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Sikkim Diaries – day 5

Previous night’s karaoke session was awesome! Of course I chickened out πŸ˜‰ But so many talented singers in the group.

So, today we will be going to Kewzing in South Sikkim. Some of us had decided to visit the Rabdentse ruins again this morning. So half the group left for the ruins, while the rest of us stayed back. It wasn’t a long drive to Kewzing, so we had plenty of time in the morning. I decided to stay back πŸ˜€

We started from Pelling around 9:30 am, and reached Kewzing by lunch time. Not a continuous drive – there was a ‘admire the scenery and take pics’ pitstop.

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such beautiful views …

Kewzing (alt ~4500ft) is a charming village in South Sikkim. The majority of the people here belong to the Bhutia community. Kewzing means “land of wheat fields” in the Bhutia language.

While we were waiting for lunch at the homestay – talking to our lovely hosts – something caught my eye. Surprised no one had noticed it earlier.. Three cute hosts – mama kitty, and two cute kittens. The kittens were just 2 weeks old – little balls of fur. They had made themselves comfortable in a huge basket and also had a nice jacket to keep themselves warm. So there .. found a new way to pass time πŸ™‚

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mama kitty and her kittens

At lunch there was this combination of butter and cheese (I forget what it’s called) which you could have with rice. Lunch was rice, fresh veggies, the butter-cheese combo, and chicken.

Post lunch it was time for a trek through the forest.. We had a local naturalist (Mr. Ugen) along with us on the trek. The trek path was through a dense forest. There were plenty of chortens in the forest, and an interesting wooden prayer wheel. It rains a lot in these parts, and the prayer wheel placed in such a place that the rushing water turns the wheel. So interesting.

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Prayer wheel in the forest

It was an informative (got to know about the number of varieties of bamboo in Sikkim, about orchids, and some medicinal plants) as well as an adventurous walk. We had to walk across a bamboo bridge – the “bridge” was just 3 bamboos, and you had to walk on that. Of course there was the easy option of climbing over rocks.

End of the walk, and out of the forest and straight at the gates of the Doling Monastery.Β  Saw a car with Bhutan number plates at the monastery entrance .. and yup, saw a couple of Bhutanese people in their traditional dress, at the monastery.

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Doling Monastery

Doling monastery is small (compared to the Pemayangtse monastery we visited yesterday), and we reached there at prayers time. Waited inside the monastery for a while listening to the chants. We had tea (served in cute tea cups with a lid) and a traditional local snack called Zhayro (it is fried and looks like a crow’s nest).

While returning we decided to skip the forest trail and walk through the village back to Kewzing. The plan was village – and then start the forest trail at some point just before we reached the Kewzing home stay. The sun was just setting and the sky looked like it was on fire. It was a pleasant walk – prayer flags along the road everywhere. You see these prayer flags everywhere in Sikkim. It is believed that the prayers written on the flags are blown far by the wind, blessing the people it touches.

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Evenings like this …

Back at the home stay, and we saw uncle in the midst of preparations for a small bonfire in the garden. Ohh nice!! Spent some time in the garden – uncle showed us the small farm next to the garden where they grow garlic, coriander, and something that looked like cauliflower (didn’t ask what it was – should have).

So the bonfire was started and everyone started gathering around the fire – refreshed after a forest trail and the monastery visit. A round of chatting, singing and drinking – yeah drinking πŸ˜‰ We had millet wine – it’s a local drink. Aunty stepped out of the kitchen with a huge kettle full of home brewed millet wine. Lovely evening – bonfire, stories, singing, and a few refills of the wine. I sang Hotel California, and no I wasn’t drunk.

Soon it was time for dinner, and then bed. There was no ‘packing’ as this was our only night in Kewzing. We leave for Gangtok tomorrow morning. Looking forward to it.. actually looking forward to the sunrise tomorrow morning – wanted to get a few sunrise pics.

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Forest trail – Kewzing to Doling Monastery

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Sikkim Diaries – day 4

Woke up at 5 am again .. It has become a routine now – early to bed, and very early to rise. Might get used to it πŸ˜‰

Long day ahead of us .. but first breakfast!

