…Aaaaaaaaand We’re Off!

April 21, 2011

Mrini woke up today and said, “We’re going to Himalayas today!”

They’ve been counting the days since the last two weeks or so. Well, truth be told, so have we.

We finally seem to have got everything done. I went to bed a little after 10.30 last night and when I woke up this morning, everything was squashed into three big backpacks and various small carry on bags. The carry on bags are a motley crew – a cloth shoulder bag for snacks like biscuits and things; a plastic bag for the kids’ toilet seat which Amit insists will be useful in Delhi; a large camera bag which, quite apart from a camera body and two lenses houses and assortment of things including spare underwear for the kids, books for the kids, a headlamp for Ballu, my precious Maglite (yes, the same one), spare batteries, and other stuff; and a pair of walking sticks which is too inconvenient to pack anywhere.

Oh and a formal strolley which has all the decent clothes we will need for our brief social stopover in Delhi on the way back. When you are travelling with two kids, you can completely forget about those wonderful words, travelling light. Light? Our luggage probably weighs more than I do! It would merit a whole extra seat on the plane, if it were a passenger. (And it would be much more inconvenient to accommodate.)

I have remembered to pack toothbrushes, rubber bands for the kids’ ponytails, and a comb. I don’t know yet what I have forgotten to pack, but I’m sure I’ll find out at some crucial juncture.

So we’re off, folks! Hopefully we will make it back in due course – in which case, you can expect several lengthy posts about all that happened and didn’t. Check this space in early May.

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Three Days to Takeoff

April 18, 2011

So I got last week’s prediction half right. We did fight over how many backpacks we needed and we did drive down to Decathlon again (on Saturday, though, not on Sunday) to buy one, which we are (or rather, my better half is) now in the process of trying to make redundant.

We also got the kids raincoats, caps, gloves, and socks – all of which are fairly crucial and which we hadn’t managed to accomplish earlier. The gloves are for eight-year-olds, so they look a little ridiculous right now, but who cares? They will last a few years before the girls outgrow them, so that’s good.  The raincoats are even more ridiculous – the sleeves are at least double (maybe three times) the appropriate length, but who cares? They will keep them dry, if required, so that’s good enough. The socks appear to be knee-length, but that’s good, because their warm trousers belong to two years ago and are probably also only knee length by now. 😀 Ok, so the kids are going to look a little clownish. As long as they are warm and dry, who cares?

We haven’t completed organizing our medical supplies yet – we still need Crocin and other things. And of course we haven’t completed our packing yet – far from it. But we have assembled 90% of the stuff we need and thrown it in a jumble on the king-sized bed in the study. The bed has been covered with stuff we need ever since last weekend, though. It is still covered several inches deep. The disconcerting thing is that we have actually stuffed sleeping bags, sleeping mats, three-person tent, and loads of woolen clothes into the better part of four backpacks – and we don’t seem to have made a big dent in the mountain of stuff still covering the bed.

Regardless, after we’d finished buying all the other stuff, we went and stocked up on snacks yesterday evening. We even managed to get a good number of things that I can eat – so now life’s looking up.

Another thing that I didn’t foresee last week was that in all this melee, we’d actually have to have two lunches out. Yippee! Less cooking for me. Between 9.30 a.m. on Saturday and 5.30 p.m. on Sunday, I had a cooking holiday. I made up for it (grudgingly) by churning out two kinds of chicken on Sunday evening and doing the dosa-and-roti-and-rice routine this morning, but still – a cooking holiday is a cooking holiday and not to be sneezed at in my reckoning.

All in all, a good weekend. Nothing beats the excitement of an upcoming holiday, especially when that holiday is a trek, and especially when there are two under-fives involved. The photo in the previous post says it all. Of course, the person behind the camera should have been in the picture as well, but since he isn’t, just extrapolate the expression on three faces to the fourth face and then you’ll have the full picture.


Binsar

March 3, 2009

Yes, this write-up is long overdue. I’ve written it in about 15 separate installments, some of them all of two words long, so be prepared for a somewhat disjointed account.
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Of all our trips with the kids so far, I’d have to say that this was the most successful – and so also the most enjoyable, for everyone.

The long train journey – three nights interrupted by a day-long stopover in Delhi – went off without a hitch. The car journey up through the hills was horrible, though, as the girls were car sick every minute of the way. Luckily Amit had taken his medicine so he was ok, but it was still interminable and nightmarish.

