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Into the Sacred Space

“One mountain, however, stands high above the rest, a sacred mountain overtopping the ranges of lesser sacred mountains, their epitome and apogee. This mountain is called Kailas.” – John Snelling, author of The Sacred Mountain.

“One mountain, however, stands high above the rest, a sacred mountain overtopping the ranges of lesser sacred mountains, their epitome and apogee. This mountain is called Kailas.” – John Snelling. The Kailas sketched by Aarti Saxena

It was a cold misty morning at Nathu La, the natural high-altitude passage between India and Tibet, across the Himalayas, in Sikkim. Passports had been verified for the one last time by the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP), baggage tags checked, and the visa papers secured, as the rain came down lightly on the first batch of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatris standing in a straight file at the Indo-China border, some 4,310 m feet above the sea level. These thirty seven pilgrims were witnessing history being made before them by being the first travellers from India to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) through the Nathu La after the border was closed in 1962.

We, the members of the first batch, or the historical batch as the authorities would tell us over and over again could feel the unmistakable excitement and festivity in the air. Having dreamt of a Kailash-Mansarovar visit all through our lives, we were finally heading to the most sacred spot on this planet to almost half of humanity including the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Jains and the Bonpas.

The mountains had always fascinated us. “The Godly Kailash and the Manas-Sarovar (translated as ‘the mind-lake’), how placid and beautiful could a lake be whose name sounded so heavenly?” such thoughts kept us occupied. We had all heard stories or anecdotes of the Kailash visit from those who had been to the holy land. Some experienced yatris in the group would often share their tales over meals and acclimatization walks from day one of the yatra.

“Yea in my mind these mountains rise,
Their perils dyed with evening’s rose;
And still my ghost sits at my eyes.
And thirsts for their untroubled snows”

Swami Pranavananda quotes Walter De La More in his memoirs

We were fast getting initiated into a direction that would eventually take us into the deep stillness of our inner-self by way of sacred communion with nature. Away from the madness of the cities, we had never felt more alive than when we were in the embrace of the Himalayas. Inside our minds, the mystical yearning to visit the Holy Kailash Mountain and the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet had been germinating for many years. The very thought of such a possibility would leave us dreaming about the grand solitary spaces of the Himalayas. The moment when our yearning of years was going to be fulfilled had finally arrived. It filled us with great delight when our wish and desire to pay our first homage to this natural and divine wonder through Nathu La got materialized.

This blog series is a joint effort by Aarti Saxena (who also happened to be the Liaison Officer of the batch) and Satyender S Dhull, who were blessed to have been a part of the first batch of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra (KMY) via the Nathu La. As we write this with deep contentment of finally having visited the Holy Land, we cannot help but wonder still if we shall ever be able to visit Kailash again. For us, our spiritual-escapade into the Sacred Space would always be a rare adventure in Tibet, a country absolutely full of history, interest and significance.

The following posts are an endeavor in capturing the most magical moments of the yatra, before and after we crossed the Tibetan border! We hope you enjoy reading about our journey and experience it through our eyes and perspectives. Om Namah Shivaya!

Prelude

Preparing to climb the Roof of the World

From plains to Sikkim

Reception at Gangtok

Adjusting to the higher altitude

The legend of the soldier Baba Harbhajan Ji

Crossing the Nathula

Getting shepherded through Tibet

On the Friendship Highway

By the Tsangpo Chu

Traversing the Barkha

The Kailash and the Yam Dwar

A Glimpse of Eternity by the lake

Retracing the trade route to Nathula

The Festivities around

Back to the Plains

Postscript


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Book Talk: Himalayan Playground by Trevor Braham

“How wonderfully fresh and adventurous it must have been for the 20-year-old Braham travelling through the Himalaya in 1942 as a young soldier on leave during the Second World War and how wonderful to have Sherpa companions whom he had read about in the pre-war Everest expedition books,” pens the ace mountaineer Doug Scott in the forward written for the book Himalayan Playground by the author Trevor Braham. In a way his expression sums up what this book is all about – the adventures of Braham from 1942 to 1972 on the roof of the world – the Himalayas.

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Having spent a good part of his studentship in Darjeeling during the British Raj, energetic Trevor Braham took to mountaineering at the age of 20. The blessing guardianship of the Kangchenjunga massif had casted a strong influence upon him that aroused his later ambitions in the field of organised mountaineering. His initial rambles in the western part of Sikkim in 1942 enabled him to define his interests and helped him assess his strengths and limitations.

