Few days back I noticed that my Raspberry Pi 3 is running quite hot. Sometimes crossing 80 degrees. This is  quite rare but since it is running for days without a break in this hot weather, I planned to do something to bring temperature lower. But problem is that Raspberry Pis don’t come with any kind of cooling kits which are easily available. Most of the options commercially available are quite useless for the price. I didn’t want to spend too much for it, so started with some DIY cooling kit and ran stress tests to check which work and are worth the effort to keep.

I found a simple script for stress testing online. It just runs CPU under full load and takes temperature readings every few seconds. Full script:

Ammunition box with all of Raspberry pi setup inside

Ammunition box with all of Raspberry pi setup inside

#!/bin/bash
vcgencmd measure_temp
sysbench –test=cpu –cpu-max-prime=20000 –num-threads=4 run >/dev/null 2>&1
vcgencmd measure_temp

In spirit of full disclosure, all these tests were done over the course of 4 days. They were all hot with outside temperatures during day time around 40 degrees but air conditioner was on for most of them time. Still, the room temperature was not constant for more than 4 tests at a time.  The data below is not 100% reliable and just gives an indication about the general characteristics of each cooling method based on my observations.

EQUIPMENT USED:

  1. A 80 mm cooling fan from an old PC case. I spliced a USB cable on to it (red and black wires) and powered it using an old tablet charger (5 Volt, 2 Ampere). The fan is rated for 12 V, runs a bit slower. It is not ideal solution but works for now.
  2. Very cheap thermal paste.
  3. A 1 Rupee coin with one side filed smooth as a test heat sink.
  4. Cheap and small aluminum heat sinks supposedly designed for Raspberry Pi. They had some sticky “thermal paste” on bottom which looked more like a sticker. So I removed that used my own.
  5. All of this Raspberry Pi setup is inside an old ammunition box salvaged from a junkyard. It has a power supply extension board, a powered USB hub, a USB wifi dongle, a USB harddisk (connected to Raspberry Pi itself, not hub), a 80 mm fan as described in point 1 and OSMC operating system with Kodi.

TEST RESULTS:

1.These are temperature readings without any type of cooling.

TEST 1

temp=60.7’C

Passive cooling with heatsink, cheap thermal paste and a filed coin

Passive cooling with heatsink, cheap thermal paste and a filed coin

temp=73.6’C
temp=74.1’C
temp=75.2’C
temp=75.8’C
temp=75.2’C
temp=75.8’C
temp=75.2’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 15.1
TEST 2
temp=50.5’C
temp=75.2’C
temp=79.0’C
temp=83.3’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=82.7’C
temp=82.2’C
temp=83.8’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 33.3
Result: Peak temperature varies between 75 and 84 degrees. But hovers around 83 for most part when air conditioner was off. Quite hot.

2. With only coin on processor. No thermal paste or fan

TEST 1
temp=54.8’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=71.4’C
temp=72.5’C
temp=72.5’C
temp=73.1’C
temp=73.1’C
temp=73.1’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 18.3
TEST 2
temp=60.7’C
temp=77.4’C
temp=79.0’C
temp=77.9’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=80.6’C
temp=79.5’C
temp=79.5’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 23.1
TEST 3
temp=52.1’C
temp=65.5’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=67.7’C
temp=67.1’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=69.3’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 17.7
TEST 4
temp=60.7’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=84.9’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 24.2
Result: With a filed coin acting as a heat sink, there is a small drop of 2 to 4 degrees. Not much to be useful.

3. With the fan blowing air directly on processor.

TEST 1
temp=49.9’C
temp=59.1’C
temp=59.1’C
temp=58.5’C
temp=58.0’C
temp=58.0’C
temp=56.4’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 8.1. It is great as the peak temperature was only 58.
TEST 2
temp=52.6’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=67.7’C
temp=68.8’C
temp=69.3’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=65.0’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 17.2
Result: Idle temperatures are lower by 10 degrees and peak temperatures by 19 – 20 degrees with fan blowing air directly on processor. Differences in starting and peak temperatures also show a lot of improvement as the peak temp stays closed to 70.