After a hearty breakfast we set off .. the first stop was Khecheopalri Lake. This lake is in the shape of a foot, and is considered to be a wish granting lake, and hence a sacred place. It is said that the birds in that area help in keeping the lake clean – they pick up any leaves that fall into the lake. We did not see any leaves or branches floating in the water – must be true πŸ™‚

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The path leading to the lake was full of prayer flags – such a common sight all over Sikkim. Saw some people praying. Spent some time at the lake – so peaceful. so calm. Bought some postcards here, and then proceeded towards Kanchenjunga waterfalls. No idea why it’s called Kanchenjunga waterfall – no views of the mountain from here. The waterfall was .. well, a waterfall πŸ˜€ Nothing spectacular. Lots of people to see the falls though. I didn’t go right to the base of the falls but took the opportunity to click some slow shutter waterfall pics (they’re not that great though)

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slow shutter experiments πŸ˜€

Next up was Pemayangtse Monastery and we wanted to reach there around 3-3:30 pm – because that’s the daily prayers time. Reached the monsatery and were clicking pics when we heard sounds of chanting from one of the upper rooms – the prayer room probably. We followed the sound and went upstairs… There was a prayer room and we saw lot of monks praying – chanting, beating the drums. Trance music! We sat there – mesmerized by the praying. Sat there till the end of prayers. While the prayers were on, the monks were being served tea and samosas. Not one stopped midway to have tea or eat. Will power!

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Pemayangtse Monastery – prayer wheel at the entrance

From the monastery we could see the Rabdentse ruins – that was supposed to be our next (and probably the last) stop for the day. It was almost sunset when we reached Rabdentse. It’s a short (~30 min), uphill hike to the ruins.. and we reached when the sun was just setting. What a wonderful sight – ruins of the ancient palace and the golden hour light.

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Rabdentse ruins

It’s a beautiful place – all ruins are in some way beautiful. Quiet place to sit and think – about all the things you’re not going to do once you’re back in Mumbai πŸ˜‰ (like uploading photos immediately)

The ASI has put up signs encouraging people to not give up and carry on trekking till they reach the ruins.

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Don’t Give Up!

On the way back to the homestay we stopped at a cute bakery and had some yummy pastries and meh! coffee. The coffee was a disappointment – it was the machine coffee. The brown syrup that I have at office everyday.

Back at the homestay, and I found they had managed to get a tv screen for the karaoke – aargh!. Throughout dinner time my brain was working overtime – thinking of all the excuses I could make to get out of this singing thing. Come on.. I didn’t want to scare anyone … my singing gives people nightmares πŸ˜‰

The monastery and Rabdentse was definitely the highlight of the day – specially the ruins, that some of us decided to visit again the next morning before we left for Kewzing.

 

 

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Sikkim Diaries – day 2

It was almost midnight when I hit the pillow .. needed a good night’s sleep before the trek. The temperature had dipped while we were on our way to Okhrey, and now it had become so cold that I felt like emptying my rucksack and wearing every piece of clothing in it πŸ˜€

Deep sleep – and probably a bit of snoring (my roommates would know πŸ˜‰ ).

Sometime around dawn (or was it?) I opened my eyes, and pushed the curtains aside .. looked outside and it’s bright and sunny. Damn! Damn! Damn! I’m late for the trek. First day of the trip, and I’m making my friends wait. Looked around the room, and see 2 people sleeping – peacefully. Huh? Picked up my phone and see it’s just 5:10 am. WHAT! Oh, right. This is the north eastern side of the country. Sunrise is very early – around 4:30 am. Phew! No one has to wait.

Instead of going back to sleep, which was impossible, I decide to step out. Take a walk. Maybe click a few pictures. Freezing cold outside. Still I manage to get over my laziness, and head out and I wasn’t disappointed.

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Good morning, Okhrey. Wish I could wake up to a views like this everyday.

I didn’t have to walk far to witness gorgeous views like the one in this picture. I just had to step out of the door .. and BOOM! It’s so beautiful.

Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a short drive away from the homestay where we stayed. Then it’s a short 2-3 hours trek.

Had a hearty breakfast before heading out .. energy for the trek. The highlight of the meal was the sheera – yummy sheera full of dryfruits.

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welcome to Paradise

Okhrey (alt. 7200 ft) is a small village near the Sanctuary – majority of the people living here belong to the Sherpa community.

About the trek – It’s a short drive away from the homestay at Okhrey. You need to buy tickets at the entrance to the Sanctuary. No hassle ticket buying process… the polite (there’s that P word again) security guy at the ticket window asked minimum questions, and handed our tickets – no hassles.

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one of the many notices at the Sanctuary. This is also the home of the Red Panda.

It’s a gentle climb (a bit steep for non trekkers in some places)… but overall a pleasant walk in the forest. You are surrounded by rhododendron trees which were in full bloom.

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Rhododendron flower

(Sadly no good pictures on my mobile, just one blurry shot – y’all have to wait for the camera pics). There’s also bamboo, and sal trees. Depending on your fitness level, and walking pace it takes around 3-4 hours. This is just the trek within the sanctuary – just for the rhododendrons. There are other treks too – but you need a couple of days more for those.

So the 8 of us set out to explore the rhododendron forest – took plenty of breaks along the way. Snack break, photography breaks, to catch our breath, or just to stop and admire the nature around us. One of the most awaited moments of this trip was the mighty Kanchenjunga. I did manage to get a glimpse of the mighty mountain at one point during the trek. There’s a trekkers hut within the sanctuary – probably a base for some other treks in the region (e.g Singalila Ridge trek). We stopped here for a while – sipped tea while admiring the beautiful mountain in front of us. Sadly that was the only time during the 9 day trip that we saw this beautiful mountain and it’s snow capped peaks. On other days the views were obstructed by clouds 😦

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The Mighty Kanchenjunga (seen from Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary)

Lunch was under the shade of a tree – we had carried packed lunch as it wasn’t possible to return to the base before late afternoon.

Lunch, and then start the trek back to Okhrey. This time too I took plenty of breaks – to click pictures, eat something (I’m always hungry), or just wait – look at the mountain – hoping to get another glimpse of Kanchenjunga.

Reached Okhrey just in time for tea, and delicious snacks – food is always delicious πŸ˜€ There was a cultural program later that evening but we had plenty of time to spare.. so we set out to explore the family’s farm – where they grow brocolli, corn (probably – saw corn hung out to dry – for popcorn!). So that’s where they get the fresh produce for their meals.

Later that evening we had the first “remote village” experience – power cut. There was no power that evening and we had to sit for a long time in the darkness. Didn’t mind that one bit. It’s always good to sit out in the dark, in the cool breeze, talking, watching people, clicking pictures, playing with the dogs… Watching the prayer flags blowing in the breeze – so peaceful, so calm.

The cultural program was a lovely experience – the power was still out when it started. Folk dances of the Sherpa community – all performed by school kids. It was so wonderful to watch. The enthusiasm of those kids – too good! I do not have any pictures of that event. I was carrying my camera bag with me – but then I realised my battery is so low that it won’t last for more than a couple of shots. I didn’t click any pics – because that’d be rude – click a few pics, and then just sit with the camera without clicking because your battery is all drained out. The funniest part is I was carrying my mobile in my pocket but totally forgot about it. (Signs of old age, eh?)

No pictures – but it was an experience I’ll never forget. Such wonderful performances by little kids. Great memories.

Post a wonderful dinner it was time to dump everything back into the rucksack cos tomorrow we’d be traveling to Pelling. Had to set out early, so all the packing (or stuffing clothes in the rucksack – in my case) had to be done ASAP.

Thus ended Day 2 – a trek to see the lovely Rhododendrons, a special appearance by Kanchenjunga, the farm and the fresh veggies, a power cut, the friendly dogs, and the cultural event to cap it off. Eventful day – spent with great company.

