Is it time to bury the yeti myth?


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Atul Sethi, TNN |
Nikolai Valuev is 7 ft tall and weighs almost 146 kg. A few months ago, the Russian heavyweight boxing champion , nicknamed the “Beast from the East” was on an unusual expedition. His mission was “to try and find the yeti and talk to him about life” . Valuev returned from the expedition without having his heart-to-heart chat, much like countless others who have been trying to locate the elusive snowman known by various names – Mehteh or Meito Kangmi in the Himalayas, Bigfoot or Sasquatch in the US and the Snow Person or Almasty in Russia.Why is the creature – if it indeed exists – so coy? Even though the search for the yeti has been going on for almost a century and there have been numerous reports of possible sightings, purported hair samples and supposed footprints, conclusive proof has never been found.In November last year, there was a flicker of hope when organisers of the International Yeti Conference in Russia’s Kemerovo region claimed they had found nests built by the creature. In fact, they went to the extent of claiming they were “95% certain of finding the yeti at long last” . However, much of the evidence , according to scientists who attended the conference, turned out to be doubtful, and possibly planted to increase tourism to the region. “The markers in the forest, footprints and nests in the cave, which were shown to conference participants were rather questionable,” says Jeff Meldrum of the department of biological sciences of Idaho State University , one of the conference attendees.
This may make it yet another dead end in the search for the creature, who has often been touted by enthusiasts as the possible missing link in the human evolution chain. Many biologists have already dubbed the search as futile, pointing out that all the upright walking mammals have been discovered and classified a long time back. Brian Regal, historian of science at Kean University says that even though yetis have a certain evolutionary plausibility – and we might find out tomorrow that they exist – it seems very unlikely, based on the evidence available . “I would argue they are so hard to find because they are not out there to find,” he says.
Many yeti searchers are not convinced though – especially the hobbyists and cryptozoologists. However, cryptozoology – the search for animals whose existence has not been proved – is debunked as “pseudoscience” by biologists , who believe that it relies heavily on anecdotal information and less on an academic approach. Cryptozoologists who have been hunting for the yeti tend to believe that it could be related to the Gigantopithecus blacki , a giant ape that lived in India and China half a million years ago. British cryptozoologist Richard Freeman of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, who has travelled extensively in search of the creature says that he “found hair, saw tracks and a hand print” . He also claims that in Sumatra , one of his associates spotted another elusive animal, the orang-pendek , an upright walking ape thought to be related to the larger yeti of mainland Asia. But conclusive proof of the yeti has eluded him.
It is this frustrating lack of proof that has dimmed public enthusiasm for the yeti’s search over the years. Even though claims like that of the Russian researchers rejuvenate interest levels momentarily , their debunking ensures that the yeti moves one step further into the category of mythological creatures. However , unlike other legendary animals like dragons or unicorns, the yeti’s evolutionary plausibility holds the tantalizing prospect that it might just be out there – a point that even dyed-in-the-wool sceptics like Delhi-based Sanal Edamaruku, president of the India Rationalist Association , agree with. “There is nothing absurd about the idea that there could be an undiscovered living being roaming on snowy mountaintops, as it does not contradict reason or science like say, the existence of ghosts does.”
As of now though, the yeti seems more like a ghost – a product of the imagination – rather than a real live creature. Unless of course, the next set of claims manage to prove otherwise.

Looking high and low

*The first yeti footprints were reported in 1925 by NA Tombazi, a Greek photographer
*In 1951, similar footprints were discovered by British mountaineers Eric Shipton and Michael Ward on the southwestern slopes of the Menlung Glacier between Tibet and Nepal
*A number of expeditions have hunted for the yeti, most notably in the 1950s. None of them reported face-to-face encounters, although inhabitants of remote mountain villages have often claimed to have seen the creature
*In his book, On the Yeti Trail, Kathmandu-based journalist Madan Mohan Gupta published accounts of women who had allegedly been abducted by the creature and had even had children with it
*Monks of many Tibetan monasteries also believe the yeti exists. Two such monasteries, Pangboche and Khumjung, even have scalps purported to be that of the yeti’s , although their veracity is disputed by scientists


Kerala – “God’s Own Country”


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Kerala is one of the beautiful states in India, sandwiched between the Western Ghats on the east, and the Arabian Sea on the West. A tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches, this thin strip of coastal territory slopes down from the mountain ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation.
According to Historians “the discovery of Microliths or small stone implements near Kozhikode and Cochin point to presence of man in Kerala as far back as 4000 BC”.

