Tag Archives: Tiger Hills

Truly a Tibetian Tigress

This is my submission to IndiBlogger’s  Expedia – Around The World Contest

“Brrrrr…” Freezing cold weather in Darjeeling in November. The Sun setting down as early as 5 PM in the evening. Rising across the Kanchenjunga peak and it’s horizon early in the morning, as early as 5 AM on the North Eastern Himalayan terrains! Yes, that was the time when Darjeeling was to be visited… And thankfully I was there at that very moment. I went there to trek the Sandakphu-Gurdum ranges and hopefully climb the mountains at the highest point of Sandakphu to see the Kanchenjunga & Mt. Everest up close and personal. Before we started our trek, we had a couple of days where we could acclimatize ourselves to the conditions and get to know Darjeeling a little more…

I took that opportunity to tour the city in search of interesting people, stories and certainly take some really great shots of the local culture around. As soon as I entered Darjeeling, everything about it fascinated me. Looking at the small town like manifestation of the entire location felt very close to home and gave a significant amount of warmth in itself. Everywhere I looked around I could visualize the beauty of the North East India that started here. I was told that girls and women in Darjeeling are truly beautiful, but this was the first time I got to see it and indeed, “Seeing is believing.”  Besides their beauty and aura, every girl and even guys had a strong, bold empowering style to themselves. They definitely knew what fashion was and could teach a thing or two to Bombayites like me.

Having said that, another aspect of Darjeeling I really admired the most, was that one could, at any point in time always keep an eye on the Kanchenjunga peak. It’s magnificence bore a stark resemblance to divine feeling of spiritual transcendence. And why not, Kanchenjunga is also called as the Sleeping Buddha, for it resembles HIM sleeping and his features show across. Look carefully and you will see the head, prosperous tummy & feet. 🙂

Kanchenjunga Peak

Kanchenjunga Peak

So the first day we whiled around the town, checked out the local places, shopped for some warm clothes, hung out at a local pub ‘Joey’s’ mostly I was with Mr. Shashi Patel, an American Indian from the Bay Area whom I met while strolling around the railway station at Sunset. So after hanging out with him and talking about travel and my experiences across India, we headed back to our respective hotels. Our plan the next day was to catch the view of the sunrise early in the morning at Tiger Hills.

While returning back we decided to stop by at this local place and check out some interesting items that we could purchase. He wanted to take some gifts back home. Something easy to carry and not too much on his pocket as he wanted lots of gifts for all his friends.

Tibetian Woman

Tucking away her earnings…

We began strolling across and started to scan the place for interesting items. There were caps, clothes, strolls, scarves, glares, Darjeeling special Tea and a lot of other interesting items. But what really caught my eye was this old woman, who was pretty occupied within herself. She looked very busy and had a certain aura about herself. She was very bold and mostly her voice was very prominent. Certainly caught my eyes and ears. But that is not what made me go check out what she was selling… I looked at her, she was around 60-65 years old, had sharp features… Her eyes were certainly a lot bigger than others around. She not only spoke in Hindi but also had a sharp way of speaking in English as well. More importantly, she was out there as if she meant business.

We looked at what she was selling and did find it pretty interesting. They were small purses, caps, scarves and strolls… All of them handwoven with a special pattern that they had about themselves. They were excellent pieces of handicraft. Certainly intrigued me and I wanted to buy a few purses for some of my friends and my mom.

So, I decided to take a look at the items on sale and thought of which ones to pick. Mr. Patel also was interested and we told ourselves, let’s buy 10 of these purses together. She will give us a good deal if we take in bulk.

I asked her “How much does this purse cost?”

“Rs. 30,” she replied, while hastily giving money to her previous customers and sorting out her own sets of the products that were bit off the carpet she kept them on.

“We’ll take 10… How much will they cost then?”

“They’ll cost as much as they cost now…”

“But I’m buying in bulk…”

“That doesn’t matter, the cost doesn’t change…” she replied calmly…

We both looked at each other and smiled. Looks like she needed some more incentive probably for us to get a better deal. So my newly found friend picked up some other products and asked for their price… Surprisingly they also were priced at Rs. 30. Except a couple of the items all of them were priced at that amount.