 

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Sikkim Diaries – day 1

My mobile displays the time …00:00 . It’s here. D-Day! The day has finally arrived. 8-April-2017. The day I FINALLY set out for my long awaited, much deserved trip to Sikkim.

No. Hang on. The flight is at 10:05 am, and it’s just midnight. Mr. Murphy be lurking in the shadows somewhere. Five years, and three failed attempts should have taught me something about plans going for a toss.

12:05 am. CAN’T SLEEP. So much excitement. Maybe it’s the huge tumbler of coffee I had just before dinner. Either way, there will be no sleeping tonight.

So … just lying down I try to make a mental list of all the stuff I was supposed to pack. And now begins the fun part – I always have this strange fear before every trip that I’ve forgotten to pack something. That gets converted to “the airline is going to misplace my bags” during a flight. Or, “what if my train is late”, “I’m going to forget something on the bus”, “maybe I’ve got into the wrong train/bus/any vehicle” πŸ˜€ Happens every time.

And I did forget something – torch. So I spend 45 minutes hunting for my headlamp. Obviously I don’t find it. But it at least keeps me occupied for about an hour, and probably woke up everyone at home.

6:00 am, and time to “wake up”. Haven’t slept a wink though. But yeah, wake up.Β  Breakfast, shower and I’m all set. I’m still not convinced this trip is happening.. Five years blah blah..

Booked an Uber for the ride to the airport, and two minutes later I get a call from the driver that he’s at my building gate. *Alarm bells clanging* That is the first sign. The glitch in the matrix. I mean, you’re not supposed to arrive at the gate in 2 minutes. What are you? Maggi? Go to the wrong locality, then wrong building, then the gate on the opposite side, and then finally after a world tour, arrive at my gate.

The ride to the airport was uneventful .. No traffic. Even with all the metro work on the highway. NO TRAFFIC! Another sign.

Arrive at the airport, and check-in done in 7 minutes. Sign #3. I don’t believe in signs and omens or stuff like that. But this is creeping me out. The universe is sending me signals. Oh em gee. Three failed attempts blah blah..

Checked in, and the long wait begins.Β  Now starts another round of “what if my flight is delayed”, “what if it’s cancelled”.Β  I look around. I see people clicking selfies, taking pictures of landing, take off, and parked planes. Much amusement. Such entertainment. Finally, the giant tv screen announces boarding for my flight, and relief! The take off was on time. 10:05 am. Should I interpret it as another signal? Naah!!!Β I AM GOING TO SIKKIM AFTER ALL!! Five years, three failed attempts…

Peaceful flight (= No screaming kids. No loud conversations πŸ˜‰ ). Slept for a bit, read a bit, looked out of the window and finally landed at Bagdogra airport. Met FRIENDS (7 wonderful people with whom I would be spending the next 9 days). Friends – yup! Didn’t know anyone from the group. Met them for the first time at Bagdogra. But that’s what traveling is all about. Meet new people, make friends, make memories. Had to wait for one from the group whose flight was delayed. But hey, who is complaining. A bit of chit chat, and lunch. All set to proceed towards Sikkim. Okhrey in West Sikkim, to be precise. Yay.

Okhrey is ~ 135 km from Bagdogra airport. Shouldn’t take more than 3 hours (maybe?) – in the plains. But mountain roads are tough. The people in the vehicle (driver, and passengers) make or break a journey. Extremely lucky to be in the company of 4 wonderful people. Lot’s of one liners (specially about reckless drivers, and bikers – more on that later), and some life gyaan by our amazing driver. The journey seemed like a breeze. So far.

Soon the straight roads were left behind, and we started ascending. Got to add a point here – Driving on narrow, winding mountain roads is a huge challenge, and much respect to all the people who do this every day.

We were informed beforehand that this was going to be a long long loooooong drive. And a long drive it was. And every long journey needs a quick chai break. We were not yet in Sikkim when we stopped for tea/coffee and snacks.

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We were in Kalimpong (Bengal). Stopped at this cute little place situated right next to the river. Had chai and momos, and maggi. You can’t travel to the mountains and not have momos and maggi πŸ˜€ It’s blasphemy.

