Inside the Trans-Siberian Express!

Much like journeys on any long distance train, travelling on the Trans-Siberian express also tends to get tedious and mundane. Sure you can talk to the local travellers to get to know their country and culture  better or fellow travelers from Europe and Australia (mostly the former) and swap stories. But the curiosity element soon wears off and the train journey becomes just a mode of transportation to get from one place to the next. Your time, though, will be well spent between engaging with curious trainee train conductors trying to test their English on you and looking for the empty charger outlets to recharge your phone’s dying batteries in the corridor.

Looking outside the window - Mongolia's grasslands.
Looking outside the window – Mongolia’s grasslands.
The train at a station - Russian side
The train at a station – Russian side

However, the vast expanses of Siberian Russia, the steppes of Mongolia and rustic Chinese villages will keep you company outside the train window. Just remember to load up your iPod (or whatever MP3 player it is popular in your part of the world) with your favorite music and pack your Kindle for times when you are bored chatting up and simply want some alone time. Packing a pair of earplugs and eye patches are beneficial too.

The train - Mongolian landscape
The train chugs along the Mongolian landscape
Outside the train window - China's mountain region
Outside the train window – China’s mountain region

Here are some pointers on what to expect on board and life on the train in general.

The train at a station
The train at a station

The conductors (Provodnitsa)

These are the conductors of your train. After checking your tickets before letting you inside the train, they also double up as keepers of the compartment serving you your goody bag as soon as you board. You will also see them sweeping your coupes, cleaning the toilets and helping you with anything related to your travel (if you manage to get across the language barrier that is. It’s not that bad, there is usually an English speaking Russian in your compartment invariably.).  The conductors are usually sweet, elderly babushkas (older women) or bald, ageing men with stained yellow teeth from years of smoking. But sometimes you do find young twenty something calling the shots. They are summer interns, as I understood from Alex a 19 year old who was the conductor in my compartment once, who would persistently want to have a conversation with me although we couldn’t understand a single word of what each other was saying.

The Providinsta's taking a smoke break.
The Provodnitsas taking a smoke break.
A providnsta checking tickets.
A Provodnitsa checking tickets.

The food

You are given a brown paper bag filled with plastic cutleries, bottled water, and coffee / tea sachets on Russian trains. One meal is also provided to you for free oftentimes with your train ticket and you can choose to have it according to your wish (lunch or dinner). Just let the conductor know. Food and alcohol in the restaurant cars are slightly steeply priced but not exorbitant altogether. The number of times I visited the restaurant car, I found it mostly empty with the waiters watching Hollywood movies on their mobile devices.

The brown welcome bag you get in Russian trains.
The brown welcome bag you get in Russian trains.
Your goody bag has this!
Your goody bag has this!
The restaurant car
The restaurant car

Train etiquette:

  • It is considered polite to roll up your blankets, pillow covers and towels and return it to the conductors before your stop arrives.
Mongolian women eating pine nuts in the train
Mongolian women eating pine nuts in the train
Russia - inside the train
Russia – inside the train
  • You are not expected to tip in the restaurant car. In fact, tipping anywhere in Russia is not considered mandatory. You tip if you like the services (usually 10%)
Beijing - Ulan Batar - Moscow
Beijing – Ulan Batar – Moscow
Changing of wheelbase at the China - Mongolia border
Changing of wheelbase at the China – Mongolia border
  • The train compartments are generally populated with locals. Even if they travel with their children, you can see that the Russian children are remarkably well behaved and are not annoying. On the other hand, European backpackers in their twenties (especially when they travel in groups) can be exceptionally loud. Don’t be that gang. Nothing is annoying than your loud laughter piercing above the train’s quite at 10 in the night.
A train replica
A train replica
Train at Ulan Ude
Train at Ulan Ude
  • Smoking is not allowed in the train but you are free to smoke in the platforms as soon as the train stops.
Smoke dried Omul fish for sale on the platforms
Smoke dried Omul fish for sale on the platforms
At the Russia - Siberia border.
At the Russia – Siberia border.

Are you planning to take the Trans-Siberian express? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pictures courtesy: Lars Soholm.

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Festival of flowers – hiking Sandakphu in Rhododendron season!

