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Ladakh Himalayas Part III: to remote Rangdum and Alchi

In Road Trip, Travel on November 1, 2014 at 10:50 pm
On way to Rangdum

On way to Rangdum

Day 4, September 2, 2014
Kargil to Rangdum (130 km, 7 hours)



I woke up around 6:15 to the gentle sounds of the Suru flowing outside the window.  Another unhurried morning. There was wifi (at a price) at the Zojila Residency, our hotel, and some of us were longing to get connected on a wider bandwidth. The previous night’s instructions to be ready at 8:00am had been interpreted variously as “be ready to move,” “be ready to eat breakfast,” or “generally be around.” At breakfast eggs and toast were the most popular choices. Bhavna took out a stash of artisanal jams she had brought along. [Yes, the ones I make are sooooo much better.] Many rounds of tea later – we were the first ones there and I got to drown a good many cups of tea as people ambled in – we stepped out to line up the cars. Those who hadn’t tanked up the night before, despite Abhey’s requests, drove off to first do that. Read the rest of this entry »


Ladakh Himalayas: through Zozi La to Kargil

In Road Trip, Travel on October 16, 2014 at 8:36 pm



Day 3, September 1, 2014
Sonamarg-Kargil (195km, 6 hours)

I woke up around 6 am to a quietness through which I could hear the Sindh river flowing not far away. The rain had stopped and so had that racket from the downpour onto a metal sheet below. I stepped out to check the view on the other side and found the tops of the mountains still hidden behind thick clouds. Little by little the clouds started to lift to reveal fresh snow on the mountain tops around.

The plan for today was to drive up to Kargil through our first real mountain pass (Banihal Pass was through the Jawahar Tunnel) and we were in no hurry.  There was time to take in the surroundings.  Anand decided to take Vikas’ bicycle for a spin. Bharat went out to find a replacement for the petrol tank-cap for his Gypsy which he seemed to have lost while refilling the previous night. The rest just ambled around doing nothing in particular.

Sonamarg is at an altitude of 2800 m (9,200 ft) and is primarily a tourist town with no permanent settlements.  The hotels shut with the onset of winter.  At the moment, the meadows looked mossy-green and soft.

Sonamarg 01

Fresh snow!

Sonamarg 02

Stop with the construction already!

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Ladakh Himalayas – A Road Trip: Jammu to Sonamarg

In Road Trip, Travel on October 8, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Mid-August I was getting ready to accompany students on a study tour to Cuttak, Odisha.  It is one of the few states of the country that I have never visited. Naturally, there was some excitement.  A week or so before we were scheduled to leave TH casually asked if we shouldn’t go to Ladakh instead.  You don’t just wake up one morning and decide you want to get behind the wheel and take a road trip to Ladakh.  Or, maybe you just do!  It had been on TH’s mind a long time.  Even so, this seemed sudden.  But being the good spouse that I obviously am, I didn’t bat an eyelid, and replied equally nonchalantly, “Yeah, sure.”

The following week the car underwent a thorough service at the garage and the mechanics there assured us that the Maruti SX4 was game for whatever the Himalayas might throw at her.  There was a long list of supplies, food and other items, that had to be procured.  Driving in the Himalayas is not be taken lightly, and you are advised to stock survival rations for at least a couple of days.  The weather is unpredictable and takes a heavy toll on the roads.  It is not unusual to find yourself stranded for the night or longer.  Some of the places on our itinerary were remote and isolated, and we were traveling at a time when the tourist traffic would be past its peak.  We stocked up on non-perishable food items that included some junk-food but also nuts and cheese.  Our survival bags included sunscreen, tow-rope, flashlights, and oxygen canisters.  Winter woolies were dug out and we were good to go.


We’re off to a rainy start!

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A Goan Sojourn

In Eating Out, Goan, Travel on May 29, 2014 at 5:18 pm


I have been traveling a lot the last few months.  About a month ago (or was it two?), one such work-related trip took me to Goa for a week.  Immediately upon arrival it was conveyed to the client that in the interest of the tourism-related nature of our project, it was imperative that we experience authentic Goa as much as possible.  We were to stay in Panjim but our sites criss-crossed the state and there was much opportunity to enjoy the landscape and local food.  I and my colleague Tushar were very lucky to have Sunil and Isha, ethnic Goans to boot, be our companions through the week who guided us through some fabulous Goan lunch menus as well as foodie shopping while making sure we started work early and stayed on the job late.

