
Chetan Soni, another co-founder of the big bang trip was a publisher and believed in being “jack of all trades.” The collaboration partner of the trip, Sonia, ran an NGO called “good will tribe” talked about her motto of spreading happiness in the world.
After the introduction got over, we all went near the water stream. The noise of the flowing water felt like silence to my ears merging perfectly into that beautiful evening.
The trip had just begun.
Hall of Fame
With a bag full of excitement, we boarded the tempo traveler and formally started our trip by visiting Hall of fame complex.
The quotes on the walls rightfully described the purposeful life our soldiers live; one of the quotes which gave me goose bumps: “How can a man die better, than facing fearful odds… for the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods”.
A full wall inside the museum displaying complex photographs of young and fearless soldiers during Kargil, and other wars moved me beyond feeling just proud of them. My heart was felt with gratitude for the soldiers which I expressed in a letter that I wrote for them.
Leh being a war prone area due to its closeness to Sri Nagar had many army camps. It was really exciting to see the military vans and trucks, and the soldiers dressed in army printed uniforms, with pride in their eyes and machine guns in their hands.
Mountains, Music, and Friendship
“In the mountains, stillness surges up to explore its own weight in the lake, movement stands still to contemplate its own depth.” The most incredible part of this whole Leh Ladakh trip for me was making mountains my home. Being in the presence of mountains, without much trace of my real life back home was overwhelming. I spent hours in our traveler just looking out without talking to anyone.
I wandered and wondered when I looked at them – How do these mountains look in winter, all covered in snow? How could these mountains be so certain of themselves? Do these mountains ever feel lonely? Who keeps them company? Do landslides is a way in which these mountains express their anger?
I felt connected with mountains on the first day of our trip itself, the sort of connection I didn’t feel with anything or anyone in a really long time. I felt sheltered in their presence, like they were protecting me. Protecting me from what? I couldn’t say clearly. I wanted to be like those mountains; beautiful, calm, certain, still, full of contentment, and yet so strong headed.
Cherry on the cake was music and noise of chit chatting in the background, which helped me to stay connected to the real world.
The music of the trip was mostly played by Saru whose playlist comprised of songs ranging from lame ones like, “tamma tamma loge” to Rahman’s “patakha guddi” and the popular English numbers like, “despacito.”
In between the music and the travelling, whenever someone played any Punjabi song, Saru (funjabi girl) turned to Kamlesh (California guy) to tease him if he has understood the meaning. In turn, Kamlesh never missed a chance to ask her if she knew what “Despacito” means whenever she moved her neck to the beats of that song.
Soon their arguments became frequent, sometimes funny and sometimes annoying. Yet whenever Kamlesh needed sun block to protect his sensitive skin, Saru offered to help in her classic taunting in the background style. I knew Kamlesh from before but soon I developed an instant liking towards Saru due to her bright smile, quick wit, funny one liners and “always ready to help” attitude.
I bonded with Yash for the first time when we all were sitting in the lawn of Pather Saheb Gurudwara, peeling pees as a part of “sewa” we offered after having tea and Boondi. We talked about our whereabouts, cooking habits, and love for travel. She came across as a sensible, well read girl, and I liked her too. By the end of the day, I had two new friends in the kitty.
My roommate Shweta (Dubai NRI 1) turned out to be a mixed bag of emotions. She talked less and abused more. She didn’t like loud people and asked them to shut up in the highest pitch of her voice. In fact, my first conversation with her ended up with she telling me to “shut up” because I tried to be courteous to her on the first day of our stay together.
As restless as she sounded first, sharing room with her was quite easy. She was expressive and I liked that quality. After three days, we were up till late night sharing stories of past relationships and ex-crushes. But till the end of the trip, she stayed a mystery for me, who sometimes talked like a wise person full of sensibilities, and sometimes as a kid wanting to grow up quickly.
Star Gazing at Nubra Valley
On the third day of our trip, we left for Nubra valley after passing the Khardungla Pass. The journey was a little too exciting, especially for me. First, our traveler broke down in the middle of the road and then as soon as we reached the pass, I started to feel uneasy.
The uneasiness didn’t reduce even after I sipped two cups of hot tea. I was feeling difficulty in breathing and an annoying headache started taking me over.
I headed towards the army health camp along with Kamlesh, Chandrabhan and Sonia. As soon as I took a few steps, I almost fell on the ground. I blanked out and had no energy left in my body to walk any further.