Next he boarded the thought of Garhwal Himalayas in 1947 and climbed the Kedarnath Dome among his many other exploits in the region. Opportunely he was in the holy town of Badrinath, as he claims, on the day when India gained independence. “It was a privilege to have visited the mountains of Garhwal at a time when unlimited mountaineering opportunities existed in a beautiful and practically untouched region,” Braham writes. Himalayas addicted, he visited the Himalayas almost every year during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Braham’s other noted explorations recollected in the book includes that of Sikkim region in 1949, Kullu-Spiti watershed region in 1955, Karakoram in 1958 before his interest shifted to the tribal regions of Swat, Kohistan and Kaghan during the decade of 1960s. According to him his prime objective of traveling to the mountains was not to seek material objectives or accolades but in search of those eternal rewards that only Himalayas possess, free from the routine humdrum of life.

Although, the book sheds some light on the mountain life of the times about which very little written historical evidence has been obtained, it essentially remains to be a recollection of the events that transpired more than 50 years before. Written in 2008 without any seeming aid from the trip-reports, the book fails to do full justice to his raw enthusiasm, interest as well as the variety of information otherwise obtained by way of travelling into the regions which were relatively untouched by mountaineering or tourism. Frankly speaking, the book is merely a recollection of his experience giving a blueprint about his “trips”. The description in the book looks to be mellowed down after a gap of more than five decades.

Notwithstanding the loss of information, the book intriguingly captures climbs in the remote Himalayan region by way of trip-photographs. Without doubt, one of the most interesting aspects of this modest book is the description of his activities in the tribal areas of Pakistan Himalayas. Although, it makes for a pleasant read for a Himalayan lover, nevertheless, nearing Rs 2000, a paperback edition of the book is highly overpriced. The book is available at Amazon as well as at Flipkart.


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Ramblings in the Corbett backwoods

Encompassing portions of the Bhabar foothill and the Tarai forest belt, the dense jungle of Kaladhungi is spread at the base of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Located at a distance of about 30 km from Ramnagar, on the road to Nainital, the interconnected forests have always swarmed with wildlife. For centuries this has known to be the tiger-land. However, for over a century now, the region is best known by its most popular human face – Jim Corbett.

Jim Corbett House, now a state-run museum, at village Choti Haldwani

Jim Corbett‘s Irish Cottage, now a state-run museum, at village Choti Haldwani in Kaladhungi, Kumaon

If you are heading to the Corbett National Park or the Nainital area, spare a day for this region where Jim Corbett, fondly remembered as Carpet Sahib by the natives, grew up from just a wilderness sportsman to one of the most popular wildlife conservationists of the pre-independence India. Although, Corbett shifted out to Kenya after partition but the heritage he left behind at village Choti Haldwani in Kaladhungi, meaning black rock in local dialect, will forever continue to inspire Corbett lovers and motivate generations of wildlife enthusiasts. For the uninitiated, however, it would make more sense to have read his accounts before relating to such heritage sites.

The chief attraction of the region is the winter house of Corbett, now converted into a museum by the state Forest Department, located bang on the tri-junction of the road to Nainital in Choti Haldwani, a village which was set up by Corbett after he bought land – 221 acres, for agriculture purpose, from the then British government. It was in the backwoods of this farmyard that Jim acquired the near-perfect knowledge of jungle telepathy and took to larder hunting; starting with shooting birds. The wilderness-craft helped him become the Sherlock of the wilds, an acclaimed sportsman-cum-wildlife photographer and a pioneering conservationist.

Right from his childhood, at his family’s initial property – the Arundel, now in ruins – Jim used to go off into the jungle for several days at a stretch or took extended walks in the backwoods on moonlit nights in search of wildlife, birdlife or even butterflies. Here he mastered the art of imitating the calls of wild animals or birds and the jungle code of conduct including how to keep the predators away in the night by lighting a fire. According to Corbett, his backwoods supported at least five tigers, eight leopards, a family of four sloth bears, two Himalayan black bears and a number of hyenas.

Baur Canal

Drawing water from the Baur river, this canal was built by Henry Ramsay, the then Commissioner of Kumaon, in 1860 primarily for Kumaon Iron foundry. Stretching over 8 km, the canal now irrigates more than 40 villages of this region. A walk along the canal amidst Sal and Semal trees is still very much a refreshing experience. The canal marked the northern boundary of Arundel compound, located at roughly 2.5 km from the canal head. Photo-credit: Rajesh Panwar, Milieu Hosp.