We asked her again, but she wouldn’t budge.

“I won’t change the price for you, If you want to buy you can buy… It’ll sell anyways, if not today, tomorrow. I’ve been making these purses on my own for 30 years… and never have I gone without selling all off every year. Besides, we don’t work off season cause of the cold.” She smiled at us mischievously. 

Handicraft, Tibetian Lady, Tibet, Tibetian Handicraft.

Smiling Away…

While we realized, our deal won’t happen, we both admired her headstrong, entrepreneurial sense of ownership. She was a true businesswoman of sorts and I can’t think but admire her perseverance that at the age of 61, which we found out later in our conversation, she had this energy and level headed and amazing attitude about herself. We got to know that she migrated from Tibet in 1972 and has been making and selling these works of art. She is alone and lives in the city below. Every morning she wakes up at 4 AM, finishes her chores and sets off to come here, by walk with her backpack of items to sell. Once people who come down after viewing the sunrise to shop at her place and more often than not, her inventory gets exhausted by 9.30 AM. If not, she takes the remaining ones back home and then goes to a tea shop that she runs outside her house…

Reminded me of ‘The Steve Jobs’, I was reading that book on the trip, but clearly I could identify her sense of feel and value for quality and niche business value add. Don’t go by the price, but her stubborn yet confident decision to not back out of the price for a product that was of true quality. Something that many wouldn’t hesitate to pay ten or fifteen times the amount if it was a designer product, much like this one and in fact made out of the same material, only added with an elitist price tag… Salute to the Tibetian Tigress! For the beautiful work of art, Thuk Ji Chhe (Thank You in Tibet) 

What do you think about her attitude?

Ritz to Rajmachi – Off-roading Adventure

Foggy Morning

These are one of those trips that you always wish you had taken a while ago, and at the same time, not taken at all… Many a times we’ve been trekking to various destinations and most of the times, we take a car to the base-camp… Earlier it was a bike and now it’s a car, thanks to my friend Swapnil… His Ritz I must say has done a lot of miles in the couple of years that he’s been on the road with it. Long stretch of lands across various states to weekend getaways that have been really bumpy and super sleek at times. From grazing dirt tracks inside villages of Vidarbha to stretching a two day trip all the way to Indore and back to Mumbai.  And of course, the Alibaug, Kashid, Murud-Janjira is something which has become a routine. Lonavala – Tiger Hills is of course a destination which we do most of the times in the monsoon, but this time around we did something else… And of course, this had to be the brainchild of my ever enthusiastic best friend, also my college mate Swapnil himself. For those who don’t know him yet, well, we’ve been friends for over 12 years now and right from college both of us have been auto enthusiasts, me being the lesser one and almost every other time just being on the listening end of his aspirations and stories from various rallies, so much so, that I’ve taken up interest in Formula 1 only cause of our animated conversations and his total interest in the sport which he rubbed on to me way back in 2001.

Most of the times our trips have been adventurous, luxurious, crazy, tiring and bewildering… But none like this. It was a Saturday morning and Swapnil, Mangesh and I decided to leave early in the morning on this trip in his Ritz…

Swapnil & Mangesh

“Let’s take this baby all the way up to the basecamp.” That’s what Swapnil said…

“What?? You really hate your car don’t you?” was my first reaction…

Apparently not… Now this could certainly be a good exercise for Maruti guys to test their vehicles and maybe build an entire campaign around it… Anyone seen the Woodland shoes ad?? 😉

For regular trekkers, they take a 15km hike to the basecamp or most of the times we get people bike it up till the base camp. Of course, the villagers or people who have to go back and forth, might at the most have Jeeps which can take them that far, especially during the rains…

For a Ritz to go up there…. Was quite a task, a task like most others, which we always end up achieving… This is where we went and boy o boy, don’t ask us How??

