Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Google Page Creator

About 3 months backs, after years of procrastination and hatred of learning a little html, and hosting basics, I used Google Page Creator and finally came up with my first set of web pages and it was a breeze. The editor is pretty nice WYSIWYG thing. There is a decent set of layout and style sheets to choose from.

The space provided is about 100 Mb and has some limitation on maximum number of file uploads and file sizes. It has provision for adding gadgets like on Personalized google page or sidebar of GDS. In case you want to edit the html there is a small link to do so, which pops a textbox where one can edit the html. Using this it is easy to add counters and other visitor tracking code.

The javascript-ing is allowed and one can also upload pages created in popular HTML editors also. Has a few limitations and drawbacks, but overall is an extremely good offering. Keep it up Google. Way to go!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Last year as my birthday weekend was approaching I was being constantly poked by my friends to tell them the party destination. They wanted something out of this world. And they got me thinking. I wondered what could be that birthday which would give all of us that wonderful out of this world experience away from the common drab parties.

Well I thought it was not fair for me to have traveled a lot in the barren and beautiful terrain of Ladakh and Spiti to not get my friends up there. Well those place require a lot of days off to make justice to them during a visit. So what to do?

Yes ofcourse "Chandrataal". The best place to celebrate your birthday. So it was final. Having already done a trek with me to Deoriya Taal in April they were all excited about the trek. We left Delhi in a hired Scorpio in the evening of the 15th of July. We had to face two punctures which delayed our reaching Manali the next day. We had to put up in Manali for the night, although we had wished we could have stayed at Batal, the starting point of the trek for proper acclimatization.

In Manali we went to see the famous Hidimba Temple. That day was special to the localites and they made sacrifices of 8 animals including big ones like buffaloes which were dragged through the streets. All in all a very scary and gruesome experience. The incident sure was not something which would whet our appetite. But we had a nice dinner at my favorite eating place in Manali "Mount View" run by a gorgeous young lady, which serves excellent Thukpa, Momos & other Chinese & Tibetan delicacies.

The next day we left Manali early morning at 4:30. We crossed the famous Rohtang pass shrouded in clouds taking the highway which goes straight to Leh. The Manali side of Rohtang is very green with pretty thick forest cover. But what was on the other side was turning into stark contrast. As we descended from the pass on the otherside the landscape was slowly morphing into a barren & cold desert, the prelude to brilliant composition of high passes and barren ever stretching flat plains of Ladakh & Spiti.

At Gramphoo we left the road to Leh and took the road which goes to Spiti. The road was increasingly getting worse by the mile. Somewhere around a village called "Chotta Dara" our driver pulled over and refused to drive any further fearing his "My Precious" (like Gollum from Lord of the Rings) Scorpio would get damaged by the absolutely bumpy & rocky road. We tried convincing him by telling him that this was a highway and only connection to Spiti and well traveled on all vehicles and Scorpio having a good ground clearance can easily navigate the terrain. But he wouldn't budge till a Maruti Omni came panting along and he finally relented.

We reached Batal at 11:00. We had a little breakfast then had the driver drop us off at the point of starting the trek, a little up the climb to Kunzum Pass. From there it was 14kms of dusty and windswept trail. We started walking carrying our heavy rucksacks. The low pressure was making the trek which although was flat, very tiring. The heavy breathing was sapping all the moisture from our bodies and to add to that there was an alternating phase of cold wind and hot sun as the bright sun hid behind the clouds from time to time.

By the time we reached the start of the ascent, still 2.5 kms to C'Taal we were dead tired and had zero hopes of making it to C'Taal that day. It was around 5 in the evening and soon the sun would set leaving us in the darkness of Spiti with no tent setup yet. Some of us pushed ahead to reach C'taal and setup camp as the rest slowly lumbered up. Nearly up the ascent, the only one of about 700 meters, I vomited as I had done the last year. We were supposed to run ahead and setup camp, before it got dark, but because of my vomiting we sat down for a while and soon had dozed off.

The other group in the meantime at reached half the distance up when Puneet realized he had forgotten his cap at the base of the climb. He saw a local with two mules in the distance. He promptly ran down to get his cap and also convinced the local to take us and our luggage up to C'taal at a sum of Rs 400 which seemed at that time dirt cheap. That group group quickly caught up with us near C'taal and just before darkness we reached our destination dead tired and checked into the Holiday Inn.

