The Uttrakhand Adventure, 2016

So we  (the 2 jokers - Anurag Jetly and Saptadeep Chatterjee) decide to go on a trek to Roopkund and other parts in the Himalayan range in Chamoli district, Uttrakhand. Out of all the months of the year, we choose the monsoon season and also decide to carry some serious Photography equipment in order to shoot timelapses up in the mountains.

Shooting Timelapses at such altitudes, in the monsoon season is no mean task. But its all worth it.

Why someone would select the Monsoon season to go on a trek to the mountains, you may ask. But we had our reasons. Watch this space and in a few days you will probably get your answer.

Now, let’s get back to the adventure.

We were a team of two, but our support staff was a crew of 7 people. We had so much of equipment, luggage, amenities and food supplies that we also had 4 MULES to carry all those through the tough terrains. The crew included, porters, a cook and a 65 year old super-human guide (Mr. Jawahar Singh Bisht).

The mules. They lead an envious life.

Our Super-Man 65 Year old Guide, Mr. Jawahar Singh Bisht.

As professional ‘freelance’ photographers, we have one small gift. That is the gift of TIME. We normally do not have to rush back to our lives from our trips in time for a Monday morning. So initially we had decided to go for 15 days. We ended up travelling for 25 days, taking it slow at some stretches of terrain, maybe spend an extra day at some places because you just don’t get enough.

25 days of mainly Daal and Chawal (Pahaadi Meat on 2 ocassions), 25 days without internet, electricity, mobile phones, music, gulaab jamun, 25 breathtakingly beautiful cribbing-less days.

In all we trekked for some 140 Kms (Wan to Ghairoli Patal to Baidini Bugyal to Pathar Nachauniya to Bagua Basa to Roopkund and then back from Roopkund to Aali Bugyal to Balan to Himni to Dulam to Bagichi Bugyal to Navali Bugyal and down to Sawar Village).

All the above are the places where we camped. The kind of beautiful places that we saw on our way and back, cannot be put down in words. I do not even want to try to find new words. They will never do any justice. So here are a few photographs, which might transcend the message better.

Aali Bugyal

Bedini Bugyal

Clouds on Himalayas

Nanda Ghunti

Trishul

Bagua Basa (camp site)

Bagua Basa (camp site)

camera bag

Aali Bugyal Campsite

Roopkund

The locals take an evening walk

Aali Bugyal Camp-site

Bedini Bugyal

Bagichi Bugyal

A sunrise !!!!

 

On our way up, we did get a few ready-made campsites (the Roopkund trail is fairly popular among trekkers and tourists). Of course we did not meet any tourists, because only really crazy tourists would visit such places during the monsoons. Who wants to get wet, at high altitudes where the winds are so strong and so cold that your toes hurt inside your super thick trekking shoes if you forget to wear two thick layers of socks. Trekking in such weather, at such high altitudes is one story and then shooting timelapse photography and videos in such weather at such high altitudes is a whole different story.

However, on our way back, we deliberately went through trails which have not been used by tourists at all. Through the most magnificent jungles, through paths which we had to make ourselves, through passes which look like frames from the movie The Lord of the Rings, through villages, which are one of the most backward places in the country. In fact we ended up staying the night in two villages on our way back.

Our Support staff, working and making paths.

making our own paths

Balan (Chamoli District)

Balan (Chamoli District)

We stayed, in the government schools of the villages and experienced some really warm hospitality. We ended up shooting some of the activities in such schools early in the morning when the children came in.

Government Public School, Balan (Deval)

Government Public School, Balan (Deval)

Government Public School, Balan (Deval)

Setting up a whole camp (4 tents and a huge kitchen tent), unpacking all the stuff and equipment, start the cooking process, gather all the necessary stuff (fire-wood, water), pack and load all of this stuff back when we leave. . These were just few of the things which I experienced. I experienced them first hand, because I was not part of a trekking group. This was our group. We had to do everything for ourselves on our own. However, when you have such a brilliant support team with you, who do not allow you to even think of picking up an extra piece of luggage, your trek becomes a piece of cake.

Setting Up camp in Dulam

loading/unloading

packing up from the school

luggage and equipment

This was an adventure where my eyes saw the most beautiful visuals they have ever seen, where I met some very very good human beings, saw magnificent terrains, walked for hours on trails just like the ones we used to draw when we were kids, climbed mountains on foot, witnessed some jaw-dropping clouds and their games at such high altitudes and had the chance to learn a lot of things from the villages and their way of lives.  I know this is just a beginning of my adventures. The bar is set very high now. That’s the best part.

