Himalayan Rides : Chandratal to Keylong

Having completed the Chandratal mission, I had to be back to Leh route. So, it had to be the same route back till Gramphoo. But in place like Himalayas, riding on a same route gives you different feeling every time. Chandratal indeed was an accomplishment, a sort of dream coming true. But still, Leh was my destiny.

Chaos at the top! Read: Milestones to Ladakh- Manali to Gramphoo

SO here we are, riding back to Gramphoo through same treacherous road alongside river Chandra. Whatever the road condition may be, this beauty around will never let you feel tired.

Driving towards Spiti! Read: Himalayan Rides-Gramphoo to Chatru

And what a feeling of satisfaction this is when you see a public transport, a Himachal Roadways Bus on such a terrible road at this altitude.

Treacherous roads! Read: Himalayan Rides-Chatru to Batal

And then you always have many travellers to your company… but no, we are the travellers, they are the inhabitants of this tough terrain…

 Reaching Gramphoo almost feels like returning to civilisation.You suddenly encounter traffic going towards the Manali or Keylong side.

Good samaritans! Read: Himalayan Rides-Batal of Chacha Chacha Dhaba

Himachal roadways bus at Gramphoo going from Keylong to Manali via Rohtang pass.

Gramphoo to Keylong is a straight forward route. But owing to widening or repair of roads, it has gone tough at many places, sort of dangerous at times.

Some relief from the tough roads

There are numerous landslide zones on the whole route and, at many places either roads are being widening or repaired to prevent landslides. This is a vicious circle, as widening causes further adverse impact on hills and the ecosystem. Well, for riders and drivers, they are immediate challenge as well.

Over the moon! Read: Himalayan Rides-Batal to Chandratal

Clouds were chasing me as soon as I had left Batal. They finally caught me up by the time I reached Khoksar. But since my final destination for the day, Keylong was not far away, hence instead of driving in rains, I decided to take a tea and maggi break.

Khoksar

Roads are largely good after Khoksar till Keylong, except for some rough patches.

Moon Lake! Read: Mesmerising & Captivating Chandratal Lake

Chandra River

Its a steady climb till Keylong which is at an altitude of just about 10K feet. A perfect acclimatisation for real ride after Keylong.

Give me some sunshine!

Before Keylong there are two another beautiful stopovers- one at Sissu which is now soon to get a water park close to Chandra River on the roadside.

And then there is Tandi, which is actually confluence of Chandra and Bhaga rivers which convert into Chandrabhaga or Chenab river and flow towards Kashmir. Tandi is 7 kilometres before Keylong and is also the last filling station before Leh. That’s the place where all vehicles will fill their tanks to reach Leh securely.

But overall an enjoyable ride, nevertheless. So lets go on this virtual ride to Keylong enroute Leh. You can watch the video of this ride from Chandratal to Keylong on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

Quick details:

  • Chandratal to Gramphoo: 65 kms, Time taken 4 hours 40 minutes.
  • Gramphoo to Khoksar: 5 Kms
  • Khoksar ro Keylong: 47 kms, Time taken just about 2 hours.
  • Total distance covered: 117 kms.

We will now move to more challenging and more beautiful ride ahead. Keep tuned in!!

Please feel free to share the post, but not so free to copy and paste!!

 

 

Advertisements

Get up-close and personal with killer whales!

These are close encounters of different kind. Visitors to SeaWorld Orlando in US now have the opportunity to experience the park’s majestic killer whales in a brand-new way. The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour gives guests the opportunity to meet the park’s killer whales in ways never before offered at the park. The 45-minute tour includes learning from the park’s killer whale trainers, meeting the whales and understanding their unique personalities and even taking part in an interaction with one of the whales.

During the tour, which takes place daily, SeaWorld’s trainers share stories and information about the killer whales, demonstrate how the whales take part in voluntary husbandry sessions and discuss their healthcare, feeding habits and more. The engaging and interactive tour also gives participants the chance to try their hand at a session with the whales alongside a trainer. Throughout the entire experience, guests can take photos to help forever preserve the memory of the one-of-a-kind experience.

Also read: Seaworld returns two more Sea Turtles to the Ocean

The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour is the latest in the SeaWorld’s collection of memorable, educational and inspirational tours. Popular guest experiences, including the Dolphin Up-Close Tour and Penguin Up-Close Tour provide hands-on interactions with some of the park’s most popular animals while encouraging guests to care about all of the animals found in the oceans. The Behind-the-Scenes Tour, a guest favorite, provides an inside look at the park’s amazing animal rescue operation and ends with the opportunity to touch a shark and meet a Magellanic penguin. The Killer Whale Up-Close Tour begins at 10:00 a.m. and lasts approximately 45 minutes. Space is limited, and guests are encouraged to make reservations online in advance. Prices start at $79 per person.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Hampi in Monsoon : The three monoliths!