I don’t know (or believe) heaven exists but if it does, I’d like the road leading to its gate be littered with flowers. And I’d like those flowers be rhododendrons. They might not stand a chance against the daffodils and lotuses of the world but I have come to like rhododendrons because they remind me of the hills. The rugged, frosty and hard to tame Himalayan peaks. In crimson red, fearless pink and pearly white they seem to challenge the mundane green of the hills when they are in bloom.

It is a fantastic sight to see hundreds of these trees in bloom.
It is a fantastic sight to see hundreds of these trees in bloom.

Before I left on the Sandakphu trek, I stayed in a Nepali border village called Jowarbhari near Sukhiapokri that overlooks pretty mountains and witnesses spectacular sunrises.

The village of Jowarbhari on the Nepal border
The village of Jowarbhari on the Nepal border
A vegetable garden and the skeletal support for climbers and twiners.
A vegetable garden and the skeletal support for climbers and twiners.

Each year, starting late January until mid June more than a hundred species of rhododendrons bloom in the eastern Himalayan region that straddles between India and Nepal. The rhododendron blooms render a feisty tone to the otherwise green forest canopy. Also found in the bloom season in this region are the stately white magnolias and the poisonous cobra lilies that strikingly resemble a cobra’s hood. Called Gurash in the local language, rhododendrons are also distilled into a local brew called rhododendron wine – a strong tasting liquor with an aftertaste of the flower.

Cobra lilly
Cobra Lilly
The white rhododendron blossoms
The white rhododendron blossoms
The crimson Rhododendrons
The crimson Rhododendrons
The pathway littered with Rhododendron flowers
The pathway littered with Rhododendron flowers
Rhododendron Dalhousie
Rhododendron Dalhousie

I went on a trek to Sandakphu in April 2015 and saw rhododendrons in bloom all along the trail. Rhododendron is also the national flower of Nepal, a country whose borders are often crossed during the course of the trail. The 50km trek, done in 3 – 4 days, culminates in a view point from where the Kanchenjunga and even the Everest would be visible on a clear day – a feat I was fortunately able to achieve. The trek also traverses through tiny mountain villages – some of them comprise of only two families (like Tonglu) and provide accommodation and food for the trekkers in this route.

Views enroute Sandakphu
Views en route Sandakphu
A house at Tonglu village
A house at Tonglu village
A bhutia puppy
A bhutia puppy

Staying in mountain villages you get to experience the fluidity of international borders (India and Nepal in this instance). The silver pine trees and the alpine meadows notwithstanding I was also tantalised by the very possibility of spotting a red panda. Only that I didn’t. We hiked through the Singalila National Park where the promise of spotting a red panda in the thick bamboo forests loomed large.

Nepali men selling piglets.
Nepali men selling piglets.

After three days of trekking in the pissing rains and dense fog, I’ve almost lost hope of seeing anything as I reached Sandakphu. But unpredictably, as is customary in the mountains, the weather cleared up on the last day of the trek despite the dismal fog and wheezing rains the previous night. And I woke up to a glorious sunrise lighting up the entire range of Kangchenjunga, Kumbakarn, Simbhu, Pandim, Norsing and Sinni Alsu. Not to mention, I also got a peek of the Everest.

A misty trail en route Sandakphu
A misty trail en route Sandakphu where the promise of spotting a red panda looms large
Sun rises above Sandakphu
Sun rises above Sandakphu
View from Sandakphu at dawn. Kanchenjunga can be seen
View from Sandakphu at dawn. Kanchenjunga can be seen.

Have you been on the Sandakphu trek? Don’t be shy. Leave a comment and start a conversation with me. We could bond over travel, you know. Follow me on Instagram and like my Facebook page for more updates and to keep in touch more often. PS: I took this trip with http://www.tripwizard.co.in. Phone: + 91 9749630978.

Lessons in travel – After being (an almost) nomad for a year!

I hate to say it but this is going to sound familiar. I quit my job a year ago to travel. (There I said it.) Partly to satisfy my wanderlust and partly to gain travel experiences so I can write about it. I wanted to develop a mutually agreeable relationship with my travelling and writing. Looking back, I mostly have achieved what I set out to do. I have been travelling considerably well in the past year and have been published as often as I’d like to be. However, what I did not think about this whole plan is whether it is a sustainable model for my livelihood. Now I know it as clear as coconut water that it most certainly is not. I am still mostly burning through my finances hoping to figure out a viable plan for life sooner (hopefully not later) than I go broke. I pacify myself by saying that we were not born with a plan! And I am not exactly a nomad. I do live in a house, albeit spend much less time in it than I ever used to. Fortified by the travels in the past year, I feel I have suddenly become eligible to dish out some travel gyan. Go on, read and let me know if you agree or disagree with any of these.

