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Saturday, September 12, 2020

DNA OF A GREAT NATION

 

WHAT MAKES A SOCIETY OR A NATION GREAT?

Great nations which comprise the advanced societies of the world, have one thing in common; the dignity of labor, and pride in vocational craft. India has a long way to go in the realm of achieving this. Add to this, the loss of land, grazing area, and materiels such as bamboo, wool etc; stuff that man for all his smarts cannot replicate, is a serious matter and we cannot afford to be cynical. The enclosed video shows something ostensibly simple, but I have been unable to identify anyone for producing this for our Spashram RiverMountain Retreat for some years. You would be surprised at the challenges, this seemingly simple device poses! While the technical skills are relatively easy to find, the materiels pose a different level of challenge, for you will not find the right bamboo! In advanced societies on the other hand, there is tremendous indepth skill in something like carpentry, and in access to the right materiel. Carpentry or stone masonry is a scientific subject in the west or Japan.

I was once told by the famous bureaucrat MS Gill, the ex Chief Election Comissioner that as a young administrative official he was deputed to Scotland and spent some time with a village council. He was amazed to listen to the council members discussion on the relaying of a village path with cobble or flagstones. He said with a chuckle that this discussion took four hours! Unlike the casual approach taken in India. This was because the council members realised that the path was meant to serve for decades. Further it would serve village members as well as visitors including tourists. This was not an exercise to take lightly. Imagine the level of awareness and education such an attitudinal change warrants in our country?

In another instance, I had been running into a challenge to perfect a firewood chimney (which uses drift wood not cutwood) .Very few hill communities actually have real knowledge and tend to bumble their way around this task. The Khasis of Meghalaya are adept however in building the inner neck. The person who helped me out was one of the foreign tourists who came to travel with us. He was an engineer and he gave me a fomula.When I asked him how he came by this..I mean it is not a usual subject to study the formula for building a chimney! His answer was the Hamish community which has the reputation of being an insular, ultra orthodox community. Now smoke from the chimney is efficiently sucked out! So for all the high techniques,.the simple stuff needs development. Nagaland in India's north east infact where I was conducting said tourist, is exemplary in its presentation of food agro products . Let's admit that for all the prosleysting, the Church has helped in marketing techniques, presentation and production including of such items as beeswax which are so useful but impossible to find elsewhere in India easily.

 

Across The Kala Pani

An article I had written in 2013 which lay buried! This may be of use and inttrest to the Indian traveller, once normality returns.

Across The Kala Pani

Journeys Abroad For The Contemporary Indian Family “

The Indian traveller from every possible background has become a well-defined entity on the firmament of international travel. So much so, that now this demographic is one that numerous countries work to woo actively to their shores. Whether the specific audience be the Indian Business group, Indian family, Bollywood Director’s set, or newlyweds to be, Indians have become a well defined inbound tourism segment for countries ranging from tiny New Zealand to Australia, Canada, Switzerland and  South Africa to name a few.

As is well known, Indians with their ancient instincts of being merchants and traders have in fact been crossing the Kala Pani or the black waters as the seas surrounding the Sub Continent was once known, since aeons. It was this trait that close to a century ago, took Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’ family to South Africa, the Sikhs to Vancouver, Port Morseby in Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong Kong. Even the indentured labour from Bihar and other parts of the country who ended up in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Mauritius used this forced travel to  advantage, and after a generation, adapted and donned the cloak of seasoned √©migr√©, and one today who travels back and forth once again.

The aim of this writer’s columns will be to offer the well-heeled Indian traveller looking to experience the great outdoors, in a specific destination abroad  as well as some select destinations in the Indian Sub Continent which would be of interest to Indian audiences. Each of these destinations are selected on the basis of them possessing a singular quality, ie primarily an outdoor wilderness destination or travel idea, occasionally with a cultural dimension to them and offering excellent value for money.

 


Some of the  basic skills one needs in order to experience the great outdoors in the African continent are  fundamentals of how to live and travel in the bush, and essential cautions and precautions.That the African continent is teeming with a dangerous big game as well as reptiles and insects, makes this a very important area of travelling and holidaying on “the Dark Continent” as it was once called.

The word “trek” is an Afrikaans word, which has its origins in the days that the Dutch Boer pioneers walked across the African jungle contending with all that it threw before them. Similarly, the word “commando” as in to mount a commando, relates to the guerrilla tactic of mounting a raid or ambush, harks back to the same source. These two words alone, give some sense of what travelling in Africa entails.

While holiday brochures and catalogues portray an idyllic image of the wilds of Africa, it should be realised that making your journey facile and relatively easy, once there, is possible because of a well trained and experienced host establishment with able guides. To make their task easier, you need to be alert, sensible and obedient. When everything goes well, one can walk away thinking, “well that was a cakewalk!” However, one needs to have the utmost respect for nature as well as one’s guide, and be willing to work unquestioningly as a team player, especially when travelling with a group.

All this having been said, if one does possess of the right skills and the attendant qualities mentioned, one can enjoy the wilds of Africa in full measure. Naturally, the greater the range of skills, the greater the enjoyment!

