Category Archives: Panorama images

Down in Lansdowne

Originally known as, Kaludanda, after Kalun (Black) and Danda (Hill) in the local language, Lansdowne was founded and named after the then Viceroy of India, Lord Henry Lansdowne in 1887.

IMG_1164Today, Lansdowne is a cantonment town in Pauri Garhwal district of  Uttarakhand and houses the command office of the famous Garhwal Rifles of the Indian Army.

At an elevation of 4600 ft, Lansdowne presents a unique choice of a hill station still in its pristine glory. However this may deter those who would want all the amenities of a comfortable holiday.

It was a three day getaway to this place with family and the sights of this place that relaxed my mind.

This is one of the signs you cannot afford to miss if you are driving on your own (or like us you might end up a little lost).

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The first thing that meets the eye are unending blue pine forests and thick oak trees.

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After a refreshing time in the resort we headed out for the touristy places. First there was the War Memorial, at the Parade Ground of the Garhwal Rifles Center. The Regimental Museum (also called the Darwan Singh Sanghralaya), houses artefacts from the beginning of the Regiment. No photos were allowed of course 😦 only this one of the entrance.

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We then headed to the two churches that Lansdowne is known for:

St. Mary’s Church was was built by Colonel AHB Hume in 1896 and has been restored now by Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre.

st marys church hdr pano2-2 Pre-independence photographs and an audio-visual display of the Regiment’s history can be viewed at this place.

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St. John’s Church is a Roman Catholic Church situated on the mall road. St. John’s Church is the only Church of worship in Lansdowne.

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Experimented with a bit of HDR to get the feel of the church interiors

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The guest book there appeared like a divine list in the light of the window … 🙂

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The only place that offers a bit of the usual refreshment is the Garhwal Mandal Rest house.

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For me this place, was a set straight out of a horror flick!

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Fortunately, the GMVN is constructing new wooden cottages which I plan to visit if I make this trip again.

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Tip n Top (aka Tiffin Top) is a vantage point that promises both views of the sunrise and sunset, but which also has too many people vying for space.

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Because of a technical malfunction in my car I could not wait till sunset and had to head to the local market to get a puncture removed from the tyre.

The evening was spent at Bhulla Taal (Little Brother Lake) which is maintained by the Garhwal Rifles.

IMG_1075The serene waters and the colourful paddle boats were invitation enough for me to exercise my legs and spend the time with the ducks.

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Bhulla Taal has its fair share of wildlife, and these guinea pigs kept my little son in splits.

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But the best part of the holiday for me was spending time in the balcony of the resort letting in the panoramic view around.

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The tea they made there was unmatched to any I tasted before!

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Got a few stills of the birds too…

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The evening walk too were fantastic photo ops…

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…. and there was enough time to fool around with the camera settings to get a bit artsy

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And these are a few miscellaneous shots that bear a mention… 


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Three days and a lung full of fresh air later, it was time to get back to the grind!

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Kasiga@Dawn

The Kasiga School announced a cross country run for the students and I was dreading the moment because I was to be on duty at 5:30 am on a Sunday morning!

But when I reached the point where the run was to be flagged off I pointed my camera to the sky and captured some breathtaking moments of the the colours of dawn.

5:30 am – Blue skies at the entrance gate of Kasiga School

6:10 am – Sacred Dawn … the temple and the sun

7:10 am – The sky is ablaze

And here’s the proverbial early bird…

Next time, no cribbing about getting up early!

Ethereal Landscapes

Another drive up to Mussoorie over this weekend. And as we sat lazily watching the clouds go by… This was another of those moments where the landscape looked the same (ie. something I have clicked all too often), yet I wondered how could I capture it through a different lens.

What turned out was indeed a sight to behold!

A rainbow for the teachers

Teacher’s day at the Kasiga School was a memorable one for me… not only because the students didn’t allow me to teach in any class I went to, or that they surprised me with a shower of confetti when I switched on the fan in one of the classrooms or the tiny handmade cards that I got from so many. All this was proof that being a teacher is indeed such a noble profession. And while I walked back home the heavens had something else is store for me. I quickly got out my camera and snapped a panorama of a beautiful rainbow in the sky!

Cheers to teaching and teachers everywhere!

Ground Realities – Torangatti

A much awaited break was waiting for us on the long weekend of 13 – 15 August. And thanks to the planning of a good friend, Jimmy, we were off to our neighbouring state, Karnataka to a place called Torangatti.