You don’t need A LOT of money to travel

Who am I kidding? You do need money to travel. The stress here is on ‘A LOT.’ No, you do not need a lot of it. The secrets to save money are of course to couchsurf, stay in hostels, use public transportation and eat street food. Additionally, I also sift through my network to see if I can find anyone related to the place that I am visiting. Perhaps a friend or a friend’s friend could be of help. They have been of help for me. I have stayed with them and they have provided me with insider tips on where to go and what to do.

A bunch of teenagers in Inle Lake, Myanmar
A bunch of teenagers enjoying a boat ride in Inle Lake, Myanmar

The best experiences are had when you have fluid plans

I am increasingly ditching the guidebook wielding, well-planned route to travel. Partly because I am lazy but also because I discovered that such unplanned trips have the potential to surprise you. Recently I went on the Sandakphu trek only because I had the time in hand and decided to play it by the ear. Trekking in the wheezing rain amid a burst of bright rhododendron flowers, straddling between Nepal and India, that trek turned out to be among the memorable experiences I had this year.

En route Sandakphu trek
En route Sandakphu trek

Working while travelling is easier than you think (WiFi is also easy to come by)

I have turned in articles, written blog posts and met deadlines without a glitch while travelling. I have found WiFi at the oddest of places. For instance, in Loikaw, East Myanmar, the internet was so fast I could even catch up on my latest episodes of Better Call Saul and Broad City.

A Sri Lankan tea plucker
A Sri Lankan tea plucker

You’re never going to have enough money. Like ever.

I didn’t have to tell you this but hey we all need a push, don’t we? It is a fine thought to want to have enough money in your account before taking a break to travel. Our salaries are never going to make us millionaires.  Ever. The ideal way to do it is to decide upon a realistic bank balance. To achieve that, you might have to give up on a few movie night outs / dinners / shopping and so on and so forth. You get the drift.

Monsoons in Coorg
Monsoons in Coorg

You make friends even if you are an introvert

Here is a confession. I am an introvert. You might know me as a jolly good fella but I bet I needed some ice breaker before I became your friend. During my travels, I have found conversations happening with amazing fluidity with strangers. When you travel everyone is a stranger and everyone is willing to strike a conversation with you. People are nice and more importantly, they don’t bite.

A shy child in Kalap, Uttrakhand
A shy child in Kalap, Uttrakhand
Two introvert Chitals in Kanha, MP
Two introvert Chitals in Kanha, MP. How do I know they are introverts? I guessed 😀

Sometimes side trips can be great

Recently, after a two-week long trip to Arunachal, I along with my friend decided a little detour on our way back to visit the gibbon sanctuary in Jorhat, Assam. Watching those gentle creatures swing from branch to branch gracefully in the wild is the most adorable thing I have ever seen. Also, it helped that they had silver eyebrows.

Hoolock gibbon in Jorhat, Assam
Hoolock gibbon in Jorhat, Assam

Even the unlikely place has interesting parts

Recently, I was in Bihar tracing the Buddha trail and visiting the buddhist monuments peppered across what is the most underdeveloped state in India. If you manage to get beyond the notorious traffic, the blaring horns and the killer instinct of the drivers on its road, Bihar has some interesting archaeological sites to offer.

Choti Dargah, Maner Sharif, Bihar
Choti Dargah, Maner Sharif, Bihar

Every experience, good or bad, teaches you something

In Bagan, Myanmar, children are enterprising. They are poor and they need to make a quick buck to survive. “Where you come from,” a little boy asked me at a pagoda. He showed me his currency collection, from different parts of the world, and asked me if I had the Indian currency. He had a ten rupee note but he wanted one of a higher denomination. I obliged and gave him a hundred that I had. He whisked away happily. A little later, at a different pagoda, another little boy came up to me with the same request. I realized I was conned. But what other options do these children have? They are so crushingly poor that they have to employ devious ways to make money. Talk about starting young.