4. With fan facing up.

This was an experiment to check if the reverse air flow would be as effective in cooling.
TEST 1
temp=47.2’C
temp=64.5’C
temp=64.5’C
temp=64.5’C
temp=65.0’C
temp=64.5’C
temp=65.0’C
temp=65.5’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 18.35
TEST 2
temp=52.6’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=67.7’C
temp=68.8’C
temp=67.7’C
temp=67.1’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=69.8’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 17.2
TEST 2
temp=49.4’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=67.7’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=68.8’C
temp=68.8’C
temp=66.6’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 20.4
Result: This result is interesting as the peak and idle temperatures are quite close to those with opposite airflow.

5. Coin with thermal paste, no fan.

I applied a thin layer of thermal paste on coin and ran test without the fan
TEST 1
temp=45.6’C
temp=60.1’C
temp=61.2’C
temp=61.2’C
temp=61.2’C
temp=61.8’C
temp=62.3’C
temp=62.3’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 16.7
TEST 2
temp=52.1’C
temp=73.1’C
temp=76.3’C
temp=79.0’C
temp=82.2’C
temp=82.7’C
temp=82.7’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 30.6
TEST 3
temp=58.0’C
temp=77.4’C
temp=78.4’C
temp=81.7’C
temp=80.1’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.9’C
temp=82.7’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 26.9
Result: Seems like thermal paste I got is fairly useless. I ran the test 3 times to be sure.

6. Coin with thermal paste and fan blowing on it

TEST 1
temp=46.2’C
temp=59.1’C
temp=59.1’C
temp=59.6’C
temp=59.1’C
temp=59.1’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 13.4
TEST 2
temp=50.5’C
temp=60.7’C
temp=61.2’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=63.4’C
temp=63.9’C
temp=63.4’C
temp=64.5’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 14
Result: There is some improvement from direct fan without a heat sink and quite a bit improvement from running with only coin with thermalpaste.

7. With aluminum heatsink, no fan or thermal paste

These tests were done with the small aluminum heatsink.

TEST 1
temp=61.2’C
temp=79.5’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.4’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 23.2
Result: This heatsink has minimal effect in cooling the processor. It is too small and even the fins don’t help much compared to a simple coin.

8. With aluminum heatsink and fan blowing on it

temp=51.5’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=63.4’C
temp=63.4’C
temp=60.7’C
temp=64.5’C
temp=62.3’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 13
temp=51.5’C
temp=66.1’C
temp=65.5’C
temp=66.1’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=68.8’C
temp=67.7’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 17.3
Result: Somewhat surprisingly, this is better than direct air flow on processor.

9. With aluminum heastink and thermal paste

temp=60.1’C
temp=78.4’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.9’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 24.8
temp=53.7’C
temp=76.8’C
temp=78.4’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=82.7’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 30.7
Result: This thermal paste seems to be quite useless.

10. With aluminum heastink, thermal paste and fan

temp=49.4’C
temp=64.5’C
temp=69.8’C
temp=66.1’C
temp=65.5’C
temp=66.1’C
temp=66.6’C
temp=69.8’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 20.4
temp=47.8’C
temp=62.3’C
temp=62.3’C
temp=62.3’C
temp=62.3’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=63.4’C
temp=64.5’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 16.7
Result: In this case, temperatures are around 2 degrees higher than without thermal paste.

11.With aluminum heastink, thermal paste and coin.

I put the coin on top of processor. Applied some thermal paste on it’s other side and put the heatsink on it. This test was without fan. I thought extra metal will help cooling.
temp=54.8’C
temp=74.7’C
temp=79.0’C
temp=83.3’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=83.8’C
temp=84.4’C
temp=84.4’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 29.6
Result: There is a difference of only 1 -3 degrese less if only one of either heatsink or coin was used. For some reason, extra metal made no difference.

12. With aluminum heastink, thermal paste, coin and fan.

Same set as above but with fan blowing air on top of it.
temp=50.5’C
temp=63.9’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=63.4’C
temp=62.8’C
temp=62.8’C
Difference in starting and peak temperature : 12.9
Result: This is slightly better than using either coin or heatsink and 4-5 degrees better than direct airflow.