The journey had its fine share of scenic waterfalls, landslides and dense fog.

and the hard to miss macaques that lined up the climb towards Amboli.

But Amboli was not our destination. We had to hit the Belgaum – Hyderabad highway to a surprise like I had never experienced before.

This highway is a born temptation for those who want to stretch the speed limits of their vehicles (both bikes and cars)… I am not going to mention the high speed I touched on this stretch… for fear of retribution on the home front 😉

This was our destination. It is a Jesuit Mission station in a village called Torangatti. Please note: Most of these pictures are clicked on day 2. We were lucky on day 1 to reach the right place in the pitch darkness!

The mission station of Torangatti boasts of a beautiful church which incorporates elements of Indian tradition.

The pictures will speak for themselves

There were lots of plans that we had chalked out, but faced with the enthusiasm of Fr Prakash SJ, the priest in Torangatti, everything else had to wait.

Fr Prakash, took us around the farm which he has cultivated and supervises. Vast stretches of maize fields are indeed a sight to behold

But looking closely there was a tiny world of its own in each leaf and under each stone

Besides maize there are also plots for vegetables, like the corriander below

This may appear to be a wild flower, but out there, everything had either a commercial or medicinal value !

This was one of the marvels of nature… a pumpkin growing on a papaya plant… or is it? 😉This is a “closer look” into the pumpkin flower…

Fr Prakash proudly showed us his organic farming techniques with large vermiculture pits that provide manure for the farm. There is a big difference between merely learning about organic farming and actually holding one of those red wrigglers in your hand!

These newly hatched birds were another one of those star attractions that we attempted to capture… through the camera lens of course..Karnataka is famous for sandalwood…. and I guess the trip would not be complete without a picture of that tree

This is one of those pictures I always wanted to take…

And on our way back, I attempted a bit of “street photography” and this shepherd was kind enough to strike a pose for the lens. Apparently, every herd of sheep has goats intermingled which actually lead the way for the sheep… thus quoted our expert on the area of shepherding 😉

The place is beginning to show signs of development… a new bridge is being constructed, but until then, the traffic has to follow the road less travelled 😉

450 kilometres of memories… Goa – Amboli – Belgaum – Torangatti and back. The tiny bug on my hand which refused to fly off for a long time was indeed a constant reminder of this grand journey!

Snakes and Ladders – Chopta Trip

Chopta-Tungnath - Grassy slopesThe mountains and valleys of Uttarakhand never fail to spring surprises on the traveler in search of the picturesque. This summer vacations another dream came true for me, it was the first time I saw snow!

The place was called Chopta—a tiny hamlet in Uttarakhand yet unexplored by travelers offering the most splendid view of the imposing Himalayan range including Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba. It is located at an elevation of 2680 mts above sea level.

I owe a lot of information included in this post from the book “Roads to Mussoorie” by Ruskin Bond that was my traveling companion.

Chopta is easily accessible as it is located on the road connecting Gopeshwar with Guptkashi. For me, it was the best 8-hour drive by car in a long time!Chopta-Tungnath - road blocksBut if you are the one at the wheel, you need patience and a good navigator. At many places we had to halt for the earth movers to clear off small landslides, while at other places, we had to trust to map as we traversed ways where roads were extinct.


Sunset Chopta-Tungnath

And this is where we camped for two nights in a tiny guest house that still used firewood to cook the meals and solar heating for the single bulb in the room.

Chopta is also the road head to the ancient temple of Tungnath (3886m), one of the Panch Kedar (five abodes of Shiva).

The next morning was an early rise for the trek from Chopta to TungnathChopta-Tungnath - the trekThe trek from Chopta to Tungnath is only three and a half kilometres, but in that distance one ascends about 3000 feet and at times it is a feeling that you are on a perpendicular path. Or what Ruskin Bond calls it, “a ladder to heaven”

Despite its steepness, there are some hardy souls who would still attempt a shortcut, clawing up tufts of alpine grass, and at time retracing your steps to a better path… a true game of snakes and ladders.

Chopta-Tungnath Steep climbCamp sites on the slopes – for the ones who can brave the icy winds at night

Chopta-Tungnath Camp siteAs we walk along let me give you a brief about the temple we are about to see (from the book by Ruskin Bond)

The temple of Tungnath, at a little over 12,000 feet, is the highest shrine on the inner Himalayan range. Ironically Tungnath Mandir the highest amongst Panch Kedar is easiest one to reach.