After coming out of the Virupaksha temple, we climbed up the Hemakuta hills and after visiting all the cluster of temples and pavilions, we go down the other side. But there are lot more archeological marvels in store in this part of Hampi, one of the most important UNESCO world Heritage site in India. Probably the rocky terrains around Tunghbadra River have given local sculptors abundant opportunities to carve their excellent crafts. Hence, huge statues were carved out of boulders.

Also read: Hampi in Monsoon – Virupaksha Temple

Other side of Hemakuta hill

As we get down from the Hemakuta hills on the other side, right in the front is first of the three great monoliths- Sasivekalu Ganesha. Sasivekalu means mustard (सरसों). This four armed monolithic Ganesha is 2.4 metres high and is enclosed in an open pillared pavilion with plain, rough square pillars. Here Ganesha is seated in half lotus posture (अर्ध पद्मासन) and bears a tusk, goad, noose and bowl of sweets in its four arms respectively.

Also read: Hampi in Monsoon – Images from Hemakuta Hills

Sasivekalu Ganesha

In this statue a snake is seen tied around the Ganesha’s belly. There is a mythological story behind this but ironically, you don’t get any mythological explanation behind this named as Sasivekalu. An inscription engraved on the rock nearby records that the pavilion for the temple (Vinayaka Mantapa) was built in 1506 AD by a trader from Chandragiri near Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh in memory of King Narasimha II (1491-1505 AD) of Saluva dynasty.

Sasivekalu Ganesha

Nearby there is another Ganesha monolith, interestingly called as Kadalekalu or gram seed (चना) Ganesha. It is said so as the belly of Ganesha in the statue resembles a gram. This 4.5 metre high seated statue is said to be one of the largest Ganesha statues in South India.   This statue is enshrined in a large temple with an open-pillared mandapa. This mandapa has tall, slender carved pillars (unlike Sasivekalu Ganesha temple) decorated with various mythological characters and stories. Pillars are cubical and constructed in typical Vijayanagara style of architecture. This temple gives a panoramic view of Hampi.

Getting further down from Sasivekalu Ganesha temple

Coming further down, there are another two monoliths- one is Shiva temple called as Badaviling Temple. This has got a 3 metre high shiva linga carved out of one rock. The base of the circular pedestal remains constantly in water which flows through a canal coming out of Tunghbadra river.

Badaviling Temple

This shivalinga is said to be the second highest in South India after Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur. This remains within a small damages shrine said to be commissioned by a poor woman. In local language Badva means poor, hence it got the name. Shivalinga is also said to have a three eye mark on its carving (त्रिनेत्र). As typical of shivlings the pedestal or the yoni pitha draws into an outlet- pranala (प्रनाला). Temple is very small but the huge, intact shivling makes for a majestic view.

Badaviling temple

Very close to this Badaviling is another monolith housed in yet another small temple. This magnificent statue of Narasimha is 6.7 metres in height and is said to be the finest examples of Vijayanagara sculpture. The roof as well as the outer structure of the temple is damaged.  Narasimha is seated on giant coils of Adishesha (आदिशेष या शेषनाग) whose seven hoods make a canopy arched by a Kirtimukha Torana (कीर्तिमुख तोरण).

Lakshmi Narasimha temple

The four arms of the statue with its various attributes have been broken. The seated figure of his consort Lakshmi on his left lap is altogether missing, but the presence of the right hand of the goddess embracing the lord at the back around the waist is said to be the proof of this being a Lakshmi-Narasimha statue.

Lakshmi Narasimha temple

This statue was consecrated by a priest Krishnabhatt at the behest of Krishnadevaraya in 1528 AD as per the lithic records. Made out of a single granite boulder, this statue was one of the last additions of Krishnadeva Raya to heritage of Vijayanagara. It indeed is one of the most striking sculptures of Hampi.

