A whole new experience of mountain biking to hope Valley , Castleton... with a totally new group arranged together to be a part of this unique, adventurous and interesting trip...... which prooved to be amazing .. inspite of all the pain and sufferings....such expeditions are indeed once in a life time...and yes here again the credit Sam...till the time he doesn't ask me about the time when Thomas & Friends Left the station (last line is meant only for Sam and PS..others...don't try to wont get it anyhow...) 

This was my first biking experience and I was cycling after about 10 years …last I cycled when I was in class 9th since my parents bought me a kinetic…in 10th….anyway…in brief…a team of 8-9  ppl were arranged randomly and I was one of them…I was not the organizer…not even coordinator…. this time…it was a new group and our first trip with Sam….some colleagues from TCS…onsite….planned the trip on Sam’s cycle in Castleton situated in Peak district area of Central England…I have been to Castleton before with my group as it was famous sight for Caves…Sam had already been to the cycling trip 2 weeks before and ppl were much interested in the plan…I was excited after I saw photos of the biking on his profile and it looked thrilling but Smartly….Sam never… explained the pain and agony we were going to face after biking….lol…(I think he did it intentionally…)

So I was much delighted about this… as always… this trip was going to add a whole new experience to adventure trips I previously had...since this time…it was not trekking…it was biking…and whenever I imagined the trip it filled me with pride and satisfaction…
We started from Manchester…everyone was asked to prepare something which can be consumed during the calorie burning trip… as little is available in UK which pleases our taste buds.. particularly in such small towns with No Mac Donald’s or Subways to provide some vegetarian stuff….
We prepared our all time favorite and easy to cook Indian style Pastaa… Sandeep Batra the senior most prepared…Pao bhaaji….and Sam was carrying a good stuff of Jafaa cakes…..I just hate them now…can’t even bear there sight…..(you will come to know why) J ….
During the whole train journey …I kept my baker (hindi wali) on and was entertaining my colleagues J In about an hour and 15 mins… we reached Castleton… Since Sam has arranged the trip he had communicated the Bike owner about the time of arrival.. so he was already waiting there with  about 10-11 bikes…and we were desperate to choose ours….and finally…we were on our way…

Sanjeev Negi…was a new member to the group and joined us the last night only….actually he lacked a good company and we were good ppl…no doubts….so we included him as well…PS as usual was only girl with me…and ppl underestimated her and doubted whether she would be able to complete it…. and I was overestimated keeping in mind my old record of travel and adventures…. and what happened was just opposite...

So we started from the station in the beginning there was no uphill drive and it was alright …but after few miles the condition started worsening….Sam suggested a sight of a Canal in the town…and everyone was ready to see that…we biked a few more miles towards some other way to only discover it was a very small stream…but since the people were enthusiastic specially at the beginning when we had lots of energy in store…. We welcomed the sight ….and shot many snaps…on the bank and then we left for the original course of biking Castleton…

After driving few miles…. I was exhausted….  My condition was poor…I was out of breath..tired and my back was paining…..there was NO problem with my legs…but the seating arrangement was horrible…and made the experience awful …I was jumping over my seat to avoid the pain due to friction  and I was helpless…it was badly hurting…and the enjoyment was getting over….

I screamed, shouted and ridiculed Sam…saying…I came to this trip for pleasure not for punishment …and he in turn… to deviate me from the suffering …..gave me Jaffa Cakes… …. Declaring them the most awaited reward for increasing stamina…and explained their nutrition content and the amount of carbohydrates they carry… I was not at all in a state to understand the composition and the ingredients involved in the same…because the taste was second-rate …I never liked it…it just added to my trouble…

Anyhow…he was successful after few lectures and finding no available options I was having them after every few miles and disliking them even more…..

People were divided in two groups of 2 …. First one was of Sanjeev and PS who were now walking with cycle and were leading...neither  tired…nor bored… and were good company to each other…they were enjoying it unlike me who was struggling every mile of the journey…with..Nonsense…motivational chatter of Sam, Jaffa cakes and ever-increasing pain…we were 5 ppl in this group that included Anshul, Sam,Sandeep, yogindra and me…  

Anshul was in the same state as mine…was cursing the whole trip and condemning his decision to be here in such a terrible weather and wind.. as compared to all the comfort at home…….
I can’t forget the drama…hee he he hee……he used to cycle few meters…and then throw himself on the grass after throwing his bike on the same….. and order me to click him …hee hee hee hee…and we used to follow him,… inspite of all this pain we were not losing any opportunity to  smile while being clicked….
And finally the toughest part of the journey arrived…when we had to cycle on the upward slope… 3 of us decided to take a little more break…while Yogindra and Sandeep left to continue uphill and we were again busy with our photo session….

Finally we decided to move….and I think…all the unfavorable condition would have ganged together that day… wind was blowing at a speed of around 60-70 miles per hour… in opposite direction Slope was acutely inclined…. whole body was paining and we were badly starving…. we saw some professional bikers.. walking up hill instead of cycling due to wind pressure…and we followed them…all of us were walking slowly…stressed and oppressed by the climate….and found others waiting for us and making fun of us….PS gained huge respect for leading the trek …against all expectations…while we three were a subject of leg pulling J

Now we found a neat place in the farm to have our lunch….the food was chilled….and so was us.
Paoo bhaaji drew a huge appreciation from everyone…and second was our Pasta…which lagged only due to presentation J anyway Sandeep was a good cook indeed and having a meal like this…after so much exploitation and starvation was rewarding.