The aim of this column is to help readers to pursue skills along with learning about travel opportunities that abound in select wilderness regions.

When one enters a national park or reserve, one usually covers territory by jeep or occasionally by elephant though our Indian readers will know, that this is becoming rarer by the day. In India, one is not allowed to walk in a national park or reserve.

One of the striking aspects of travelling in Africa that the Indian the traveller will notice, is the very little governance visible, unlike the generally overprotectiveness that is warranted by conditions at home.

The absence of a teeming population allows visitors in African parks, the opportunity to often also traverse  territory by foot, dugout, elephant and horse, besides jeep, hot air balloon or plane.

Approaching a herd of big game such as elephant, on foot is has become something of a trend in Africa. Similarly travelling on horseback affords some of the most memorable wildlife adventures ever. While it is often said that wild animals are suspicious of the biped human, it allows a four-footed animal like the horse to approach it at close quarters. How then do we account for the “walking safaris” that are now offered in Africa? If one looks at the way these are conducted, it is by positioning all the visitors in a line across facing the game. This effectively creates more than just a solo biped. Facing frontally also enhances the effect perhaps creating a very large creature in the eyes of the game. Big game which knows little fear, tend to react to something large than themselves by “ casting a beady eye” but hardly panicking.

Both in the case of walking safaris, as well as for horseback safaris in Africa, one is able to get “up close and personal” with game. The adrenalin rush is of a very high order as one is on a one on one with the animals and knowing that there is no artificial means to come to one’s rescue in the event of anything going awry, heightens awareness and being one with the elements.

For this first column, we feature Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill in South Africa

Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are both very private bush homes set on a 5000 hectares (50,000 acres) game conservancy in the magnificent, malaria-free Waterberg region of the Limpopo province in South Africa. The Reserve t boasts with over 40 species of game including the rare sable antelope, Livingstone eland, Nyala, Oryx, Giraffe, Buffalo, White Rhino and well over 300 species of resident and migrant birds. A detailed game list is available.

Ants’ offers a unique safari experience, offering a wide range of activities to keep everyone entertained, from the youngest to the oldest, the fittest to those most in need of a rest.

In addition to game drives, the reserve offers a safe and secluded environment to allow guests of all ages to enjoy guided bush walks, horse rides and cycling.

The Bush Homes:Ant’s Nest

Ant’s Nest is where it all began. Lying in a natural amphitheatre the original homestead, with its wide verandahs, has a classic, relaxed, African atmosphere. A wide variety of game frequents the waterhole in front of the bush home where horses and dogs abound. The six luxurious en-suite bedrooms accommodate a maximum of twelve guests. There is a 15 metre swimming pool in the garden, ideal for those needing some exercise or for purely cooling off after an active day.  This is great for kids as it’s heated all year. Extensive lawns with indigenous plants surround the pool and there is a wonderful thatched chill-out spot with vast sofa beds where you can relax during the heat of the day.

Ant’s Hill

Ant’s Hill is hosted by a wonderful team who create an open and friendly atmosphere. Built on the edge of a cliff, this bush home offers breathtaking views across the Waterberg. With spacious rooms and vast folding doors, the thatched lodge blends into the bush, while exotic furniture and brightly coloured African fabrics make it both sophisticated and comfortable. The draped four-poster beds are seven foot wide and each bathroom is spectacular, offering guests sunken baths and waterfall showers. Set in boulders on the edge of the cliff, the heated swimming pool cascades over the lip of the gorge, inducing you to relax there for hours. Ant’s Hill caters for a maximum of 16 guests and can be booked non-exclusively or exclusively to one party. 

Wining and dining

Ants’ staff take great pride in our sumptuous home cooking, dining in a variety of places and outside whenever possible. We often end morning game activities with a bush lunch, whilst at night we sit around open fires under the stars. The chefs can cater for all dietary requirements and we serve excellent South African estate wines.

Guided walks

For those who prefer walking, our guides will lead you through the bushveld on foot. These walks are informative and interactive, enabling you to gain knowledge of African flora and fauna. One can often miss the smaller details of our beautiful environment when on a vehicle or horseback, so guided walks are highly recommended. Whilst these can be in the form of a gentle stroll, the more energetic can hike over the plains and up impressive gorges. Whilst identifying insects and birds and learning about the medicinal uses of various plants you can also learn how to track game. Specialised bug hunts are available for children at both bush homes.

Game drives

Our guides will be available to take you out in an open 4x4 Land Cruiser either for morning or afternoon game drives or using a spotlight at night to find elusive nocturnal animals, such as the rare brown hyena, aardvark bushbaby and porcupine. The advantage of a game drive is that you are able to cover more ground across the reserve. Game drives and walks can often be combined to make game viewing and photography more exciting.

