Day 5 - Climb all the way

On the toughest day of the ride, you want to wake up feeling the strongest, but then things don’t always turn up in your favour. Woke up feeling a bit under the weather, popped a glucose bolt tablet to keep the energy up and grabbed on usual breakfast of bread butter and jam.

Luckily the initial part was all downhill - the switchbacks which had taken us a good 40 min to an hour to climb were done in 10 min. The path continued downhill crossing a few bridges, lots of army Jawans going for their morning run and barren hills around. We cruised till we were level with the river and continued our journey to cross one final bridge before the climb started.

It was supposed to be a 40 km climb - the first part winding up through the gorge that the river had carved over the years. This was probably the hardest and steepest part of the climb. Everyone halted after the initial leg of the climb to get some respite and ofcourse, click some photos. After the usual round of selfies, portraits and profile photos, we saddled up continuing on our way to the switchbacks.

The Climb to Nako - Road review 1

Switchbacks in Maharashtra usually mean medium grade slopes between the turns and sharp climbs on the turn. Luckily in the Himalayas, the switchbacks are much easier. You have a low gradient between the turns and a lot more distance between them, and a medium gradient on the turns making these switchbacks quite easy to ride. All of us kept pretty good pace on the climb, with the occasional stop for photos. On one such stop, Amal picked up a few grass blades from the roadside and asked us to smell them. The fresh sweet and citrusy scent of Juniper bought a certain freshness to the tiring morning. For the next few days, all our our handle bar bags were adorned by a few sticks of Juniper.

The climb continued till Kah on good tarmac and was pretty easy. The entire group cycled together and no-one lagged behind. After Kah the tarmac gave way to the usual dustbowl of a road and the climb continued. This time no switchbacks, just plain old winding road in the barren mountains till we reached a diversion towards Nako (our destination for the night).

View of Climb to Nako 2

A quick stop for refreshments at a cafe, and the climb continued. We were greeted by a small oasis of green in the middle of the barren landscape. Those 10 min of climb through the shade felt lovely in the afternoon heat.

Finally after an arduous day of climbing, we reached at par with Nako. It was still a few km away, but the climb was done with. As me and Amal stopped to click some photos of an old doorway, a car with a few teenagers stopped beside us. They had seen us climbing and had stopped to check in on us. Whether we needed water, or if we needed some help. It was good to see strangers caring about cyclists in the midst of the mountains. We thanked them, assured them that we were ok and continued on our ride.

We missed the turn to our campsite, but that in turn led us right into the village of Nako, and the photographer in me jumped with joy. (yes, even after the 40km of climbing). Nako is a beautiful village set on the slopes of a mountain range and overlooking other ranges on all sides. The village itself is made of mud houses with splattered paint walls and beautiful wooden doors. I knew I was going to have a field day while walking through the village.

The campsite was found in due time, and a lunch of Chowmein, Thukpa and momos was served. We ate to our hearts content, while Sangha (the Tibetan Mastiff ) kept an eye on us. Within an hour most of us were napping after cleaning the bikes and ourselves.

View of Nako

We woke up to strong winds and a bit of rain in the air. For a moment, I was afraid that my chance to capture the village of Nako would be washed away. Luckily for me, it rained on the mountains in front of us, which allowed me to capture some beautiful images, both of the rain and of the village of Nako.






Dinner of soup, rice and chicken manchurian was served along with daal and paneer. While packing for the night, I noticed that I had misplaced the eyepiece of my camera. A quick search provided no results. Although the photos would not have been affected, it would definitely have caused some botheration while clicking the photos. Deciding to search for it one more time before starting the next day, I retired for the night. One of the toughest day (At least on paper) was done.

The never ending climb to Nako- A short timelapse of cycling to Nako

How to make the most of your weekend Lake District visit (UK) ...(arriving Saturday afternoon, leaving Sunday afternoon)

This blog has been written based on the author's own mistakes and the things he missed by not planning  in advance.  He wishes he did have done this research earlier or someone could written this peice earlier in order to make the most of this day in Lake district.!!!

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Day 4 - Dirt Track

It was time to get back on the saddle. The steep uphill climb from the campsite to the road made things even more difficult.  Everyone started pushing their bikes up, everyone, except for Captain (Of course - Captain never pushes his bike around). The plan for the day was simple - go downhill till Karcham (20 - 30 km) and then ride to Pooh, where a small climb awaited us. The rest of the route was supposed to be rolling. It felt like a good day to ride. The feeling lasted only for a few moments.

