Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Ladakh Trip

Best travel blog for Ladakh
I have traveled to lot many places in the past 1.5 years, and to continue that tradition, I took a 1 week trip to Ladakh this time around.

This was the third instance when I entered J&K, visited it once 2 years ago when I went to Vaishno Devi (Jammu) and once last December when I visited Kashmir. J&K certainly is the place where the best of trips come up, and I would call Ladakh my second best trip after the Kashmir trip.

There was lots of traveling time in this trip and I utilized it by writing a travel log on my mobile phone, and thats what I gonna use for this post.

We left for manali on saturday morning at 6:40AM from Delhi. It was a bad time to start the journey, for one we had to travel around 14 hrs during the day, and second there were no volvo coaches available during the day. But we didn't have a choice and proceeded.

Around 8 hrs later, it turned out to be a worse decision when our bus met with an accident close to a place called Swarghat. Luckily there were no major injuries, but quite many people got some minor ones. I got a minor injury in the tooth while one of my friend had his lower lip bleeding. Luckily everyone else in our group was fine. My iPod died in that accident too :-(

We got some treatment at Swarghat itself and then took a taxi to Manali. We reached manali at 2AM and decided to rest in Manali the next day.

Rested the whole day in hotel. The view from the hotel room was pretty nice.

Went for sight seeing at 4 PM. Moved around, sat at the river banks and booked a cab to Leh. Two tourists from Denmark, Anne and Ester, were looking for a cab to share ride with and we obliged.
Saw a Tibetan cultural festival in Manali.

11:00 AM - crossed the rohtang pass and all the rains and fog is suddenly gone.
now we have nice sunny weather and beautiful mountain view.

4:00 PM - just crossed suraj tal, we are now 30 kms from sarchu, at a height of around 14k. The mountains are barren and rocky, and add lakes, rivers to it ... the landscapes are amazing. Waterfalls intersect with the road every now and then.
The mountains r blocking the sunlight and breeze has turned strong and chilly.
one person has slight trouble breathing.

6:30 - 7 kms from Sarchu and we have reached the place where we gonna stay for the evening.
Its a camp surrounded by mountains, and the barren lands r replaced by lush green grass, and there are some great tents to stay in.
The weather has got increasing chilly, and a pretty strong wind is blowing outside the tent.

we had a walk on the road after dinner in darkness, the night sky has some clouds, but we can still see lots of stars. I don't remember the last time i saw so many stars.

7:30 AM - Crossed Sarchu and entered J&K. after a cold and chilling night, the weather has turned sunny and dry. One side of the road has a mountain and the other side has a valley with a river flowing.

The foreigner with us is having all sorts of breathing problems, headache etc.
The roads are much better though.

8:30 AM - We started at 13780 ft and for the past half an hr we have been climbing up a mountain. right now at 15302 ft.

Finally reached Nakeela at 15547 ft.

11:30 AM - after crossing Pang, we have now reached a plateau at around 14000 ft ... it spans for around 50kms , after which we'll gain height and reach Tanglang La at around 17800 ft. This road is really bumpy.

1:30 PM - We reached the second highest pass of the world.
the bumpy ride caused me a bad headache.
Also my camera batteries died down and am currently surviving on ordinary cells bought at Pang. That didn't stop me from shooting the pak china border.

Pakistan China Border

3:30 PM - We saw some inhabited place at last. Crossed Gya at 13900 ft.
it had been quite some time since we saw trees and animals. The mountains here are red and green. A stream is running parallel to the road as usual.

my headache isn't all gone yet but the road is way way better. Leh is still 60 kms and we need to stop for lunch.

9:00 PM - Reached Leh and checked in a hotel. The headache finally went away after another disprin, hot water bath and dinner. Need some rest this night. Weather outside is pleasant.

1:00 - Woke up late. moved around a little. Had breakfast and now going for local sight seeing. Will be visitng Alchi and Likir.

Spituk Gompa

The sun is really hot but the breeze is cool. Indus is flowing along with the road. Zanskar also merges into Indus at a point.