It has small ghats (bathing places) made all along and has three panchakki (water-driven flour mills) along it.

The canal has small ghats at regular intervals as well as three water-driven flour mills along it. This ghat, located near Arundel ruins is the one, as described by Corbett in his books, where the girls used to bathe. Photo: Rajesh Panwar

The forested setting of his parental summer-home Arundel sparked the naturalist in Corbett even before he reached his teens. The Arundel farmyard was surrounded by rain-watercourses on two sides and the Baur canal by one where all sort of wild animals came to quench their thirst, whereas, the sandy beds of watercourses recorded wildlife as well as birdlife movements round the clock. Later he built his own house, part of a sizeable farmland, which he bought in Choti Haldwani village.

Located opposite the Corbett estate, the Murray Hotel used to be a preferred stopover for the night for those heading towards Nainital through a 15 mile climb on a bridle path. The hotel was later bought by his neighbour and friend Rai Bahadur Jai Lal Shah.

During those days, the Murray Hotel used to be a preferred stopover for those heading towards Nainital. Now in ruins, the property was later bought by Corbett’s neighbour and friend Rai Bahadur Jai Lal Shah. The Arundel was located towards its backside, not more than 300 m as the crow flies.

Jim used to hard walk up and down the bridle path while his mother and sister Maggie and Doyle preferred dandies.

Jim used to hard-walk up and down the 15 mile bridle path, visible towards the right of the frame, between Nainital and Kaladhungi while his mother as well as sister Maggie and Doyle preferred dandies.

The mango tree at Ghatgarh, a birdlife paradise, where Corbett used to take a smoke break on his way to Nainital

The mango tree at Ghatgarh under which Corbett used to take short smoke breaks on his way to Nainital. The spot has been converted into a cafe and the surroundings offer excellent bird-watching opportunity.

By way of his determined generosity as well as cooperation, Corbett enjoyed the reputation of a patriarch in his village. His house was open to just about anyone in distress day or night. He had earmarked a couple of cemented platforms under mango trees in his garden where he even attended to medical needs of aid-seekers. Apart from his extraordinary ability to hunt and kill maneater tigers or leopards, it was his generous and helping nature that brought him respect and deep admiration from the villagers which is why he is very much alive through his accomplishments and the heritage which he left behind. The museum house still stands on a raised platform surrounded by a garden comprising bamboo and other big trees. Currently, more than 140 families reside inside the walled Corbett estate.

A scan from Kala's book

A scan from one of his biographies portrays Corbett with the Bachelor of Powalgarh, the mammoth tiger-kill, in the courtyard of his Kaladhungi cottage. The event happened in 1930.

The cottage compound now in 2015. Still robust, the old Kanju tree bears a testimony to kill

The cottage compound as of Feb 2015. Still robust, the old Kanju tree (the left one) bears witness to the kill of 1930.

Initially, Jim, who stayed at this house along with his sister Maggie, had identified a concrete slab in the garden as his tented bedroom to spend the night but later on, after 1924, he got a separate room set built for him. Both his dogs Roshina and Robin lay buried in the bungalow compound to the right of the initial building. Facing north, the temples of Hanumangarhi at Naini Tal could be seen from the museum house on clear days.

Initially, Jim, who stayed at this house along with his sister Maggie, had identified a concrete slab in the garden as his tented-bedroom to spend the night but later on, after 1924, he got a separate room-set built for him visible towards the left of this frame. Both his dogs Roshina and Robin lay buried in the compound to the right of the initial building. Facing north, the temples of Hanumangarhi at Nainital could be seen from the museum house on clear days.

A sizeable portion of the 6 km long 5ft high anti-pig wall which he himself built surrounding his village exists to date. The network of cemented waterways, which he himself built to check unnecessary seepage of water, is still operational. As his farming progressed, Jim provided newer houses and gates in the boundary wall for villagers and gradually, the estate developed into a model village. Corbett’s initial attempts in account narrations won him many friends. Subsequently he was often found hobnobbing with governors, collectors and viceroy etcetera arranging hunts for them in the forests of Kaladhungi on his invitation and their interest.

The Forest Rest House at Kaladhungi remained host to the likes of Linlithgow and Hailey on their gaming escapades with complete assistance of Corbett.