Kerala is a land which always encouraged trading and traders. In 1000 BC King Solomon’s ship visited “Ophix” (the modern puvar south of Thiruvananthapuram) to trade in Ivory Sandalwood and Peacocks. This fame of Kerala Spices brought the Romans in 30 AD. Who were followed by the Greeks, Arabs, Chinese. The spices trade brought Vascoda Gamma to Kappad (near Kozhikode) in 1498. Which paved the way for a new trading history. Followed by Gamma Europeans opened the way for new trade in spices, Ivory, Sandalwood and Peacocks.

Geographically Kerala is one of the smallest states in India covering merely 1.3% of total area of the country. Karnataka in north and Tamilnadu in East. Physically the state can be divided in to three natural divisions, the sandy costal region with coconut groves, paddy fields, back waters and sea. The midland region made up of fertile reddish hills and valleys that grow most of Kerala’s agricultural crops. Peaks extensive ridges and ravines of the Western Ghats. Where sandalwood, tea, coffee, rubber and most of Kerala’s exotic spices are grown.

Kerala enjoys balmy whether almost all through out the year. It is neither too cold in the winter months nor too hot in summer. The best time to visit is November to February, where the air bracing and on some morning there is a light mist.

The official language of Kerala is Malayalam but English too is widely spoken. Kerala is one of the most progressive state in terms of social welfare and physical quality of life. The matriarchal system here is a unique social heritage as the women of Kerala enjoy a better status than there counter parts else where in India.

The people of Kerala enjoy a unique cosmopolitan outlook, which is reflected in their tolerance towards other races and religions. So it has been called Kerala as  “God’s Own Country

Prince Harry is all set to climb Mount Everest !


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Prince Harry will make good on his promise to the wounded servicemen he joined on their trek to the North Pole to join them on their next challenge – the world’s highest mountain
By Tim Walker – The Telegraph
With the celebrations to to mark his grandmother’s diamond jubilee, the Olympics and his first official solo tour taking him to Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas, the year ahead already looks hectic enough for Prince Harry. The third in line to the throne is, however, adamant that 2012 will also see him realise his long-held ambition to conquer Everest.

The 27-year-old prince dropped a broad hint at the end of his trek to the North Pole last year to raise money for Walking With the Wounded, the charity of which he is patron, that he wanted to join the group of wounded servicemen on their next challenge in May, which will see them climbing the world’s highest mountain.

Buckingham Palace has since declined to comment on whether it would be possible to fit the climb into his schedule – “it will all depend on his Army commitments,” his spokesman will say only – and there has been no comment, either, from the charity. Now, however, Mollie Hughes, the 21-year-old mountaineer who plans to become the youngest British woman to climb Everest when she makes her own ascent with Kenton Cool in May, and who has been co-ordinating their climb with that of the Walking With the Wounded group, has told Mandrake she has been told that the prince will also be going up.

“He won’t be doing the full climb as it will take a long time and it requires rigorous training so I think he’ll be joining at a base camp,” she tells me. She adds that she is aware of the Walking With the Wounded group’s plans as they are planning their climb in the same month as hers and they are expected to be staying at the South Base Camp in Nepal, where the two groups will prepare for the testing conditions on the mountain.

The weather and a range of other factors mean that the Spring – any time between March and May – is reckoned to be the best time to climb Everest.

Happily, the climb does not conflict with any of the prince’s existing engagements with his spokesman saying that his first solo official tour has still to be put in his diary.

The prince struck up a quick rapport with the group of wounded servicemen that he joined for four days last April on their successful trip to the North Pole. “I think for me, personally, I’m hugely proud to be a British soldier, to walk alongside these guys,” he said. “What these guys have done – and what they will continue to do throughout their lives – is just truly inspirational.” He assured them, too, he would see them on their next challenge.