Conclusions:

For some test runs, using the filed coin was better than the heat sink. Cheap thermal paste is next to useless in this case here. Only active cooling with fan provides any kind of appreciable cooling. Passive cooling will probably work if the heatsinks are bigger. But I don’t have any lying around and there will laso be the issue of bigger heatsink touching and shorting other components on the board.

Other posts related to Raspberry:

 I’ve always been interested in Indian defence issues, so this is the first article in this series. Most of data and other posts in this series are indexed here.
To be honest, almost anyone apart from regime which had a sloth like AK Antony is an improvement for Indian defence needs. Almost every aspect of Indian defence sector ranging from acquisitions, research, management, border issues suffered immeasurably under UPA government. There were huge bribery scandals, no arms, ammunition, lots of acrimony involving defence personnel and further strengthening of perception of India as a soft state. To list all of those scams, most of them going in to hundreds of crores each will require a whole book, so not listing those here. On the other hand,  NDA government has done some really good work under guidance of Manohar Parrikar and Nirmala Sitaraman  There have been some long pending reforms and good actions in a short amount of time. Another good thing so far is that there have been no bribery scandals or slowdown in process due to fear of it which were the norm in previous regimes.
Akash surface to air missile

Akash surface to air missile


A. Defence Manufacturing and Acquisition

 

Points 9/10.
Defence manufacturing has been a weak point for India and we’ve been dependent on a number of extremely and unreliable weapon suppliers for our needs. Government, defence laboratories, state owned manufactures and Indian armed forces are equally responsible for the mess over the years. The reforms in this field have been very good under Manohar Parrikar and now Sitaraman.  A number of long pending projects have been cleared, private sector is being involved at a much greater scale and money being spent for our defence needs is staying within country. Modi’s Make In India has been a positive factor. All these steps have enabled India to save 1 lakh crore in defence sector. 1* This has been made possible by a number of steps aimed at involving private industry in a much bigger way. One of the major long pending steps was transfer of technology from government owned research labs to industry which happened for first time. 2* 4*
 
GOOD:
  1.  As mentioned above, local defence manufacturing by local private players has received lot of support. A number of Indian companies are now manufacturing all of or major components for missiles, small arms, howitzers, vehicles and various other equipments.  1* 2* 4*
  2. Issue of critical ammunition shortfall has been addressed by giving greater autonomy to armed forces, revamping production at OFB and setting up of private manufacturing plants.  – 3
  3.  Local weapon systems like Akash Surface to Air Missile, 4*  Light Combat Aircraft Tejas fighter 5* and Nag Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) 6* have received much better and their long pending induction in armed forces expedited.
  4.  Development and manufacturing of small arms in India has received a major boost in last 4 years. A number of locally designed and made guns have already been inducted in various state police and paramilitary forces .11* 12* 13* 14* 15*
  5.  Long pending acquisitions and upgrades of essential items for soldiers like armour, helmets and guns have been approved.  Induction of these items was pending for decades. 7* 8* 16* 17*
  6.  Critical issue of shortage of artillery guns has been solved by fast track development and induction of various Indian as well as foreign systems. These have been the first induction of artillery by Indian army since Bofors howitzer in 1986.  18* 19* 20* 21* 22* 23* 24*
  7.  Long pending and seemingly dead deal for India Air Force MRCA (Dassault Rafale) finally signed at good terms. -79*
BAD:
  1.  Some of essential projects like Arjun are still stuck due to battles between Army and DRDO.  In my opinion based on available open source information, army is being very unreasonable here. 25*
  2.  A number of naval projects like  submarines, Vikrant aircraft carrier, ships are delayed and seemingly no steps have been taken to rectify sub-par performance of local shipyards. 26* 27* 28*
  3.  Project for next generation of Infantry Combat Vehicles ( to replace BMP) has made very slow progress.  29*
A C-130 Hercules in a newly commissioned Advanced Landing Grounds

A C-130 Hercules in a newly commissioned Advanced Landing Grounds


B. Terrorism, Border and Internal security

 

