Boston Harbor from the Seaport Hotel

View of Boston Harbor from the Seaport Hotel Boston by Arun Shanbhag
Beautiful View of Boston Harbor/Bay from the Seaport Hotel Boston, MA; while we stayed inside darkened rooms and poured over powerpoint slides. (pic taken with my iPhone 4, cropped and saturation adjusted in PS Express). Continue reading “Boston Harbor from the Seaport Hotel”

From Manasarovar, a Glimpse of Kailash

From Lake Manasarovar: A glimpse of Kailash, Day 11 and 12
Approximate Elevation: 4,560 m (~ 15,000 ft)

Reaching Manasarovar was only the first stage of our tirth yatra (pilgrimage). The plan was to rest for a couple of days in Manasarovar, and then perform a parikrama (to go around) of Mount Kailash. Tibetans also consider Kailash holy, and they too perform the equivalent of the parikrama, called the cora. But the parikrama was much more difficult and it would take three days to hike the 42 kms around the mountain passes. And during the second day, our hike would take us upto the high point of 19,200 ft. That is approximately a third of the oxygen available at sea level!

I’ll describe the actual parikrama in a later post, but first let me wrap up the Manasarovar pics.

For a long night we remained couped up in our tents, while the storm passed overhead. The next day was stunningly beautiful giving us all a chance to rest and enjoy the lake. Around mid-morning the clouds cleared and we got our first glimpse of Kailash in the distance. Kinda resembles the linga and yoni we see in a Shiva temple. The horizontal striations resemble the horizontal marks Shiva devotees place on their foreheads. The deep gully on the mountain face is representative of Shiva’s vertically placed third eye.

In the evening we walked along the lake and captured this different pic of Gurla Mandatha on the South bank of Lake Manasarovar.
Gurla Mandatha on the South bank of Lake Manasarovar by Arun Shanbhag

Continue reading “From Manasarovar, a Glimpse of Kailash”

Lake Manasarovar – An Accidental Pilgrim

Lake Manasarovar – An Accidental Pilgrim, Day 10
Approximate Elevation: 4,560 m (~ 15,000 ft)

Over the six months I had planned this trip, I never gave much thought to the significance of going on a yatra (pilgrimage). I had signed up primarily as an adventure with my brothers and several of my cousins; to shoot fabulous pictures; and check off one more on my list of places to see before I die! That Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash were the most holiest of sites was only of passing interest.
Continue reading “Lake Manasarovar – An Accidental Pilgrim”

Kailash Manasarovar: Brahmaputra and Onwards to Paryang

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra: Brahmaputra, Day 6,7: Paryang Elevation: 4,540 m (14,895 ft)

Considering the spectacular Peigutso Lake, the 185 km drive from Saga to Paryang was tedious. We made a bee-line to the western edge of the Tibetan Plateau, which remained featureless; the skies were overcast and in the distant south we discerned the grey-brown outlines of the Himalayas. The road continued to be desolate; we didn’t even pass any settlements along the way. Just us and a long dirt road.

They were badly rutted and often, the roads were cut by streamlets creating dangerous ditches. The ride was extremely bumpy and we were constantly jostled. We longed for stepping out to stretch our bodies, but the biting cold and relentless winds were ever present; forcing us to dart back to the refuge of the van. Thus even simply riding was torturous and everyone appeared fatigued and listless in their interactions. We were eager to get to Paryang, our last stop before Lake Manasarovar.
Continue reading “Kailash Manasarovar: Brahmaputra and Onwards to Paryang”

Cerulean Skies Over Nyalam

Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra continues: Day 5, Blue Skies Over Nyalam
photos of mountains around Nyalama Tibet by Arun Shanbhag

Once we reached Kailash, the plan was to walk around the mountain parikrama. We’d hike 40 km over three days, at elevations starting at 15,000 ft and reaching over 19,000 ft. While this might appear trivial at sea level, reality is vastly different at 15,000 ft. To test our selves, the organizers arranged a short hike on our free day in Nyalam. Even though we would start at 12,000 ft and hike only a 1000 ft, it was an important part of the self-assessment before continuing onto Kailash.

Even at 12,000 ft, I could feel the reduced oxygen levels in the air. Once I lightly ran up a flight of stairs and found myself kneeled over, gasping. After a few minutes I was back to normal and remembered our instructions to “walking slowly”. Even a short walk through town would leave me panting. Thus this hike was not going to be easy.

After a leisurely breakfast, we started on the trail a few 100 meters from our guest house. Within a few minutes of walking, the elderly folks were taking long breaks. A few had already given up and started walking back to their rooms. I brought up the rear and tried to motivate many to rest often, but keep walking. Yet many would not be able to complete this small, but exhausting hike. I too was winded on reaching the top. Certainly the marathon training gave me the physical endurance, but it did nothing for my oxygen requirements.

Once we got to the top, the views of the mountains were mind blowingly spectacular. The mountains here are covered with wild grass, yielding the green velvet look, and a few scrub bushes on the slopes. At 13,000 ft, we are above the tree-line and there are no trees here.