We walked a few miles in to fields….and a group photo session started…(can be seen in slideshow above) we enjoyed there for some time and then due to worsening weather condition decided to drive back…all our pain was till the time…we were walking uphill the time we started cycling pedaling was required …cycle was moving downwards…with a high speed…and the ride was much pleasant…the speed was uncontrollable we were just dealing with the handles….

and this was the happiest and most fulfilling moment of the trip…now I could feel and admire the spectacular view surrounding us….it looked much pleasant as compared to earlier…..

We then  came to the plane and again cycling was pain…we drove to some Café…suggested by Sam…met a huge and handsome Dog called Scam…I was always scared of Dog but I really enjoyed playing with this one…finally we were resting and my back was comfortable…..but our enthusiastic riders ready to explore the place…left the café to roam around on cycle….we drove few miles…and I was lagging behind all…after having rest it was too uncomfortable for me to paddle again…my body wanted rest and it was being exploited…..anyway we spotted one farm…and entered … relaxed on the grass….

then finally someone spotted a stream flowing behind the farm…all rushed to the place…and again shot some memories.....

We sung, posed and enjoyed and then left for the station….all of them reached about half an hour before and I was following Sandeep who lost the way..and drove much ahead leaving the station behind and when we realized it I was much disappointed at myself for following him…anyway he covered the difference easily and I was struggling with my paddles….. I arrived last…and became a subject of fun for everyone for such poor performance …highly unexpected from me….L..anyway.. J J I was never disappointed…it was a new endeavor of photography and adventure for me…and a lifetime experience….

Castleton being a very small station….. Train’s frequency was low… and it had a poor waiting area…

but you could even enjoy a barren place when you are with an interesting group like ours so we started playing some…games and then I started singing…and people were leaving the only available waiting area one by one…while Sam and Ps were singing along… hee hee hee we realized very late that we are actually torturing them… they needed some peace after this hectic journey….and when we boarded our trains… in no time all were asleep…..and got up only when Manchester arrived…..Despite of all the discomfort …pain and agony..this trip was really adventurous and unique …. And not to mention it was one of the most memorable trips…

Travel Trip:-
Castle ton is a small town situated in Peak district county… it has spectacular views of roads surrounded by green hills… and is famous for caves… and natural beauty.. it is just half an hour or less from Manchester and tickets can be booked at reasonable prices on the spot ….

here are some useful links about the place which can help in planning the journey....

Note: Special Thanks to sam for his useful suggestion while writing the Travelogue

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Here are some shots of Flora... my favorites....

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Vrindavan - Land of Temples

 Being my hometown and a place of sacred importance
Vrindavan, just 15 km from Mathura is one of the major pilgrimages and situated in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh around 151 km south of Delhi..  This holy land is the site of thousands of Temples and religious buildings. The name ‘Vrindavan’ is said to have been derived from ‘Vrinda’, another name for the sacred tulsi (basil) plant. A legend has it that the entire place was a tulsi grove at one time.

I just love this destinations however it includes my personal interest to meet my maternal relatives, but indeed the place also hold a divine and spiritual importance….there is something special in the air and the soil that attracts a huge number of tourists both local and Foreign.

For some it is a holy place for performing all the rituals or visiting temples to seek blessings of Lord Krishna, on the other hand for travel freaks it’s a place of a unique importance with a different culture, society and lifestyle… full of temples holding archeological significance and interesting Vedic and historic facts about Hinduism.

This land of Lord Krishnaa’s childhood had many interesting things to offer what you need is just a weekend and if you want to explore the area including the villages like Nandgaon, Barsana, Goverdhan e.t.c  then you can divide your trip to number of weekends as it is only a 3 hour drive from Delhi.

Celebrations are, in fact, a way of life in Vrindavan. Any occasion is a time to celebrate and remember the name of God. Chanting of the names of Radha and Krishna, dancing, singing, etc., are the ways that are considered to take a devotee from this physical world to the heavenly abode. Janmashtami in the months of July/August is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna and thousands of devotees throng the place from all over the country.

Holi is also celebrated with as much enthusiasm.
 Almost every day there is a festival in Vrindavan, but the major ones include Govardhan Puja, Guru Poornima, Holi, Govardhan Puja, Jhulan Yatra (swing festival), Radhashtami, and Basant Panchami.

One of the most important and vibrant temples is the Bankey Bihari Temple, The Bankey Bihari Temple houses a sacred image of Krishna known as Thakkur Ji, which shows Krishna with an almost blackened body.

The Govind Dev Temple
was built in 1590 by Raja Man Singh and now lies empty, its upper layers having been torn down during the time of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, who doubtless considered the place one of idolatry. What remains of this red sandstone edifice is impressive. If one takes the time to examine the artwork and in particular, the vaulted ceiling, one may experience a lot of the devotional fire that inspired it in the first place.