Points 7/10.
This seems to be another field in which Modi government has done much better than previous regimes, but still fall shorts of expectations. Everyone already knows about some big actions like surgical strikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan and Myanmar. Home Minister Rajnath Singh faces regular abuse on social media for various reasons, but his work has proven that he is one of better ministers that this department has seen for quite some time. Some good work has been done to contain Maoists inside Indian hinterland. For the first time, civilian financiers and moles whose support enables Islamic terrorism in J&K have been targeted on such a large scale.  But there are still a  few issues which have not been addressed completely.
GOOD:
  1. Cross border strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan and Myanmar have sent a strong message and raised morale.35* 36* 37* . There have been various other small scale operations against pakis which haven’t received that much coverage. 38*
  2.  Area under Maoist influence has shrunk quite a bit. Good intelligence work, better connect with locals and coordination between different state police forces and paramilitary forces has yielded good results. 30* 31* 32* 33* 34*
  3.  Indian Army and BSF have been given  greater autonomy to handle mischief by Pakis at border. It has yielded some good results and raised confidence of soldiers. Even BSF is regularly bashing up Paki posts which fire or try to insert terrorists. Pakis have now begged to enforce 2003 ceasefire agreement again. 39* 40* 41* 52*
  4. Overground workers, financiers and various other supporters of muslim terrorists in J&K have been raided and arrested not just in the state, but outside too. 42* 43* 44* 45*
  5. Shelters, aid and other facilities to victims of cross border shelling by pakis is being provided. It’s still not enough, but is first step for a long pending need. 55*
  6. Border issues with China have seen India get a bit more vocal and assertive compared to previous incidents. It has not been perfect, but still better than what we used to see earlier. Steps are being taken to reduce Chinese advantages like construction of border roads,  raising of dedicated military units and airfields 65* 66* 67* 68* 69* 70*
  7. One of the biggest improvements is visible in number of terrorist attacks and resulting causalities. Since 2014, there has been a massive drop in number of terrorist incidents in India outside J&K. 80* 81*
BAD:
  1. This regime isn’t immune to appeasement policies when it comes to muslims leading to stupid decisions like ceasefire during ramzan. There have been some good successes against armed terrorists in Kashmir but issue of unarmed terrorists like the type who pelt stones and their supporters has not been adequately addressed.46*. After terrorist attack in Pathankot, we invited Pakistanis for a so called joint investigation. 48*
  2. Khalistani militants continue to make noise and try to be a nuisance in some foreign countries. They have not been countered effectively. 47*
  3. Resettlement of Kashmiri Hindus back in Kashmir is still not done. Very few steps have been taken to ensure that the displaced Hindus get their properties back 53* 54*
  4. Issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar has been a major failure. They have been allowed to settle in many parts of India and existing ones have not been deported. 50* 51*
  5. No progress of taking PoK back or support of locals there against paki hegemony.
  6. Forces involved in counter insurgency operations should have received better moral support from the government. Admittedly, it is just a point of view, but there have been incidents where soft jihadi Mufti regime in J&K (of which BJP is a part) has tried to implicate and harass security forces in fake cases. With BJP as partner in the govt, people had expected much stricter action against jihadi kashmiri muslims. But Mufti and her colleagues seem to be in control of administration. 76* 77*

C. Other Defence Issues

Points 7/10
This section is for other issues related to Indian defence like government policies related to defence, handling of grievances and so on. For the abuse BJP gets from left-liberal circles for being regressive, a lot of pioneering work has been done like much greater participation of women in defence including path breaking combat roles. We also got our first female Minister of Defence and so far she has done an excellent job. There have been some good developments and for some aspects, things have remained the same if not worse.
GOOD: 
  1. For the first time, women are being given combat roles in Air Force, Coast Guard and various other branches like Assam Rifles.  56* 57* 58* 59*
  2. One Rank One Pension has been rolled out. It is not perfect and the events leading up to it’s implementation were avoidable. But the basic work has been done and the veterans have started to receive their dues. 60* 61* 62*
  3. Indian Ministry Of Defence has decided to not challenge disability pension for soldiers. 63*
BAD:
  1. There has been very little progress in resolving the issue of disparity between pay of civilian and military officers. 64*
  2. Some stupid decisions like opening up of cantonment roads for civilian traffic 71* 72* which was later reversed. 73*
  3. Spending on defence has not been up to expectations. 75*
  4. Arun Jaitley was given additional charge of defence ministry for quite some time. These departments need two separate heads, not a single person juggling the two jobs. 74*