Boulders which inspire

Reaching Hampi: All the three monoliths are very close by, walking distance from each other and also near to Virupaksha temple, Hemakuta hills and heart of Hampi village. Hampi is located in Bellary district of Karnataka. Although closest big city to Hampi is Hospet, just 12 kms away. Hospet is also the closest railway station. Hospet is located on National Highway 63 which connects Ankola to Bellary via Hubli. Hubli is 160 kilometres from Hampi and has the closest airport to the erstwhile capital of Vijayanagara empire. Hubli is in Dharwad district and also has a railway station. There are also many daily trains from Hubli to Hospet which normally take between 2.30 hours to 2.45 hours to cover the distance. Actually Hubli is on railway line connecting Madgaon in Goa to Hospet. Similarly, you can also come by train from Pune-Kolhapur to Hubli and then move to Hospet. From Hospet you can even take a taxi or auto rickshaw to Hampi. Hubli is also the second biggest city in Karnataka after capital Bengaluru. Bengaluru is bit far from Hubli- roughly 335 kilometres.

Hampi in Monsoon : Images from Hemakuta Hills

We are in UNESCO World heritage site of Hampi in Karnataka and have already went through the Virupaksha temple which is considered to be the most sacred of Hampi’s all temples. Right to the north of Virupaksha temple in Hampi is a big rock face which is known as Hemakuta Hill. It is not a big hill per say, but it is located very strategically. You can have a grand view of the Virupaksha temple and the Hampi Bazar from the top of the hill. There are ruins scattered all around.

Also read: Hampi in Monsoon – Virupaksha Temple

It is aptly also called as a canvas of rocks. And its actually a very amazing sight of the temple ruins around and the very strange rock formations. This rock hill has small temples, gateways and pavilions scattered all around.

There are also remains of a fortification. It is said that in ancient times the whole hill was fortified with stone walls. Traces of that ruins are visible even today.

There are many temples around the Hemakuta hills and they are called as Hemakuta group of temples. There are numerous shrines and mandapas included. There are said to be 21 Shiva temples on and around hills. Some temples also have architecture resembling to Jain temples. It is said that architecture of Hemakuta group of temples is different from Vijayanagara style of architecture.

Its lovely to be in monsoon time here. After visiting Virupaksha temple as I was strolling on Hemakuta hills, heavens opened up and I had to take a shelter in one of the temples, and what a fantastic view that opportunity gave me.

It was raining and rocky slopes of the Hemakuta hills had converted into various small waterfalls giving me a very pleasant sight. Many small pools are also formed.

Rocks on Hemakuta hill are very strangely placed and you often wonder, how these rocks are balancing themselves . Looks very scary at times and equally amazing too.

Even few of the pavilions or mandapas on the hill look so weirdly placed as in the image below. One might often wonder if they have been placed here at later stage.

And this is one of the iconic images of gopuram of Virupaksha temple between the rocks of Hemakuta hills. The mythology of Virupaksha temple is closely associated with that of Hemakuta temple. This mythology and history predates to history of Vijayanagara empire. Most of the temples around Hemakuta hills appear to date between 9th and early 14th century. 

This region holds the mythology of marriage of Lord Shiva (in form of Virupaksha) and Parvati (in form of goddess Pampa). It is said that Pampa was the daughter of Brahma and performed many austerities to woo Shiva, who was meditating on Hemakuta Hill.

It is said that Shivs finally agreed to marriage.  When he actually did… it started raining gold on the hill. Gold is called Hema in the sanskrit and hence this place got the name Hemakuta. This wedding is still celebrated annually at Virupaksha temple and it is big occasion for local people to come here.

a watch tower… or?

This place also has many Shivlingas cut out of rocks. In the image below you can see three lingers in single formation.

There are also five lingas in single formation like in the image below. You can find many such formations in Hampi.

Hemakuta temples have very distinct architecture and surprisingly even these temples have a mix bag of architecture, including Trikutachla style in which there are three shrines facing east, west and the north with a common  ardhamandapa and a front porch. Going towards south on the Hemakuta hill, we will also a group of stone shrines facing in different directions (image below). East facing shrine is said to be the original Virupakasha temple. Its is called Prasanna Virupaksha or Mula Virupaksha. This temple is still under worship. Just behind this temple is another chamber with 3.6 metre high image of Anjaneya or Hanuman. his temple is known as Prasanna Anjaneya temple.

There is a double storied gate towards the south (image below) to access the Hemakuta hill (image below). Just see, how precariously close to this gate is this rock placed… was it there before or this accident happened later on?

Past the gate, you can see other temples down south including Krishna temple (image below). I shall be writing about them in later posts.

The top of Hemakuta hills is also said to be one of the best place here to watch sunset. Drawback of coming here in monsoon is that you don’t get to see that perfect sunset, as you can see in winters.Another amazing aspect of Hemakuta hills and its rocks is the holes in these big boulders (image below). They were of course man made and it is said that they were made to break the rock from that point, thus to make smaller stones from these huge rocks so that they can be used in sculptures or construction of temples.