Virgin Galactic said its first passenger flights will not occur before 2013


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Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture said it hopes to launch the service in two years time, but even that date is not fixed.The firm’s commercial director, Stephen Attenborough, told the BBC that its customers’ safety is paramount.Test flights are currently underway, with rocket-powered tests scheduled to start next year.

Almost 500 people have bought tickets.

Sir Richard had originally hoped the first commercial spacecraft, SpaceShip Two, would take off as early as 2007. However, Mr Attenborough stressed there never was an official date set for the inaugural launch.

He criticised some press reports, notably an article in the Wall Street Journal, that described the 2013 goal as “yet another delay”.

“This is a programme that can’t have a hard-end date as safety is number one priority,” Mr Attenborough said. “Our foot is flat on the gas, we have proven technology, we have a spaceport that opened last week, and the test flight programme is well advanced – I don’t think you can ask for a lot more from a programme like this. A delay is strange word, and there is no delay.”New pilot
Mr Attenborough also revealed that the venture’s chief pilot, David Mackay, has recently been joined by a second pilot.Keith Colmer, a former Air Force test pilot, was chosen from more than 500 applicants, among them a handful of astronauts.

Sir Richard dedicated the launchpad for the space tourism venture in the New Mexico desert on 18 October.He plans to take the inaugural flight, accompanied by his children. Mr Attenborough said that although all of the future tourists were eager to blast off to space, none were pushing for an early flight.”They are willing to put a large amount of money up front because they trust us, because they know we will only take them to space if it’s safe to do so,” he said.

The 2.5-hour flights will offer five minutes of weightlessness. Tickets cost $200,000 (£127,000).


Sri Lanka – the land of a thousand breathtaking spectacles


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When the noted writer Sir Arthur C Clarke made his home in Sri Lanka in 1956, he claimed the island jewel of the Indian Ocean was the best place in the world from which to view the universe. The author of 2001: A Space Odyssey passed away in 2008, but no doubt the futurist would have logged on to Google Earth to gaze back at his island home from an online universe. And concealed in the sky-high imagery of this teardrop-shaped nation, he would have recognised an amazing diversity for somewhere so compact.

Fringing the coasts is an array of gently arcing golden-sand beaches, now making a comeback after the devastation wreaked by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Zoom closer to spy the giant tanks (artificial reservoirs) built by the first Sinhalese rulers around the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Pollonaruwa. In the Hill Country, a layer of cotton wool clouds obscures the view, mirroring the misty mornings travellers often experience in this area of waterfalls and verdant tea plantations.

To the northwest, a gossamer-thin land bridge almost connects fragile Sri Lanka to the modern juggernaut that is India. Two and a half decades of civil war reinforces this bridge to Tamil Nadu is as much cultural as geographic.

Irrespective of their cultural background, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim locals will welcome you with pride. Pride in their criminally underrated cuisine, pride in their national parks and wildlife, and – especially – pride in their national cricket team. Whether you’re a humble three-wheeler jockey or a British-trained lawyer or doctor, the sport that frequently stops the nation is always worthy of discussion. How will the boys do in the upcoming series against New Zealand? Will the country be ready to host the World Cup in 2011? And have you seen how much that opening batsman from Kandyis earning in the new Indian Premier League?

Faced with funding a war and weathering a global financial crisis, Sri Lanka’s proud population has been doing it tough for a few years. But equipped with a stellar combination of scenery, culture and history, a growing focus on sustainable tourism and (hopefully) a more settled society, Sri Lanka is firmly back on the radar for curious travellers seeking unique experiences.