Family safaris

Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill will give your children a life-changing experience. Our unique policy is to allow children of all ages to join their parents on all game viewing activities, so you can witness their first encounters with wildlife.  We have a selection of wonderful ponies catering to both the novice and experienced child rider.  Children of four years and under can be taken on a pony ride around the lodge, led on foot.  Children of five years and over can be led on foot or from horseback, if necessary, depending on their riding experience.  Lessons are also available

We have created specialised kids “bug” and “spoor” walks, although driving in an open 4 X 4 on game drives is always popular.

Both lodges have various facilities ideal for kids, such as the heated swimming pools, trampolines, sandpits, a badminton & volleyball net with a selection of toys and books. Children are welcome to join their parents for dinner, alternatively, special mealtimes can be arranged.

Due to our relaxed and informal atmosphere, Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are ideal for families with kids of all ages. While the activities keep all well entertained you will learn a great deal about wildlife, gaining inspiration to last a lifetime.

Weddings and honeymoons

The Waterberg with its spectacular views is the perfect place to escape to and makes a wonderful honeymoon destination. Romantic private dinners, bush lunches, sundowners and the opportunity to go out game viewing, without other guests, make Ant’s lodges quite unique. You can get married on the top of a mountain or under a shady Acacia tree

Other activities

Horse riding

Both Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill offer the opportunity for some of the greatest game viewing in the African bush – from horseback. You can canter along open sandy tracks or traverse high ridges with spectacular vistas. The pace can be as fast or relaxed as the riders would like. Often we can get so close to the game that the experience remains unforgettable. One does need to be an accomplished rider.

Mountain biking:
The incredibly diverse terrain offers extreme technical cycling as well as gentle meanders.

Clay pigeon shooting:
For those wanting a bit more action you may wish to try out target or clay pigeon shooting (additional charge applies).

Massages:
These can be either half an hour or hour massages in the privacy of your own room or next to the pool, wherever you prefer(additional charge applies).

We are very happy to take you through the Waterberg to see other interesting sites (for an additional charge), including:

  • A local ‘Big Five’ game reserve, so you can try to find the lion and elephant we would rather not ride or walk with.
  • Elephant Safari: you can take the opportunity of interacting with a number of trained African Elephants, which is the most enjoyable and educational experience. This is followed by a ride through the bush on elephant-back with an experienced elephant handler.

Fact file

Location: The reserve is situated on an escarpment looking out over the Waterberg Plateau in the Limpopo Province, 3 hours north of OR Tambo International Airport (formally known as Johannesburg International Airport) We are 3.5 hours east of Madikwe and 5 hours west of the Kruger National Park.

Getting here: We can arrange private road transfers or air charters between destinations but let us know if you would rather hire your own car

Visa Requirements: Visas vary depending on your nationality, so please check with the lodge or your travel agent to confirm visa requirements for your travels.

If entering South Africa, please note that you will need 6 blank facing pages in your passport and your passport should be valid for a minimum of 6 months.

Airstrip co-ordinates: Surface =grass, co-ords = S 241208 E 280558, Elevation = 3780 ft, Length = 1000 m, Direction = 03/21

Recommended stay: 4-7 nights (this could be at one of or a combination of both lodges.)

What’s included: accommodation on a full board basis, selected soft drinks, selected spirits and house wines, laundry and all game viewing activities including riding, walking, game drives and mountain biking.
Not included: massages, clay pigeon and target shooting, additional activities off the property, curio shop purchases and gratuities as well as premium spirits, cellar wines, cocktails and liquors

Meals:
We are able to cater for all dietary requirements, but would require you to advise us in advance if you have allergies or special needs. We are happy to prepare special children’s’ meals.

Facilities:
Ant’s Nest consists of the main house, which has two double rooms downstairs and two double rooms upstairs, all with private lounge areas. There are also two double suites, with private bathrooms and verandahs across the lawns.

Ant’s Hill consists of two privately situated honeymoon suites away from the main lodge with stunning views, a family cottage that has two main bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and an extra loft room, perfect for kids, as well as a private sitting room and veranda. Another family cottage with two bedrooms as well as upstairs and downstairs living areas and private plunge pool.  A standard double/twin room with a private verandah is located above the main lodge.
 

Planning your visit ,climate and weather:

Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill are located in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo province in the northern part of South Africa. This beautiful area is malaria-free and at an altitude of 4,500 feet above sea level offers a wonderful temperate climate and can be visited all year round.

Summer (November to March) – the days can get quite warm (up to 28-32 degrees on average) but it is a dry heat. We do get summer rainfall, normally in the form of thunderstorms. These rarely affect activities and are usually in the evening, however, the African climate is still always unpredictable.
Autumn (April to May) – days can still be warm but the evenings cool down. Average day time temperature 22-28 degrees. Evenings 10-15 degrees.
Winter (June to August) – days are warm (temperatures in the mid-twenties) evenings and early mornings very cold with average early morning temperatures 5-12 degrees. It very rarely rains at this time when the bush is golden and dry.
Spring (September, October) – days start getting hotter, evenings and mornings could still be crisp but not as cold. A very slim chance of rain. On occasion, we can get very hot days.

Guests will be required to sign an indemnity before going out on any of the activities.