Our guesthouse in Binsar was in a nature reserve (hence no electricity), which meant it was quiet and remote. The rooms were clean and of a comfortable size, but not luxurious. The funny thing was that the bathrooms had windows that looked out on to – and worse, could be looked in to from – the reception and driveway area! Just as well there was no electricity so it was always quite dark inside.

Outside, a short distance away from the rooms, there was a large terrace. Lined up at a good distance from the terrace was an impressive array of snow peaks, with lower ranges of hills and valleys spread out before them. The most famous of the peaks was Nanda Devi; other well-known peaks including Trishul, Nanda Ghunti, and, far away to the northeast, the Annapurna range also did their best to impress.

Binsar is not a place for frenetic activity. There are some nice walks you can go on, even a ten-km day trip, but with the kids around the best we could hope for was to do the leisurely 2-km walk to zero point.

We spent Sunday doing nothing much. I don’t know about the kids, but I was still recovering from the harrowing drive up.

On Monday, we lazed around on the fabulous terrace, enjoyed the fabulous sunshine, the fabulous views, and the fabulous food.

On Tuesday, we moaned about the weather being overcast, the sunshine being weak, the views being obscured, and the food being monotonous.

On Tuesday evening, there was thunder and lightening, and the invertor gave way (due to the lightening, they said) and we had a candlelight dinner and were packed off to bed amidst a short but businesslike spell of rain.

On Wednesday, we woke to rain which suddenly and magically turned into snow. It snowed all day and we began to wonder whether it would keep it up the next day or not, and whether, if it did, we’d be able to get out on Friday morning. Meanwhile, we moaned about the cold and the challenges of keeping two kids occupied for the whole day indoors.

On Wednesday evening, the snowfall stopped, and the sky cleared up and the moon and stars came out. With everything white, it was beautiful. We stopped moaning about the cold.

On Thursday the weather was clear and the snow began to melt. By late afternoon, it was all gone. But we weren’t complaining – it was wonderful while it lasted.

On Tuesday, we had ventured towards zero point with the kids in tow. We didn’t quite make it, because the kids got tired and hungry and cranky and we had to carry them back to the rest house for lunch. On Thursday afternoon, I set out after lunch, leaving Amit to keep an eye on the sleeping twins. A mere half an hour later, I could proudly say that at least one member of our expedition had made it to the peak – that is, to zero point. It wasn’t a great achievement, there was only a bit of a tower there and a good view. The path was easy – a four-wheel-drive vehicle could have made it. Still, it was a nice little outing, especially with all the clumps of melting snow that slid off the trees all around me, missing me by a hair’s breadth many times and landing with a soft, soggy “plonk” on the forest floor.

And on Friday, after a leisurely breakfast, and just around when lunch was being served, we left.

I had been dreading the drive down, with the memory of the drive up still deeply etched into my consciousness, but it wasn’t bad at all. None of us had had lunch, so there wasn’t much in the stomach to come up, and apparently there was just enough to stay down. The kids fell asleep soon after we started and stayed asleep nearly until we reached, with very few, short breaks for retching. I could almost enjoy the scenery.

Looking back, it was a great trip. Everything that could have gone wrong didn’t. Nobody fell sick, nobody got lost, and on the whole a good time was had by all, with the exception of that traumatic 3-hour drive up to Binsar. Given all the disarray of travel, specially when you throw together two long train journeys, a long-ish car ride, twins, a remote hill station with limited electricity and uncertain weather… and altogether a two-week stint away from the comforts of home, I’d have to say this trip was a resounding success. We all returned home overflowing with high spirits… and several shades darker than the way we were


Twins’ Birthday Party – The Countdown Begins

August 18, 2008

After giving the matter some serious consideration over this past long weekend, I’ve come to the conclusion that:

  • Organizing a birthday party for twins is not easy.
  • Organizing a birthday party for any two-year-old is not easy, especially if you want to do it at home (even if you are ordering in all the food)
  • Organizing a party of any sort is not easy if the guest list includes a high proportion of people under age 3
  • Organizing a dinner-and-drinks party for one day, followed by a high-tea part the very NEXT day, is far, far from easy.

Contrary to what you might think, we do not party at home every month – our last party at home was almost three months ago. And that was after an interval of about a year. So even if we were used to throwing parties as a DINKs couple, we have certainly kicked that habit now. Plus, if everyone shows up, this is going to be the largest party we have thrown at home in six or seven years, or longer. And that time, it was without any people under 18.