7:00 PM - Visited Alchi and Likir.


Only cool breeze now making the drive much more pleasant. going back to Leh.

10:00 AM - Did some shopping last evening. Pretty much like every other place in India, lots of bargaining is recommended.

Leaving for Nubhra valley today. on the way, we'll pass thru Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world at 18000 ft, slightly higher than Tanglang La.
I have been out of college for a long long time but just now I remembered something that I would like to speak out loud - JAI KUMAON.

11:20 AM - a Scorpio on the route has a puncture tyre. While our driver is helping them, we have started walking towards Khardung La. A warm sun and cool breeze as usual. Going a bit ahead, few army vehicles have blocked the road.

Writing this log.

11:45 - The routes have cleared and we r back in our Qualis. reached khardungla. This place has some great meditation points.

some breathlessness, some coughing, but overall everyone is in good shape.

2:00 PM - 20-30 kms from Diskit. the driver has been playing NFS for a while. We need to tell him that life doesn't have a restart button :D. After repeated requests, he has finally slowed down a little. The views are spectacular but the route is scary. Saw a jeep that fell off the hill a couple of days ago, Scaring us even more.

4:00 PM - Had lunch in Diskit. took a 5 km walk from Diskit to Hundar.

5:30 PM - Reached Hundar. It has lots of sand dunes. We did double hump camel ride.

8:00 PM - Took a guest house, strolled around.Pak border is only 60 kms from this place, and tourists r not allowed towards that route.
This place is pretty much a forest, its all green and river Shyok flows through it. we sat alongside the river and listened to the flow.

1:00 PM - Slow start again, started at 10:30 AM, did some unorganized trekking. Climbed up a hill. We were carrying very less water and ran out of it. The sky is partially cloudy and some droplets of rain too. the top of the hill had cool breeze and a full view of Hundar.
we came down and reached the river Shyok. quenched our thirst with river water. The flow is fast and the water is ice cold.
My friend Shobhit found the locket that i lost last evening while strolling.

Moved alongside the river for sometime. This route is actually a 3 day trekking route to Leh. Can't believe it has started raining here.

Going back to Leh now.

9:30 PM - Reached Leh at 6:30. some bit of rains here too today. Planned a trek for the next 2 days.

4:30 PM - we started off from Stok at 9:00. Stok is at 3700m and from there we must climb up to Stok La at 4900m and then climb down.
Initially started off along the stream and the first 2 hours we didn't climb much, but me and ranjeet have already started lagging behind.

We had lunch at 11 and seems like the real climb will start now.
This has already been the most grueling trek that I have ever done. Treks are always most difficult for people who lag behind. In an effort to catch up, They lose the resting time. It is almost impossible to catch up once you lag behind. The one who is ahead dictate terms, can rest as he likes, can walk as he likes, as he is not the bottleneck.

At around 2, 3 of my friends have taken a short but much more steep climb. This is my chance, I moved steadily over my longer route, and now I am ahead of them, am no longer the bottleneck :-).

3:15 I have reached Stok La. We must have traveled atleast 15 kms. Those 3 guys are still around 15-20 mins behind, so I can take a nap while they arrive. We'll be going down from here.

4:30 PM - Descending a mountain requires some balance and skill though it is not tiring. The soil is loose and slippery. first timer Ranjeet is finding it slightly difficult.

Our destination is the green pasture.

5:00 we have almost completed the descent. the village for night stay should be around 3 kms.
6:45 9.5 grueling hours of trekking come to an end. we must have trekked around 20-25 kms. we have reached rumbakh, a small village where we are doing a homestay. tomorrow should be a much easier 3-4 hr trek to zinchin.

12:00 PM - This is our final day in Ladakh. We started off from Rumbak at 9:00. As expected, the trek today is much easier. We have reached our destination already.
currently I plan to bathe in the river.
12:40 PM - Bath in the ice cold water was pretty refreshing. going back to leh now. that should summarize our adventures in Ladakh.