The Rangaji Temple

dates from 1851 and is a mixture of architectural styles, including a Rajput entrance gate, a soaring south Indian gopuram (gateway tower), and an Italianate colonnade. 

One of the most impressive temples is the ISKCON Temple, which was built with funds from devotees overseas. Here, the marble buildings almost glow with a light of their own and there is evidence of intricate carving.

Mathura is the place where according to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna born. The place is closely linked with many episodes in the early life of Krishna. The main places to visit are Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi, Vishram Ghat, Sati Burj, Kans Qila, Jama Masjid, Dwarkadheesh Temple, and the Archeological Museum.

Gokul and Mahaban nearby are the places where Krishna was secretly raised. Thousands of pilgrims visit these places during the birthday festival of Lord Krishna (Janmashtami) in July/August.

Barsana is the place where Krishna’s consort Radha was born. The place is especially interesting during the festival of Holi when the women of Barsana attack the men of nearby village Nandgaon with sticks and play the Lathmar Holi.

An eighteenth-century stronghold of the Jat rajas with its picturesquely contrived garden-cum-water palaces, Deeg is a popular tourist rendezvous today. It is situated around 21 km off Vrindavan.

Agra, the capital of great Mughals and city of Taj Mahal is around 67 km off Vrindavan.

Other Places of significant importance are:

Yamuna darshan at the Keshi Ghat

Many pilgrims go at early morning and walk around Vrindavan for two to three hours.

This is called Pancha Kosi Parikrama. It was here that Sri Krishna killed the Keshi demon and saved his friends. Build by the King of Bharatpur the imposing landmark gives us a clear idea, how beautiful all Vrindavan was, after the followers of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu attracted people from all over India, including their Kings, to establish pilgrim centers for the devotees of different regions.

 Sri Gopesvara Mahadeva,
the protector of the Dham.You can easily walk to the next temple. He has been posted as the gatekeeper of the Rasa dance and to protect the Dham.

 Vamsi Vata.
From the Gopesvara Mahadeva temple we walk a few steps to the entrance of the Vamsi Vata temple.Before we reach there, we will come to VRINDA'S Gopal Mandir. Here is the information center of the WVA World Vaisnava Association also known as the Visva Vaisnava Raj Sabha. Here you can get information about the activities of the joined forum of the Gaudiya Sampradaya and all their different missions.

 Vrinda Kunja.
From the Vamsi Vata temple you walk back passing again the Gopesvara temple and turn left on the small Bhut Gali. On the next turn is the entrance to the Vrinda Kunja. This sacred garden of Vrinda devi is a true forest of Vrinda trees. Vrinda Kunja is also the place where Vrinda devi blessed Lord Shiva to enter the Rasa dance of Lord Krishna.

Sri Sri Radha Govindaji Mandir.
From Vrinda Kunja we will walk to the Radha Govindaji Mandir.On the way is also the magnificent Ranganath Mandir(16) and Brahma Kunda. Lord Vishnu also came to Vrindavan in the form of the Ranganath deity to witness the sweetness of Lord Krishnas pastimes here.

Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir.
From Govindaji Mandir you can walk to the Gopinath Mandir going through Gopinath Bazaar. Turn to the left in direction to the Radha Raman temple and you will pass by the entrance to the Gopinath Mandir. Magnificent construction tells us of a glorious past.

 Sri Sri Radha Raman Mandir.
Here, next to the Yamuna, everything is very close to each other, telling us the story how intimate those great Acharyas were with each other. The worship of the deity of Radha Raman is on a very high standard.

Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda Mandir.
From here you can visit the next temple of Srila Lokanath Goswami by walking down the street towards Keshi Ghat for a few meters. A very sweet and small temple not to by missed. This is the Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda temple.In the compound you will visit the Samadhi of Srila Lokanath Goswami, Srila Narrottama das Thakur, his only disciple and of Viswanath Cakravarty Thakur. Inside the temple are also the deities if Srila Baladeva Vidyabhusana. The last two saints did enormous work to restore the happiness in Braj after the Muslim attacks had taken place.

Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan Mandir.
The next stop is a little further. You can take a Riksa, or walk if you feel well. Now we will return to the center of Vrindavan to the holy Seva Kunja. You can take a Riksa or walk. In the middle of the way is the popular Bankebihari temple.

Seva Kunja. 
Coming from Vansi Vat ,after a short Krishna and the Gopis reach the Rasa Stali, which is the wonderful area of Srimati Radharanis Seva Kunja. The garden of Seva Kunja surrounds the temple of Srimati Radharani and also Lalita Kunda is situated here. At night it is prohibited to come here.

Bhatron Temple : 
This temple is less popular and lies in the border area of Entrance inside a village situated above a small hill it is unique and serene , due to lack of awareness the number tourist visiting the area is negligible , but I love visiting the temple passing thru Dwarikaadheesh ki Bagichi which is another place of archeological importance.

Dwarikaadheesh ki Bagichi

Map from Delhi to Vrindavan

Facts and Figures
2.25 sq km
Hindi, Braj, and English
Best time to visit
October to March
STD Code

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