Friday, May 18, 2007

Summer escapades

As the mercury is rising day by day in Delhi, and schools have closed for summer vacation, more and more people are going out of Delhi. I will also be off to relatively cooler North East for my annual summer break. On return I will be proceeding to Mumbai for a couple of days before coming back to the daily routine of Delhi. Will be back to blogging after 20 days. I wish everyone a nice summer holiday.

Now fly to Valley of Flowers

If you are willing to shell out 10000 bucks, you can forget about the 40 Kms scenic but tiresome trek between Govindghat and Ghangria. You can now fly between these places in just 10 minutes. Delhi based Prabhatam Aviation will be starting helicopter services between Govindghat and Ghangria from 1st June, 2007.

This means that one day's trek of 20 km one way can now be covered in just 10 minutes. I had enquired with the company for rates. It is not cheap, but may be worth. Rates are as under:

Both way trip : Rs.9900
One way trip : Rs.5500 (rate same for both up and down trip)
Capacity of the helicopter is 6 persons. No discounts for Child or Senior Citizens.

This means that, for going to Valley of Flowers, you will have to trek only the 5 km distance from Govindghat to Valley of Flowers. The climb to Hemkund Sahib is mich steeper. If you take both ways trip, you may be able to save two days.

Here are the phone nos of Prabhatam Aviation in Delhi :

Office and booking: 011-23516803
Mobiles: 9312233234 and 9313818979
Prabhatam Aviation had already started similar service between Phata and Kedarnath shrine. However, there were protests by local political groups against this service as it will affect the livlihood of many local who depends on visitors. Even this one may face protests at the begining.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Destination locked : Valley of Flowers

Where are you going in the second half of this year ? I have targeted Valley of Flowers. Ever since I have been almost 20 kms within that place, I wanted to go there. It will be almost impossible after I move out from Delhi. So I had decided to give it a try this year. Of course if God almighty agrees! Weather plays an important part in the trip. If rain continues beyond July, then it will be all over. Because it involves 20 kms of trekking up the hill each way.

One good thing about this trek is that it is rated as soft trek, making it possible for almost everyone to climb. The trek starts at Govindghat, some 20 km from Joshimath, at an altitude of 1828 mtr. Day one involves trek upto Ghangria at 3048 mtr. Day 2 involves further trek upto the Valley of Flowers at 3700 mtr (average). One has to trek 5 km one way from Ghangria base camp to Valley of Flowers and back by evening. Night halt at Valley of Flowers are not allowed to maintain its unique ecosystems. Thus it involves trekking from about 6000 feet to about 12000 feet. It is a challenge. But it will be unique – once in a lifetime experience.

Interseted! Try exploring the GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam) website. Uttaranchal is divided basically into two regions – Garhwal and Kumaon. The sites like Badrinath, Hemkund Shahib, Valley of Flowers, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri fals in the Garhwal region. The site like Nainital, Kausani, Binsar, etc. falls in Kumaon region Both GMVN and KMVN (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam) have excellent websites. Further they also run chain of hotels in these places. More importantly they are government agencies.

I will finalize the trip by getting into touch with some travel agencies in Dehradun. For traveling in the hills, it is always safer to hire a car from local people with local driver, rather from Delhi. One do not require prior hotel booking at Joshimath or Badrinath. But I am not sure about Ghangria, the base camp for trip to Valley of Flowers. As of now, I am assuming that as hundreds of people go there everyday, specially for going to the Sikh holy shrine of Hemkund Sahib, there certainly will be some arrangements for staying. Probably one can get accommodation there without any kind of prior booking. I am looking at options offered by GMVN, UFDC (Uttaranchal Forest Development Corporation) which have good network of Forest Rest Houses, and local tour operators at Dehradun. All these three will be cheaper than booking through some agencies in Delhi.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My first Google Adsense Payment

Two years and almost 21000 hits. My blogging journey have been very satisfying. To add to this 2 years celebration, I have received my first Google – Adsense payout cheque yesterday.

The cheque sent from some agency based at Singapore on behalf of Google is in Indian currency, converted to INR at the exchange rate on the date of issue. The $108 payout is worth Rs.4381.70. The depreciating dollar had taken a toll on it. The amount may be very small, but its worth is much more. It is very special. The time I have invested in my blog is not worthless.

When I started the blog, all that I wanted was to digitize my travelogues, but it became an addiction. There was a time when I used to post every alternate day. But hectic metro life and time has taken its toll. Further, I got involved in a philanthropic online project – help building an online dictionary for my mother tongue, Assamese. Being a voluntary editor for this project had eaten up most of my spare times in last 6 months or so.

Yet there is no dearth of visitors to my blog. Stats say that 50 to 80 hits a day. I keep receiving calls from travelers planning to go to Lakshadweep and remote places in Uttaranchal. It makes you feel that what I am writing is not worthless. Thanks to all those who have made the blog a success.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jet Airways acquisition of Sahara Airlines Limited

Air Sahara has been acquired by Jet Airways and it is proposed to be called Jet Lite. I had booked tickets by Air Sahara for a trip on 19th May, 2007 prior to the merging. After the merger of, I was a bit worried as to what will be status of my tickets.

However mails I have received from both the airlines today has allayed my fears. I being a registered frequent flyer member to both these airlines, I had received two separate mailers from these airlines. The content of the letters are almost identical, with only exception being the names of their respective frequent flyer programs. The gist of the mail text is reproduced below:
You may have read the news on the recent acquisition of Sahara Airlines Limited by Jet Airways. Effective April 20, 2007 Sahara Airlines Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jet Airways India Limited.

Sahara Airlines Limited & Jet Airways India Limited will continue to operate independently as separate entities. Cosmos - Power Flier members will be able to accrue/redeem miles and avail of benefits on the existing Sahara Airlines network.
This acquisition of Sahara Airlines Limited by Jet Airways will not affect your Cosmos - Power Flier membership, and the benefits accorded there under to you. We assure you that your outstanding Cosmos Miles will be honoured as per terms and conditions of Cosmos - Power Flier Program.

At this point in time, Cosmos – Power Flier members will not be able to accrue/redeem miles or avail of benefits on the Jet Airways network as a result of the acquisition.
The mailer from Jet Airways has last two para as under:
Jet Privilege members will continue to earn and redeem JP Miles and avail of benefits on the existing Jet Airways network.

At this point in time, Jet Privilege members will not be able to earn or redeem miles or avail of benefits on Sahara Airlines network as a result of the acquisition.

This indicates that though the airlines have merged, they will continue to operate as earlier. So one need not worry about their bookings. I hope that they will also have separate check in counters at airports.