The whole team.

Source: the Uttrakhand adventure 2016

Kibber, Himachal Pradesh. A Photo Tour (maybe)

Place: KIBBER, Himachal Pradesh, India.

Date: May, 2015.

Temperature: Max 11°C and Min -4°C

 

Sometimes, time smiles at you. Plucks out a significant ounce and gifts it to you.

Sometimes, nature smiles at you. Takes you to a place you would have never gone had you been sane/practical/normal/realistic.

Sometimes, everything falls in place.

Two insane guys (who happen to call themselves photographers) take a 4 wheel driven THAR out of a showroom and drive it through one of the most treacherous roads in India (also through beautiful valleys, mountains and sparsely populated villages) for roughly 900 Kms and reach one of the most remote villages in the country, Kibber. It is said that this village is the highest permanently inhabited village in the world. Yes, it has a little over 50 families living there.

It is also the place, from where one can watch (or gaze at) stars. This village is supposed to be the best place in the country for star gazing.

And that is exactly why two insane photographers decided to visit Kibber, stay there for almost two weeks and see if they could capture some images.

We were not even sure whether we would get a hotel/guest house there or would we have to take shelter at some villager’s house. We had no idea about the food arrangements. We knew that mobile phones would not work there and that electricity was a luxury in such a remote area. But, we were prepared for all the worst conditions.

An eventful 38 hour Journey and an over-night halt later we reached our destination. 

The best way to reach Kibber is to drive down. Preferably a 4WD vehicle. If you can’t afford that luxury then Himachal Pradesh Transport buses will take you till Kaza which is the biggest town in this part of the world. Its 20 kms from Kibber at the base of the valley. You will get a taxi or a jeep which will take you to Kibber.

Yes there are a few home-stays and a couple of guest houses. The amenities will be very basic. Electricity is as fickle as a teenager’s ambition. The place is almost always windy. It is this wind which is as cold as it can possibly be. So carry layers. More than you can pack.

The houses have televisions and some innovative room heating solutions. IPL is the most watched and followed programme. The village also has a school. Apparently the number of teachers are more than the number of students.

We mostly had decided to shoot at nights (we have come to shoot the night sky, remember?). I had the day to myself.

A walk through the sleepy village, a random visit to the home of a villager, drive through the beautiful valley to visit another nearby remote village. That was mostly my itinerary during the day. 

So how do the people in such a remote village go about their daily lives? What is their perspective and outlook about the whole wide world? Are they sad? Do they feel left out? Are they normal?

Apparently they are. In-fact they are much more affectionate and warm than most of the people we meet on a daily basis. You can walk into any house, and I mean literally any house (the doors are never locked) and be rest assured that you will be greeted with a wide smile and cup of hot tea. You can spend hours together talking to any person on the road, a man, woman, grand-mom, kid anyone at all. Everyone will talk to you as if he/she was just waiting to have a conversation. If I start writing about the instances some villagers went out of their way to help us, this post will go on for another ten pages.

I saw a couple of kids playing in the dirt. Wish I could spoil their lives by showing them the wonders of an IPAD. I wish they never find out and for them an apple remains only a delicious fruit.

The village has one special point from where you can attempt to make a mobile call. Provided you have a BSNL connection. That special point is at one corner of the village. Looking at our villager friend (Rinseng) wait for almost 15-20 minutes for a hint of network to appear on the phone and then attempt a call was grounding.

The beauty and the mystery of the place does not end with the village. We decided to go higher and discovered that there are a couple of villages higher up. A village named GHETE is at almost 400-500 metres above Kibber. The best part of GHETE is that this village has only 2 houses. Only two houses !! Both the houses have two brothers staying in them with their families.

The place was beautiful and perfect for us to camp and shoot through the night.

GHETE VILLAGE on the right corner

While we were insane enough to set camp near our vehicle and shoot through the night at GHETE (temperatures at -4°C), in the middle of the night the villagers not only came up to check on us, but went back, and got us a flask of warm tea. They also prepared one of their rooms for us to sleep. They never even asked us our names.

By the end of the week, the villagers started recognising us and our vehicle. They knew what we had come to do. So people grew friendlier.

They guided us to some of the most beautiful spots of the valley. Told us stories of the harsh winter and their loneliness (but all with a smile).