I was surprised at the deep azure sky. Many photographers have noticed this and there are several reasons for this appearance. 1. there is zero pollution here and we are getting an unveiled view of the sky. 2. at the higher elevations the atmospheric layer is thinner. 3. at higher elevations, the angle of the incident light from the sun is lower, yielding deeper blue skies and higher saturated colors. 4. I use a circular polarizer which reduces extraneously diffracted light from reaching the sensor; and 5. (I love this one), it is said that our minds are cleansed by the hardships of this spiritual journey, permitting us to “see” more purely.

Halfway up the left of the opening photograph, notice the ant-like stick figures; that’s the rest of our group. I had walked to the nearby hillock for a better view, giving us a better sense of the size of the mountains in the background. The boulders in the foreground appear to have been tossed like giant dice rolled by a celestial hand.

In the grand scheme of things, how insignificant we are. How fortunate to perceive this nature in this form. How blessed to have been entrusted to care for all this. Truly so fortunate. You can see large versions of many images on Arun Eyes.

Enjoy the glory of this planet.

Next on Kailash Manasarovar Yatra: Across the Tibetan Plateau towards Sishapangma
Start of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

Respite in Nyalam

Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra continues: Respite in Nyalam, Day 4
Nyalam Elevation: 3,750 m (12,300 ft)

Kailash Manasarovar Yatra to Tibet, Respite in Nyalam, written and photos by Arun Shanbhag

After the terrifyingly bizarre events in Kodari, we eagerly continued on our yatra. After crossing the border outpost in Kodari, we got in pre-arranged land-cruisers and our convoy of about 17 land-cruisers, cut through the Himalayas, climbed the mountain range to the town of Zhang-Mu, and onwards towards the Tibetan plateau. Continue reading “Respite in Nyalam”

Onwards to Kodari, Nepal

The Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra continues: Onwards to Kodari
We spent a day in Kathmandu flying along the Everest Mountain Range, taking darshan at Pashupatinath, and the Baudhanath Stupa, (Monks and Kids at the Baudhnath) and visiting the local markets. We left early the following morning for the border town of Kodari, where we would process immigration requirements and cross over into China-occupied Tibet.

Once we left Kathmandu, we also left behind paved roads. Dirt roads lead us through the countryside, up mountains and picturesque views. After monsoon rains, the fields cut in mountain sides were lush with greenery, reminding me of Goa and Kumta. But the rains also bring landslides in the mountains, and we heard news of villages washed away. In many places we drove by recent landslides. The rocky rubble had merely been shifted, so traffic could go by. We were treated to innumerable streams cascading down mountain sides; and in many cases, the streams flowed right over roads, slowly eroding them. As our mini-buses dipped into streams and groaned out again, we were simultaneously gripped by adventurous excitement and terror – which would be the defining characteristic of this trip. The 135 km journey took us more than four hours.

Green fields zipping by.
Pics of Lush green fields cut in the mountains between Kathmandu and Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

The road hugs the river Kosi; in several places I noticed rudimentary suspension bridges which the locals use to cross the rapidly flowing river.
Pics of Fields cut in mountains enroute from Kathmandu to Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

Indian trucks dominated the roads here and I was struck by the vivid graphics on their trim. At a rest area, I shot this artwork atop the drivers cab. The art depicts nicely the scenery (and the river Kosi) we enjoyed in the mountains.
Graphics on a truck at rest area by Arun Shanbhag

Along the route, our accompanying bus got a flat tire and we stopped in a village. These kids were selling quartered cucumbers. I was not going to test my intestinal immunity and just settled for a pic. Noticed the effeminate lips on the kid on the left
Pics of Kids selling cucumbers in a village enroute to Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

A tea shop in the village
Pics from a Tea shop enroute from Kathmandu to Kodari by Arun Shanbhag

As we entered Kodari, the buses had stopped in front of tire-burning fires in the middle of the road. Blissfully ignorant of what was happening, we carried our shoulder bags and walked a few hundred meters to the road-side restaurant for a quick lunch. We walked around more burning tires spewing dense, acrid smoke and angry young men glaring at us. In some places the heat and smoke were very intense and we hurried along.

pictures of tire burning mob in Kodari, Nepal by Arun Shanbhag
The mob stopped our bus and we had to stop over in Kodari

Our initial plan was to have a quick lunch and cross the border, which was only about 50 meters away. But all was not well in Kodari. Apparently the locals and the military police guarding the border had gotten into an altercation. The border was now closed and mobs had blocked the only thoroughfare with their burning tires and essentially brought this village to a standstill.

As we ate lunch we hoped the mob would disperse and we could proceed on. But that was not to be. Outside, we heard the raucous of the angry mob. And then,thakt, thakt,
and pause.

We looked at each other, raised eyebrows at hearing shots being fired, but carried on with our meals.

thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt!
thakt, thakt!
thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt, thakt!

The sounds of automatic weapons fire continued, … and went on and on. We saw the mob screaming and running by, chased by camouflage fatigue-clad military types.

Our hopes of crossing the border were dashed. We were going to be stuck here between trigger happy military and tire-burning mobs!

to be continued … .
You can breathe easy, we all came through the ordeal unscathed!

