Things I learned, places I travelled and mountains I hiked in my Gap Year May,2016~June 2017

I can never be more elated and satisfied with my decision of taking a gap year after my graduation. It was one hell of a year, if i’m being modest. I was bit nervous for not sitting in university placements but I was also sure that I do not want to work for any multinational companies or business related fields. So, I chose to drop out of the placements and give some time to myself. Just imagine studying in school until you were 18 and then you went to college for 4 or 5 years until you were 23 or 24. You definitely deserve to party, relax and think about your decisions for one year, but not too much of it either. After I graduated I went to mountains for a week with my college friends which extended to almost 20 days. During this time period, I travelled to various villages of kasol valley and old manali. After that, I went to adventurous trek to Futtasaur which starts from one of the oldest village in Kullu. I met so many people from different backgrounds; artists, Airforce, Drug Enforcement officials, Engineers, Dancers, Musicians, Writers, Professional Hikers, Businessman etc who had so many stories to share. You can check the detail of my trips in the following links You can read my stories here : –

https://ilushx.wordpress.com/category/travel-and-adventure/
I also went to hampta pass trek just after I hiked futtasaur but I haven’t shared a blog on hampta pass yet. So wait for it yeah. After coming back from a refreshing journey, I started looking for some opportunities in laboratories as I was pretty sure that I want to become a researcher. So I started working in a laboratory as a Research Fellow as I found out that the project was quite interesting. It was to develop the stress tolerant varieties of Pigeon pea crop which is a very important crop for the developing countries because of its economical and nutritional value. Though I did not enjoy my work atmosphere so I left the job after a month and started applying for the Masters and PhD positions and also started planning for my next trip in South India. I had saved like Rs-12000 from my last job and took another 10,000 from my Dad . I booked my tickets to Bangalore where I stayed for a day and the headed to mysore to meet my old friends with whom I met in 2013 while I was working as an Intern in CFTRI, Mysore. By the way Mysore is much much better place to live as compared to Bangalore. Before arriving to Mysore, I took a detour to the Lord Shiva Temple in Nanjangud which is almost 1000 years old. I think its just 23 kms from the mysore and there are always buses running from mysore to nanjangud and vice versa. Then I had to go back to Bangalore to meet my cousins as we had a plan to GO GOA. The mysore-bangalore junction is very beautiful and have many noteworthy locations such as Ramdevbetta hills where one of the most iconic movie in Bollywood- Sholay has been shot. So I went there and met nice people who showed me around the hills which were really beautiful and quite different that mountains I have seen. they dropped me at the railway station of Ramnagar where I had my lunch and boarded the train to Bangalore. Now coming back on Goa, We stayed in Candolim for 5 days and I think its a great place to stay because it was not that crowded even in mid weeks of December which is high time for tourism. Candolim is the best place for relaxation, water sports and party as it is the center point to all the activities. We went to the major happening clubs; LOVE PASSION KARMA and CLUB CUBANA. Goa trip ended amazingly with just playing frisby in the beach, chilling and clubbing. Luckily, I have also visited many religious places which were quite instant and unplanned plans such as Nanjangud and Pushkar. Pushkar is an amazing place with crazy history. There is lake called “Ghat” in Hindi and scientists have not been able to figure out the source of water of this lake till now. Its still a mystery.
I am 23 year old boy who didn’t know how to drive but no big deal. So, I decided to learn driving which didn’t took much time and went on a road trip to Patiala which was also a good experience driving in National Highway for the first time. Now, I have an international driving licence and I can drive all over the Europe. This year involved a lot of learning survival skills which also included swimming. Although, I could learned the basics of freestyle in one month and my coach told me that it takes atleast 6 months to perfect your freestyle. Now I am trying to swim in the waves of FARO BEACH, PORTUGAL.

Stay tuned to more stories.

As they in Portuguese ——-Its not hard to live but its hard to know how to live
“o dificl nao e viver, mas sim, saber viver”

18813300_239824696502586_1658438960394747588_n
Enter a capNanjangud is the small town in Mysore district. The town is famous for the Lord Shiva temple that was built in 9th century by Ganga Rulers and was further renovated by Tipu Sultan. Nanjangud is also known for its banana that has received its geographical indication (GI29). 
18835582_239773756507680_655255363733819552_n
CANDOLIM- GOAAAAAA
18838861_241413419677047_2884089678112031754_n
CITY OF NAWABS- LUCKNOW
18881800_241869766298079_8199801652465858183_n
RAMNAGAR- PLACE WHERE BOLLYWOOD CLASSIC MOVIE SHOLAY WAS SHOT
18920132_241287039689685_753158023741915497_n
PATIALA-PUNJAB
18920426_241062929712096_2507564037441937015_n
MAHASHIVRATRI CELEBRATION- PUSHKAR
18922136_241448486340207_6303919647936533154_n
PUSHKAR GHAT- SCIENTISTS HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIGURE OUT THE EXACT SOURCE OF WATER OF THIS LAKE