The Forest Rest House at Kaladhungi remained host to many high profile visitors including Linlithgow and Hailey on their Corbett-assisted gaming escapades. The other half of it is now shared by the PWD. Corbett along with Maggie would often take a walk to the FRH compound to tea with dignitaries or official visitors.

Inside the souvenir shop at the museum

Inside the souvenir shop at the museum.

The museum showcases paintings, his belongings, photographs and Corbett's letters, etc.

Reflecting sorry state of affairs, the state administration thought it fit to keep the legend alive by showcasing just a handful of photographs and letters associated with him at the museum.

Some of the furnished items owned by Corbett

Some of the furnished items owned by Corbett. “The odds and ends displayed there are what the villagers have not rifled from the untenanted house,” observed Kala, author of Jim Corbett of Kumaon.

The village Chaupal, a common meeting place, built by Corbett at Choti Haldwani

The now renovated village Chaupal, a common meeting place, built by Corbett at Choti Haldwani. Photo: Rajesh Panwar

Another site of note includes the 20m high Corbett Water Falls, located within a walking distance of about three km from his house. A refreshing walk through the Sal woods would take you to the falls of Dhunigar stream, which Corbett regarded as one of the best spots to sight tigers or leopards. The falls could alternatively be reached from the forest gate located, on the road to Ramnagar, at a few minutes of driving time from the Baur iron bridge.

Start from the Baur canal-head towards the Corbett Falls crossing the FRH, the Arundel ruins, the family bathing site by the canal, the museum, boundary wall, Moti Singh’s house, the chaupal as well as the iron bridge on the way to complete the Corbett heritage trail. A majority of such sites or landmarks including interiors of the forests could be visited in a day-long walk. Once at Kaladhungi you could hire a guide or join the conducted walks to visit and relate to his accounts.

The popular Corbett Falls are located a little off the main road in the Nayagaon Range

The popular Corbett Falls are located a little off the main road in the Nayagaon Range

Other tiger-related sites within reach of Kaladhungi, where he carried on his lone war against poachers, includes Pipalpani, Powalgarh and Mohan, etc. Later on, when he took to photography, he had set up his own jungle studio in his farmyard in 1938 and succeeded in filming many a wild tigers.

A water pool on the Dhunigar stream

A stream pool in the Dhunigar. Unless disturbed, such spots are usually favorite with wild animals and birds

Average Altitude: 350m
Best time to visit: Winters; April for birdlife
Travel Lure: Corbett trail, wooded walks, birdlife rich forests
Accommodation: Limited; confirm in advance


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Book Talk: Jim Corbett of Kumaon by DC Kala

A tiger among men, lover of the underdog, a hero in war and pestilence, a model zamindar and employer, an ascetic, naturalist, and, above all, a hunter of maneating tigers and leopards for thirty-two active years in the then three hill districts of Uttar Pradesh comprising Garhwal, Nainital and Almora,” is how the author DC Kala aptly introduces the legend of Corbett in the opening lines. “Others hunted but he also wrote,” adds Kala.

The cover of the book showcases Jim Corbett with the Rudraprayag Maneater Leopard

The cover of the book showcases Jim Corbett with the Rudraprayag Maneater Leopard after the kill

Anyone who has read his books will be able to relate with how justly Kala chose to describe the legendary Jim Corbett. This is the first book I read about Corbett which was authored not by him but an admirer and a fan of his, DC Kala, formerly a news editor with the Hindustan Times. Born and brought up in the hill region of Kumaon, Corbett’s birthplace as well as his workplace, Kala fully utilised the opportunity to unearth every possible information to decode Corbett, through systematic spadework, within his reach. Writing a biography is always a tough job in the sense that one has to rely on most accurate set of information. In this case, his subject Corbett and all his associates had left India for good and were no longer alive when the author started writing this biography of Jim Corbett in late seventies.

In absence of any written record, apart from letters or agreements exchanged by Corbett in his professional capacity, the author has relied on the information gathered from various secondary sources including Corbett’s publishers, servants’ families, Nainital’s municipality records, churches records, official orders, historical records, a few communication exchanged here and there, newspaper edits and diaries or notes left by his former colleagues, etc. One particular interesting source on which the author counts very heavily has been the thirteen pages of unpublished notes of Ruby Beyts dictated by non-other than Corbett’s sister Maggie herself. Apart from this most of the information or conclusions have been drawn from Corbett’s own published accounts of his endeavours in the wild.