Chadar : The Frozen Zanskar River Trek


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Zanskar lies to the south west of Leh, surrounded by the Himalayan and Zanskar ranges, which are the most isolated of all the trans-Himalayan valleys. The valley has an area of about 5,000 sq kms and an elevation of 13,154 ft. The route from Kargil to Padum is the only motorable road to reach Zanskar Valley. The area remains inaccessible for nearly 7 months in the year due to heavy snowfall. All the passes are closed in winter and the only alternate route out of Zanskar in winter is the frozen Zanskar River. The Chaddar trek along the frozen river has become a popular hike for winter tourists. For this expedition you are accompanied by local staff from Zanskar, all the porters, and guides are from Zanskar itself. In every sense we want to give you a local experience. Visitors are able to interact easily with local families, and monks. You will never forget gathering around the camp fire in the evening, and sleeping in caves. The whole experience is one you will remember for the rest of your life. After arriving in Delhi we will fly to Leh where the surrounding monasteries and villages will be an excuse to acclimatize. Our first steps on the Chaddar will lead us into imposing gorges watched over by the Himalayas. After one week of moving in this unreal world with our Zanskaris porter ‘s caravan, we go up to Lingshed to experience calm, serenity, greatness of the landscapes, monasteries, nunneries and praying flags, which will offer us a brief respite. This trek doesn’t require any special technical knowledge. However, it demands the traveller to instil a total trust and confidence in our ability to deal with any situation. We have two op tions the longer one is up to Padum and back and the shorter one is up to Lingshed and back, the costings for both are given below respectively .

Recommended – (14 Days Chadar Trek)

Preferred tour Operator for the region :
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The Perfect Circle: Hiking the Annapurna Circuit


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Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit can’t compete with the world’s best treks for lavish huts, extreme solitude, and sumptuous cuisine. So why is it still number one? Let us count the reasons.

Going off about how this is the sweetest trek in the world is like naming The Grateful Dead your new favorite band. What a discovery! Such bold taste!

Fact is, the Annapurna Circuit is so well-known it’s as much cliché as trek. The 128-mile horseshoe-shaped route circles Nepal’s heaven-high Annapurna range, and it’s been hailed as the holy grail of trekking since it was first opened to foreigners in the early 1980s. Travel writers and hikers everywhere gush about the trail, even as others discover unknown life-listers elsewhere. There are treks that are more rugged or more remote, huts that are more luxe, pilgrimage sites that are more holy, wildlife that’s more exotic, and even scenery–sacrilege!–that’s more beautiful. Can another trail please step up and swipe Annapurna’s crown?

Afraid not. After hiking the circuit myself last fall, with my wife Emily on our honeymoon, I must join the chorus of Annapurna groupies. It’s simply the best. Here’s why:

It Gets Better Every Day

For instant gratification, go to New Zealand. You’ll be able to snap photos of the postcard-perfect mountains from the trailhead. But compared to such instant-access treks (the bon-bons of the hiking world), the Annapurna Circuit is a 12-course dinner.

It starts with jungle–a monkey-and-banana tree tangle that’s a total shock even if you’ve been forewarned. Sweat pours off us like rain as we climb through terraced rice fields carved out of greenery. Two days later–where are the mountains?–we walk through a canyon so narrow and deep that direct sunshine only penetrates at noon. A day after that, we’re in pines so tall and dense, I think of Oregon.

Finally–slowly–the high Himalaya emerges in sneak peeks and tantalizing vistas. And then the big magic: On our 10th day, as we approach 17,768-foot Thorung La, the highest point of the circuit, suddenly there’s nothing but mountains. We’re alone in a choppy sea of 20,000-foot peaks. Spindrift unfurls off four of the world’s 10 highest summits, which loom on every horizon, their fluted walls reflecting the sun’s rays so brightly that they burn ridgeline silhouettes into our retinas. When Annapurna III and Gangapurna come into view, I have the same feeling in my chest that I had the first time I peered into the Grand Canyon: a light, wide-eyed inhale of surprise. Sounds and smells fade; my vision sharpens. I can see every minute feature on those corrugated ice-and-rock walls. I’m just a pair of eyes, floating amid the peaks like a helium balloon.

It’s a World Party

Want to hike into the middle of nowhere? A place so remote that you’ll go days without seeing other people? Sweden’s Sarek National Park is for you–but skip the Annapurna Circuit.