Kamlesh helped me got up and I reached the army camp staggering. Sensing my panic, the army officer consoled me casually that it’s nothing but lack of oxygen in my body. I was immediately made to inhale oxygen from a machine and within ten minutes, I started to feel better.
The army officer enquired about our whereabouts and complained about the demanding army job. He really wanted to go home for a few days but his job didn’t allow it. I saw Khardungla pass from a distance, covered with snow and colorful prayer flags. I wasn’t able to click the compulsory Khardungla pass picture which still makes me sad.
Coming down from the pass, we were headed to Nubra valley. The stay in the valley was unique, with only four hours electricity and an hour’s hot water supply in a day. We quickly rushed to our rooms to charge our cell phones.
After the moon set late, we came out to encounter the view we have been waiting for, and what Nubra valley is famous for – “star gazing”. I looked at the sky with an open mouth, trying to absorb the view of the space and the stars, the greatest mystery of human life. The stars looked like millions of tiny miracles spreading magic. The view held me, longer than I thought. I couldn’t take my eyes off the vastness of that scene.
“Shooting star,” someone shouted and I looked closely but missed seeing it. My eyes searched for another one and there it was, another shooting star, spreading shades of gold. I didn’t feel the need to join my hands, close my eyes and ask for a wish; just being in a part of that moment and learning how small my existence was in front of that universe, seemed like a wish coming true.
On the sixth day of our trip, we headed towards Pangong lake. It was a long six hour trip from Leh. I was sitting next to the driver’s seat and in between the trip, driver pointed to one of the Ladakhi squirrel like animal called, Marmot. Everyone rushed to click a picture of them, and everyone laughed like a maniac when Sagar complained about the Marmot turning its back towards his camera.
After passing through the breath taking mountain views, which became a part of our everyday journey, we stopped near a tea shop for a quick break. The two TBBT founders turned into Captain Rajesh and Captain Suresh and talked about their hidden strategy behind turning up late every morning and their goal of getting the Pangong lake back from China.
Pangong, was a big beautiful lake but a bit corrupted by commercialization. The movie 3-idiots completely stole its thunder with Kareena’s scooter, the bum shaped stool, and other props used in the movie lying by its side.
The lake water seemed cold at first but became bearable after some time. I walked in the water along with Saru, Yash, and Shweta, and relished the time trying to hold some yoga poses taught by the girls. After having lunch in Rancho’s café, we went inside the bus, and resumed music and chit chat.
During the course of a long brainless joke, we discovered that Panglong lake was actually green in color because Yash disposed of some ten thousand green tea bags as a part of her secret job of advocating Tetley green tea. Whenever there was food, there was Yash asking for hot water and then dipping a green tea bag into it.
Leh Ladakh, the Monasteries & Us
Buddhism in Ladakh is ancient and influenced by Tibetian Buddhism, where Buddha is worshipped as a deity who has attained Nirvana. Various incarnations of Buddha, known as Bodhisattvas, are also worshipped in monasteries.
As a part of our itinerary, we visited many monasteries, Diskit in Hunder (Nubra Valley) being the first one. Located on the hill of the mountain, it was a beautiful and colorful monastery who also had a giant Buddha Statue at the back side of it with direct rays of sun reflecting on Buddha’s face in the background of blue sky makes it an absolute treat to watch.
When I got inside the monastery, the thing which stood out for me was the silence of that place. Silence is rare these days. No chanting, no talking, no hassle, absolutely nothing. You can just go, sit for some time and close your eyes.
A few days later, we went to Shey Monastery and sitting outside an empty prayer hall on the second floor, I heard the trippers discussing learning from Bhagavat Gita, and Quran depicting the richness of our culture and the acceptance level and respect we had for each other, even as a small group.
Besides all this, during our visit to one of the Tibetian temple, we ate freshly dropped apricots and discovered that “Life is an apricot.” Saru, while saying the phrase didn’t came from the background of giving any intellectual meaning to it but when I deep dived into it, I could draw some similarities. Apricot is a fruit of several species and life is an mix of many emotions, apricot is sometimes sweet and sour, and so is life; apricot has a seed inside of it which gives birth to other apricots, and similarly life is capable of bringing back another life into this world. Hence proved, “Life is an apricot.”