A child at Hunnas Giriya, Sri Lanka
A child at Hunnas Giriya, Sri Lanka

Every sunrise is worth waking up to

As dawn breaks, the day stirs to life. Forget the fact that the soft golden light of the day break gives you incredible pictures, it is also a unique part of the day to people watch. There is a certain mellow energy that thrums up to life as the day starts and it is worth experiencing.

A sadhu in Varanasi at sunrise
A sadhu in Varanasi at sunrise

Trust me, you will hate coming home

Of late, I have started to dread the thought of coming home. The stillness of my house doesn’t excite me anymore. The familiar smells and visions of my house is supposed to comfort me but it is increasingly not. I don’t know if it is a sign that I am going to pack my bags and hit the road permanently, but trust me constant travelling will make you not want to come home. Because, you know, home is only a feeling. As long as you feel home wherever you are!

Going home, Myanmar
Going home, Myanmar

Have you been travelling for a long time now? Have you experienced any of this? Leave a comment and let me know.

Remembering the Kochi – Muziris Biennale 2012

The second Kochi – Muziris Biennale, the contemporary art festival, has been kick started recently in Kochi, Kerala, India. The festival runs from December 12, 2014 to March 29, 2015. Spread across 8 venues in Fort Kochi, this year’s festival will feature 94 artists from 30 different countries. Themed Whorled Explorations, the biennale will “bring together sensory and conceptual propositions that map our world referencing history, geography, cosmology, time, space, dreams and myths.” according to its website.

I attended the first biennale held in 2012 at the same venues and came back with some interesting images for a post. But I did not have a blog back then and posting these in Facebook seemed like a disservice to these complex renditions. Here are a few of these images since I think blogs elicit a bit more discerning audience.

‘Ways of Seeing’ by Vivek Vilasini

Vivek Vilasini’s works (and their titles, more so) seem pretty self-explanatory without a synopsis. Here, the artist explores the duality of perception through these images.

Ways of seeking - Vivek Vilasini
Ways of seeking – Vivek Vilasini

‘The Last Supper – Gaza’ by Vivek Vilasini

Yet another work that depicts the famous Last Supper painting but in an extremely unlikely setting.

The last supper gaza by Vivek Vilasini
The last supper gaza by Vivek Vilasini

‘Veni, vidi, vici – I came, I saw, I conquered’ by L.N. Tallur

Synopsis: Conquest is a basic human characteristic. At a macro level, history of mankind is full of conquering of the land, its being and its possessors. At a micro level, it is an attempt of conquer death, hunger and ageing. Hatha Yoga is the Yoga (union) of Ham (vital life force) and Tham (mental force). Hatha Yoga teaches how to conquer hunger, thirst, and sleep; how to overcome the effects of heat and cold; how to gain perfect health and cure disease without using drugs; how to arrest the untimely decay of the body resulting from the waste of vital energy; how to preserve youth even at an age of one hundred…

Vedi Vidi Vinci - L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci – L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci - L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci – L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci - L N Tallur
Vedi Vidi Vinci – L N Tallur

‘Untitled’ by Sun Xun

The Malayalam phrase reads ‘sathyathinu tolvi matram’ – loosely translated as ‘truth only loses.’

Untitled by Sun Xun
Untitled by Sun Xun

‘Untitled’ by Subodh Gupta

Synopsis: The boat suggests notions of migration and survival, experienced most acutely by the deprived masses of the society, which feature prominently in several past works of the artist. When the familiar world and home ceases to be what we know it to be, then the natural instinct of man compels him to convert that piece of boat into his home.

Untitled by Subodh Gupta
Untitled by Subodh Gupta

‘Untitled’ by M.I.A

Yes, she is a rockstar artist. True to her personality, this installation consisted of ‘ten brightly colored, 8 foot long print collages, framed with custom-built mirror mosaics. Built up of layers of saturated, digital colors and reflective, light-catching surfaces, the works feature 3D images of parrots, jungle foliage and gemstones, layered with photographs of crowds, children and cars.’ Totally multi-colored, totally M.I.A.

Untitled by M.I.A
Untitled by M.I.A
Untitled by M.I.A
Untitled by M.I.A

‘Tug of War’ by Jalaja

Duality in human identity. In Jalaja’s words: “Singly, person gains vitality; his emotions and aspirations become central to us all. When we look at him in a wider context, he is just part of a queue, a mob.”