More than 40,000 trekkers come here each year, and when Emily and I step into the dank, hot jungle for our first full day of trekking–a humid 12.5-mile climb from Bhulebhule to Jagot–it seems like we’ve all arrived at the same time. We leapfrog with a somber German couple as the trail climbs through small stone-and-thatch villages. Then we pass a large French group traveling with guides and porters. Then a pair of young Swiss hikers. Then some elderly Belgians. Then a lone Israeli. Then a train of 50 donkeys hauling supplies–cooking oil, Coke, kerosene.

I’m not accustomed to rush-hour traffic in the wilderness, and at first the number of other trekkers annoys me. But it only takes a few days on the trail to
By the time we ascend 10,460-foot Poon Hill to watch sunrise, on the last day of the circuit, sharing the moment seems totally appropriate. We stand in awe with more than 100 others, but it’s not a crowd scene. They’re now fellow pilgrims–many of them friends. realize that hiking around Annapurna is like joining some exclusive club. In Jagat, we drink tea with Ori, an Israeli who’s hiked the circuit seven times, and he says that the people he meets–both from Nepal and everywhere else–are one of the reasons he keeps coming back. We sit with Ori and Ryuske, a Japanese trekker, and teach each other how to cuss in three languages, then greet each other accordingly every time we cross paths for the next week. And so it goes with the Belgians, who regale us with stories of their military duty in Kashmir in the 1940s; the Swedes, who are keen to show off their well-designed cutlery and packs; and the young British couple, taking a gap year, who are instant friends and will send us postcards from India. Even the Germans make nice over garlic soup at Thorung Phedi.

It Has the Best Food

OK, the traditional Nepalese dal bhat–a simple meal of rice and lentil soup–can’t compete with the wild mushroom polenta, fondue, and coq au vin that’s served in mountain huts on the Tour Du Mont Blanc, or the paella, fresh from the sea, you’ll feast on during a multisport vacation in Spain’s Valencia region. In comparison, the Annapurna Circuit’s main fare is more glue than gourmet.

But a year after returni

ng, Emily and I order dal bhat at local Indian restaurants just to relive memories the taste evokes. In the tiny outpost of 13,185-foot Yak Kharka, a week into our trek, we join five porters at the Yak Hotel for dinner. We eat in a cold room built entirely of stone, sitting around a square table placed over hot coals to keep our feet warm, with heavy yak-hair blankets draped across our legs to trap the heat. Emily and I use our hands like the Nepalese, and they laugh as we clumsily and repeatedly drop chunks of food into our laps. Over seconds and thirds, the porters talk in halting English about the imminent crossing of Thorung La pass. The locals, all guys in their late teens and early 20s, wearing sweats, are disarmingly apprehensive about the pass. For some, it’s their first time so high.

Over glasses of raksi, a sake-like booze made from fermented millet, the porters teach us a card game called Nepali Kings, in which four peasant boys marry beautiful women and become rich kings–or comically fail, depending on how the cards fall. We play over and over, laughing by yak-butter lamp until a perfect hand lets all the boys be kings. Hikers who crave the familiar can find macaroni, dumplings, and even pizza, but eating dal bhat is like ingesting part of Nepal, like it contains something besides protein, carbs, and spices. Plus, it’s crazy cheap (all you can eat for about $1.50), and as the local staple, it’s always plentiful and ready.

It’s Always Surprising

After climbing stone steps for three hours through a tangled rhododendron forest on our way to Ghorepani, we arrive in a three-house village with a small snack stand. The stand has a sign that says “Sale Yak Cheese” hanging next to a faded poster of Avril Lavigne. The cheese salesman looks like the Nepalese version of a Midwestern farmer, complete with battered ball cap and an Ohio State Buckeyes T-shirt. Just then a Frenchman with flowers in his long, curly hair arrives on the scene, causing nearby porters to snicker and point. It’s not, to say the least, a moment we had anticipated–but it sure is memorable.

Other treks have their life-list moments, of course. Italy’s Alta Via 1 delivers plenty of memorable moments, as well–you’ll drink espresso after a delightful sage gnocchi, while gazing at the knifey Dolomites–and that’s wonderful, but that’s exactly what the guidebook promises. You’ll never imagine what Annapurna has in store, no matter how much research and planning you do (yes, even reading this). When I come across a goat eating marijuana plants outside of a Buddhist temple in Upper Pisang, and a Confucius look-alike laughs and mimics smoking a joint? That’s a surprise. That’s the Annapurna Circuit.