Next on the Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue: Tension in Kodari
To start at the beginning: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

Nature’s Shrine: A place to give thanks

For me, God exists in Nature and I see him in a beautiful sunrise.
I can add, I see her in the blue skies, towering mountains, the chirping birds, the butterfly and the serene lake. Wherever you see her, take off your shoes and gaze in awe at her munificence!

The pic was taken many, many years ago in the idyllic town of Brevard, NC along the Appalachian Trail. My favorite escape from the rigors of grad school!

Blue Skies: Breakfast with a View

Blue Skies: Breakfast with a View; Spartanburg, SC

Nov 2003; Nikon FM3a, ISO 200 Velvia Slide

Visiting my uncle in South Carolina, we had breakfast with this view outside the window. Much to everyone’s consternation, I had pulled the grills off the window and stepped out onto the deck to take the picture. As I tried to convince my uncle that it really was a beautiful view (and worth the antics), he was probably thinking that I needed to get my head examined. What do you think?

Blue Skies: Brienzersee

Brienzersee (Lake Brienz):
Between Brienzersee and Thunersee is the town of Interlaken. A perfect launching pad for excursions into the jungfrau region and nearby towns. The lake is crystal clear, and in many places you can see bottom! On this day, we took a long boat ride on the lake, followed by a train-ride to Luzern. As the train sped along the water, the lake seemed to stand still, with the surrounding mountains paying their respects by slowly circumambulating (or pradakshan). It was a time to sit back in silence, stare out and be engrossed with the beauty, on the other side of the glass.

… Neele neele amber per
Chand jab aaye
Pyar barsayae
Humko tarsaye.

Oonche oonche parvat
Jab choomte hai amber ko
Pyaasa pyaasa amber
Jab choomta hai saagar ko …

[click image for larger version]

June 2003; Olympus 4040Z Digital.

Blue Skies: Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau

Trimurti of the Swiss Alps: Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.
If you visit Switzerland, please don’t miss it. Last year was our second pilgrimage to the Alps, and we hiked everywhere. You could ride soaring cable cars, and trains cutting deep through mountain ranges, showcasing Swiss precision. But we hiked!

In June, the days are long and weather still has the chill of early spring in the alps. Each day we picked a different route and traversed hills and valleys. Our backpacks were filled with varieties of cheese, flavored milks, strawberries, warm croissants and simple sandwiches. We filled our water bottles at ice cold alpine streams for refreshing breaks. The endless expanses of multicoloured wild flowers and the incessant jingling of cowbells on grazing cows transported us to a truly restful and perfect vacation.

Neele neele amber per
Chand jab aaye
Pyar barsayae
Humko tarsaye

Oonche Oonche Parvat
Jab Choomte Hai Amber Ko

[click for larger image]

June 2003; Olympus 4040Z Digital.
For the purist: Disappointment with this exposure led me to buy a manual camera. See previous post.

Blue Skies: Spy Pond

photo at Spy Pond Arlington MA by Arun Shanbhag
Sept 2003; Nikon FM3a, 50 mm, Manual, 200 ASA Velvia Slide.

Just a few minutes from our home is a small lake, where parents take their young kids for boating lessons and quiet picnics. Also, where I rushed to try out my new, all manual camera. Its a real beauty, solid metal and weighs a ton. The clang of the shutter is so reassuring, compared to the muffled click of the new featherweight digi-cams. [Added in post script (2014): My newer Fujifilm X100T looks so much like the FM3a.]

When I took this pic early in the morning, the pond was calm and serene, disturbed only by the ripples of the gliding swans. A little later in the day, screaming kids will be chipping stones. The turquoise sky and water reminds me of the song, “Neele Neele Amber Per (Alamgir)” from the “Kantaa Lagaa, Remix.” It was this song which inspired me to compile and share my Blue Skies pics.

Neele neele amber per
Chand jab aaye
Pyar barsayae
Humko tarsaye …

Blue Sky

What about blue skies?

Something about blue skies draws me in. Maybe its memories of childhood running at Palva bunder (gateway of india), with the wind howling in my ears, racing my brothers and cousins, dodging and weaving through the crowd. Every time I am outdoors and see a blue sky, instinctively I stretch my arms wide, tilt my face up, close my eyes, … and hope the moment lasts for ever! Freedom! To be lost in space! Communion with the Supreme! Forever!

What is it about blue skies? Please tell me.

I will try and post a different blue sky image everyday for the rest of the week. The foreground is incidental, Boston in this case!

[click image for largery version]

Nikon FM3a, 24mm, Manual, 200ASA Velvia Slide film, scanned and exposure compensated

Boston after the rains

Boston Landscapes by Arun Shanbhag
Last Fall, we had 3-4 days of continuous rains. On this day, the rains stopped, but the sky was still overcast – see left top of pic. In the evening as the clouds started to clear, the setting sun created this beautiful color. I was on my way out of the office when I saw the scene outside. Turned around and grabbed my camera. It was a beautiful sight. In 10 minutes, the sun had set and so was the light show.

Sorry for the grainy pic. I had a 400 ISO film in the camera which I scanned at 600 dpi.

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