Last Day and the Letter Writing
Each light before calling off the day, there was a group activity planned by Sonia that involved talking and expressing ourselves. I wanted to skip the activity planned on the last day of our trip partly because I was tired and partly because I just wanted to start detaching myself with the group. I knew we all had to go home the next day, and it made me sad. But since the activity was related to writing, I decided to come out from my room, and check out what it was about.
Sonia handed me a print out which had names of three people and a descriptive paragraph against each name. She told me that their NGO had received letters from random strangers, who themselves, or someone they knew, is going through tough times in their life and we had to write letters to them in order to motivate them.
I found the idea absolutely awesome and this whole activity gave me a sudden rush of energy. Those weren’t complex problems but real problems that we all face in some point of our time. Problems like how to follow your passion without family’s support, dealing with low self-esteem, getting over the death of a parent, which path to take when you don’t know your destination.
After we wrote letter to those strangers who now shared a part of our life; we wrote letters to each other which Chandrabhan had assured that we’ll receive in six months’ time.
Each one of us on the last night of our trip was suffering from the holiday withdrawal symptoms, not wanting to go home, not wanting to leave the group, not wanting to sleep, but we all came back to our rooms around 1 pm. After fifteen minutes, I heard a knock at the door. Yash was standing outside our room.
Shweta, Yash and I talked for another hour while I packed my bag as slowly as possible. It was funny how the presence of the two girls who were merely strangers some days back ago felt so familiar and comforting to me.
The last day ended with a box full of memories. In the last ten days, we shared the same home, same car, same mountains, same stars, and same life.
Back to the grind
As I entered my home, I felt a sense of disorientation. Somewhat the sufficient supply of oxygen, full mobile phone networks, and hassle of the city seemed alien. It took me many days to adjust back to my normal city life.
I missed the uncomfortable traveler ride with music and noise in the background, I missed the lack of oxygen, I missed the sound of laughter which echoed in my ears even when the trippers weren’t around, and above all, I missed mountains the most. Those big, firm, and strong miracles of nature which took my heart away and never gave it back to me.
It was nature that connected me to myself, and to others; in Leh Ladakh and outside of it.
The Big Bang Trip: Leh. We came, we explored and we loved.
It been a little over a week since the TBBT: Leh Edition trip has come to an end. And honestly, I feel I have left some part of me in the mountains. The surrealistic beauty of the landscape, the vast expanse of land and the oh-so-blue sky, how can one blame me?
Some of the few things that I have brought back with me, however, would include the caffeine addiction… -.- I can’t really be blamed for this one (although I think Sumit should be). I believe it was the second night when I got a taste of the local Honey-ginger-Lemon tea that got me hooked. Since then, no meal, and I mean NO meal was complete without Sumit asking if it was possible to get black tea with sugar in it. Now I sit at work and have at least 4 cups of tea every day, with a new found respect for chai drinkers.
During lunch on one of the travel days, where everyone was just powered down, CB and I went down to the river nearby. For someone who has always had an intrinsic pull towards the water, to go down there and be able to drink the water, was just insane. I mean, whoever heard of cupping your hands and drinking fresh water from the river? It was almost as foreign to me as plucking fresh apricots from the tree and eating them right then and there.
The initial few days of the trip were a bit of a blur. This could have been due, in part to the lack of oxygen, but mostly due to the wonder of the alien landscape we found ourselves in. For me, it was also the nervousness of being thrown in with a bunch of random new people for the next 9 days. The lack of oxygen, however, is a major factor. Climbing a flight of stairs had me so winded, I needed to lay down and catch my breath (read that as passing out for the next 2 hours). So when people ask me now how would I describe Ladakh, I say: “breathtaking” – literally.
Back to the people. Maybe because we were the precise assortment of people that we were, I think the awkwardness didn’t last past day 3. Although with Sonia being a part of the trip and working her magic through the Goodwill Tribe, the disconnection between people was bound not to last too long. I recall when Neha, who I’d been bunking with for the trip, asked me if it was alright that her belongings were diffusing throughout the room, I asked her to shut up kindly.
You know how when you look at those fancy schmancy Nat Geo photographs on Instagram; you wish you could be in such places for real? To witness such beauty and sheer awesomeness for yourself? Yup. Nubra Valley. The lights went out around midnight. We bundled up against the cold; everyone grabs their essentials: Sumit grabs his guitar, Sagar grabs his camera, Babbar her phone, Saru her speakers, etc. etc… you get the drift. We sit around the bonfire and listen to music. At some point, we looked up, and my mouth drops open: We were sitting under the Milky Way. My mouth probably stayed open. I kid you not; I counted 17 shooting stars that night. 17!! And here I thought shooting stars were the stuff of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Someone was playing Stairway to Heaven, clichéd I know, but I don’t think anything could have ingrained that moment more in my mind.