 


SOME KEY DO’s and DON’T’s Column

Remember: your hosts, as well as the wildlife, represent a dramatically different culture!

Silence, the unstated word, listening more than talking, will normally bring you greater dividends.

Animals hear at a decibel level many times more than humans do. Therefore your hosts will be habituated, living in the midst of wildlife, to be measured in their actions and volubility. Not adhering to this etiquette indoors and outdoors will not go down well, so a conscious effort needs to be made in this regard.

Listening to instructions and commands, and also agreeing to move away from the sighting of a kill if one has come across one, is both prudent as well as considerate to others as well as to the wildlife.

Read the norms, forms and orientation provided by the establishment in advance so that you are fully familiar and comply with the local laws.

 contact www.tigerpawadventures.com  info@tigerpawadventures.com or this author

 

 

Sunday, July 12, 2020


2011 Ed 13 Jul 20

Bhutan is not called the land of the Thunder Dragon for nothing. My last journey there left an indelible impression on me in more ways than one. While the images speak for themselves more or less, my  trial and tribulation for no fault of my host country, became akin in terms of sheer physicality and labor, to the cleaning of the Augean Stables by Hercules. I made my first error when I decided to test the status of the rail and road combination route exiting out of India. Having booked the return journey by Druk Air, Bhutan's national airline from Paro to New Delhi, I felt that by seeing the current condition of the road during the monsoon, where it traversed through that remote corner of India (West Bengal state) near Bhutan, would be a useful input for the next season.

The North East Express is a train of national importance serving the north east of India and linking it to the Capital, Delhi. It was the tail end of the monsoon season. When the train crossed into the state of Bihar, all around us was a sea of water. Looking to  the horizon and seeing the immense "water world", reminded one of the famous film by that name, and whose hero was the American actor Kevin Costner. At approximately 3 pm the train came to a grinding halt. And it remained that way for 12 hours. Surrounded by water, the electronic signals were submerged outside the Mughalsarai station, a major train junction since the days of the British Raj. The second class air conditioned compartment in which I was (and the best on this train) soon became a living hell. The toilets were grossly filthy, their latches sharp enough to cause injury, and rusted enough to kill a passenger from tetanus, all the while the rainwater flooding the inside of the compartment. When I asked for the complaint book, the ticket collector grovellingly asked "why sir, what has happened?". I said “there is rain water inside the compartment”. He quickly said "but sir, it is raining outside!" I insisted and the grand ceremony of writing a written complaint and receiving a duplicate was embarked upon, and completed.

At midnight all passengers were asleep barring me, along with a vibrant and energetic young man, in the field of education. We tried using our phone contacts to get the numbers of the Railways at Mughalsarai. All attempts failed. I decided to wake the ticket collector who was sleeping rather comfortably. He said he did not have a number for Mughalsarai, but only one for Agra. I said "call them". He said "my phone doesn’t have a signal". I said " here's mine, and it does!" In the meantime we saw four other trains whizzing past, as they were on an obvious priority, the Rajdhani being one. The ticket collector spoke to control in Agra and got a non- committal reply, as the entire area was flooded. I took the phone back, passed the number onto my contacts in Delhi, and then we all began calling the number. Finally the train budged. I reached at 9 pm instead of 7 am. I got a taxi, and the taxi man and his cohorts clambered all over me. Where do you wish to go sir? "Bhutan Gate", I said. 300 rupees sir. In the fatigued state, I thought this was a good deal. Let’s go! ..As I clambered into the jeep, someone said "where did you say you wanted to go? " Bhutan Gate, I answered again. " "Bhutan Gate! that is a 180 km and a 3 hour journey! that is 3000 not 300! Again, in my fatigued state, I thought it a good deal! Having settled for Rs 2500, we proceeded. The journey was four hours, and of this, the first three were over craters, a foot to two feet deep. The road had become rippled and wavy due to the poor construction, and overladen trucks. This was communist West Bengal at its best. It was pitch dark, and the dense jungle for much of the way was inhabited by wild elephant (as I knew from past knowledge) making the journey that much more tension filled. At four am my Bhutanese guide finally met us at the border, having waited since midday, the previous day. I crashed onto a  bed, in what seemed a heavenly Bhutanese lodge. State of the art fittings had been used, but placed poorly in some cases. Anyway the excellent springs of the bed invited me. For the first hour my head and ears continued swaying and humming with the momentum of the awful road journey.

After breakfast at 9 am, we set out on a six hour mountain road journey ever rising upto the capital, Thimpu. The road was excellent, and the best of India’s workmanship was seen. The Indian Army had built a tremendous road, with fantastic bridges, surfacing and edging. But the mountains spare no man, and there were some gruelling sections of landslides to negotiate. I finally reached Thimpu,  and after a night halt, we embarked on trek.

Wonderful vistas accompanied us and our pleasant guides. But there was a bit of inexperience on their part, and it would cost me. After the long,  damp train journey, the wheeze I had contracted, coupled with the rough road trip, now followed by a four hour walk, the outer fly of the tent touching the inner, resulted in it being  iced over on the inside ceiling the next morning! This did  further damage to my lungs through the night.