We got off to a great start, arrive as we did at lunch time.  I don’t seem to have pictures of that first lunch of pomfret fry and cafreal; it was too early in the meeting to whip out the camera at the sight of food I suppose.  We talked about food and Goan rice, and I let it slip that I write a food-blog.

Colva Beach

Many of the sites were by the beach but it was not tourist season yet, and the locals had the beach and the sea to themselves.  There is something about the sun setting over sea that gets to us and pictures are not always able to capture the full magic.

[I pick the thread up again, after a gap of a few (six!) months, and the memories less sharp…]

placemat, O'Coqueiro
placemat, O'Coqueiro Read the rest of this entry »

Much Food and Talk

In Eating Out, Tea Party, This and That, Travel on December 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Teen Deviyan
The three of us at Ugrasen ki baoli, Connaught Place

Manisha, and A and N were here last week and what a food-packed week it ended up being!  I put work aside and for a whole week we just ate, talked with our mouths full, ate some more, drank a little, and walked a lot.  I focused on Kashmiri food at home and we ate out some, crossing off some of the better known Delhi-delights.

Here it starts: kachoris and bedmi poori!

The streets that offer daulat ki chat, the frothy, dew-kissed winter-morning dessert.

Manisha arrived on the last Saturday of November and A and N were here by noon the following day.  They barely got enough time to wheel their bags into the bedroom before we were off on our first foodie trip.  Reeta (Delhi Foodie’s Zone) had graciously agreed  to be our guide through the labyrinth of Old Delhi’s streets!  Read the rest of this entry »

Breakfast at Fifty err… Thirty-Nine

In Eating Out, Travel on October 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Yesterday it was TH’s big 50th birthday and we had a small family get-together.  I had hoped we would go out but my family (primarily my parents and sister) resist going to fancy restaurants and spending good money.  The maid chose this very day to play hookie, so I decided to keep it relatively simple with some of V’s favourite dishes.  The son, now a young man, handled the bar.  Most of the munchies were store-bought; only I ate the   blue-cheese crackers I had laboured over.  To think I went to the trouble when I had so much else to do!

birthday cake

There had to be a cake to mark the milestone, and I baked the Lime Chiffon Cake and gave it a fudge frosting.  For dinner there was Hyderabadi Qabooli with tatziki, and also poori-bhaji.  Those who had room for dessert got kheer.  When everyone had left, we sat chatting with the son into the early hours of the morning.

thirtynine 11 Read the rest of this entry »

Monsoon Tales

In This and That, Travel on September 14, 2013 at 10:28 pm

What a Summer! In a city where Summer is the longest season, this year it seems to have gone by in a blur. The highlights of this season were extended visits from family members living abroad.

First, May through June, it was TH’s brother and kids (we missed you, Aparna!). Despite the heat, and with help in the kitchen (yes, Kumari is back!), I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen. There were old family favourites: poori-bhaji, Punjabi chhole, rajma, dal makhni, idli-sambar, besan-parothe, and newer ones like gavar with kaley vataney, and my original and disarmingly simple, pumpkin kootu. We partied a lot and I introduced the brother-in-law to my peanut sambal, fresh salsa, and roti-chips. When cooking got too much, we trooped out for food nostalgia to Karnataka Sangha for tiffin, and to Bercos for Indian-Chinese. Nathu’s chhole bhature (Bengali Market) have fallen from grace; Bikanerwala is the ‘new’ find.

The family drove up to Ramgarh for a short break. They (I stayed back to house-sit) spent two lazy days at a cottage there feasting their eyes on the peach and apricot-laden trees. It was only natural that they bring back boxes-full! The peaches were ripe and juicy and needed to be consumed right away. I made a huge batch of jam. If only I had thought of freezing some like Manisha did! Yet, in the end, I hardly had any left; it was all picked up by family and friends! I hope you are all enjoying it! The children also got their fill of aloo paranthas for breakfast at the cottage and at highway dhabas.

Ramgarh 2013

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A Road Trip

In This and That, Travel on January 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

How quickly this year is going.  January is almost over already!  But there is some cold left in this winter yet. It has been one of the coldest we have had in years with minimum temperatures touching the freezing point at the outskirts of Delhi.  I must say I love a good winter.  It is good excuse for all the rich food: sarson ka saag, gajar ka halwa, and paranthas stuffed with the best of winter vegetables!  With the son back – yes, he is home for his internship – I, in the best traditions of mothers the world over, am trying to put some meat on those bones.