One last thing that I brought back with me is an invaluable lesson on life that I think everyone on the trip has benefitted from: Life is an apricot.
Crazy Trippers we met through The Big Bang Trip Leh
One of the good things Leh did was to make me write this note. Not that I had any writer’s block but “wo Zindagi kya Zindagi jo sirf pani si bahi.”
The Big Bang Trip:- Leh is over and now is the time to analyze few things (always wanted to be an analyst in one of Big 4 companies ).
Met a lot of new, somewhat new and old people during these 9 days and I am sure I have left a lasting impression on them…but what impression did they leave on others:-
He was responsible for sucking all internet across Kashmir and did not let anybody send WhatsApp messages to near and dear ones. Known as “Magneto” in his friendly circles he was seen having a devilish laugh whenever somebody tried logging in.
She was crowned “Lifeline of the Trip” by the head priest at Hemis monastery. Tales surfaced, and we came to know that she has a district court named after her in Phagwara. While bidding farewell to us, army men were seen shouting “Jai Shri Shri 108 Saru Ji.”
All 9 days he was seen wandering to find that one “perfect frame” across the desert, mountains, rivers. We hope that he will show us that soon and not be disturbed by photo demons at night.
She came from beyond the Wall and made guest appearances after every 10 min informing us that “she is leaving.” It was an honor for TBBT that we were able to keep her for entire 9 days. Last heard she was applying for “Best Supporting Actress” for Dubai Film Awards.
Sumit Kumar Singh:-
The Pied Piper of the trip, he lured girls across all age groups with his flute and guitar. The audience was mystified when he played “Pani da Rang” by just using sand and hand gestures.
The crazy boy of the trip who defended his title by reaching Leh in just 3 hours from Delhi. I could hear a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” when he took off his Bandana and exposed his 6 pack forehead hair.
Well, a lot of people think that Pangong lake is green because of some scientific reason but the reality was revealed during TBBT. She poured 10000 packets of green tea in it and thus achieved her sales target given by Tetley Tea. Last heard waiters across Leh were having nightmares of a figure calling out to them asking for “garam paani.”
Known as “Kindness Didi” because of some conspiracy theory she was seen throwing arrows of kindness to people like Cupid. Whenever she spoke, we were all reminded of great Abraham Lincoln.
He has been invited by NASA after a satellite spied on his drone flying and Milky way capturing abilities. No animal was harmed while shooting.
The real inspiration of the Trip who became the first woman from Laxmi Nagar to fly solo across Khardunga La pass without oxygen. She has decided to open a cafe there and inspire people to “Netflix and chill” when there is no oxygen by sipping freshly brewed half baked coffee.
The real inspiration of the Trip who became the first woman from Laxmi Nagar to fly solo across Khardunga La pass without oxygen. She has decided to open a cafe there and inspire people to
“Netflix and chill” when there is no oxygen by sipping freshly brewed half baked coffee.
Lastly, our driver who refused to bow down to any vehicle on the road.
I hope the trippers had an interesting trip with learnings, clearings, and earthlings. As a wise man once said, “Life is an Apricot.”
The Big Bang Trip
Meet such crazy people on our road trips. Be a part of our next trip.
Trip: Bring Back the 90s (Let’s cherish our childhood again)
17,000 Kms, 19 countries, 7 mountain ranges and One car: Decoding the traveller in Kushal- Founder of xoxoday.com
The uncertainties and unreliability of crossing many new countries through roads, too many variables almost out of control, a road trip that is best at breaking you down completely but also at bringing you the closest to yourself is how Kushal glosses his experience of the great Mongol rally……
Kushal Aggarwal, the founder of xoxoday.com shares with us, the experience that he has had in covering those unforgettable miles in one of the longest road trips of the world. It all started in 2013, when he approached nearly 10 of his friends for the idea of Mongol rally- he recalls how five of them backed out after a few months and he was left with his two friends. Well, that was that, but he hardly had any idea that this far-fetched adventure will change a lot in him. Perhaps it was both an innate and fantastically scattered reality of his passion and it’s vision of traveling. A road trip from London to Mongolia covering almost 17,000km in around 19 countries was only a dream until Kushal actually got his friends to get this big ride going.