As a cyclist, the first thing that you do before starting a downhill is to check your brakes. In our rush to get going, we missed it, till about 5 min into the ride. Someone called out for a brake check and all seemed fine, until Shilpa yelled out, that her brakes were not working. Luckily for us, she managed to stop without using the precautionary barrier that we formed with our cycles. Captain immediately got to work and within no time, we were back on the saddle, cruising down the slopes.  I managed a makeshift Go-Pro, using my cell phone and the handlebar bag to snap a few videos. 

A hyperlapse of the downhill from Sangla to Karchham on my makeshift go-pro - Oneplus One hitched to a handlebar bag

 

 

Rocky Neighbours 

2 houses stand apart on a rocky ridge on the road to Pooh. The clouds and the blue sky just added to the setup

Each of us, including the cycles, must have easily put on a couple of Kgs courtesy, the dust on the road. Most of the route was under construction. We had to break a couple of times in between owing to roadblocks. Even the landscape was devoid of any greenery.

The deteriorating road conditions throughout the day and the disappearing tree line. The day was hot sunny and not say dusty, 

We stopped at Spillow for brunch,  and had an awesome lamb Thukpa. We even picked up a few chocolates to help us through the last leg of the ride. As we approached Pooh, the road became slightly better.  Each one of us tried to cover the last climb as fast as possible, eager for a hot water shower and some good food.  Of course, food came first as the back up vehicle was yet to arrive with all the bags. 

 

The climb of Pooh. It felt that if we didn't have a challenging uphill towards the end of the day, the ride didn't feel worthwhile. Every single day, we climbed up for our stay, only to descend the same slope at the start of the next day and head further. 

The climb of Pooh. It felt that if we didn't have a challenging uphill towards the end of the day, the ride didn't feel worthwhile. Every single day, we climbed up for our stay, only to descend the same slope at the start of the next day and head further. 

 

This was the first time that the youngest kid of our group - (Chota Hrishi) had managed to complete the entire day's ride. We all celebrated his success by having ice-cream. 

 

On our way up, each one of us had noticed the Army Bakery, and plans were made during lunch time to gorge on some junk food in the evening. Come evening, we hiked downhill to grab some burgers and chips. Unfortunately for us, the chef was on leave and all we could lay our hands on was one veg burger amongst the 8 of us. We somehow managed to share it amongst the 8 of us, comparing our feat to eating one sesame seed between 7 people.  

Captain being vocal about what we missed on that day !! :) The dejected face says it all :)

Captain being vocal about what we missed on that day !! :) The dejected face says it all :)

 

We trekked back to our hotel, with gloomy faces and ended up watching the sunset from the terrace of the building. As darkness set in, we took a break from the various versions of Hindi everyone was attempting to speak and had a quick tasty dinner before retiring for the night. 

 

The next day was supposed to be a good 35- 40 km climb and everyone needed ample rest for it. 

Day 2 - The never ending ride

A good night's sleep does wonders for the mind & body. Feeling energetic we all trooped into the restaurant at 5.30 am to grab our breakfast. Jam, butter & toast with tea / coffee, till Manjiri opened a jar of her homemade, lip smacking peanut butter. Within the next few minutes the toasts and the peanut butter had disappeared from the table. 

As the sky started to lighten, I observed the Shrikhand range of mountains, hoping to catch a glimpse of the peaks in the morning light. Lady luck did smile upon me and I got a couple of shots before we left for the day.  

Just as we were about to leave, the skies cleared up, giving us a peek of the snow clad Shrikhand range

Just as we were about to leave, the skies cleared up, giving us a peek of the snow clad Shrikhand range

Today's ride was supposed to be tough. A 20 km downhill, interrupted by a short bike and hike to overcome some road repairs and then rolling terrains till Karcham. From Karcham it was supposed to be a steady climb till Sangla, which was supposed to be our campsite. While coasting downhill towards Jeouri, we saw a lot of jawans running for their morning parade practice.  