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chai, momos and this view (at Kalimpong)

Still ascending, and sometime later the AC was switched off, and the windows rolled down. Felt the cool breeze on my face and I knew we’re getting close.

Sure enough we reached a check post and were greeted by a polite cop (erm, WHAT?) who checked our papers and wished us (WHAT again!) a happy stay in Sikkim.

There’s still a long way to go … but we stopped for a while to admire the view (it was dark already – but the moon! what lovely view. The almost full moon) and also to give the engines some rest.

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this view!

A short break, and we were off. The temperature had dropped, and I had to put on my jacket. Felt good though. Specially after the heat and humidity of Mumbai. More ascend, more winding roads, and a one liner about the dust (some road repair work on the way) we finally reached Okhrey at around 10 pm. Set off from Bagdogra around 3:15 -ish and drove non stop (with just one pit stop for tea).Β  Long, tiring journey – but strangely felt refreshed on reaching Okhrey. Adrenaline rush. That must be it.

Dinner (hot food!!) was waiting for us, and big surprise – I ate the veggies without any fuss. πŸ˜‰ Simple dinner – rice, daal, sabzi.

Dinner done, freshened up, and it’s lights off. Tomorrow is going to be a big day. Trek to the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary!

Lights off, and sweet dreams about the trek tomorrow. Ending Day 1 on a high note.

Note – There were two FIRSTS on this trip for me..

  1. First time I traveled with a all women group. Big shout out to F5 Escapes, for a wonderful trip. Well thought out itinerary. Plenty of off beat places – Thumbs up! and Thank you. πŸ™‚
  2. First time I carried a book with me on a vacation (I can hear you laughing) – Read 50 pages –Β  *drum roll* while waiting for my flight, and during the flight. But hey, when you are in such awesome company you don’t need a book.

Another Note – Huge shout out to my F5 travel buddies. If you’re reading this THANK YOU. You are awesome.

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Long time ….

No see πŸ˜‰

Back after almost one year.. guess my blog posts have become a yearly event now. Starting a series of posts about my trip to Sikkim – will be titled (very creatively) as Sikkim Diaries.

I always carry a notepad whenever I travel… never blogged about my travels. But this trip *WAS* special.

So watch this space – coming up next – Sikkim Diaries Day1.

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Hello, Mr. Pochettino. Few minutes to spare?

“We’re coming for you!!”

I had originally planned to write this blogpost at the end of the season. But then I thought, we’ll all be busy celebrating after watching Hugo lift the trophy. So decided to post this right now.

This isn’t a season review post. I never do that, no. Not before the season ends. Last time I posted about how great our season was progressing, and how we were going to play Champions League the following season .. well, we blew a 10 point lead and a guranteed (almost) 3rd place finish. I’m kinda superstitious about all things Spurs. I believe that post jinxed it. That’s not what really happened. But hey, superstition.

So, this is not a review post. Not going to utter (um type, actually) a single word about what’s been happening this season.

Okay, first things first.

This post is an apology post. Long overdue apology. Mauricio Pochettino! I owe you an apology. So sorry man. So sorry I ever doubted you. And I’m glad I was proved wrong.

Remember the days when there was a lot of speculation about the next Spurs manager .. Remember? Plenty of names were being linked to us. LVG among them. And back then my first preference was LVG. Mainly because he had the ‘experience’ managing big clubs. And Pochettino? He was with Southampton. He had them playing great football, no doubt. But it’s Southampton! Come on. They aren’t as big as us, no? Also I had no clue about his previous clubs. HOW WRONG I WAS!!! And how ignorant. How stupid. How judgemental. How … …

Looking back .. at Man Utd, and their season. It seems like we dodged a bullet. Not a bullet. We dodged a flukking A bomb.

A couple paragraphs above I said I won’t be talking about our season .. Ha! It’s Spurs. You just can’t shut me up.

My love affair with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club started in Feb 2001. How (and why) I fell in love is a different and a long-ish story – and a separate blog post. More about that later.