What Holiday Inn in this wilderness? Yes a small makeshift tent with a centre pole and tarpaulin named as Babloo's Holiday Inn who sets up camp every year and provides food to the tourist who would rather not cook and just appreciate the beauty of the wonderful and serene lake. We quickly bivouaced and had warm soup and retired to our sleeping bags. Everyone was nearly ill. We had overexerted ourselves and excluding me nearly everyone had a mild headache. I wondered as I lay awake in my sleeping bag whether our foolishness was going to ruin our trek. Will everyone be okay in the morning?

Next day we slept till the sun bathed our tents in the warmth of a bright and sunny day. My friends were not in the best of health. The suffered from headaches and a little nausea. It was the 18th and my birthday. Everyone wished me and we had a little breakfast then went circumambulating the lake. The lake is crescent shaped as evident from the name. It has a a cover of grass along its shores and the shore at the other end from where we camped had a sandy beach.

The lake is sacred both to the hindus and the buddhists. In the Hindu mythology the lake is supposed to have been the place from where King Yudhishthir of the Pandavas left for the heavenly abode.

I wondered whether there could be a heaven better than this to depart to?

The Buddhists have have made a number of "Mane"s, which are piles of stones as an offering to the gods. from the east side of the lake on can see the chain of tall peaks in the Mulkilla glacier in the backgorund, which is on the other side of the river Spiti, from the lake. The lake has an outlet from the south end. We clicked a lot of photo graphs and basked in the sunlight devouring the mesmerizing beauty of the lake. The lake is a shade of deep blue as if someone has poured in lots of indigo dye. The water is crystal clear and absolutely freezing even in the summer.

We saw the rare Blue poppy growing and also witnessed a beautiful pair of Brahminy Ducks swimming and diving for fish. A small herd of sheep were grazing at the north end, while a pair of huge black shepherd dogs kept their vigil guarding the flock. We had a little lunch at Babloo's. Nearly everyone kept popping in an Aspirin to keep the headaches at bay. Well everyone surely was not in the best of health to enjoy the lake but we knew it would disappear the next day when we would descend a little. As the evening neared I was in for a little surprise when my friends decorated the tent and I cut a small plum cake and had my favorite Litchi juice. I read their cards and was happy at the way the Birthday had finally turned out. Suddenly a strong wind started and the sky became over cast. We quickly had a small evening meal at around 6 and retired as the wind whistled through the tent and the rain fly.

But thankfully it did not rain and we woke up to another glorious day on the 19th. Time to pack up and leave. Well everyone hoped they had got a few more days of sanctioned from office, but then the health was not improving. So we packed our tents and sleeping bags. Sumant & Jyoti went ahead to confirm that our driver had driven up to the last 2.5 kms. Luckily he had been waiting there. The rest of us rode the ponies and a mare, that Babloo arranged for us.

Half way down Puneet's mare started running down the ravine and we watched in horror. Seemed like a shot from a western movie. Puneet couldn't get of easily because of the rucksack on his back. Somehow he jumped and landed on his two feet unhurt. He was nearly in shock and after that nobody rode any animal. We started needling Puneet about what had he been trying, for his horse to go crazy. While coming from Manali to Rohtang the Border Road Organization has put up roadside signs urging drives to drive slowly. A few signs read, "Be mild on my curves", "Enjoy but not on four wheels". We teased Puneet with the chant of "Enjoy but not on four legs".

Finally we reached our Scorpio and drove back home with wonderful memories and a resolution to come again next year. My birthday has passed and August is here. Lets see if something materializes. Will keep you guys informed. Enjoy the photographs in the Yahoo album and visit me at

Trek: 14 kms from Batal the closest roadhead. Batal is approximately 100kms from Manali on the highway to Kaza, Spiti. It is bright and sunny in the daytime except the wind which is chill, and the temprature plummets to around subzero in the night. Heavy woolens should be carried. The altitude is highenough, so proper acclimatization is a must. If not intrested in cooking & camping one can stay with Babloo although I am not sure how good his sleeping bags are. Please confirm at Batal about Babloo's presence up there, before proceeding without tents and food. The best way to enjoy is being healthy. Don't worry about tiredness it will dissapear the moment you see the magnificent lake. ENJOY!!!