FOR MORE PICTURES- YOU CAN CHECK MY INSTAGRAM- @nikunj9x

 

Advertisements

Kasol, Smuggling and Need of legalization

Kasol is one of the few places that cannot satisfy the spirit of an adventurer in a single visit. So, I went to the valley of magical mountains again in the 1st week of December,2016.  I’ll skip straight ahead from the information about the beauty of kasol, malana being a unique tribe and descendants of Greek soldiers etc. On this trip, I met a lot of new people an airforce pilot, college final years, couple of Israelis and localities. It was 10 O clock in the morning and I was walking towards Chalal where I met a man who was in his mid-40s and looked like an experienced person with a lot of stories. Surprisingly, he was one of the officers who had worked with the Kullu drug division and had no problems with Charas. I was curious to know his view of point about the ongoing trends in kasol and he was pretty open with his stories.  He told me that he had hiked in different parts of Parvati valley for months and smoked the best of Charas whereas half of the police officers are not able to complete the tough terrain. The major problem in these mountains is that of the incoming synthetic drugs such as LSD, heroin, cocaine etc from the other parts of India like Goa, Delhi and Punjab. There have been many missing person cases in these valleys due to the consumption of synthetic drugs. He had serious concerns regarding the increased usage and smuggling of synthetic drugs in rave parties and other social events. He said the Himachal Government would have never faced such issues if they had legalised the use of charas. Most parts of Himachali Population are making money through tourism, apple farms and some other exotic crops. But Himachal and other mountain regions are sitting on a gold mine of Charas and marijuana. And the crazy part is that some of the varieties such as malana cream are being sold as 3 times the price of gold in foreign countries. Well I believe that it won`t be surprising for Indians to know that, we already have a long history of cannabis use which has also been mentioned in Vedas and other sacred texts. The Vedas mentioned that cannabis is a source of joy, happiness, losing fear and helps in anxiety. It is also known as favourite plant of lord Shiva who became the Lord of Bhang.

In late 1890s, under British rule a commission was formed to conduct a detailed survey based research on the effect of cannabis on health of the native people. The commission produced six volumes of data and concluded that cannabis has an ancient history among Hindus and is completely harmless. Instead they found out the alcohol is more harmful and moreover prohibition of cannabis will lead to increase use of narcotics. The research done by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission is 100% correct today. Isn’t it?  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-teenage-mind/201106/history-cannabis-in-india. I have explained it with an example in the following text but before that I want to focus on the importance of legalisation.

Why aren’t we legalising it? It shouldn’t be hard to learn from our history that has accepted cannabis since the Vedas period and moreover why are we not learning from western countries that have already legalised the recreational as well as medicinal use of cannabis. In one of the report published, it was found out that the Cannabis market could be worth $50 Billion by 2026. Are we waiting for getting marijuana products from USA just like they got patents and rights on NEEM AND BASMATI RICE. It’s time for the Indian Government to wake up before we lose this billion dollar call. This will be the most famous and popular MAKE IN INDIA product considering the demand Indian cannabis in INTERNATIONAL MARKETS.

Consider the example of Punjab which has been well documented in the movie UDTA PUNJAB. Half of Punjab youth is already struggling with narcotics addiction which is already spreading in Himachal Pradesh. I have seen school kids dealing with drugs openly and among a large percentage of unemployed youth. According to my conversations with youth in Himachal Pradesh the average salary of assistant professor or government employee is 20,000-25,000 who will be working on contract basis for 5 years before getting a permanent letter of appointment. Well that sucks. There are no jobs IT sector, management sector, construction jobs, real estate etc. in Himachal Pradesh and 60% of them are “no use Engineers”. We need to find some alternative and creative ways to create jobs in Himachal Pradesh and other mountain areas to create an additional source of income in addition to tourism. Well, one way is to grow native and exotic crops that can be cultivated at large scale with huge profits and demand in international markets such as wild strawberries, mushrooms, and most importantly Marijuana. Marijuana farming is going to create jobs and massive tax revenues (IN BILLIONS) that can be used to build schools, healthcare programs, hospitals, sustainable infrastructure and clean renewable energy systems etc.