Tug of war by Jalaja
Tug of war by Jalaja

‘The Sovereign Forest by Amar Kanwar’

Synopsis: The Sovereign Forest attempts to reopen discussion and initiate a creative response to our understanding of crime, politics, human rights and ecology. The installation seeks help from film, books and multiple media of various dimensions.

The sovereign forest by Amar Kanwar
The sovereign forest by Amar Kanwarf

 

‘The Ship of Tarshish’ by Prasad Raghavan

Synopsis: The Ship of Tarshish, while a Biblical reference, illustrates the essential deceptiveness and darkness of man’s heart. It is evil and self-seeking and in its wake are conflict and slavery. They (the British) came bearing their spiritual greatness and left bearing the wealth of the conquered.

The ship of Tarshish by Prasad Raghavan
The ship of Tarshish by Prasad Raghavan

‘Fado music in reverse’ by Robert Montgomery

“The strange new music of the crying songs of the people we left behind mixing as your boat touches stone here as my new bones touch your bones.” This poem, composed by Robert himself, is about “exile in light on the sea-facing facade of Aspinwall House.”

Fado music in reverse by Robert Montgomery
Fado music in reverse by Robert Montgomery

‘Erase’ by Srinivas Prasad

Synopsis: At the end of the viewing period the cocoon is set ablaze at night in a ritual that destroys the structure along with the thoughts, memories and confessions uttered within. All remnants of the construction are destroyed leaving nothing behind except sand.

Erase by Srinivas Prasad
Erase by Srinivas Prasad

‘Cloud for Kochi’ by Alfredo Jaar

Synopsis: The texts are written in reverse making them unreadable but poetic signs. By looking at their reflection in the water, they become readable. A fragment from one of the most beautiful poems ever written in any language: Kalidasa’s Cloud Messenger, choosing the segments related to water and clouds, and ideally locate these texts on the wall in the shape of a cloud. On one side, the text is in Sanskrit. On the other side in English.

Cloud for Kochi by Alfredo Jaar
Cloud for Kochi by Alfredo Jaar

‘Celebration in the Laboratory’ by Atul Dodiya

Synopsis: The photo installation Celebration in the Laboratory celebrates some of the contributors who have made Indian modern and contemporary art significant.

Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya
Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya
Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya
Celebration in the laboratory by Atul Dodiya

’72 Privileges’ by Joseph Semah

Synopsis: The story of the copper plates tells us about the 72 privileges that were granted to the Jewish and Christian communities by the last king of the Chera dynasty, Cheraman Perumal.

72 Privileges by Joseph Semah
72 Privileges by Joseph Semah

Miscellaneous Wall Arts

A wall art
A wall art
Another wall art
Another wall art

Are you going to the Biennale being held this year in Kochi? Leave a comment.

Suru Valley in pictures

This year’s tiny window in which Ladakh is open to tourists is fast shutting. Have you ticked off Ladakh from your bucket list yet? Visiting Ladakh is indeed a life-altering experience (my first published article for a major publication came after my Ladakh trip). The sheer wilderness of its landscapes, the endearing people and the way life is lived in that cold desert, its gompas, its animals and many more aspects of Ladakh will leave you asking for more.

Suru Valley is one of the less explored regions in Ladakh. If your plan includes a road trip from Leh to Srinagar (which I insist you should do), pop Suru in your plans. Do not forget to visit the Rangdum monastery while you are there.

Rugged roads - Suru Valley
Rugged roads – Suru Valley
Rugged roads and the valley  - Suru Valley
Rugged roads and the valley – Suru Valley
Craggy mountain roads
Craggy mountain roads
A glacier-fed lake
A glacier-fed lake
A Himalayan flower
A Himalayan flower
Himalayan flower
Himalayan flower
Suru river
Suru river
Monks in training - Suru valley
Monks in training – Suru valley
The Rangdum Monastery
The Rangdum Monastery
The glacier stream hosts greenery
The glacier stream hosts greenery

Have you been to Suru? Leave a comment.