All the years I’ve been supporting Spurs, only a handful of seasons stand out as ‘Whoa’ seasons. My favourite being the lassagna gate season. Proper Spursy! Dream a lovely dream only to end in a Heartbreak, and I cried. I actually cried after a football match. That is not me.

Well, lassagna season – you’ve been demoted to second place. Say hello to my new favourite season of all time (until the start of 2016/17 season, anyway). And the person responsible for that is Mr. Poch. (Sorry, again). He’s not the only one instrumental in bringing about this change – but this post is about MP. So…

Watching Spurs play has ALWAYS brought a smile to my face. Win, lose or draw. Can’t smile without you. And I’m smiling right now (watched the highlights of Stoke vs Spurs – AGAIN). But this season it has been different. Very different. The way the lads are playing is Unbelievable!!Β  We’re playing as a team. A well drilled unit. There’s no “one man team”. No toys out of the pram superstar tantrums. We’re TOGETHER. Together THFC! (Kinda sounds like “We is Us”, yikes!). The transformation from a wannabe challenger to actually challenging for the PL title is phenomenal. Loving every minute of it. And with 4 games to go (and 5 points behind the Foxes) I haven’t given up. Still dreaming. A sharp contrast to previous seasons when the dream started fading away after March.

Every season it is a Head vs Heart argument – Head says we’ll do okay. Heart says TOP 4 or nothing. And in the end Head always won. Not this season, no way. I believe we will fight till the end. Till the final whistle.

So once again – Sorry for doubting you Mr. Pochettino. You’re COYS AF.We’re gonna do it.

Oh, and Mr. Levy. Give this man a raise, and a new contract.

COYS, forever and always!

 

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REBOOT

Reboot? You mean the good ol’ Windows Ctrl+Alt+Del?

Yes, you guessed that right. This blog has been stagnant for so long, it needs a reboot. So, why am I doing this? Resurrecting the blog. I mean, I was perfectly happy with the way things were going .. One post every year! No one complained. No one missed the posts. So why change things? If it ain’t broken and all that …

Here’s why.

Just seen this 30 day Challenge on WordPress Daily Post. And I thought : Why not? I’m always up for a challenge. Plus this will give me a push to restart blogging again. Not a new year’s resolution, but it’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while now.

The challenge is pretty simple. Every day they post a new assignment. And you blog about it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

So here’s my blog. REBOOTED.

Alright. Assignment #1.

INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Yikes!!

Two words that bring back school memories when you had to stand and introduce yourself to the class. Awkward. Way too awkward for me.

So, here’s a few things about me. The easiest way to introduce myself is … I’m the Queen of Procrastinators. Take a look around. This blog has been in existence since .. maybe the 1950’s. πŸ˜‰ and I’ve been putting off updating it.
What I love – FOOTBALL (Soccer). I support the Premier League side, Tottenham Hotspur, and also have a soft spot for the current BundesLiga champions, FC Bayern Munich. I love arguing/discussions about football, specially Spurs and FC Bayern.

Football is a passion, but I’m equally interested in all kinds of sports .. erm, maybe not Golf. Β (no offense)

Some other things that keep me busy – Reading, Travel, Photography and Food.

I have no favourite genre or author .. I read. Just read. Recommend a book, and I’ll read it. Haven’t blogged about the books I’ve read. This seems like a good time to start.

I’m an outdoors person. I love hiking. Probably that’s what kick started my love of photography. You go out, see some amazing stuff Β and you want to capture it. I’ve been maintaining a 52 weeks photo project blog for the past 2 years. It’s been one awesome journey.

Absolutely passionate about food. I think I picked up the cooking trait from my Grandmothers. Both amazing women, excellent cooks.

Ha! And now I’m running out of ideas .. Have so much inside my head that I want to write about. But.

Maybe that’s the reason this blog has suffered so much. I can’t get the stuff inside my head out on the blog. Is this what they call the writers block? Nah.

Ah. I haven’t mentioned where I’m from.

So here’s me.. from India. Born and raised in this beautiful city of Mumbai. True blue .. dyed in the wool Mumbai girl.

I guess that it. End of challenge 1. Looking forward to #2.