See, in the image below- the rock has been broken from exactly the same point where holes were made-The stairs carved out of the rocks in the souther side of the Hemakuta hills. From the double storied gate, these stairs lead down to other temples.

It is often said that there is much more in ruins of Hampi than what is obvious. They have a rich history. Time spent on Hemakuta hills just makes you able to soak yourself in marvel that is scattered around you. You can easily spend more than couple of hours on this hill enjoying the architectural wonders.

Reaching Hampi: Hemakuta hills are just north of the Virupaksha temple in heart of Hampi. Hampi is located in Bellary district of Karnataka. Although closest big city to Hampi is Hospet, just 12 kms away. Hospet is also the closest railway station. Hospet is located on National Highway 63 which connects Ankola to Bellary via Hubli. Hubli is 160 kilometres from Hampi and has the closest airport to the erstwhile capital of Vijayanagara empire. Hubli is in Dharwad district and also has a railway station. There are also many daily trains from Hubli to Hospet which normally take between 2.30 hours to 2.45 hours to cover the distance. Actually Hubli is on railway line connecting Madgaon in Goa to Hospet. Similarly, you can also come by train from Pune-Kolhapur to Hubli and then move to Hospet. From Hospet you can even take a taxi or auto rickshaw to Hampi. Hubli is also the second biggest city in Karnataka after capital Bengaluru. Bengaluru is bit far from Hubli- roughly 335 kilometres.

Hampi in Monsoon : Virupaksha Temple

Hampi is indeed one of the most prominent heritage sites in peninsular India. In our childhood, we all had been deeply associated with stories of Raja Krishna Dev Raya (Krishnadevaraya) and Tenali Raman (Ramkrishna). It is always fascinating to be there where all those immortal stories of Vijayanagara empire would have taken place. Hampi is also a place which can be included in our monsoon travel itineraries. Having there been in monsoon, I can safely say that it is one of he best time to visit Hampi. Summers are indeed a torture here and winter would be fun but it is the monsoon which brings the best out of this historical place in Hemakuta hills of Karnataka.

So here are few images from monsoon travel in Hampi, starting with the Virupaksha temple. Few striking ones to begin with- views of Virupaksha temple from the Hemakuta hills:

Right before the rain-

During the rain…

…and immediately after the rain

See, how the colours change so dramatically. Virupaksha Temple is the heart of Hampi, as this is the temple which is centre of all activities in Hampi- markets, bus stop, restaurants, shops- all are in surrounding areas of Virupaksha temple.  This temple dedicated to Shiva is considered to be one of the holiest and most sacred in Hampi. Hence it gets the most steady stream of visitors, all the year round. It is main centre of pilgrimage to Hampi.

Main gopuram of the Virupaksha temple, which makes the main entrance. This nine storied 50 metre high gopuram is one of the highest in Hampi.

Temple has a history that dates centuries earlier than the birth of Vijayanagara empire. Although this region of Hampi has mythological association with Ramayana, but the temple history is available only from 7th century onwards. But indeed during the rule of Vijayanagara empire that this temple reached to its glory. It was also amazing that though Raja Krishnadevraya was a vaishnavite, but it was the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Shiva that represented the glory of his empire.

Once you enter through this gopuram, you come to the outer courtyard of the temple.

A show stand and the souvenir shop in the outer courtyard

In the outer courtyard, there are many smaller shrines and mandapams.

Three faced Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva

From this outer courtyard, through another smaller gopuram, we enter the main inner courtyard, which houses the main shrine and mandapams.  Some views of the inner courtyard.

Centre view…In the image above we can see third gopuram towards the north which takes us to some more shrines and it eventually leads us to river Tungabhadra, which flows besides the temple.

….the left view of the inner courtyard

….and the right!

In the image below you can see the main pillared hall on the left and mandapams on the right, which were used in the past by the pilgrims to stay while visiting the temple. In the front is the same main gopuram, through which we entered the temple. Pillared hall in the left quite rich in architecture as well as sculptures. This hall also has some inscriptions related to Krishnadevraya. 
Temple has gone through various phases of renovation and restoration. In the image below you can see the difference between the original work (towards right) and restored work (towards left).

Ceiling of inside hall has still got intact some of the paintings of past (image below)

Temple got different types of constructions. While the gouprams have been prepared with brick, main hall has beautifully sculpted pillars. Some of the pillars are even in black marble. Inner sanctum sanctorum of the temple is quite rich in its sculptures.