In 14 chapters spanned over a total of 160 pages, with deep interest in his subject, the author has lucidly captured Corbett’s childhood, family life, his railways days, life and professional assignments in Nainital, his compassionate bonding with villagers, superstitions he had interest in and came across, his jungle sensitiveness, his works as an author, his ambitions and views with respect to wildlife conservation, his days and life in Kenya, etcetera.

Having honed his forest telegraphic skills in the jungles of Kaladhungi, Corbett grew up to be one of the finest sportsmen of mid-century India. Ironically, though, the conservationist started his life felling forests and hunting wild animals. His multifaceted career spanned over a variety of professions or streams including railways, municipality politics, churches, property dealer as well as farming. “The rest of the time he kept watch on all the bad tigers and leopards of the high hills and the adjoining plains”, writes Kala.

These big, bad cats, maneaters to be precise, were Corbett’s extra charge. When one was proclaimed a maneater by the district authorities, they turned to him for help to rid them of it. When the call came, the 40pound tent, the suitcase and the bedroll were hurriedly packed by sister Maggie, the porters were collected, and the hunter set out in forced marches of twenty to forty miles a day – depending on the urgency – to the dak bungalow nearest to the last reported kill”.

Apart from courage, “Corbett was blessed with an excellent memory, good sight, a sound constitution, and a keen power of observation and hearing“, observes Kala. In later years, when he abandoned the rifle for camera, Corbett felt that while the photograph is of interest to all lovers of wildlife, the trophy is only of interest to the individual who acquired it. The book throws some insightful light on Corbett’s vision with respect to wildlife and forest conservation. The book includes a few black and white photographs and a map as well. Priced at Rs 250, the second edition of the book is available at most online shops including Amazon and Flipkart.


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Book Talk: The Sacred Mountain by John Snelling

As apparent from the title and book-cover itself, “The Sacred Mountain” is a travel manual to the holiest of mountain regions – the Kailash Mansarovar – located in Tibet trans-Himalayas, which is regarded sacred by followers of no less than four religions of the world – Hindus, Jains, Buddhists as well as the pre-Buddhist shamanistic religion of Tibet, Bonpos. Unlike most other books belonging to the genre of travel writing, this one is not really a travel-account but a comprehensive summary of the various historical records available pertaining to travels to the holy Kailash region. The findings are presented in light of the current happenings, as regards the time when the book was first published in 1983, with reference to the unfailingly shifting religious as well as political interests.

The 2006 India reprint by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd of the second edition (1990) of the 450 page book

The 2006 reprint by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd of the second edition (1990) of the 450-page-book

Awestruck with the spirituality associated with the Himalayas, the author decided to visit the Everest Base Camp and ultimately the Kailash. “One mountain, however, stands high above the rest, a sacred mountain overtopping the ranges of lesser sacred mountains, their epitome and apogee”. “This mountain is called the Kailas”, writes John Snelling. Without digressing much into his travel accounts, the author examines the spiritual and mythological associations of the holy Kailash in the context of its historical, religious, political and geographical perspectives.

The author narrates the accounts and findings of the relatively few known Western travellers and explorers who managed to reach the remote Kailash. The interface of westerns with the locals not only brings out the cultural differences but specifically points out their individual experiences starting from Jesuit missionaries Desideri and Manuel Freyre who visited the Kailash in 1715 to Major T. S. Blackney, Strachey, Hearsey, Francis Younghusband, William Moorcraft, A.H. Savage Landor, Ryder, Rowling, Charles Sherring, mountaineering attempts of Longstaff and Sven Hedin, etcetera are of special interest. It is, however, surprising that the author gives little mention or bantam gravity to the findings of Indian visitors including the likes of Pundit Nain Singh who had non-pilgrimage exploratory interests in the region.

Justifiably so, John Snelling also delves into the accounts of pilgrims or saints who travelled into the area to satiate their religious interests. Apart from religious knowledge, such travellers including Swami Pranavananda, Swami Satchidananda, Swami Tapovan and the westerner Lama Anagarika Govinda, etcetera usually brought a plethora of cultural as well as practical information for travelling into the region. The author was particularly enamoured by Swami Pranavananda who authored multiple volumes and provided scientific data for later research. To this day the works of Swami Pranavananda, out of print now, continues to be among the best written accounts of Kailash Mansarovar travels.