Rivers and different terrains to cross, challenging rules, one small car in not so perfect condition, no insurances, no security, no one to contact in an emergency except the locals- there’s just too much what he had dealt with in this not so generous journey. It was not merely a canvased track but was almost like stepping into many plashes in between (there was literally this time when they almost got carried away with the water stream they were to cross) and yet it was one of the most beautiful experiences he has ever had along with those few fishy moments:
‘We got arrested in China, mistaken as terrorists, hooked by stripers in Russia and were almost debarred from entering Turkey’
Running a company matching with his passion for traveling, being a part of the great rift valley ride in Africa and the Mongol rally from London to Mongolia-his motivation for traveling comes homegrown. ‘I have been traveling since I was a kid. My dad used to take us out for a trip twice a year and that’s how I initially covered almost every state of India’
Scooping the authentic elements of a place, their culture, and art, their past times and etiquettes are what brings him closer to being an explorer and that is rather his definition of traveling now.
The team of The Big Bang Trip wishes him good luck for all future adventures. If you want to go for Mongol rally, do write to us, and we will help you out in connecting with Kushal.
Happy Exploring the World!!!
For More exploration with the community, then please visit us.
We have lined-up several road trips in coming months.
Two weeks and a couple of hours back, I cursed myself a million times as the train jerk-started its 934 kilometre trail. I was a part of an idea – an idea that picked twenty individuals from different nooks of the country and confined them within a-very-uncomfortable-bus (it’s not the bus, it’s your bum, as a fellow individual later pointed out) – I was, as they referred to us, one among their tripper. THE BIG BANG TRIP – as they called it, took these twenty people on a backpacking trip across a major part of North India, namely, Delhi, Rishikesh, Kasauli, Kasol and McLeodganj. (Follow The Big Bang Trip for their upcoming plans and trips here.
Today, as I sit tapping the keys of my soon wearing out the laptop, the laziness surrounding my being seems to have betrayed it, and an uncharacteristic stream of energy flows through my body, so wicked is its nature that my mother never stops looking at me and my friends refuse to recognize me. Yes, I’m a changed individual. Yes, I’ve grown as an individual. And yes, I’m a proud tripper.
These trippers bonded within the seats of the bus, a big bum finding a perfect match in a small bum; an NRI head-banging his way to glory, accompanied by a fan of the tunes of a horrible Punjabi rapper; brothers from other mothers finally eyeing one another, greeting uncontrollably over hugs and bhais; a silent husband turning into a chatter-box with a junior, the wife later disclosing that, maybe, the former saw himself in the latter; a travel freak hi5ed an incredible cyclist as the tech-freak played their favourite song.
They bonded over awful music and DSLR lenses, thick accents and five tbs of extra sugar, alcohol,, and laughter, star-gazing and mountain trekking, taunts and flirts, lifelines and tears, inspirations and aspirations.
The Big Bang Trip – The Trippers
And today, as I sit and write this article, the problem of not able to jot down my plain feelings into sugar-coated words, remains, much to the annoyance and acceptance of my loved ones. Perhaps the filter that sieves expression is too fine and thick. Perhaps the people, who need to know things, better know them in person and not through a blog-post.
So here I am, doing things that I’m best at, sharing stories of random people I meet on the streets – their stories that shape my life (and somewhere down the line, I hope they shape yours too). Sharing lives of the people that I may never again meet in my life, but the memories and breaths that we shared, will stay etched within, forever…
The lane from the main market stretches to the Dalai Lama Temple, diverging twice on its way, but combining soon after. Cloth covered stalls stand tall on either side of this narrow stretch, supported by bamboos and modest in appearance. Each of these open-shops hold within them, the antiques that provide you with the glimpse of the rich culture of Tibet – their exuberant usage of colours and the stunning works over metal and wood, the calming aura of Buddha just adjacent to a huge animal mask. Most of the salesmen are well versed in both Hindi and English, but there are a few who know none of these languages.
I bumped into one such salesman while clicking pictures alongside a friend. His arm waved in my direction, inviting me to view one of the many singing-bowls placed over the desk. I walked towards him, politely declining his request, I bought it already, I smiled. Next, he picked up a unicorn and posed it in front of my eyes, mumbling its significance in broken English. It was an enormous horn then, followed by a wood-worked neck-piece and a pair of dice.