However, I must specify, that it is not easy to visit these high altitude spots. You have to push yourselves to walk and trek the terrain. Breathlessness is just one of the problems which you will encounter. The wind and the temperatures do not help you. However, the effort is always worth it.

There is a beautiful monastery which is frequented by tourists and it is at a much more accessible location. It is about 7-8 kms from Kibber, down the valley. It’s called the Key monastery. 

I almost forgot.

We were pleasantly surprised to experience snowfall in the month of May in Kibber. On a couple of days. Once when we had just completed setting up our camp at night (had to pack up and leave immediately. Lost our way back. Somehow managed to reach our guest house). On the second instance we were safely tucked in our beds and when we woke up in the morning, it was snow all around.

The experience of visiting Kibber, cant be put in a small blog post. In fact I am not proficient enough to put it down in so many words. But, yes it was an experience which will stay with me. If I ever need to be grounded, this will help me. It has made me push myself and experience the mountains like

never before. It has shown me what it actually means to be ‘being human’. I have made a lot of traveller friends. Met some really interesting individuals.

Yes, we did manage to take some good shots and do some good photography work too. Though we would have loved the weather to be a little more supportive and show us some more of the clear night skies, but we will definitely go back to take some more shots

Take some time off from the high rises, only-weekend breaks, traffic jams, a shouting arnab goswami and visit such a place. It might just change your life. It’s not what you will experience on your mountain trips arranged by a tour operator. You will have to figure things out yourself. You will have to talk to people. That is what travelling means. Doesn’t it?

 

Watch this space for some of the night sky shots.

I hope this is just the beginning of a new trend in India. (TVF online series - PITCHERS)

Pitchers – Online Series by TVF – A review

 

The times are changing. Thank God for that!

I have been a fan of TV series’ of the west for quite some time now. Just like a lot of my friends and just like a lot of us living in the open wide world. There are so many factors which have contributed to the growing popularity if these TV shows in India. The amazing storylines, the scale of productions, lack of watchable content on Indian Television, the fact that these TV shows will have a Season Finale (a concept which is alien to Indian TV shows).

The era of Byomkesh Bakshi, Yule Love Stories, Rajni, Reporter, Wagle ki Duniya are long behind us. In the interim, Indian television has grown up with innumerable channels with innumerable shows but very finite content. Talent shows, daily soaps, news and cricket are what we have been dished out by the “creative media houses” in all these years. Our world and the meaning of entertainment had been given a horse’s view. The concept of a mini-series or even a finite series was nowhere in the picture. I used to miss it. I used to wonder why Indian Television doesn’t give them a try. It would surely work (assuming the story and execution is good enough)

Then came, 24. A start I guessed. But the heart and the mind was not waiting for a super-star driven filmy-ish  story line. It wanted something else. I don’t’ know what.

Now, The Viral Fever (TVF), a popular online channel has come up with an Online series called Pitchers.

Probably they are just like me. They have been a fan of the GOTs and Fargos of the world. They have been inspired by shows like Breaking Bad, Byomkesh Bakshi and The Big Bang Theory and have been bored by Indian Television at the same time. They wanted to create something meaningful off their own Indian minds.

However, this is not their first attempt at this. They did a small stint with a series called Permanent Room-mates. That was a sweet love story. Quirky at times. But it was a good start.

This time, the story is much more real. The scale is much bigger. The preparations are in place and workshops have been conducted. A lot of thought has gone into the production and some money has been spent on real locations too. The characters also seem less quirky and more life-like. The first episode has set the tone for a very interesting season.

This is exactly what we as audiences needed. Some finite stories. Episode wise. TVF has made a brilliant start and is helping us grow our taste beyond Indian Television (I guess that is exactly why their logo falls on a Television set and smashes it).

They have a long way to go. You will notice a few focussing issues with the camera work (or is it deliberate?). You will want much more from the actors (Arunabh – the brains behind TVF has tried his hand at acting too, but you can excuse his first attempt). Characters have to be built episode wise. But those things will happen. These guys are smarter than you and me.We should be really happy that there is a start. It will only get better from here. However, some of the actors are really good and seem seasoned enough to handle any role (Naveen).

So in a nutshell, Kudos to you guys. Hope you make Pitchers as good as you have planned. I hope you grow with every episode and then you go on to create something as brilliant as Breaking Bad. Someday. Maybe Better.

Watch the first Episode of PITCHERS on TVFPLAY. Alternatively you can watch it on Youtube on 10th June too. Support creativity.

P.S. I have not been paid to write this. I just wanted to spread the good word.