The road continued next to the Sutlej, rising up and down as the river flowed through the valley, cutting deep ravines.  It was a bumpy ride to Karcham, but with majestic sights to behold.  Rocky overhangs forming tunnel like structures, deep gorges on the sides and steep downhills in between. The comparatively heavy traffic on the narrow road made it difficult to stop and click pictures.

Enroute we crossed Wangtoo, from where a road leads to the picturesque  BhaBha valley. It is one of the most scenic and easy hikes in this region. 11 years ago, when I had embarked on that journey, the roads were under construction, and work was going on some big power projects. In the last 10 years, the area now boasts of tar roads and many hydroelectric projects.

The weather was pleasant and we made good progress till Tapri. A quick breakfast of special masala maggie and honey lemon tea later, we were back on the road. For some reason on such adventures, Maggie always turns out to be the first choice for a mid meal snack - lip smacking, hot and just about filling. 

One of the many hydro electric projects near Karcham

One of the many hydro electric projects near Karcham

The route from Tapri to Karcham laid out magnificent views of the Sutlej and the mountains beside it. Gigantic walls of hydroelectric projects dwarfed us while we rode alongside. At Karcham we crossed a small catchment area and started our climb towards Sangla.

The terrain changed, the road became a mix of tar and dirt road, climbing up in a series of gradual climbs and switch backs.  What seemed an easy climb at first, soon turned out to be a nightmare. 

Although the views were grand, the climb combined with the Sun kept sapping on our energy reserves. It was only a continuous supply of On The Run bars, Chikki, enerzal and bananas that kept us going. 3 hours into the climb, in the lowest gears, we managed to reach Sangla, elated that we had finally arrived.  The excitement lasted for 5 min, as we realized that we had 5 more km to go for the campsite. "5 more Km? How bad could that be?" ,thought I ...and in my enthusiasm egged both the Sid's, who happened to be looking for a quick snack in the market, to ride on.  Till date they still curse me for that decision, as we it took us an hour to cover those 5 km.  It really seemed a never ending ride. 

On the way we came across inquisitive school kids who clambered over each other to be a part of a photograph, and a lady who saw us cycling and asked us if she could take the cycle for a spin, only to shy away when we offered it. 

 

We finally reached the campsite at 4 pm, exhausted, weary and covered with dust. The camp manager had been kind enough to keep the lunch spread open for us, and we made the most of what was offered. Hrushi's Garmin was questioned again and even though the camp was beautiful, he did have to listen to everyone cribbing about the additional km's that they had to cycle post Sangla

After a hearty meal and a hot water bath (nothing helps you unwind faster), we relaxed in the heavenly campsite to enjoy the evening.  We watched the Sun set from the camp, ruing the lack of energy to cycle back some 2-3 km to one of the finest view points on the road and watched as snow laden peaks emerged in the moonlight.

 

The scrumptious dinner was topped off with a piping hot coffee by the campfire, listening to old Bollywood songs on someone's MP3 player. 

Eventually, fatigue came calling and we made way to our tents for a much deserved, good night's sleep. 

Glimpses of the ride from Sahaan to Sangla

 

 

 

 

Day 1 - Ready Steady... N Go

Riding with fitness crazy people comes with its own fun /perils /  challenges /craziness whatever it may be, depending on your own fitness levels. 

So the first day of the ride, was supposed to be 100km easy ride. Easy because a good 60 odd Km being downhill, 20 more rolling (to be explained / experienced) later and only the last 20 being a climb. (This would be the first day that would raise doubts about Hrushi's Garmin distances). So technically it should have been just a 40 km ride, piece of cake...or so we thought.

A glimpse of what the entire road looked like early morning. It was one of the best downhills ever. Great tarmac, sparse traffic, cold mist and dense woods.

5.30 am, everyone's on the saddle, breakfast of jam n toast in the bellies, brakes checked and ready to sail. Only one slight glitch...no visibility beyond 50 mtrs. Awesome!!!  Riding down those twists and turns... full speed ahead, with car blinkers and headlights to warn us of vehicles around us and the entire pine forest shrouded in mist was a mind-boggling experience. Eerie.. but damn exciting. 

 

With Captain being very strict about being the last person, it meant that I had to do intervals in order to get pics - Race ahead of the pack, stop, click pictures and start with Captain again. Looked like a cake walk on the downhills but came back to hurt later on during the day. 