It’s a Living Trail

If it’s history you want, tour the castles along England’s Pennine Way or the ruins of Machu Picchu. Unlike most treks, the circuit follows an ancient trade route that still functions as a trade route. It’s used to transport everything from salt to piglets, and the villages–with the exception of the teahouses–function much as they have for a millennium.

Exhibit A: Muktinath, where we arrive after descending 5,628 feet (in one afternoon!) from Thorung La. The town, whose name means “Lord’s Salvation,” is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus. Pilgrims from distant villages in Nepal and India gather in a temple complex where water shoots from 108 springs and a natural gas flame burns on top of water in one of the temples. Hindus believe that Muktinath is the only place on earth where the five elements (earth, wind, fire, water, and sky) exist in their distinct forms. Hundreds of worshipers bathe in the fountains, ring bells, anoint each other’s foreheads, or simply look on reverently. No one seems to mind the Western trekkers firing away with digital cameras. In fact, an enterprising local has set up a bindi stand, where you can get your own forehead decoration for about $2, and a donation will get you included in the daily prayers.

But things will change, as they have elsewhere. Locals want more development, naturally, and roads are slowly creeping up both the Marsyangdi and Kali Gandaki Valleys. Already, a network of dirt roads connect Beni with Muktinath 65 miles away. On the eastern Marsyangdi side of the range, frequent landslides make road-building difficult–but engineers are trying. So believe the hype, but don’t wait. This trek can’t be matched, and–like the Dead–it can’t last. If it was the winter of 1995, and you knew Jerry only had six months left to live, wouldn’t you dig deep to catch a show?

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Delhi’s bird lovers got a New Year’s surprise !


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NEW DELHI (TNN) : Delhi’s bird lovers got a New Year’s surprise. A pair of red-headed vultures, last documented in the capital over two decades ago and listed as critically endangered, has been spotted at Bhatti Mines.

The birds were seen by Col Pradeep Sandhir, commanding officer of the Eco Task Force that is reviving the degraded eco-system. He had been sighting the birds for almost a week before he was finally able to photograph one and have it identified. “It is a great find for Delhi. The bird had been abundant at one time but there has been no documentation for about 20 years. Meanwhile, some people had reported sighting the bird on a few occasions but there was never a positive identification,” said Dr Surya Prakash, a prominent Delhi birder.

Sources said the birds that had been seen near a water body at Bhatti Mines were likely to breed there. When last seen, it had been feasting on the carcass of a jackal. The bird, earlier found in abundance in the Indian sub-continent, spreading from India to Singapore, witnessed a rapid decline in the past two to three decades due to essentially diclofenac poisoning. In 1994 it was moved from the list of ‘least concern’ to ‘near threatened’. In a little over a decade from then, its dwindling numbers forced its inclusion in the ‘critically endangered list’ in 2007. Prakash said that the red-headed vulture had been the most severely affected by diclofenac poisoning among the seven species of Indian vultures.

Sources say the bird, found primarily in north India now in cultivated, semi-desert areas and foothills, cannot number more than 10,000 mature individuals.

Bhatti Mines, with over a million saplings planted in the last 10 years, has become one of Delhi’s richest eco-systems. Looked after by a battalion of retired army staff commanded by serving officials, the Bhatti Mines area boasts of 36 water bodies, 46 varieties of indigenous plants and over a 100 varieties of birds, butterflies, reptiles and mammals that are difficult to find elsewhere in the city.

“Birds that can be found here include green sandpiper, common sandpiper, crested pied cuckoos, eurasian golden oriole, sirkeer malkoha and painted sandgrouses. Butterflies like blue, plain and striped tigers and pansies, reptiles like monitor lizards, sand and garden lizards, cobras, kraits and saw scaled vipers are a fantastic indication of the eco-system.

Among mammals that can be found here are three species of mongoose, Indian crested porcupines, golden jackal, bluebulls, nlack napped hare and a pack of striped hyenas,” said sources.

Happy New Year 2012 from


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