Family of Lord Shiva

Just behind the main shrine at an upper level is this display of the photography technology. In a dark room there is a hole in the wall (left on the image below) You can see the main gopuram from this hole. But this small hole actually coverts itself into a pin-hole camera and hence through this pin-hole you can see an inverted image of the gopuram (below right) on the wall just opposite the hole. Looks astonishing. It is unlikely that the hole would have been originally created that way. But it would have been interesting to know, how and when this phenomenon was discovered here.

Moving out, it is almost ritualistic for the pilgrims to feed the temple elephant (image below). This elephant is normally used in festivals and processions.

Erotic sculptures: But my story of the temple won’t complete without referring to these It seems that erotic sculptures were part of temple architecture in down south as well, at least in medieval times when Krishnadevaraya would have renovated these temples. Although the  sculptures don’t have finesse of the ones of 9th and 10th century, that we find in North India, or even of Kalinga region, which might have inspired few of Krishnadevaraya’s ideas around Hampi.

A sculpture depicting various sexual acts inside the inner courtyard on the outer wall of the main shrine

But more striking are the sculptures on the main gopuram of the Virupaksha temple. They are big, although due to height of the gopuram, they are not clearly visible to naked eyes from the ground level.

Interestingly, some of the poses in these sculptures are quite different to what I have seen anywhere else in India. (You can click on the images to have a bigger and clearer view). That makes me wonder about the idea behind them. Its is very unfortunate that we don’t have any authentic account on origin of these type of sculptures in this temple.  Perhaps no inscriptions, only hearsay.

Due to these sculptures, I had often considered Virupaksha temple as one of the top erotic temples in India. It is very interesting to have different insights while visiting a temple of this huge cultural and historical importance.

Reaching Hampi: Virupaksha Temple is in heart of Hampi, close to bus stand. Hampi is located in Bellary district of Karnataka. Although closest big city to Hampi is Hospet, just 12 kms away. Hospet is also the closest railway station. Hospet is located on National Highway 63 which connects Ankola to Bellary via Hubli. Hubli is 160 kilometres from Hampi and has the closest airport to the erstwhile capital of Vijayanagara empire. Hubli is in Dharwad district and also has a railway station. There are also many daily trains from Hubli to Hospet which normally take between 2.30 hours to 2.45 hours to cover the distance. Actually Hubli is on railway line connecting Madgaon in Goa to Hospet. Similarly, you can also come by train from Pune-Kolhapur to Hubli and then move to Hospet. From Hospet you can even take a taxi or auto rickshaw to Hampi. Hubli is also the second biggest city in Karnataka after capital Bengaluru. Bengaluru is bit far from Hubli- roughly 335 kilometres.

Thanks for reading.

Please feel free to share it but not so free to copy and paste!

‘Superwoman’ Lilly Singh is now UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador

Actress, comedian, and author, Lilly Singh was appointed UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador at a special event in New Delhi on Saturday, 15th July 2017. Lilly, who is known by her digital alias Superwoman, was in India to meet children and young people being supported by UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organization. In her role as a Goodwill Ambassador, Lilly will use her unique digital presence to engage children and young people and empower them to speak out about the challenges they face. Lilly Singh is based in Canada and is immensely popular among teenagers mostly for her YouTube channel ‘IISuperwomanII’. She is also a vlogger, comedian, writer and actress. So, no wonder that though I am a YouTuber myself, but first I heard of ‘Superwoman’ was from my teenage daughter.

“I am honoured to join UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador, and to use my voice to support its mission of reaching every child,” Lilly said. “The children I have met here are overcoming so many challenges – and they are living proof of what a child can achieve, if given a chance,” she added.

Lilly travelled with UNICEF to state of Madhya Pradesh, where she met with adolescents and young people growing up in challenging circumstances including extreme poverty, but who have been able to bring positive changes to their lives. One of the many projects that Lilly visited was the UNICEF supported Youth4Change initiative, a leadership programme for young people that brings them together to support their peers and communities in taking action on the issues that impact them most such as of health and hygiene, protection from violence and exploitation, gender equality and the importance of a quality education.

“It was beyond impressive to see the ‘Change Loomers,’ as they called themselves, create so many diverse and impactful initiatives to help improve their community,” Lilly said. “It was also incredibly inspiring to see free karate lessons for girls that not only build their self-confidence, but teaches them self-defense tactics to help them face the real-life threat of violence and harassment,” she added.