The next day entailed an uphill climb of seven hours from 10,000 ft (app 3200 m) to 14,500 (app 7,200 m). Carrying a not so light day pack, I was done for, after five months of faffing around without much physical activity, during the Indian summer.


And then the nightmare began the second day. I could barely breathe, and was wracked by coughing so violent, my stomach was sore, as if repeatedly punched. I needed to be supported. To do all this and yet take decisions for the team (including my English clients which included the late Sir David John KCMG ex Chairman of British Petroleum)  became extremely taxing. The shorter route was to go back over the pass but the vertical one was impossible for the pack pony. I could not move on my own, and the team had no way to ferry me on a stretcher. So, I had to  do a two day walk in one. It was an eleven hour marathon exercise to get down to the road head by nightfall, six being on a small mountain pony. She was a great little mare, but had crude tack and untrained leading hands. Had I not been a horseman in my own capacity as well as a polo player, I would never ever have survived that day.



The small wooden saddle as is used in Asia’s mountains had a pommel hoop, and no stirrups, so I used a primitive rope loop. The breastplate served as a stopping rein because there was only one open rein, used by the pony man to lead. A horse  generally picks the right route ninety eight percent of the time. But on occasion it picks entirely the wrong one. At some of the  forked paths, the lead man would not look back to guide the pony onto the right path, and so the pony ended up taking me to the edge of a sheer cliff face with a thousand foot or more drop! In my delirium I had to admonish the pony man and ask him to keep his wits about him. Again when going past narrow rocky defiles, I had to raise my legs to avoid injury to my ankles, increasing the strain. When one went up an incline, I had to rise up in the stirrups, (as a considerate rider does to aid the horse) at which time the iron hoop of the saddle would catch my stomach, already bruised from hours of coughing.


We broke journey, and after a short break I had to confront the very sharp decline. I was partly carried by one guide who commented, "you must have carried me in a past life, sir, which is why I must carry you now". This too was  hard to bear, as his shoulder, and the bounce, knocked the already depleted wind, from my lungs. I then half walked, and half let myself be lugged down the slippery and rocky mountain, into thick jungle, by two men. The sheer pace of their momentum, and gravity rushed me off my feet, sweat pouring down my body, in spite of most of the effort being on the part of my helper. The endless trek down the mountain, ended in the pitch dark, and to my relief, a car came to extricate me, and take me to the hospital. The Doctor at the Emergency said, "heart fine, blood pressure fine, chest- a slight infection." While I had escaped pulmonary oedema, a dangerous and unpleasant condition, the slight "chest infection", had played utter havoc with my physiognomy.


Bhutan is an unusual country and does not permit mountaineering on account of the mountains being sacred. I guess I had not appeased the Gods this time on the Dag Lang Lake Trek-The Trek of a Thousand Lakes! Even so, I enjoyed Thimpu thoroughly, in spite of being exhausted from the experience. The Tsecho Festival and dances, which occurred just before the Royal Wedding was captivating , as was all else about Bhutan, Land of The Thunder Dragon.










https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU8PHRPMUeo  I J SINGH NEW DELHI update 30 may 20

Friday, July 12, 2013

Revisiting Kashmir and Ladakh, twenty seven years on

After having first visited Kashmir as an army brat in 1965, I had come to start a professional career in the summer of 1979, as aide to the Late Colonel John Wakefield, straight from college. My job? trek and fishing camp manager.

Since then,I was to spend all my summers for almost eight years including the years when I operated my own company there.

However, the troubles were just "brewing" during this  period and seeing the writing on the wall,  decided to exit the state in 1987

In 2009 my company began sending European and Americans back to Kashmir, as there was a relative calm thanks, to the sustained operations of the Indian Army against Paksitani militancy. Indian tourists thronged in their thousands.

I conducted 24 Germans and 8 Americans respectively in march 2011 and 2013 on a himalayan journey, following Michael Palin's book and tv series "Himalayan", which began in Chitral, NWFP Pakistan, and ended in Bhutan via Kashmir, McLeod Ganj, and Amritsar.  And I noticed certain changes.

The hostility of the man of the street had substantially reduced. He had, as one shikara boatman told me, realised " that in the old days or even now, because of the nature of the visitor, the foreign tourists' revenue was confined to the houseboat owners, and  the transporters, guides and the shops linked to them. In contrast, with the domestic tourist, money was spread. A little here, a little there, and thereby a greater respect was accorded to the latter.The man on the street had also suffered. He was forced to look for work in the plains. The Kashmiri trader was now entrenched in Jaipur, Goa, Jodhpur's desert Kingdom and so on. The young Kaashmiri was now an executive in a New Delhi firm. Heck there is for the first time a Kashmiri lad playing in the Indian cricket team. I am waiting to see when, when this lad is playing in the Indian team, against Pakistan, who the man on the street in Kashmir, will root for! It was always but always for Pakistan.