The Mountain of Lakes

In continuation to my first blog. I spent six days in KASOL, visiting different villages and going on small hikes. I had an amazing time just like everyone else  . Sometimes i wonder wherether there is someone who has been here who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their lives here. I stayed even though my friends left for Delhi after six days. I came to the mountains to relax and rejuvenate and take a real break. I went to my cousins place in Kullu who lives near the river stream to plan a hiking trail in KULLU Valley. Luckily, I got a contact from my brother who organised these amazing treks to less explored and desolate hiking spots. He was taking a group to the peak known as FUTTASAUR. So, I took a bus from Kullu and reached the base camp at Haripur,Manali. I met my organiser with whom i bonded very closely and we became the best of friends right from the start. They were living a life with nine dogs and a small apple farm, this sounds like this has been taken right off the pages of a book but trust me its all very real.  I did my first hike to TRIUND in 2013 when I was doing an Internship in Naddi, Dharmashala. That’s a different story, but we can talk about it later.  So, Futtasaur was my first major hike at approximately 14500 ft located in Kullu Valley.  Surprisingly, there were only 3 people in the group along with 5 team members and 2 hiking dogs- Troy and lizzie . The best part of hiking and the adventure is that you always learn many things in a different way. I met a guy who wanted to be an adventure photographer and he came to test his limit and survival threshold.  7th August,2016 was the first day of our hike and all I saw was heavy downpour and usually it’s not advisable to start your trek in this sort of weather conditions. But all the team members were pumped up and had already packed their stuff. Another thing that is not good for hiking is fog, and the fog was so dense that it surrounded and covered whole house. We were just waiting for the rain to stop, so that we could start our hike from Sohail village which is also the oldest village of kullu valley.  Before I begin with my hiking experience, I wanted to tell you the meaning of FUTTASAUR; Saur means lake and Futta is the name of goddess of sohail village, So it’s a lake at 14000 ft which is a very pure and sacred place for all the villagers and They believe that even if a single matchstick or a thread ends up on the lake,it is blown away by the wind or taken up by a bird.

Apart from this congress and some private organisation had proposed a skiing project in this range of Haripur-Futtasaur which was estimated of worth 40,000 crores. They wanted to make this valley a tourism spot just like Switzerland  but it was the opposing party  and villagers who voted negative for this project because of their ritual beliefs which I believe should be respected. Because it is more important to build schools and educate people before building such projects as these projects will never help villagers at a big level. Only government and private organisations will make money out of such projects. I think it was great decision by villagers which has maintained the integrity of the environment in that region.

 

I couldnt wait to start the hike and soon I realised that my feet were getting wet, so I covered it with a plastic cover. We reached Mindua for our first base camp which was a beautiful camping spot surrounded by  Marijuana farms and lush green vegetation. The marijuana of this region is known as Banara cream which is also sold as Malana cream in various parts of Himachal and Delhi. We reached at mindua and set up our camp and waited for the other team members to join us. Well the party started and the dinner was prepared. All we had to do was enjoy the moonlight, cool breeze and eat like kings. The next morning we had fresh tea extracted from the barks of Taxus wallichiana usually found the hills of manali, kullu and Shimla. Locally it is known as Rakhal. The tree has been listed under the endangered species due to illegal smuggling to western country laboratories. The extracts from Rakhal has various anti-therapeutic properties and specially used to make anti-cancer drugs. You can check the further details in this article :- http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/taxus–treat-23274.

After day1, the climate was pretty bad as it was monsoon and we had to walk every day in rain for almost 5-6 hours. But guys hiking during monsoons has it own perks as you can see the million shades of green color like you have never seen before. Its more green and vibrant along with all the different herbs and flowers blossoming with little fog droplets on it. We were walking down the trek and listening to the stories by fellow hikers. I made quite exciting new friends “Tunu”, Joginder, Gangaram who were quite interesting people and had many stories and lessons to share. They told me about Nagshatri “Trillium Govanianum” a small herb easily grown in these mountains preferably in shaded region. It is illegally transported to many parts of the world because of its increasing international demand.The demand of the products obtained from this herb has been constantly increasing and with rise in demand the herb has been already listed in endangered species.  Constant poaching of this drug is a serious global threat which requires the urgent use of advanced conservation strategies.

Note: The smuggling of these endangered herbs are usually done in luxury buses through various routes of Himalayas.

I have many more stories to share which I’ll cover in my subsequent blogs. For now, let me skip ahead  to 4th and 5th day of our trek which were really tough because of the harsh climate. The main hurdle was the constant rain at 10,000 ft till 14000 ft as it was raining for about 10-12 hours/day. It is not easy to walk in heavy rain specially in alpine region. Alpline region is the plane region of the mountain that has no trees and shrubs just like Mount Everest. Just think of hiking the Everest under a strong rain. Ultimately we made our base camp at parkurni at the end of our 4th day where we also met a shephard who told us about this mountain range and short cuts to reach the different lakes in the region. That very day me and tunu went to the lake which was just across the mountain. It was a pretty small lake which looked like a hangout place for grizzly bears. The next day was harder as we had to climb another 1000-1500 ft to reach the lake of FUTTASAUR………….

 

13988190_1415625795120841_7704402311213144544_o