“Lilly Singh is already a Superwoman, helping empower girls around the world – and we are delighted that she will lend her passion and her powerful voice to speak up on behalf of the most vulnerable children,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth.

Lilly, 28, has gained a huge fan base of over 11 million YouTube subscribers. This year, she released her international and New York Times bestselling book How To Be A Bawse, and was recently cast in HBO’s film adaptation of “Fahrenheit 451.” Additionally, Lilly was ranked 1st on the Forbes Magazine Top Influencers List in the entertainment category.

As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Lilly will use her platforms to showcase UNICEF’s work and to engage her millions of supporters in advocating for children’s rights. Her new role with UNICEF is complemented by her Girl Love initiative, which aims to end to girl-on-girl hate and instead focuses on positivity by encouraging support of women and girls.

Lilly was joined at the launch event by Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in India, who officially welcomed her to the UNICEF family.

“Lilly is a role model to so many young people, especially girls, and we look forward to the role she will play in generating greater discussion – and greater action – around the value of girls in India and everywhere,” Haque said.  More than 50 per cent of India’s population are below the age of 25 and India is already the second largest market for YouTube, Facebook, and many other video platforms.  Lilly joins an impressive list of other UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors that includes David Beckham, Orlando Bloom, Jackie Chan, Muzoon Almellehan, Danny Glover, Liam Neeson, Priyanka Chopra, Ricky Martin and Shakira.

Balloon’s Day Parade, Tintin Rally to end Brussels’ summer on a high note

Balloon’s Day Parade

As it does each year, the month of September in Brussels will start with a bang as the 8th annual Brussels Comic Strip Festival gets under way. To mark the occasion, the European capital’s streets will be cheerfully decked out in the thousand and one colours of the “Balloon’s Day Parade.” At the same time, the Tintin Magazine Rally will bring its share of activities and new attractions to make this latest edition a real party.

Everybody loves Tintin

New happenings this year

  • A Gaston balloon will appear at the Brussels Comic Strip Festival to celebrate his 60th birthday
  • The Ducobu balloon will also make its parade debut this year.
  • This year the Comic Strip Rally will specially feature cars ripped right from the pages of the Tintin and Spirou magazines.
  • Instead of the customary single kick-off, there will be four starts this coming Sunday, 3 September.
Comics have no age bar

Since its debut in 2010, the Brussels Comic Strip Festival has become the main event for comics fans. Young and old, novices and experts, all share a passion for the ninth art and come together each year to participate in the variety of activities on offer.

Great occasion for kids to learn
Children get to have first hand experience of drawing cartoons

On Sunday, 3 September, comics fans will eat, sleep, and breathe Belgian comics thanks to the seamless combination of the “Balloon’s Day Parade” and the Tintin Magazine Rally. The parade of giant comics character balloons will invade the capital early in the afternoon. Next, the forerunners of the Tintin Magazine Rally will reach the capital, ending their journey on Place des Palais.

Writers are there to sign the books
Artists are there to give some lessons in sketching
There is art of sculpture of cartoon characters
And cartoon characters themselves in live
There are games to play, from angry birds…
…to simpsons on play machines
There is everything from billboards…
… to food stalls, loved by everyone!

Balloon’s Day Parade

Once again this year, the “Balloon’s Day Parade,” will roll through the streets for nearly two hours. This time two new balloons, Docobu and Gaston, will be delighted to take part in the procession. The spectacular balloon inflation will begin in the morning on Place des Palais.

Parade of the balloons
a big pomp and show!

Over the course of the afternoon, Spirou, Tintin, Le Chat, Boule, Blork de Kid Paddle, Lucky Luke, and their new friends will begin their annual promenade and take over Brussels’ main arteries. During this latest edition, schools (circus, music, sport, etc.) from all over Belgium will be in charge of the parade.

Tintin Magazine Rally

All the Tintin’s cars!

Since its first running in 2013, the Tintin Magazine Rally has become an essential event at the Brussels Comic Strip Festival. This year the rally will take place once again and Tintin Magazine will host Spirou Magazine. In all, about 100 collectors’ cars will participate. In another significant new development, the event will start at four different locations: Lier, Verviers, Jumet, and Anderlecht.

Cars on the stroll!

On Sunday, 3 September, period cars that have appeared in Tintin Magazine and Spirou Magazine since 1946 will lead the way. At about 2 PM, after completing a nearly 100 kilometre course, these legendary cars will arrive on Place des Palais. It’s a wonderful opportunity to immerse in the comics of yesteryear and rediscover these rare gems.

with all the characters!