Some Misc Stuff
Ladakh has more foreigners than Indians. Most of the foreigners here are european. Food has never been the highlight of the trip. This is quite contrary to the kashmir trip where the food was delicious. Am guessing its also because of all the foreigners who have a pretty different taste.

The attitude of a typical Ladakhi is relaxed and chilled out. People don't lock their shops when going out. Even the trek and tour operators don't give you much weight if you talk to them during off hours. We actually had problems finding a good tour operator who would give us information and help us plan our itinerary.

You can see the remaining pics here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

5 years of software engineering

Time for the yearly review. This got delayed this time around as I went on to a vacation to Ladakh.

As a college fresher, I was always fascinated by desktop products. A small tool that would just make one small task easier. I always wanted to create such products myself. A little thing but it could make someone's day.
Then I went into Enterprise Java, because thats what most of the Indian software industry is into. And farther and farther away I went from such tools as desktop java was pretty much hopeless and I had no industry experience in C etc.
However, with the onset of Web 2.0, I see a possibility. I see how web based products can be equally, if not more, effective at solving problems and create value for users.

While the Indian software industry has already proved its worth in software services, it is still pretty nascent in software development. And I firmly believe that india is not just a service provider, it is also a huge market. Its high time that indian software companies exploit this market and provide services to its own consumers, rather than focusing only on US.

I am still continuing in software product development, and working in this industry has given me a lot of insight in web products. There has also been lots of insight two most successful revenue models for web products - Ad generated revenue and Lead Generated Revenue. Going forward, its pretty important for us software professionals to think on how we can address this indian market and provide services to our own people.

On the personal side, Lots of good things there as well. I had lots of trips and loads of fun with friends. However, as time is passing by, it is becoming increasing difficult to keep in touch with all friends.
As a perfect example of fast paced life we live in, there was a time when I had more than 10 friends in noida, and within 3 months of that, each one of them left for their individual reasons. I always dreaded the thought of living alone, but sometimes life doesn't give you a choice. Looking back the past 6 months, things haven't been bad. However, this had made my friends even more important in my life.

Friendship is the only real earning that I have after all these years, and I thank my friends for being "my friends". Wherever you are, however busy you are, just keep in touch.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

God is my roomie

I left my native home around 8-9 years ago to join college. My study room has been the pooja room of the house ever since.

Now every now and then when I go to my native place, I stay and sleep in that same room. Doesn't that make me and god roomies, me being the senior by virtue of being the first in that room.

So why do I have to obey rules like putting my sandals out of the room?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Aajkal ke bachche

I knew that times have changed. I also knew that today's kids are much more smarter than what we (or maybe I) used to be at that age.
But until yesterday, I only knew that.

My nephew is 7 years old. I was teaching him a song. The conversation went on like this:

Me: Chalo beta aaj tumhe naya gaana sikhate hai.
Nephew: theek hai
Me: tera chehra sanam
Nephew: tera chehra sanam
Me: ek rubai si hai .. rubai .... rubayeee
Nephew: ek rubai si hai
Me: mere dil jism-o-jaan pe tu chahi si hai .. dil jism-o-jaan ...
Nephew: mere dil jism-o-jaan pe tu chahi ... chachu ... kaun?

for once I couldn't stop laughing. At the very least, I could convince him that she is Priyanka Chopra, and she stays closeby, and she's gonna come over for coffee once her movie is complete.
And thank god for that.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Human Test

Lot of sites ask you to type the characters you see in an image in their form submissions. For example, to put a comment on this blog, you need to do the same.
This test is called CAPTCHA. Its a technique to test for humanity, i.e. it makes sure that a human is filling the form and not some computer bot (automated code).

However, my experience with CAPTCHAs so far is that most of the times it is a test for humans with a 20/2 vision and IQ > 200. Most of these images are done so badly that I am unable to figure out what the text is supposed to be.

Don't believe in what I say? Check out this link for some of the unreadable CAPTTCHAs out there.