Category Archives: Mountains

Glimpses of Iceland

A conversation about having horses as pets reminded me of the magnificent beasts I saw in Iceland where it is also commonplace. It occurred to me that I never posted pictures of the actual trip, and so here is an abridged recollection of the adventure and pictures.

A few years ago (August 2015) along with some close friends, I headed to Iceland. We rented a 4×4 for a week and mapped ourselves 2000 kilometres of travel, over a terrain ranging from comfortable roads, to hazardous mountain slopes and to paths barely resembling civilisation’s footprint, while I was the sole driver.

We started driving in the northwesterly direction with the hope of circling back from Snæfellsjökull National Park in a day. We passed via Arnarstapi making a stopover at the little harbour town.

Landscapes reflecting perfectly in lakes around was a surreal sight.

So was the golden sun in the backdrop against cotton buds ready for plucking.

The next day marked the beginning our longest leg of the 3 days journey to cover the most ground. We stopped occasionally to marvel at the majestic horses and the magnificent mountain backdrops.

The sight of Eyjafjallajökull was undoubtedly goosebump evoking.

As the roads twisted and turned, we suddenly found ourselves on a different planet which was covered in black sand fields announcing our approach towards Jökulsárlón.

The slow drifts of icebergs in Jökulsárlón’s glacial ice fields were a soothing sight.

As dusk rapidly fell, we scrambled to find accommodation for the night while hunting for the cellular network to make reservations, battling hunger and grumpiness.

On our way back, we spent leisurely amount of time at the gigantic Skógafoss and few other waterfalls of less notable sizes

Occasionally we hit patches of sun which lit up the landscape in contrasting shades of green, brown, black and blue.

The last day of the trip was spent recovering in Reykjavik. We headed to the coast to enjoy the last glimpses as the sun set.

Leh

When the prospect of exploring the Himalayas popped up, I was above and beyond ecstatic. Most I have been around mountains was outside India. There were only a handful of occasions I saw them in India in over two decades. Part of the tradition to explore India every time I visit, following a trip to Agra, a friend and I made impromptu flight reservation to fly from the capital of the country to the capital of the Himalayan kingdom – Leh.

As soon as we landed in Leh, we were left breathless both metaphorically and literally. At 3500m, not only did the lack of oxygen had caught us unawares with altitude sickness but also the cold. Excitement turned into grumpiness. Breathlessness, grumpiness and of course drama enveloped us.
One hotel customer was kind enough to chide us for being unprepared and gave us medicines for altitude sickness. That breathed life into our miserable souls and lifted our spirits up. With that, we hired a taxi and proceeded to explore.

Pretty much everything around Leh is built by the Indian Army. The amount of engineering that had to be done to make life possible there was beyond imagination. Living in the Himalayas is hard. There is no internet, water supply, fresh foods, for weeks or maybe even months during winter (which spans almost the entire year). And yet, somehow human spirit found ways to survive and thrive.

The morning dose of chai at an altitude that exceeds most peaks in the Alps certainly gave me goosebumps.

Pretty much all infrastructure is built and maintained by the Indian BSF (Border security forces). Civilians are allowed to use most of it with an exception to certain roads which restricted to foreigners.

There were several temples that we visited. The peace and tranquillity I observed, momentarily left me wanting to give up life in the urban rat race and live there.

Sitting atop a small peak, Leh Palace was a stunning sight and it had incredible views.

Next stop was the Lamayuru Monastery in Kargil.

The most ubiquitous piece of gadgetry in the Himalayan range turned out to be Satellite TV. The satellite dish antennas were everywhere! In hindsight, it seems obvious now, but I was amused to see them. They were perhaps the only means of connection to the outside world.

Cricket – not surprisingly, was the most popular pastime. I loved seeing kids dressed in monk’s red-orange robes playing the game everywhere, brought a smile to my soul.