As 2012 was drawing to a close, we undertook a cross-country drive.  The initial idea was to pick our son who was finishing up his college studies at Manipal.  In response to Murphy’s laws, things suddenly got busier at work and the planned vacation time had to be trimmed a little.  Pune was decided as the meeting point.  Yes, we drove all the way to Pune from Delhi, further on to Aurangabad, and then back to Delhi by car.  My American friends and readers may not think much of it but to drive long distances by car is definitely not the norm in India.  But TH loves to drive and had been hoping to do such a trip for a long time.  I overcame my dread of Indian highway driving and relented.  To my relief, I found much orderliness on the roads and we were none the worse for the two-day, 24 hour, 1600 km drive.  Kudos to TH ( I drove a mere few kilometers, but got halfway through my knitting project!).

Amer Fort
Amer Fort, Jaipur

Udaipur Lake Palace
Udaipur Lake Palace

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Simbly South!

In Low Fat, south Indian, Travel, Vegetarian on April 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Malpe Beach

Talk about signing up for more than your fair share!  I am an adjunct faculty for a Grad program at a college nearby but ended up with full-time teaching load this semester.  The work load in the office stayed unchanged which translates into ‘busy’ and is reflected in the woeful frequency of posts here the past two years.  Factor in the absence of any kitchen help and you get the picture.  But there must be a silver lining, surely?

I had made a case last time that I was better off without the ‘help’.  Well, I think the fact that I was able to handle the additional work load was in no small way because I did not have to supervise the cooking and cleaning downstairs. In the past four months we have eaten out no more than we normally do; perhaps, even less.  In fact, the folk at Andhra Bhavan might be wondering if all was well.  We have resorted to a meal of bread-and-butter on very few occasions.  The family has had to compromise on the freshness of their roties since I firmly believe they (roties, not the family) are not worth the trouble of the clean-up involved, twice a day.  I usually cook enough roties for two meals and sometimes, with the right accompanying dishes that are best with rice, the leftovers get stretched into a third meal.  Otherwise, I feel our meals have more variety, are fresher (except for the roties!), and there is less waste as I use up ingredients before they spoil.

Lest you think it has been all work and no play let me tell you that in 2012 we have already managed two holidays!  The last week of January found us in Rajasthan walking the gorgeous dunes of Jaisalmer.  Yes, it was the same group that did that arduous hike to the Valley of Flowers five years ago; a bit older, none the wiser.  It was a bit hectic and we have resolved that the next trip together will be to a spa – a luxurious spa, not one of those detox ones where they near-starve you – and just let our hair hang down.

That is precisely what TH and I did early this month when we visited the son, now in his third year at college.  This year he has opted out of the college hostel and is trying out apartment-living with two classmates.  It is gladdening to watch him deal with the mundane and the interesting aspects of living on one’s own and sharing space with others with different backgrounds.  While A is a carnivore, both his roommates are vegetarian; one will eat eggs while the other is a vegan and an animal-right activist to the extent that even roaches get protection!  I wonder what they think of A and his ways!

Kapi, fresh South Indian filter coffee Read the rest of this entry »

A Persimmon Autumn

In Preserves, Travel, Vegetarian on November 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons For all my extra time and planning for Divali, I got far less done than usual! I had forgotten that one of the days I was counting as a bonus was actually the day I teach from 9 to 5! But it was not a completely lost cause. The huge cauldron of chiwda I made kept all happy. The ladoos turned out well as always and there were enough to last until Sunday! The son’s stash is all packed and ready to be mailed. I know, I procrastinate there as well! But to him Divali means chakli, which I am yet to make. I plan to get to it this weekend and also plan to record the process here before I lose the precious family recipe.

The mountains!The mountains already!

I would have gotten to the chakli surely this past weekend but TH, almost on the spur of the moment, decided enough was enough and it was time to take the car on a long drive. Off we were early the morning after Divali. There was hardly any traffic to speak of all the way from Delhi to Narkanda! I have promised myself more such holidays every year! We left home at 6am, and at just 11:00 we got our first glimpse of the mountains. We did stop for a breakfast of tandoori aloo paranthas and chai at a wayside dhaba at around 9:00.  I hadn’t visited Shimla so we took a midday break there for a couple of hours.  The Mall is a great place to walk forbidden as it is to all traffic.  Smoking is not permitted in public spaces in Shimla making the Mall a great place to hangout. Read the rest of this entry »

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