Two people per car will be invited to dress up and join the rally and take part in a meal among fans. At the end of the rally, a panel will award prizes to the teams and cars that were the most faithful to the two magazines’ original illustrations.

…also top of the class designs!

So if you are fascinated with anything related to comics and cartoons or want to give your cartoon loving kids a treat, than plan a trip to Brussels this September.

Himalayan Rides : Batal to Chandratal

We are on a virtual ride to Lahaul & Spiti valley. Every rider or driver or adventurer enthusiast going to Leh or Kaza is very much keen to know about the road conditions on these arguably two of the most fascinating road journeys in the world.

Vast expanse of Chandra Valley is the glory of the region.

Its a journey, everybody would like to embark upon. So, here is a first hand experience of the trip, which I have broken down into different segments, or we may say shorter distances to give a more detailed overview of the trip.

Read: Milestones to Ladakh – Manali to Gramphoo

Tricky and challenging route

In the earlier parts of the journey, we have travelled from Manali to Gramphoo, then Gramphoo to Chatru and Chatru to Batal. Now after spending some time with Chacha-Chachi of Chandra Dhaba at Batal, we move towards Chandratal. Once we cross river Chandra after Batal, there is an uphill drive.

Read: Himalayan Rides – Gramphoo to Chatru

The road keeps opening fascinating new vistas

After a couple of kilometres, there is a diversion. Road uphill goest o Kunzum pass and then to Kaza. While road straight goes to Chandratal. Its is a pretty straight forward route after that along the Chandra river in the vast expanse of the valley.

Read: Himalayan Rides – Chatru to Batal

Himalayan views!

As we move deeper inside the valley, we go closer to Moulkila and Chandrabhaga mountain ranges. You can see, various peaks and glaciers as well. Its a paradise for shutterbugs.

Read: Himalayan Rides – Batal of Chacha-Chachi Dhaba

Views of glaciers around
Terrain typical of Spiti region

Its a beautiful journey but road condition is pretty much the same as has been from Chatru to Batal. Its a bumpy ride to say the least with a couple of running streams to cross. Flow of water in the streams will depend on the timing of the journey. Enjoyable journey upto the camping area near Chandratal lake. These streams look quite easy ones but pebbles below the water sometime make it tricky to maintain the balance of the luggage loaded bike. SO one has to be extremely careful.

In my last post on this trip, I had mentioned that how tough the terrain is and how hostile weather can be here. With the interiors of valley difficult to reach, it makes the rescue operations in any event of crisis very challenging. Hence there is also a helipad and control station after Batal on way to Chandratal. But this one is across the Chandra river on other side.

Helipad and satellite relay station

You can watch the video of this road journey on clicking the link below: 

Big flat valley provides an ample space for camping. First couple of camps actually are half a kilometre before the main camping site. Main camping site is right on the base of the uphill route towards Chandratal Lake.

Read: Mesmerising & Captivating Chandratal Lake

Camping at an altitude of around 4200 metres is a fascinating experience.

My bike right next to my tent

Till some years back, camping site near Chandratal Lake had just one camp. Now there are many camps and more than 150 tents for adventurers to stay. They are run by different local operators though.

Main camping site for Chandratal Lake
It is almost end of the season for the Tenzin camp
Another look of the camping site and surrounding areas

Tents are good, clean, cosy and with various size options. Operators also provide meals and breakfast. Most of the prices of the tents include stay with meals (generally breakfast and dinner).

You can watch the video of this camping site on clicking the link below:

This place is culmination for many treks as well as base camp for many expeditions to nearby peaks. Adventurers mostly come here to see Chandratal Lake. Many bikers will just visit the lake and then move ahead towards Kaza or Manali. I stayed here overnight in Tenzin camp and made two visits to lake- one in the afternoon and another in early next morning. If you stay here overnight, than you can also enjoy beautiful sunrise here in the morning, like this one-

CB13 and CB14 peaks of the Chandrabhaga range basking in glory
Closer look of first rays of sun on CB14 (6078 mts) peak

Both these peaks are favourite among mountaineers seeking an experience of 6000 metre climb. These expeditions are also done from the Batal.

Another view of campsite with CB13 & CB14 in background.

Having covered Chandratal Lake, now we will turn back on the same way upto Gramphoo and from there turn towards Keylong on way to Leh.

Hope, this part of the journey was enjoyable.

SeaWorld returns two more Sea turtles to the Ocean

Two loggerhead sea turtles are back home in the wild thanks to SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team. In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the turtles were returned to the ocean at Pineda Beach Park on Wednesday morning.

