Sarchu-the name itself sounds sinister.We did not know what awaited us when we halted at the Mulkila adventure camp enroute to Manali from Leh.This is a one of the stopovers on the Leh -Manali route and is open from May to October.It took us 7 hours to cover the distance of 257 km from Leh.As we had gone to Leh from Srinagar, we were already acclimatised and none of us had any symptoms of acute mountain sickness though Sarchu at 14,070 ft is higher than Leh.The camp site was picturesque and the tents are well kept with attached bathrooms.
By 6 30 it was dark and we started to hear and feel the howling winds.It was getting bone chilling cold and uncomfortable.The temperature was 20°C and it was little comfort to know that in winter it drops to -35°C.It was the longest night of my life.Nothing could induce sleep and I was looking at the watch every 5 minutes.Got out of the tent at 6 and went around the camp .I found this delightful flock going about their morning activities.
Their masters were nearby in their make shift tent .
These shepherds- Ram Lal and Krishna told me that this is their summer camp and during winter they will take their herd to Manali.
Soon I was witness to a glorious sunrise.It was a real treat watching those goldren rays coming down and lighting up the whole mountain.
So Sarchu was an experience I don’t intend forgetting.After coming back I had discussed my spine chilling night with veteran Ladakh travellers.All were of the opinion that one should camp either at Keylong or Jipsa which have hotels and guesthouses unlike Sarchu with its tented accommodation.
Have you heard of Kindertransport?I never knew .Movies have opened my eyes to many wonders and yesterday a documentary made me see the horrors of holocaust through the eyes of children.
Into the arms of strangers-stories of the Kindertransport is a an academy award winning documentary .It is a heartwrenching account of those dark days and a rescue mission which saw thousands of jewish children between the age of 5 and 17 from Germany,Austria,Hungary and Czechoslovakia leaving their parents to go to foster homes Britain-the only country which agreed to accept them.Between December 1938 and August 1939 more than 10,000 children were brought to Britain and this is their story narrated by the survivors in their 60s and 70s.
They recall their idyllic carefree life with parents,the preparations for the trip,final goodbyes,the journey ,discovery of a new country and learning to live with foster parents.They speak from the heart and tell you their struggles to adjust to the new family and surroundings and living with the hopes of reuniting with their families.They come to know of their parents and siblings perishing in the concentration camps and a few fortunate ones are reunited with their families.What I find most refreshing is that they narrate their stories with candour .They also acknowledge the foster parents and their limitations.They are all survivors and show immense dignity and grace.Many have settled down in UK and USA and are shown leading meaningful lives with children and grandchildren.
There are some movies which has to be seen by all and this is one of them.Yes,there are many popular movies like Schindler’s List,The boy in the striped pyjamas,The pianist etc.I find this more intense and moving.Even if you are not a fan of cinema please find time to watch this.
Four statues were erected to commemorate this epic rescue mission in UK,Poland,Germany and Holland.Frank Meisler ,the sculptor had been on kindertransport.What an irony of fate.
“I ceased to be a child when I boarded the train in Prague.It is strange that it’s only six years out of a long life and those six years will affect the rest of your life” -this is how Eva Hayman ,a survivor recalls .
I salute all those kind souls who made the mission possible and those foster parents who gave them a home and life.
Kashmir conjures images of snowclad mountains,pristine lakes,,heavenly gardens ,chinar trees,shikaras and houseboats.It had been my dream to stay in one and that finally happened in August 2014.Enroute to Ladakh, our group had an overnight stay in a houseboat named Sea Palace.Most of the houseboats in the vicinity were occupied as it was the peak tourist season.
These houseboats are categorised into luxury,deluxe and standard and they are anchored unlike their Kerala counterparts.Our houseboat had 3 bedrooms,dining room and kitchen and was tastefully furnished.The boats are made of cedarwood and the accessories are from walnut. The luxury ones have 5 star facilities with plush interiors.
Got up early to watch the sun rise.Guess who came to keep me company?
Though short it was an unforgettable experience. I wish to go back and explore more of Dal lake .
A visit to Srinagar is incomplete without a stay in a houseboat and a boat ride in the famous Dal lake.Being a fan of movies I have seen several hit songs with the hero wooing the heroine picturised in these popular water boats known as “shikara”.They are the lifeline of this huge lake and the two hour ride is a unique experience.
Apart from the tourists sporting the traditional kashmiri outfits one can see vendors with flowers,vegetables and handicrafts.
Dal lake is a birds paradise and during winter migratory birds from Siberia and central Asia flock to this place. I spotted a few egrets.
Floating gardens are another attraction.
After witnessing a glorious sunset over the lake we made our way to the houseboat for an overnight stay.
Have you been on a shikara? What was your experience?