The words continued flowing from his mouth, praising his culture and describing the myth associated with it. In return, I obliged him by clicking pictures of each of the art-works that he turned up with. Although we couldn’t understand a single word from our speech, we had developed our own method of communication – the antiques in his hands, the camera in mine, the reflection of a picture in his eyes, and a thumbs-up from both the ends.
During this brief encounter with an exile, I could sense an unparalleled longing for mother-land through his moist eyes. A sense of helplessness that had crept into his being – the non-violent fight marched on the tender shoulders of compassion, but the feeling of being caged away from home seemed to have gotten the better of him.
I curled my lips and stretched my index-finger away from the thumb –smile – the camera posed in front of him. He saw his own reflection through the digital screen and laughed, his thumb acknowledging his own self.
The Salesman – Thumbs Up, anyone?
Apples, dear friend?
At a distance, I saw Che Guevara shining on a yellow t-shirt, his eyes looking up at the sky and no trace of smile on his face. I hurried towards him and asked the man sitting beside the trail of T-shirt about the price.
This-not-my-shop. Go-in. He fumbled and stuttered as I thanked him.
Dejected, I came back out – size issues. And just as I recovered myself from disappointment, this same man asked me to have a look at his shop. A small platform built adjacent to the shop over which, exactly ten bunches of apples lay lifeless. How much? I asked, as he unearthed a sheet of paper lying under a cloth – 60.
I looked at him for a long time – his legs, or whatever was left of them, crippled from below the knees. The struggle of his hands to co-ordinate together and lift the cup of tea that spilled the liquid everywhere before it finally reached his mouth. The latter finally making a hissing noise while sipping the tea.
I sat there on the platform and called out – excuse me! hey, could you please hang on for a moment and buy some apples from my friend? He’ll feed you with amazing apples!
And each time I called out his name or declared him my friend as people walked past us, he broke into a series of short giggles, looking at me, his cheeks blushing red.
So, tell me something about you buddy, I said sometime in the middle, when our business ran out of customers. This man then got up from his seat and hopped towards a bag supported on a wall, picked it and scurried back to me. Exhausted, he then asked me to unzip a particular section and dish out a piece of paper. I obliged. The hand-written letter (amazing handwriting) roughly read…
Hello, I am [name]. My parents are old and don’t have a job. My younger brother is handicapped too. I am selling apples here to support my family. I want my parents to have proper food. If you can help me with some money, it would be a great deal for me. Thank you.
Together then, we greeted people from different countries and backgrounds, not forcing even a single one of them to buy the apples, yet selling almost each unit of the day. Below is his photo, just a portrait, his story stands tall against his ability.
There is a sidelined reality that exists in Goa. The beaches and the shacks might serve to be dominant attractions for a tourist, but going beyond these might make one a real traveler!
Not very surprisingly, there happen to be people dwelling in Goa who do not hog on lobsters and fish on a daily basis. Connecting with a vegetarian Goan family might also introduce one to well-functioning vegetarian restaurant chains in Goa that have their registers full with a waiting list. If on a coin, Heads is the sea food and beer with Karaoke on a breezy evening at Tito’s lane, the tourists only carry single-sided coins. The Tails, however, is the bread buns and tonduk with coconut chutney and sev on a humid evening at a house with a Portuguese architecture. The place still demands to be represented on a spherical ball instead of a coin. That’s how many faces it has, and all merge into each other.
When my sister got married in a Goan family, we came to know for the first time that functions like wedding receptions can afford to miss out Tandoori Rotis and Naans from the menu. We had Goan food, something that graduates to be on a checklist.
I traveled alone for the first time. Rather, I only made the journey alone. I apparently had the company of my sister and her family at the destination. Living with them for almost one-third of a month changed a lot of perceptions I had about the place. I got to know about the flip side.
People do not only wear flowery clothes and women are not always seen in maxi dresses like it is shown in the movies. There’s humidity more than the breeze, and the streets sometimes smell of fish. There are Brahmin families as well as Parsis. There is a Temple culture as well as a Church culture. There is local Konkani music. Goa’s sidelined reality is different from what is popular, jazzy and is the definition of cool. It is as good a home, as it is a party destination.