I learnt many things that I had not thought about earlier, with regards to Kashmir. It was the land of Sufiana -land of peers or saints- a concept that was anathema to the Wahaabi Islam of the Arabs. This, along with the fact that it was the cradle for ancient Hindu and Buddhism, itself would according to many, ensure that it would not come under the sway of the Taliban.

I was listening to the ring tone of an elderly Kashmiri's mobile phone. I realised the deep similiarity it had with the  hymns from my faith, Sikhism.

Majid Peer also told me that the Amarnath Cave to which thousands had begun thronging to in recent years, was actually not the correct site according to Hindu mythology, as this was the cave where Shiva and Parvati had merely stopped to take a rest. The actual site was farther up!

Even while I felt the pain and anguish of the Pandit hindu community who had been forced to leave Kashmir (ethnic cleansing according to a friend of mine, who had to flee), the cultural assault of hordes from the plains trekking to Amarnath, the heavy police contingents and resulting debris, all made me sympathise with the Kashmiris who had these rather inconsiderate guests, even while they profited from the yatra, each year.

It is the same in my native state of Uttrakhand, which is similiarly assaulted each year by plains people especially the Kavarias, who walk to take away Ganges water. They take not just the water, but degrade the soil, and leave behind dirt and debris, much of it non biodegradable.

The beautiful meadows of Gulmarg were marred by poor handling of the Gondola arrangements. Thousands queing, touts and others abusing the system, pushing, shoving, and standing in line for hours on end. Gulmarg is only worthwhile being visited in winter!

Pahalgam is similiarly ruined by the tourist both from the plains and from Kashmir, as they all come in cars, honking their way down the main single street.

In the midst of all this however, past knowledge and good grounds people helped me and the family, as well as my English clients, find solace. Also, having a good local guide, allowed me to get into some beautful valleys for trout fishing, and experiencing once again, the Kashmir of old.

I learnt something else. My Kashmiri houseboat owner, told me of how he gave up trout fishing, something he was a keen expert on, accompanying many a famous western visitor for four decades. He narrated how late one evening he caught and felt almost sucked into the river, by a monster fish. The fright he got, put him off fishing for the rest of his years! But what I learnt from him was, that to preserve a trout for long periods, one needed to sprinkle charcoal inside the cleaned out trout, and it would freeze for long periods!

Later, I crossed the Zo Ji La, the himalayan watershed, into Ladakh. Here I visited Leh, Hemis and Pangong Lake twenty seven years later. The road after the Zo Ji La pass, now is better than world class, barring some causeways.Leh and its surroundings have inevitably grown. The traffic and fumes fro diesel gensets its worst aspect. But smart cafes, producing excellent fare are now to be found.

ed 12 Jul 20. Currently Kashmir is now under central rule , and Ladakh, a Union Territory, with a major series of border incidents instigated by CCP China.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

Old World Travel in the New Age







Hello Travellers All!

We are pleased to share the abbreviated news bulletin on upcoming trips and miscellaneous ramblings and rumblings.

The Indian Sub Continent has entered the Dusshera Festive season which will culminate in Diwali-the Festival of Lights next month 13th Nov.’ 12. The Pushkar Fair toward year end, and the Kumbh Mela, that incrediblehuman extravaganza will take place early in the New Year.

See the Festival Calendar on the TigerPaws website for these markers.

In the event any of the trips highlighted below "grab" you, do write in and we will make every endeavor to accomodate you on the same trip, or plan one of a similiar type.

Read on:
                                                                                News Bulletin Fall 2012
                        Foreign ramblings and, Upcoming TigerPaw Adventures Journeys during period Oct 2012 -June 2013

October 2012 –April 2013: Spashram RiverMountain Eco Camp is open; visitors from France, England, New Delhi.
    
November 2012: FIT Travellers 24 days India: $ 6,000 per person January 2013 Kodai Individual Travellers Tour
Dates: 15 Jan 13 to 01st Feb. 13
Status: Private Tour Internal India Cost Per pers. $ 5,640 Twin

March 2013: The Bhagoriya Festival & Gujrat with Vale of Kashmir Extension
Status: Limited Edition Trip: Open Group: Taking on Sign Ups : Single Female Traveller Friendly. Dates: 07 March 2013 to 27 March 2013. Max: 10 Pers. Internal India Cost Per pers. $ 4,250 Twin Share. Kashmir portion 7 NIGHTS- 8DYS  $ 1,580 PER  pers. Email us for information on  dates and information: bookings
                           March 2013
Maha Kumbh Festival - Allahabad 27th Jan.13 to 25th Feb.2013.
Allahabad is besides the venue of the immense Kumbh Mela, for which separate details are available, and for which you may enquire for last minute space availability, also the site of the British Fort, and the Sangam where the holy Ganges meets the mythological Saraswati river which comes to surface only during this lunar holy period. Here, the British developed river navigation for cotton, after losing their source of cotton after the American Civil war. Boat excursions along quiet sections of the Ganges are possible here.
                                                 
Above right image from TigerPaws expedition commemorating Eric Newby’s epic Journey 1963 Slowly Down The Ganges
Pushkar
TigerPaws client Eliane Thwaite’s images taken at Pushkar (also featured in IJ Singhs Book “ No Boda Boda
Polo
Even while many of the trips are already “closed”, the prices and group strengths are reflected to give you a perspective on trip types, durations, and costs as also our own comittments. You may enquire as to the program of all the above and a special personalised booking for the same trip routing on different dates.