It lies just below the Chandrashila peak. Some way off the main pilgrim routes, it is less frequented than Kedarnath or Badrinath, although it forms part of the Kedar temple establishment. Tungnath’s lonely eminence gives it a magic of its own. To get there (or beyond), one passes through some of the most delightful temperate forest in the Garwal Himalaya. Pilgrim, or trekker, one comes away a better person, forest-refreshed, and more aware of what the world was really like before mankind began to strip it bare.

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This is a tiny guardian-temple dedicated to the god ganesha that spurs the tired pilgrim on. But in the cold fresh air and verdant greenery all around you feel intoxicated and least fatigued.

Myriads of wildflowers grow on the open slopes—buttercups, forget-me-not, rock-cress… Chopta-Tungnath - Forest flowers

Chopta-Tungnath - Buttercups

You see all this as you cross a dense rhododendron forest, where in the right season, one can spot at least three species of this flower: the red-flowering tree rhododendron (on the lower slopes), the almatta with light red flowers and the third chimul or white variety at the highest points.

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This rock, reminded me of a UFO from some distant planet landing in the Himalayas… but lets get back to the main story for now

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As you approach Tungnath the tree line ends and there is nothing between earth and sky except grass, rock and tiny flowers amidst melting snow.

What was most surprising was that at a height of 13500 feet there were crows to welcome us! And waited for us to throw them scraps of food. I think after cockroaches, crows are the world’s greatest survivors. Another survivor up here is the pika, a sort of mouse-hare, with tiny ears, no tail, grey brown fur and chubby feet.

Chopta-Tungnath Runda

They emerge from their holes under the rocks to forage for grasses on which to feed. The Garwalis call this little creature the runda.

Finally, we made it!

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… and I was in the snow!

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As I looked around, I couldn’t help but wonder at such a panoramic view of the Himalayas!

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Chopta-Tungnath - Chandrashila viewThis panorama show the meandering path to Chandrashila from the point where we camped for the morning.

When we did arrive at Tungnath the sky was clear lending a very pleasant and sunny backdrop. To some, the name ‘tung’ indicates ‘lofty’ from the position of the temple on the highest peak outside the main chain of the Himalaya. The temple though not very large, is certainly impressive, mainly because of its setting and the solid slabs of grey granite from which it is built..


Chopta-Tungnath TempleThere are a few guest houses even at this height in case you are interested 🙂 (keep the cold in mind though)

On the way down, tea shop owners beckon and we did stop for a brief moment, to savor the view again

The morning view from Chopta is invigorating when the crimson rays of sun kisses the snow laden Himalayas. It was time to return home again.

Chopta-Tungnath - Morning view

It was here that I came to realize how close Hinduism is to being a nature religion. Rivers, rocks, trees, plants, animals and birds, all play their part, both in mythology and in everyday worship. This harmony is most evident in remote places like this where gods and mountains co-exist. Tungnath yet unspoilt by a materialistic society, exerts its magic on all who come here with open mind and heart.

The Silent Beach – Agonda

If you want to see the way beaches in Goa should actually be, visit Agonda. The very remoteness of the beach from the main cities ensures its exclusiveness and for this reason it is gets the nickname, the Silent Beach!

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Agonda, does not have much to boast about. A mere 3 km long stretch of beach untouched by human incursions (read: no commercialization, no plastics strewn around, no noise of a million tourists, no souvenir stalls or hawkers).

I read online that the best way to reach this beach is by a scooter or motor bike. And that is the advise we followed.

Except for a couple of eating places and these pretty beach huts, there is nothing to draw the crowds here

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For some reason, this fire dancer practicing his act reminded me a lot of Barney Stinson (from How I met your mother) 😉

Agonda Beach Goa - Fire dancer

While, this chap was “para surfing” for almost 3 hours (we all assumed he didn’t know how to get the parachute back to the ground!)

Agonda Beach Goa - up in the air

Sometimes you want a beach all to yourself, and Agonda beach is gives you that chance! Not only did it provide an opportunity to relax on the beach but the long drive that got us there is something I will cherish too.

Agonda Beach Goa

On our way back, we made a short detour. The place is called the Miraculous Cross of Baradi.

Baradi Cross

As goes with all miraculous crosses around Goa, this place too draws a lot of people from the villages around. Situated on a tiny hillock the view around was fantastic.

Betul Sal River panoramaThis panorama shows the river Sal meeting with the Arabian sea in the horizon. It is still left to speculate if this is a tributary or an estuary… but I guess that is a story for another day 😉