We rode on the curvy inner streets with colorful old houses on both sides, which opened up ahead to reveal a long narrow road with fields on both sides touching the horizon. What better a view than this to experience on a cloudy day! There are shortcuts that have no roads. On a fine day, when I was returning with my sister from her office, I was treated with an off-roading experience for a few kilometers. She’d been living in Goa for quite some months now. I wonder how I would have had the experience otherwise.
The two trips I took to Goa were essentially different from each other. While the first one was with siblings and cousins, we did what all tourists do. We chose Heads. We chose to have Pina Coladas at Bagga Beach in the late evening and walk on the invisible sand with tides trying to touch the moon. We then ate at a restaurant on Tito’s lane where people enjoyed their evening singing Karaoke. The water sports at Candolim Beach gave the adrenaline rush. My cousin and I got hurt, though. It was all fun. But it was only a side.
The next time when I traveled alone and my sister was already living there; I had a brownie point! The second trip was more about Tails. I lived at her affinal home, paired up everything I ate with namkeen, got to know about their local family, visited the local markets and so on. We stayed in the huts at Palolem Beach for the weekend and came back only to enjoy even more picturesque sceneries of South Goa. This part is different from North Goa and would make for a lone traveler’s paradise. It is breathtakingly beautiful! One does not find overcrowded beaches, and the sunsets are clearer. It is underrated as the northern part stands under the limelight for its agile and energetic ambiance.
Undoubtedly, the explorer’s mind needs to turn to the side of Goa that is it’s very own, and not made up solely for tourists. The local essence and this sidelined reality are what we’re missing on. Mine is just a small observation; there must lie a lot beyond.
P.S: TBBT is traveling to Goa in the month of November.
India being a megadiverse country, serves incredibly tempting landscapes that are far sighted from a lot of us. Completely remote and secluded, each corner of India has some of the most beautiful towns and passes to explore. We have listed a few towns from the borderlines of India, too fascinating to resist
The Eastern most village of India, Kibithu is nearly 15 kms away from the McMohan line separating India and China. One of the most remote and beautiful towns in the country, it is famous for the Indo-China war of 1962 at Walong which is 22km away. The Lohit River entering India from China is the star attraction of Kibithu. Dropping temperature, hanging iron bridges, rocky mountains and a waterfalls-the town are Ace of Spades altogether.
Permit: ILP is issued at Guwahati or Dibrugarh to visit Kibithu.
Shipki La is a high mountain pass on the border post of India and China at the height of 18,600 ft, which makes it one of the highest motorable roads in the world. Fascinating, isn’t it? The road to Shipki La (Hindustan-Tibet road, ending much before the pass) is the little Ladakh of Himachal Pradesh. Between the cold desert mountains, this pass is the least travelled road and requires a permit which is now quite difficult to get and need strong reasons.
Among the least populated villages, it is the southernmost tip of the Indian National Territory adjacent to the great Indian Ocean. In recent year, Indira Point has turned out to be a famous tourist spot for its remote shores and rich flora and fauna. Standing against the never ending ocean-its sunrise and sunset are majestic enough for you to forget the crowded Goa. This blue paradise was hit by the tsunami in 2004 and has been submerged since then to some extent.
On the banks of river Saraswati, Mana is the last inhabited village before the Indo-China border in Uttrakhand situated at an elevation of 3219m, just 3 kms to the Badrinath pilgrim. The village so high and out of the way, Mana is unmatchable with its quietude and serenity. Though just 3 kms away from the chaos filled Badrinath due to worshippers; Mana is just the opposite with all its calmness. Satopanth glacier, the Tal(lake) and Vasudhara falls are the most breathtaking views around the village.It is one of the most pleasing motorable roads we have in India.
Perched at an elevation of 8600 ft in the northeastern part of Sikkim, Lachung is the little hamlet close to the Indo-Tibetan border. This village punctuated at the Riverside is known to be one of the most scenic villages of the Himalayas. It is mostly traversed along with Lachen which is like the other half of Lachung. Both the villages offer landscapes that are just beyond imagination. Lachung can truly be called the heaven on the earth for its watercourses; snow capped mountains and the most curtained terrain.
Permit: ILP is issued at Gangtok to visit Lachung.
So, if you have still not explored these places, then it is time for you to pack your bag and start a much-needed exploration. One more such place is Panamik in Nubra Valley and The Big Bang Trip is visiting it on its Leh trip from 28th July to 5th Aug. Hop-on with us to explore the last Northen most village of India before Siachen Glacier starts.