FOREIGN RAMBLINGS:
Between 28th August and 27th Sep 2012, Founder CEO IJ Singh, travelled to Ireland, England, Canada, USA and Germany to deliver a series of slide based

lectures featuring his travel book “No Boda Boda” and some of the unique journeys therein. These were extremely well received and has resulted in further

lectures, talks and trips during the 2012 and 2013-2014 periods.

The first of these lectures was titled “In the Footsteps of Your Guru-Portraits of the Faith”, and focussed on the ecological importance of Hemkund (14,500 ft

ASL (4,750 m) where the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, is believed to have meditated in a previous avatar.

The impact of visitation there and need to bring in ecological awareness via sikh youth from the UK, via the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail, was the focus of this

evening with the Sikh Gurudwara of Hunslow.

Images below show IJ Singh founder ,CEO of TigerPaws and author of the book “ No Boda Boda” which features this journey, being presented a book by the Secretary of the Hunlow Gurudwara, and Mr Harbinder Singh of the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail(on left of author, in glasses), on “ 150 years of The Sikhs of Britain”

The other presentations were an overall encapsulation of IJ Singh’s book featuring a wide section of chapters and journeys in different continents and eco systems as well as chapter extracts from some of the humorous travel anecdotes that the book features. These were extremely well received and has resulted in a tremendous response especially for India bound journeys including from the UK (Northern Ireland and England).

IJ Discovers an olde Indiah connection in Kensington Church-The Battle of Gwalior Fort! The Royal Household Cavalry marches past. Friend and host, Nigel Haden Paton at Kensington Park., Shelly’s Walk and other English Eccentricities. The Poet’s works were taught to IJ in school by the Irish Christian Brothers!

                                                           Human interaction-including with the local coppers! Alongwith history is what TigerPaws brings to its trips                

Above: Signs Irish! And a historic stone dtd-1659 AD. A butterfly park, man made classics  and below: the scenic beauty of Donegal Bay. The butterfly park visit was a technical study tour, related to the establishment of a similar park at Spashram RiverMountain, which owner IJ Singh is steering on behalf of TigerPaws with field scientists and foresters. This is meant to provide an onsite attraction to residents, protect biodiversity and act as a tool for rural field education and awareness.
Above: TigerPaw's Canadian affiliate  positions technical collaborations.Here with the Yurtco Team whose mountain and desert yurts will soon be seen at Spashram sites in India 

Images below:
At the Berlin Polo Club Top L: Executive Chef Dirk (r ), Image 2 from L, IJ plays barman. Image 3 Dr Inge Schwenger hostess and Director of the Club., Img  4, 6, friends and past clients of the Club the Maracke’s and the Mandells. And bottom, IJ in action!
OTHER NEWS
In other news considered most important to us at TigerPaws, the UN Conference on BioDiversity Preservation saw Indian Prime Minister ManMohan Singh pleading $ 50 Mill for this critical sector. Along with healthcare, foreign investment and other critical areas, the Prime Minister has taken this huge and positive step which is close to the heart of the TigerPaws philosophy, biodiversity preservation. The Spashram RiverMountain Project reflects the importance we give to this sector. For more information on the underlying principles of this philosophy or how you can help write to us via any of the links below.
The latest on Tiger spotting is that the ban on benign tourists’ activity in National Parks  has been lifted. However, a long standing code of conduct of TigerPaws becomes even more essential now: please discourage your jeep drivers from “racing and being pushy” over others to reach the site for a tiger sighting. This little step will go a long way, in evolving gentler human behaviour allowing the tiger to have its personal space.
Until our next quarterly newsletter, travel safe!
The Last Word-Let The Tiger Speak
                                            Left image taken at Bandhavgarh by TigerPaws client Bernd Maracke.                          The wrong way
  
There has been an ongoing debate in India at multiple levels, on whether tourism visitation in core areas of national parks especially Tiger Reserves should be permitted or not.

The Hindustan Times ran a debate over two days where two leading activists spoke for and against the motion. Valmik Thapar spoke for ( http://paper.hindustantimes.com/epaper/viewer.aspxnd …Ajay Dubey spoke against )(http://www.hindustantimes.com/ViewsSectionPage/ColumnsOthers/Let-s-stick-to-the-law-for-once/Article1-950108.aspx)

See the respective articles by clicking on the individual names above.
Where does your company Tiger Paw Adventures stand in this debate. The position may surprise many for we concur with …
For many years TigerPaws did not even promote wildlife safaris because of the manner in which the rest of the industry and the Forest Department rode roughshod on the the fundamentals of wildlife watching and eco sensitivity which was to minimise impact, and evolve a code of conduct on the manner in which jeep drivers raced around to get to a sighting spot, and tourists urged their drivers to deliver a sighting. Overtime as we cultivated a highly discerning clientele we were able to elicit their cooperation in discouraging their drivers to “follow the horde” and “push ahead” for a sighting.