Bumpy rides, dirt tracks, steep turns and a whole lot of rocks and stones to test us… This was quite a ride. There were uphill and downhill roller coasters on our way, so much so, I couldn’t shoot or take pics. Steady is not what I could expect at all…

Most of the time it didn’t rain throughout our uphill journey and we finally did reach one spot, where there is a small stall. That’s not even the base-camp. A guy usually cooks Maggi, Bhaji-Pav and stocks loads of biscuits and other snacks. Well, since we reached this spot at around 7 AM, we had to wait…

As luck would have it we discovered, there was a small waterfall near this place… But we had to go down to really get below / under the water and it was a downhill slope and had to trek down a few yards to get there… Well…. IT HAD TO BE DONE!

That's where the falls were...

…And when we say ‘IT HAS TO BE DONE’… we 99% of the time mean it…

Well, It had to be done... 😉 so...

So, anyways, that’s just the half of it… We haven’t even got started… Thankfully, by the time we were done with playing around the waterfalls, getting soaked in that foggy morning and enjoying the cold water and by the time we came up… the guy from the hut had opened his shop… What more did we want?

Mr. Kekda Khan

Certainly not this crab to bite us… 😛 Meet Mr. Kekda Khan, who happily posed for my camera.. Add to that he was really enthusiastic when the camera zoomed on to him. So much so he did the Kekda Dance, moving his claws up and down…

Maggi... Never fails you... wherever you go

But yes, eating HOT Maggi early in the morning is certainly what we wanted… Well, that’s what we thought at that time…. We really didn’t know what was in store for us…

So we move ahead and head towards the base-camp… Lo behold… There was this huge rock on the road… Mangesh said it wasn’t there last week. He’s a regular trekker and was there by foot last week. It was a landslide and there was very little space for the car to squeeze through… On the other side of the road was a cliff… and it was also blocked by rocks, if not as huge as the one fallen, at least huge enough for us to make them budge…

“Every problem can be solved…” That’s always our motto when we go out on these adventures…

We tried moving smaller rocks, whichever we could squeeze through and tried to make some space… Well, it was a little better than before, but not enough to let the car go by… If nothing else, the car would just go down the ravine or scrape some metal on the huge rock… Now, that’s something we didn’t want to happen. Add to that, it was a muddy track, so couldn’t quickly skid through that part.

Then we took on the task to move the bigger rocks on the side… Tried sliding it, lifting it… Reminded me of that episode of Dhani Tackles the Globe, where he goes to Scotland and lifts huge rocks as part of a competition. Heck you might even have watched Worlds Strongest Men doing these antics for a living… But we certainly weren’t them and we needed some one else to help us out on this…

What more do you want?? Of course, we needed a few people to help us… There were a couple of guys who came from the other side… the village or the base camp, but they were villagers who were going to work in town… We sure didn’t want their hands dirty 😛

As luck would have it, just like our most other situations, we met a bunch of trekkers who thankfully agreed to help us out… And within a jiffy, we moved most of the huge rocks making enough space for the car to go by…

Between a Rock and a Hard Place...

What happened after that is not for me to tell you in this off-roading chronicle, but certainly this experience was quite different from most of the trips we’ve ever taken. Have you ever been in any such situations?

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Tiger Hills – July 2010

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This trip was another one of our impromptu rides, wake up early in the morning and just head off to Lonavala. That’s how generally we go out. Hop, skip and ride/drive to wherever we want to. So my friend called me up early on a Sunday Morning, and there began our plan. Certainly a Sunday during the rains was one of the best ideas to head up to Tiger Hills. A mist covered foggy mountain and some beer with corn bhajiyas… Couldn’t have asked for a  better Sunday morning. So we head off to the place in his car and picked up his bike as  well. We were about 5 people in the car and 2 on the bike. Splendid weather with rains pouring on us and the misty mountains waiting for our journey to come to a halt at the beautiful location up in the mountains.

One of the best things while going up the Tiger Hills, is the beautiful curvy roads that stretch out and the view that you see is truly something you would want to remember forever. Remarkable one at that. The closer you get to the top, the foggier it gets… the altitude is one thing, the views are another. But most amazing thing is, once you reach on top, you enjoy every second of the beauty of the weather, most importantly the cold and serene waterfalls!

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