Thursday, March 28, 2013

Butterfly Garden: Changi Airport, Singapore

On my return flight from California to India, I had a long stop over at Changi Aiport, Singapore. Taking advantage of this, I spent an hour photographing in the Butterfly Garden located within Terminal 3 of the airport.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The California Coast: Cambria

I recently had the opportunity of spending a very pleasant three days at Cambria - a small town on the Pacific Coast on the scenic Highway 1. These are some of the photographs of the Pacific Coast from in and around Cambria.

Sunset from Cambria

The Pacific at night

Storm clouds Cambria

Elephant seals bask in the sun 

The beach at Cambria

Ragged Point Sur

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Santa Cruz Downtown: California

I had rented the new Nikon D600 full frame (FX sensor) DSLR and was trying it out for a few days. Downtown Santa Cruz seemed to a good place with it's pubs, cafes, shops and interesting light! Here are a few photos from the D600. I used the Nikon prime lenses for the test 50F1.8D and 24 F2.8 AF.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Down Works, Santa Cruz, California

On  a recent visit to Santa Cruz, California, I dropped in to see Nick Gravem at the Down Works. The  speciality hiking and outdoor equipment store was founded by Nick and his wife Shelley in 1974. In it's fortieth year now, they have been providing personalised service to trekking and mountain enthusiasts like myself.

Down Works carries most of the top of the line brands like Osprey, Western Mountaineering, Arc Teryx, Scarpa, Smartwool, Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear, North Face, to name a few. Most of the equipment is hand picked by Nick based on his personal experience and quality.  In addition, there is the range of customised  down sleeping bags, quilts, pillows and balaclavas made by  Down Works themselves!

Nick Gravem with a full range of Osprey backpacks at his store 
It is always a pleasure to interact with Nick and get his views and experience on the gear which he recommends.

In this era of Internet shopping and large departmental stores selling everything from salt to software, a visit to Down Works is like a breath of fresh air!

To contact Nick and Shelley do visit their web site and if you happen to be in Santa Cruz a visit to the store is definitely recommended!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Langtang Valley Trek in Nepal

Amongst the three major trekking areas in Nepal, namely, Everest, Annapurna and Langtang, the Langtang valley is the most under trekked. Most of the big name peaks are in the Everest and Annapurna regions, so Langtang has always come third when selecting a trekking destination. In many ways this is real pity because Langtang offers pristine forests, rich bird life, monastic culture and above all some spectacular mountain views of the Langtang Himal topped by the shapely Langtang Lirung.  The cost of the trek is Rs 40,000/  per person for Kathmandu to Kathmandu (9 days) for SAARC citizens and USD 900 for foreigners as per the itinerary below. Exclusions apply. For full details please do visit  or e-mail


Day 01 Kathmandu to  Syabrubesi (1470m) by road   
We drive in our own four wheel drive vehicle to Syabrubesi. The 130 km distance can take anything between six to eight hours depending on the condition of the road. We check into a lodge at Syabrubesi and rest before the start of our trekking the next day.

Day 02  Syabrubesi to Rimche (2470m)   six to seven  hours
From Syabrubesi the trail travels to a suspension bridge over the Bhote Kosi.  In about an hour we reach the waterfall of Doman (1672m). The trail then climbs for some time and then descends to a bridge and the lodges of Landslide (1800m). From Landslide the climbs through forests and finally reaches Bamboo (1930m) in about another hour or so. We stop for lunch at Bamboo. Beyond Bamboo, the trail continues its zig zag climb along a series of waterfalls. It is quite damp here near the river and finally the trail enters lower Rimche (2400m). From lower Rimche it is only 20 minutes further to upper Rimche where we stop for the night after a long day.

Day 03 Rimche  to Ghora Tabela  (2970m)  3 to 4 hours   
Half an hour uphill from Rimche we reach Lama Hotel ( 2480m). The trail  soon becomes steeper passing through oak and rhododendron forest full of bird life.  It then enters Gumnachok with the pretty Riverside Lodge, a good stop for tea. The path continues to climb and passes  Hotel Woodlands which is at a place known as Ghunama.  The trail then climbs to a pass with prayer flags and enters Ghora Tabela. This is traditionally a lunch stop but it possibly makes sense to stop here due to acclimatization issues.  This is a short day.

Day 04 Ghora Tabela to Langtang Village (3430m)  (3 to 4  hours) 
The trail from Ghora Tabela  gradually opens out and we  enter a broad V shaped glaciated valley. In about an hour we  reach the village of Thangshyap (3200m). The path then continues to climb up gently. In front is a good view of Langtang Lirung. Keep climbing and then cross a stream near the Gompa Guest House. About 15 minutes away there is a log bridge and then we u enter Langtang village. This is a short day and we should reach by lunchtime.

Day 05  Langtang Village to Kyanjin Gompa  (3860m) (3 to 4 hours)
We walk past the fields of Langtang village past a mani wall and some chortens. Go past the village of Mundu (3442 m) and continue up the valley. The trail climbs uphill following the moraine. The stream runs close to the trail for large sections of the walk.  Kyanjin Gompa is located at the far side of the moraine and there are a large number of lodges here, a monastery and a cheese factory which is open in summer.

Day 6 Rest Day at Kyanjin Gompa
The rest day at Kyanjin Gompa can be used to walk up the valley part of the way to the grazing grounds of Langshisha Kharka surrounded by glaciers. Alternatively it is possible to climb the peak of Kyanjin Ri (4774m) with a fine view over the entire Langtang valley.

Day 7 Kyanjin Gompa to Lama Hotel (2480m)  5 to 6 hours
It is now a 1300 metre descent down the valley to Lama Hotel passing Langtang village (2 hours), Ghora Tabela (3 hours) and finally Lama Hotel ( five hours).  We usually stop for lunch at Ghora Tabela.

Day 8 Lama Hotel to Syabrubesi   5 to 6 hours
We continue down to Syabrubesi where we started our trek and depending on the trail conditions we may take the high route via Syarpagaon.

Day 9 Syabrubesi to Kathmandu by vehicle
We return back to Kathmandu in our own four wheel drive vehicle and should be back in our hotel in time for tea.


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