It is of interest to note the accounts of various such travellers to the Kailash and understand how the spirituality associated with the sacred region and the testing, difficult as well as the dangerous journey had affected them from the exploratory point of view. The book neatly highlights the interface of travellers with Tibetan officials, who were usually hostile to Westerners, monks, dacoits in the cold and barren land as well as their exploratory and adventurous efforts both in highlighting the holy region and reaching the treacherous terrain. Finally, the author also evaluates other sacred mountains of the world with a view to bring forward the ancillary religious or semi-religious associations related to various religions of the world. The author has listed a detailed bibliography and a general set of travel information to the holy land.

Although the author has frankly accepted in the very beginning that a lot of water has passed under the bridge since I originally wrote The Sacred Mountain, the book remains to be a master compendium of Kailash Mansarovar travels. Priced at Rs 995, the India reprint of 1990 edition, comprising numerous coloured images, is readily available at most online shops including Amazon and Flipkart.


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Gadget and Gear Talk: Sandisk Sansa Clip+ Music player and Yuin Pk3 earphones

For me, travel and music are conjointly associated. Notwithstanding the mode of travel, good music always accompanies me. Long after a trip gets over, each track transports me back to relive that particular experience. My preferred music that accompanied me through various travels or journeys is still with me, cherished with memories like a self-enacted movie song, almost. Figuratively speaking, music not only relieves you of transit boredom or eases off your jetlag but might help you in connecting with people on the move. The therapeutic effect of music, as I have discovered, phenomenally multiplies the delight of travel.

Here’s a sneak preview of my travel music bundle

Here’s a sneak preview of my travel music portable bundle. A Case Logic hard case, Sansa Clip+, Silicone Cover, Micro SD card along with an adapter, Wall charger, Yuin Pk3 earbuds and mini USB B type palm wire

I habitually take a relook at my music before setting out on a trip and try to add newer varieties or dimensions to it. In addition to the content, I am particularly selective about the quality of electronic devices I have including the music player and the speaker set. And when it comes to a portable mp3 player, the Sandisk’s Sansa Clip + continues to be my favourite for a long time now. Paired with just the right earplugs – which for me are Yuin’s Pk3 – it can indeed stoke that spark of wanderlust inside you into a warm bonfire.

Quite frankly, it is not very often when one comes across a device or a gadget which is hard to be disregarded. Both the Sandisk Sansa Clip+ as well as the Yuin manufactured Pk3 earplugs are such gems. Having previously used an iPod classic as well as a Sony NW along with a variety of headphones, this pocket friendly bundle proved to be my favourite for many noticeable reasons including its rich sound, reasonable pricing, user friendliness, expandability of memory up to 32GB, digital FM radio and voice recording feature along with just an adequate OLED display. The dedicated volume control panel placed on the left bar comes very handy while trekking. Initially, I bought this device as it allowed its user to easily delete a song without even having to connect it with a computer but its filling sound clearly won me over. ;-)

Even though, the Sansa Clip+ could be paired with generic headphones, I would suggest an ear-friendly as well as an audiophile quality alternative – Yuin Pk3 earplugs. Having used the bundle for more than three years now, I’d say that these are the perfect accessory – on the go – for this tiny player. The combination ensures excellent full-bodied detailed sound, at a wider soundstage, than most similarly to doubly priced options.

Sansa Clip+

Sansa Clip+

The Sansa Clip+ player could be fully charged in less than 3hrs through its USB mini B type port either using a wall charger or your laptop or your portable power bank. The running time of more than 12hrs, when paired with Pk3, on a single charge of the built-in rechargeable battery suits most travel needs. In addition to its tiny size, what I like the most about this player is its capacity to produce detailed sound from a wide variety of formats including MP3, WMA, secure WMA and even FLAC, etc.

Not just for travelling, the lightweight player works to be an ideal option for exercising or your gymming music needs as the player could be belt-clipped directly onto your clothing or backpack. The simple, intuitive interface lets you scroll through your library with ease and is extremely friendly to use. It comes with inbuilt capacity options of 2GB, 4GB and 8GB and is expandable up to 32GB. The 2GB+32GB capacity of my player stores approximately 5,000 mp3 songs along with a few FLAC files.

Yuin Pk3

Yuin Pk3

As for the earphones, when it comes to the sound quality the company supplied (or even the ones supplied by the likes of Apple, Sony, etc.) leaves a whole lot to be desired and that is where the Yuin Pk3 offers bigger bang for the buck. The low impedance non-isolating sonic character of these earbuds works best for on-the-go personal music needs. Give them a few trips time to allow a burn in and use it with the supplied foam eartips to expect gem of a sound in return.