Rescued in December 2016, a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was transported to SeaWorld Orlando from Massachusetts, where the animal received initial treatment from the New England Aquarium. Upon intake, the turtle had a dangerously low body temperature and a large wound under its right flipper. As a part of the turtle’s wound care, SeaWorld utilized radiographs, antibiotics, and laser therapy to heal the injury.

The second turtle released, a sub-adult loggerhead, came to SeaWorld in March after it was found upside down in the surf at Port Canaveral. The animal was covered in barnacles, emaciated, and lethargic. At SeaWorld, the veterinary team discovered blockage in the turtle’s digestive track caused from seashells. Through fluid therapy, the team helped the animal pass the impaction and gain 28 healthy pounds.

With two more sea turtles back in the ocean, SeaWorld has now returned 14 total turtles this year. In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued nearly 2,000 sea turtles since 1980.

It is critical that beachgoers are mindful of the impact they leave on Florida coastlines as sea turtle nesting season is in full swing now through October. Debris and trash left on beaches can threaten the survival of sea turtles during this vulnerable time of year.

The successful rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles is another great example of SeaWorld’s commitment to protecting sea life. For more than 50 years, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has helped animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. More than 30,000 animals have been rescued by the expert animal rescue team that is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

Want to see the video of the release? Please click to link below on my YouTube channel-

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Wanna Beered up! Brussels coming up with many festivals!!

If you would have thought that Oktoberfest was the only thing corresponding to a beer festival in Europe and Bavaria was the only place to get best chilled beer on this planet than think again. Here is some quick fact checking- In 2016 UNESCO recognised the important role played by beer culture in Belgian everyday life and celebrations by proclaiming it an intangible cultural heritage. Throughout the year, Brussels residents and visitors can come and discover this delicious heritage during one of Brussels’ many beer festivals. And in these festivals, you will not only be served amazing Belgian beer but also the best beers other countries in world have to offer.

So, here are some of the festivals celebrating Belgian Beer that will take place in coming months this year:

BXLBeerFest – The Crossroads of Beers and Friends: 26-27 August 2017

BXLBeerFest brings a number of independent, artisanal brewers closer to the guests. The selection of Brussels breweries will be supplemented by some of the best that Belgium and other countries have to offer, with 50 breweries from ten different nations presenting over 200 beers to the public. BXLBeerFest also pays attention to the culinary aspect, with food trucks and an actual on-site restaurant led by chef Dirk Myny of Les Brigittines.

Belgian Beer Weekend 2016, Belgian Brewers

Belgian Beer Weekend: 1-3 September 2017

From Friday 1 to Sunday 3 September 2017, the “Ridderschap van de Roerstok der Brouwers” and the Belgian Breweries, in cooperation with the City of Brussels and the Brussels-Capital Region, present the 19th edition of the Belgian Beer Weekend. This year the Grote Markt (Grand-Place) in Brussels will serve as a unique backdrop for this event, which has been dedicated entirely to Belgium’s national beverage.

Belgian Beer Weekend 2016, Belgian Brewers

This will allow 60,000 beer lovers to partake of fine Belgian beers in one of the most beautiful squares in the world (UNESCO World Heritage). Throughout the weekend, numerous small, mid-sized and large Belgian breweries will have a large selection of their products on offer. Here, one can discover the various types of beers that give this country its well-deserved reputation.

Belgian Beer Weekend 2016, Belgian Brewers

International Craft Festival: 20-21 October 2017

The Brussels Beer Project brewery will hold the 2nd edition of the International Craft Festival on 20 and 21 October. This festival will bring together ten artisanal breweries from Europe, the United States and Asia in a festive atmosphere at an exclusive secret location.

Read More: Getting Tipsy in Belgium

Vini Birre Ribelli. Salon of rebellious wines and beers: 25-26 November 2017

Just like with the previous editions, this salon is once again all about artisanal, sustainable, organic and – whenever possible – natural products. Though the emphasis is on wine, the alternative side of beer brewing is also represented. Bringing these two worlds together offers a unique perspective. Also noteworthy: Vini Birre Rebelli is Belgium’s first salon bearing the label ‘zero waste’.

Being Indian? Looking form some desi spirits! Read: Getting ‘high’ on hills!

I would also like to mention that even without any festival, Belgium in general and Brussels specifically has one of some historical breweries worth visit and some exclusive beer bars and cafe with beer collection which you won’t find anywhere else on earth. So if not to Oktoberfest, than now perhaps you know where to head for that exclusive beer fest this year. You have the time… go and plan it!