Layers n layers of hills, some shrouded in mist some bathing in sunlight, a few villages strewn on the slopes and a winding road passing through them.  A haven for cyclists!

Layers n layers of hills, some shrouded in mist some bathing in sunlight, a few villages strewn on the slopes and a winding road passing through them.  A haven for cyclists!

The last 20 km of the downhill were rolling (more ups & downs... rather more ups than downs) and by the time we reached the base, the Sun was out and it was hot and humid. We ended up cycling beside the Sutlej, with not so great views. The weather and the constant ups n downs made it all the more tiring. At Rampur, a slow town traffic made matters worse. Finally we caught up with the lead vehicle outside Rampur, by a roadside Dhaba. We gobbled up a paratha and started our climb towards Jeouri. 

Having Captain at the helm meant the schedule was tight with strict deadlines in place. Atleast for the longer rides. Today in order to attempt the climb of Sarahan, we had a cut off of noon (or was it 2 pm?) at Jeouri. Being the crazy people that we were, all of us despite enjoying the ride and stopping at every possible scenic location along the way to click photos or selfies, we pushed harder to reach before the cut off. Coz, after all the fun always was in the climbs. 11 kms before Jeouri, we had our first set of casualties.  Sid, followed by Hrushi started suffering from intense cramps due to dehydration. They literally had to stop, take ORS and before getting back on the saddle. Many of us also started getting cramps and slowed down.

Near Jeouri another obstacle appeared ... Rain. The one thing you don't want on a climb and specifically when you are tired. We pulled up at Jeouri, well within the deadline, but had to stop in order to get out of the way of persistent rain.

There were quite a bit of discussions and failed negotiations with Cap, about attempting the climb, but in the end everyone ended up in the back of the car and going up to Sarahan. (The discussions were pacified by a delicious chinese meal at Jeouri) 

The 20 km climb through apple, apricot and pear laden orchards, was a sight to behold. As always we wished that we could stay there forever. Once at the top, we checked into the hotel, (one with a beautiful view), freshened up and went to work on the bikes. That being done, the next plan was to visit the local temple (Wooden carved) and take a walk in the pheasant sanctuary nearby. 

The walk gave us some good views of the mountains, and we hoped to catch a sight of the Sun's last rays hitting the peaks. Amal made a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers that he picked on the way. 

A beautiful evening comes to an end. The temple stands tall amidst the smaller houses and the sunset sky

A beautiful evening comes to an end. The temple stands tall amidst the smaller houses and the sunset sky

Back at the hotel, we celebrated Hrushi's birthday with a cake and delicious food, followed by a very interesting discussion about the womenfolk of Iran & Himachal. 

Everyone retired early, as the next day was supposed to be another gruelling 100 km ride, and more tougher than that of today. .. 

Peeping through the clouds, the Sun casts its rays over the valley one last time.

Peeping through the clouds, the Sun casts its rays over the valley one last time.

Preface - Riding through the Middle Land - The Wake Up call!

 Such a lovely morning...nice N sunny....sunny?? Today...?? Shit!!!!! What time is it...??? Those were the exact sequence of thoughts when i woke up at 06.32 hrs for a flight at 07.30 hrs....

Alarm failed...uber call failed....dad called...again failed......and finally the Sun woke me up... 

It took me 5 seconds to arrive at a plan B,   and 10 seconds to convince myself to give the original plan a shot. Desperate call to my younger brother, the mad rush to get to the airport.... ....5 min into which I realized that my wallet is still napping in the cupboard......a frantic u-turn.... to  collect it...and back on the road again...only to reach the airport in 20 min, rushing  through the check-in (thanks to a few friends who had  managed to convince Indigo on letting me in), and finally boarding the flight with all the passengers.....without making anyone wait.....

The adventure had begun with an adventure!!! 

Wait, what adventure??

As you get older N older, you try to prove to the world or rather yourself, that age is just a number. So here I was, 5 years after the epic Manali - Leh - Khardung la cycling expedition, back on the cycle, this time attempting to ride an estimated distance of roughly 680 km, from  Narkanda to Manali via Chandrataal and Spiti.  