TigerPaws has a very diverse panapoly of eco and adventure as well as cultural tours. It also operates in countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Canada , Brazil and others where there is a far more enlightened view and practise of wildlife tourism. We firmly believe that a lack of practical field nature study in schools has created a lack of awareness in appreciation for smaller species and resulted in the tunnel vision of a tourist ony being satisfied when he or she sights a tiger and no less.

TigerPaw Adventures was also the only company which discouraged low cost tourism in Arunachal Pradesh during the assessment team’s visit in the early 80’s. The case for low numbers as stated by..in the second article is one which finds complete resonance with us. We are confident that the responsible tourists that TigerPaws clients are, understand this and that they will come for a total wildlife India experience where sighting a tiger is the icing on the cake rather than the end all and be all of their visit to a national park.

HOWEVER WHAT IS MOST INTERESTING IS THAT BOTH INDIVIDUALS CITIED THAT THE AFRICAN EXAMPLE WAS THE BEST TO FOLLOW , THE DIFFERENCE IN THE TWO POSITIONS BEING THAT WHILE THAPAR WAS  FOR TOURISM IN CORE AREAS , DUBEY CHALLENGED THE VERY PRESENCE OF TOURISM IN NATIONAL PARKS, LIKE COLIN BELL, THE AFRICAN EXPERT HE QUOTED, SAYING THAT IF AT ALL THIS WERE TO BE PERMITTED, THE AFRICAN EXAMPLE WAS THE MOST VISIONARY.
Our position therefor rests as quoted in the preceding paragraph and we trust that its logic will be obvious.

"We hope our paths cross soon and look forward to hearing from you."
Cordially,
From TEAM TIGERPAWS


Executive Directors: IJ  Singh, and Maj Gen Surjit Singh
Tours : Rohit Ninoriya & Deepak Kumar
In The Field: Mountain Men: Anand Singh Negi, Surinder Singh and Hari Singh
Equestrian Staff: Bijay Singh , Boma Ram, Ganesh Ram, and Equines : Raj Kumar, Light Foot, Hanuman.
Support Staff: Accounts: Shaukat Anwar  : Vikram Kumar

SEE OUR WEBSITES or CONTACT US VIA:

Also see on FACEBOOK “ No Boda Boda”   ,  “TigerPaw Adventures”   , “ Spashram”  , “ Poloholidays”  www.Safarious.com/EklektikEdventurz 
Inder Jit Singh on FB . Blog www.travelleratlarge.blogspot.com Twitter: ij_himself  Skype: Panthera 72
INDIA Mob   91-8860128999|91-9810128999, Land (Studio-Dir.No Voice)-  91-11-46568080
INDIA: D 383 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110024
Tel/Fax 91-11-41011617.  Admin: Travel:   91-11-65655355   

         CANADA: 8034-112 B St., Delta, BC, V4C5A7
      IJ Singh Founder TigerPaw Adventures (I) Pltd  1982 INDIA,1995 CANADA
Author of the 2012 Travel Book “ No Boda Boda”
Founder IJ's Exotic Int'l Horseback & Polo Holidays- Canada 1997
             Fellow Asia Foundation San Fransisco Environmental Education (First Five-INDIA)1994;  Awardee India- BioDiversity Conservation Award 1995    Wash DC USA: Sole International Speaker Polo America 2000, 2001 Polo Holidays,LAS VEGAS,USA;
TIGERPAW ADVENTURES: 
         PLANNERS AND LOGISTICANS FOR BRITISH FORCES GERMANY 2nd Royal Tank Regiment EXERCISE BHILGANGA DIAMOND I,II,1994-1995
        Royal Signals HIMALAYAN SKI MOUNTAINEERING, & ROYAL AIR FORCE, KINLOSS,SCOTLAND, EXPEDITION  MT KEDAR DOME;1995
 
          TRAINING AGENCY FOR INDIAN ARMY'S 2nd MOUNTAIN ARTILLERY BRIGADE (& OTHERS/NAVY). FIRST DESCENT RIVER LOHIT, International Tri Junction (INDIA,CHINA,MYANMAAR-ARUNACHAL PRADESH);1992-1994

       FIRST PRIVATE  OUTDOOR MANAGEMENT TEAM & LEADERSHIP PROGRAM COORDINATOR, FOR AMERICAN EXPRESSINDIA 1994,1995;
            MOTIVATIONAL WEEKEND PROGRAM COORDINATOR -HONGKONG & SHANGHAI BANK 2002;
            SELECTED BY VICE PRESIDENT HARVARD UNIVERSITY,FOR REMOTE AREA JOURNEYS OF DISCOVERY 1999;

           ALSO:  OTHER  "FIRSTS IN ADVENTURE".