Experientially speaking, Sansa Clip+ and Yuin Pk3 is an ideal inexpensive little travel bundle and won’t be noticeable on a street like some fruity players do. Of course it neither support videos nor can hold your entire music collection but with your select compilation, it beats the competition hands down. The bundle, an ideal gadgetry for personal music, can currently be assembled under 6K at Amazon.com.


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Book Talk: The Shining Mountain; Two Men on Changabang’s West Wall

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As you would have noticed from the cover of it, the book is an account of the author Peter Boardman’s inspiring climb of the west face of the 6864m Changabang along with his teammate Joe Tasker who also provided some of the photographs for this book. It is a narration of how climbing a peak had become an ultimate goal. The book was referred to me, as a source of mountaineering information about the region, by not one but multiple sources in the Himalayan Club, Mumbai.

First things first: Peter lucidly presented a personal, engaging as well as an honest account of his daring expedition. The book is a riveting story full of guts and mutual trust of how the two member team together solved the great mountaineering puzzle without any assistance or aid from porters as well as professional route or camp setting. It was the author’s maiden book and was critically acclaimed not only in the mountaineering circles but in literary world as well.

The expedition was set in the post-monsoon season of 1976 when the acclaimed climbers Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker made the first ascent of the West Wall of the shark tooth shaped Changabang in the central Himalayas in Garhwal. The sheer scale of the 5000ft white granite wall of the mountain’s west face continues to present one of the greatest challenges of mountain-climbing in the region. Relying on big wall techniques in the dangerous and unpredictable high Himalayan environment, the Boardman-Tasker team almost took a month in successfully climbing the peak. To this day, theirs remain to be the only successful attempt in climbing the peak from the life-threatening west face. In the debates that followed, by many accounts it was considered to be a tougher climb than that of the Everest.  “It’s a preposterous plan. Still, if you do get up it, it’ll be the hardest thing that’s been done in the Himalayas” retorted the legendary Chris Bonington, before the expedition, who was the first to climb the peak in 1974 through a different side and regarded the west-wall to be “not a married man’s route”.

It was Peter’s first visit to the Garhwal Himalayas. Apart from the knowledge acquired through hearsay and reading mountain literature, he counted on his partner Joe Tasker’s experience who had successfully climbed the neighbouring Dunagiri just the previous year. The badass rock climber got a culture shock of his life on his first visit to the “muggy smelly” India. Egoistically self-assured of their mountaineering skills and experience, the duo discarded the company of “social chameleon” Flt Lt DN Palta, an IMF-assigned liaison officer, during the initial stages of the expedition itself. As an outcome, the team adopted to course-correct its Himalayan inexperience and overshadowed their rawness with absolute dedication.

High up on the face, Boardman and Tasker resorted to makeshift tentage instead of the hand-crafted hammocks, an unrealistic decision in the high-altitude Himalayas at that time of the season. The climb demanded an extraordinary level of dedication from the men for a full month. “Every technique I had ever used was tested and applied, half consciously – bridging, jamming, chimneying, lay-backing, mantle-shelfing, finger pulls, pressure holds all followed in a myriad of combinations”, accepts the author. Every morning they would fix ropes and ferry loads up the face and descend to a lower camp. Operating in capsule style, the team hauled its own supplies and equipment up the mountain. Later on, the successful climb of the Changabang had changed the attitude of Peter towards these mountains. After the descent the duo compassionately volunteered to retrieve dead bodies of members of a US team that unsuccessfully attempted the Dunagiri.

Boardman’s detailed technical expression of climbing conditions on the mountain face has made this book not only a mountaineering classic but a literary gem as well. The book may not provide any additional information about the region but is a high quality work as far as mountaineering is concerned. Supplemented by valuable references from Tasker, the book perfectly captures the personal and physical challenges involved in the climb. Subsequently, the duo became best climbing partners, popular authors as well as legends in the mountaineering circles before their tragic death at Everest’s Northwest Ridge in 1982.

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In about 190 pages, with the decorating aid of about 15 black-and-white photos, 2 map sketches, the author has absorbingly summed up his capsule style expedition to the central Himalayas. First published in 1978, the book continues to be out of print for a long time now. Although, I was able to buy the book online from a store based in England, the e-editions of the book are available at both Flipkart as well as Amazon.

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