For those who thrive on data and facts, this is what we had planned

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 Roughly 680 km

Route - Narkanda - Sarhan - Sangla -(Chitkul) - Pooh - Nako - Tabo -  (Dhankar) - Kaza - (Kibber) - Losar - Chandrataal - Rohtang - Manali

Max elevation - 4590m

Number of days -  10 

Average age of the team - 42 years ( yea.. i was amongst the youngsters on the trip, and no shame in saying that sometimes it was tough keeping up with the people in the lead :) ) 

 The trip promised to be a hell of a ride and the start definitely lived upto it.

In comparison, the rest of the day seemed pretty average. Seeing an airhostess  being blessed by an elderly passenger in the aisle of the airplane,(rare event) changing planes at Delhi  (done that a hundred times), met the other co passengers of the trip at Chandigarh (knew most of them) and finally boarded the bus to Narkanda. 

A quick stop for lunch at  Haveli restaurant, provided a glimpse into what was gonna be the norm for days to come. Scrumptious food and loads of it and washed down with Baskin & Robin's chocolate ice-cream. The probability of gaining weight at the end of the trip seemed rather high.

Tea breaks like these are a big respite for tired legs. The view just proved to be the cherry on the top

Tea breaks like these are a big respite for tired legs. The view just proved to be the cherry on the top

As  dusk approached  and we drove around the outskirts of Shimla, the nip in the air increased. Finally we reached Narkanda, our pit-stop for the next two days and were welcomed  by Hrushi and AC (captain).   

Construction continues on the Shimla bypass. 

Construction continues on the Shimla bypass. 

The day had  been a long one, but after the delicious and simple dinner served, no one could resist the temptation of a moonlit walk in the cold, crisp air of the Himalayas.   

 

All set for the acclimatisation ride !

All set for the acclimatisation ride !

The next day morning, after a hearty breakfast, we got to getting our saddles ready. Checking out the frames, putting on the saddles and bottle holders, checking the brakes - readying the brand new bikes was fun. Under the watchful eye of AC, all of us prepared our rides for the next 10 days and set out for a quick spin around the hills.  We were supposed to do a simple ride of 20 odd km to Tani Jubbar - a small man made lake in the hills - a place next to Kotgarh which I had visited a few years back. 

 

The ride to Tani Jubbar seemed pleasant, most of it being downhill through the pine forests. It did feel like this was going to be a cake walk, till we hit the last turn to the lake and that 200 mts of climb gave us a glimpse of what was gonna happen on the way back to the hotel.

Tani Jubbar the temple and the lake

Tani Jubbar the temple and the lake

A few photographs of the team at the lake (if you call that one) and we were back on the saddle, this time sweating it out on the road that climbed up towards Narkanda. 

Once back, the cycles were given another check, knowing Captain, this was just gonna be the routine everyday and then we retired for a simple but filling lunch.

The afternoon was at leisure and most of us spent it lazing around. Shilpa joined us a tad bit late, but more eager than all of us to start the ride.

Some of us were eyeing a trip to Hatu peak. It's one of the highest peaks in the vicinity and a good hike on a nice day. But we had strict instructions to rest our legs, so we decided to get on a truck and hitch a ride to the top. I had been to Hatu some 2-3 years back in December, when I had hiked my way to the top. That day had been bright and sunny, the cold December air being warmed just enough by the winter Sun, however today there was rain in the air. It was a fun ride up the mountain through the narrow twists and turns.

 The temple itself was shrouded in clouds with  zero visibility of the area. We spent some time at the top, waiting for the weather to clear, but our chances looked bleak. 

The ride back was even more fun, with the rain pelting down on us, we struggled to get under the tarpaulin at the back and hold it in place against the wind. Back in Narkanda, the Sun welcomed us and we stepped in the local coffee shop  for some hot drinks. 

Met this sweet little kid Kechen and his uncle (who was the owner of the restaurant) at the coffee shop. Kechen was in the town for his holidays and is the same age as my nephew. Initially reluctant to even look at me, the moment he saw the camera, he did not want to go away. :) had a great time with him. 

Met this sweet little kid Kechen and his uncle (who was the owner of the restaurant) at the coffee shop. Kechen was in the town for his holidays and is the same age as my nephew. Initially reluctant to even look at me, the moment he saw the camera, he did not want to go away. :) had a great time with him. 

Early dinner while watching Pakistan win the cricket match and all of us were off to bed - ready to hit the tarmac the next day morning at 5.30 am.  

The Norway Diaries - Oslo

it was time to pack the bags for the last time, say good bye and prepare for the journey back home.