On the other hand though, this is going to be our first party ever where all the food is going to be ordered in. And served on paper plates with plastic spoons (gasp!). So that should make things easier, right?

We had a hectic long weekend trying to organize ourselves. Top priority was to buy the girls clothes and gifts. Not being very shopping-oriented people, it is always difficult for us to go shopping for gifts and clothes for ourselves and each other, and it hasn’t so far been any easier to shop for the girls. In fact, so far we have relied mostly on family and friends to shower the girls with gifts and clothes – a strategy that seems to be working admirably. But, what kind of parents are we if we don’t have a suitable stock of birthday gifts and clothes for our girls?

So, on all three days of the long weekend, various colds and fevers notwithstanding, we pushed ourselves out of the house and went malling/shopping – a total of five excursions! That’s more than we usually do in six months! At the end of it, we were exhausted (though the kids loved it)… but at least it was beginning to look like we were on track for a party next weekend. We have the paper plates, cups, and napkins. We have streamers and balloons. We have enough crisps to feed an army of kids, and enough juice and fizzy drinks to fill a swimming pool. We have some alcohol. We even managed to get one birthday gift between the two girls, and one-and-a-half birthday dresses each, which we picked up in sheer desperation last thing on Sunday evening.

So what’s left?

Well, let’s see. We still haven’t spoken to a single caterer, we don’t even know where the birthday cakes are coming from, we’re still short of a bottle of rum in our bar, we haven’t bought a single return gift for the umpteen kids who are supposed to show up, and surely one gift for two birthday girls is simply not good enough?

We have, however, issued invitations to most of the people on our guest list. (If you’re reading this and we haven’t invited you yet, consider it done.) So one way or another, we must have ample supplies of food in the house by 7 p.m. next Sunday. And then again by 5 p.m. next Monday. It’ll be interesting to see how we manage to get it done.


To Hell With Common Sense

July 15, 2008

Amit must be a world champion at emotional blackmail. Against my better judgement, he persuaded me on Thursday afternoon to accompany him to Delhi on Thursday night (well, technically Friday early morning) and then on to Leh the following day. With the twins, of course. Insane? Absolutely. That’s why I had resolutely stuck to my guns and refused to consider carting the kids off to an altitude of almost 11000 feet, where acclimatisation takes 48 hours, there’s no natural greenery so oxygen is in short supply, flights out are always sold out and descent by road takes two days and involves crossing altitudes upto 17000 feet.

So I had unilaterally decided that taking two under-twos to Leh was a bad idea and nothing Amit said could convince me otherwise… Until Thursday, when he gave me several of those looks and piled on the pleading and persuasion and I suddenly agreed.

There followed an evening of frenetic activity as we made additional flight and hotel bookings, and packed 50 kg (!) of clothing and camera stuff into 4 rugged backpacks. It was almost 12.30 before we were done, and with the new airport being so far away, we planned to leave at 3.00 for a flight at 5.30, so of course we didn’t get any sleep. What’s worse, when we carted the kids to the taxi at 3.00 a.m., they woke up and didn’t sleep again until after lunch!

The fun really started the next morning (if you can consider the dead of night to be morning) when we again awoke at 2.30 to catch our flight to Leh. It was pouring cats and dogs as we loaded everything and everybody into a rattletrap Ambassador taxi and set off for the airport. I sat with the kids while Amit and his dad handled the check-in. Then, from 4 a.m straight through till 10.30, we made the airport lounge our home as we waited for the flight to take off. It was clear from about 7, or for the hopelessly optimistic about 8, that our flight would be cancelled because no flights can land or take-off at Leh late morning onwards. But, we had to wait for the airline to take the final decision to cancel the flight and they decided to keep us waiting a few extra hours.

Meanwhile, the kids kept us on our toes. The ran from end to end of the huge lounge, watched the aeroplanes through locked doors and grimy windows, flirted with other passengers, ate cake and sandwich for breakfast, submitted to having their diapers changed in the ladies’ bathroom, sprawled on the dusty floor and made swimming actions with their arms and legs, held hands and played Ringa-ringa Roses, and generally enjoyed themselves thoroughly and provided free entertainment to all.

It was 11.30 before we got home and by then Tara was fast asleep and the rest of us were inclined to follow suit in short order. It was a really tiring and hardly a very successful start to a grand holiday. But you can never keep an avid traveller family down for long.


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