Kali river chronicles – offbeat in Karnataka

Hanakon: I have very clear memory of articulating the word to the mini-bus conductor in Karwar before boarding the rattling mass of automobile that is somehow, clutching its life in its hands, speeding down the narrow main road. I see signboards for Canacon and not of Hanakon and I suddenly grow wary – is it Canacon the bus is heading to? The dreary youngster of a conductor proves fractious, maintaining a sullen expression as if to avoid conversation with strangers. It could be the heavy-eyed, foggy morning on which he is forced to work when the entire world is still wriggling inside its sheets.

mongrove walkway
mongrove walkway

I call Diwan, chief instructor at the Riveredge where I am headed and confirm my navigational orientation.  The bus drops me off at Hanakon, so infinitesimal a village wedged somewhere along the Karnataka – Goa – Maharashtra border, even Google maps chose to ignore it. As I try to make sense of my coordinates to reach the resort, I – a seemingly lost, lone stranger become a subject of curiosity for the villagers on that uneventful morning.

the cottage

But they are friendly, suggesting shortcuts. “Look for Rajesh’s house. He works for the resort, he will take you,” the shopkeeper says. Rajesh and his house prove elusive but I continue walking and increasingly meet with head bobbing and lip pouting signifying lack of information. A middle aged man working on his field helpfully hands me a staff warning of stray dog nuisance. After about fifteen minutes of ambling around, I stumble upon a neglected wooden pathway built across the mangrove bushes leading to what seemed like civilization.

I amble further along the thicket of mangroves, lined on either side with stilted cottages and Diwan appears from his quarters with a loud call of welcome. I was shown my cottage whose bedside window opens to the mangrove duplicating a tree-house effect while the front door to the backwaters. In the following nights, I would wake up listening to the nocturnal movements of the forest – a falling twig, scampering of some animal, a cat or a snake may be – but too cagey to peep out into the darkness. The distance to my cottage from the dining area and access to it in the night also ensured that I constantly fear of accidentally stepping over a snake earning its wrath and a resultant swipe – or worse – a mouthful meal for a python.

Kayaking by the kali
Kayaking by the kali

Now though Diwan insists I take a kayak ride. He also adds that the water is very deep in some places and thinks I should not carry my camera. I persist. I slip into the kayak, with the help of Avinash, an ex-manager at the property, who spiritedly agrees to kayak with me. The ebb and flow of Kali’s backwaters has created a smattering of habitable islands with fields of paddy and vegetables cultivation.

The heaviness of the sunless, hazy day weighs down on me and I fall back on my paddling. Avinash is a spot in the distance framed by the huddling peaks of Western Ghats and the low, sluice gates of the river. Tiny kingfishers, cormorants and terns dart across looking to catch the fish leaping out of the still water. I slowly tire myself out and let the kayak bob in the water. That hard slog is thankfully supplemented with a meal that constitutes of fish fry and spicy pepper chicken.

The horizontal depletion of my resources is only complemented by the vertical ones, just the next day. On an extended trek through dense forests, Diwan takes me rock climbing. He comes equipped with sturdy shoes but omits the crucial detail about the shoes to me – I am in my hiking sandals designed for flat surfaces. ‘It’s ok sir, I have taken women for rock climbing with children in hand,’ he tells me as a way of assuaging my concerns. ‘Yeah but I am sure they had their shoes on,’ I think in my head.

At the sight of the steep precipice that was once a waterfall, my heart falls skipping several beats. I tell him I am not very fond of heights, sugar coating my acrophobia. But he is not around to respond. Rubbing climbing chalk in his hands, he is free-climbing with the orange rope hanging from his waist that he drops to me as a climbing rope, scaling the rock and fastening the rope in a tree. I wear my harness on with the help of the assistant, hook myself to the rope and begin my ascent clumsily.

Kayaking in the Kali river (pic: Diwan Singh)
Kayaking in the Kali river (pic: Diwan Singh)

‘Don’t use your knee, hold on to the rock,’ I hear instructions from above and below. My sandals threaten to slip me up but I scramble, hold on to dear life and tiny rock faces. In this manner, after what seems like hours, I reach the summit amid much encouraging hoo-ha. I can only feign a smile. Cautious to not look down, I rapidly oblige to Diwan’s instructions on rappelling down.

rock climbing
rock climbing

Are you still scared of heights, sir? Diwan asks me after the entire process is over. I do not bother to explain that one threatening ascend is not enough to ward off my fear of heights. Despite its non-existence in my imaginary bucket list, rock climbing (or scrambling) becomes the one thing I can easily add and tick off in quick succession. Soon after though, as we trek back to the main road over stories of bear attacks amid cackling of hornbills and the whoosh of breeze that rips the forest’s hush, my mood shifts; I gamely listen on.