The land of tunnels, the land of the wild, the country of runners! - The wilderness, the squidgy turf beneath the feet, the endless mountains, the cascading falls, the cozy villages scattered in the countryside, the weathered barns beside the roads, log cabins in the hills, crystal clear waters running down, the breathtaking fjords and endless meadows, the land of the midnight Sun, and the nights that gleamed with Northern Lights, the perfect solitude for the lonely soul and the  charm of cities like Bergen for those who longed company - Norway left me wanting for more... and I made a promise to come back some day!!

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The Norway Diaries - Day 1

Norway - the land of mountains, tunnels, fjords, trolls and northern lights! This was the most awaited part of my journey. The true wilderness that I longed to experience.  Although our earlier plans to go to Lofoten had to be cancelled, we knew that driving down from Trondheim to Bergen would more than make up for it. 

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The Copenhagen Diaries

As evening set in , Copenhagen wove magic around us. The city seemed to grown on us and we definitely made it a point to come back sometime here and spend more days and explore the city in more detail!. 

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The Netherland Diaries

- and here I was a complete teetotaler, non smoker, non party person on the streets of Amsterdam at 5 am in the morning - yet somehow completely feeling at home.  I guess travel does that to me, the moment where I feel lost and alone in the city is where I start discovering the surroundings. 

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The family is complete....

Amy and me go a long way back, I photographed her parents starting their journey together, I also had chance to capture her journey of coming into this world... so no doubt when I actually got a chance to capture her an year after her birth, we connected instantly! Presenting the so-cute, ever smiling, adorable and huggable - AMY!

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Apple Valley - Kotgarh

A vacation at different points in time means different things for each of us. For some, it is a way to go crazy, party at the best beaches in the vicinity, for some it means a road trip, for others it is an adventure, some may label it as a way to get together with their best friends and many may swear by the possibility of exploring new places. But there comes a point in time when you yearn to get away from the maddening crowds, leave behind the company of your friends, leave aside the touristy places that have many points to see and seek a place where you can be yourself and do absolutely nothing. No agenda, nothing to do, no particular locations to see, no big towns or cities, just someplace lost in some corner of the world, where time moves by slowly and you get a chance to seek yourself.
 

This is a small excerpt from one such trip that I did recently!  Although the blog starts in Marathi, coz that was the way I described the place to one of my friends, when plans were being made, I have tried to translate it to English later on trying to retain the same emotions. Of course the blog goes beyond that initial Marathi letter and talks a bit about my experience in Kotgarh as well!  So have patience and go through it, coz if not anything the pictures at the end of it will hopefully make your day! :)

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Raavi - Diwali Collection

It's the season of festivals and as the shops gear up to showcase their festive collection, Raavi decided to pull a fast one on them. Launching one of it's biggest collection so far , this Raavi shoot was unique in terms of many ways. A fabulous location ... naah - We are not letting out the secret here - :) - wonderful hosts,  models from various walks of life ( and that means right from stars of the silver screen to stars in the corporate world), photographers from various cities and most of all a shoot that was wrapped up in a record time! All in all a wonderful experience. 

So if you haven't yet purchased one for yourself, OR if you happen to be a gentleman who has stumbled upon this post and haven't yet bought a festive gift for the lovely lady in your life, here's a chance to quickly grab one !! Just drop in a message on this link

https://www.facebook.com/experimentingwitharts

 



A journey to Goa and Back

An opportunity to assist a friend in Goa to conduct a workshop for some Management students was an opportunity for a long drive and try to capture the nuance of the culture of Goa. 

This time instead of writing a detailed travelogue decided to do a photoblog. So enjoy browsing through the photos and share the link if you like it.  

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Raavi

A year and more of photographing various collections of Raavi,  -

Yesterday was my 4th shoot with Raavi - a vibrant collection of sari's - an equally cozy location  in the form of a beautiful bungalow nestled in one of the quiet lanes of Pune, a bunch of pretty, enthusiastic ladies, all ready to smile for the camera, and yes, the designer herself deciding to strike a pose this time. 

All in all great fun. 

To see more of my clicks of the Raavi collection, you can visit the Raavi section on - http://www.pratikpatki.com/portraits/

To know more about Raavi - https://www.facebook.com/experimentingwitharts