VERDICT:

So far, this regime has been one of the best ones for Indian defence sector. As mentioned above, it is not perfect and a lot still needs to be done in due time.As far as the shortcomings are concerned, there are some very sore points like handling of illegal immigrants and civilian jihadis in Kashmir.  But even the detractors and people with very high expectations should be reasonably happy with the performance so far.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

 


SOURCES:

1. Modi’s Make in India just saved Rs 1 lakh crore in defence sector.  http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/make-in-india-initiative-defence-ministry-drdo-modi/1/1102047.html
4.  We have given nearly 300 transfer of technologies in the last three years https://www.theweek.in/theweek/current/2018/05/18/interview-s-christopher-chairman-drdo.html
7. Defence ministry’s Rs 16,000-crore arms buy: 7.40 lakh assault rifles, 5,719 sniper rifles for Indian forces https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/defence-ministry-s-big-buy-7-40-lakh-assault-rifles-5-719-sniper-rifles-for-indian-forces/story-VWv9j4Fmso14HvkPeY7p7I.html
17. After 9-Year Wait, Indian Soldiers To Finally Get Bulletproof Jackets https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/after-9-year-wait-indian-soldiers-to-finally-get-bulletproof-jackets-1834945
21. Know all about Indian Army’s latest self-propelled gun K9 VAJRA-T 155mm/ 52 calibre howitzer http://zeenews.india.com/india/know-all-about-indian-armys-latest-self-propelled-gun-k9-vajra-t-155mm/52-calibre-howitzer-2106142.html
22. India’s Fastest Deal: #MakeInIndia K-9 Guns To Start Deliveries In 11 Months https://www.livefistdefence.com/2017/04/indias-fastest-deal-makeinindia-k-9-guns-to-start-deliveries-in-11-months.html
24. First five Indian M777 howitzers to enter service in September http://www.janes.com/article/79359/first-five-indian-m777-howitzers-to-enter-service-in-september
26. Aircraft carrier Vikrant to be commissioned by 2020 https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/62574359.cms
29. Army’s combat vehicle project gets green signal Read more at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/63071229.cms
32. Maoists area of influence shrinks; 44 districts removed from affected list: Union Home Secretary http://zeenews.india.com/india/maoists-area-of-influence-shrinks-44-districts-removed-from-affected-list-union-home-secretary-2100351.html
34. Echo from the hills of Chhattisgarh: ‘We are the first Bastariya Battalion http://indianexpress.com/article/india/echo-from-the-hills-of-chhattisgarh-we-are-the-first-bastariya-battalion-5185799/
35. India Claims ‘Surgical Strikes’ Across Line of Control in Kashmir https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/world/asia/kashmir-india-pakistan.html
37.India carries out ‘surgical strikes’ against Pakistan after Kashmir attack http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-india-pakistan-20160929-snap-story.html
38. Revenge of ‘The Fallen’ – Part 1 https://satyavijayi.com/revenge-of-the-fallen-part-1/
41. India-Pak thaw: Both agree to follow ceasefire on LoC in letter and spirit http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-pakistan-army-follow-ceasefire-on-loc-in-letter-and-spirit-5196476/
48. Pathankot attack probe: What made Govt invite Pakistan, asks Parliamentary Panel http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/pathankot-attack-probe-parliamentary-panel-pakistan-help-2782934/
51.  Deport Bangladeshi Immigrants Along With Rohingyas Within a Year: PIL in SC https://www.news18.com/news/india/deport-bangladeshi-immigrants-along-with-rohingyas-within-a-year-pil-in-sc-1525531.html
54. Resettlement of Kashmiri Hindus – The inside story and The way forward  http://www.opindia.com/2017/01/resettlement-of-kashmiri-hindus-the-inside-story-and-the-way-forward/
57. In A First, Indian Coast Guard Deploys Female Officers In Combat Roles https://topyaps.com/indian-coast-guard-females-combat-roles
61. Revised Pensionary benefits under OROP released to over Two Lakh Defence Pensioners http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=137870
64. Military-civil rift over rank and pay parity likely to widen: Sources  http://zeenews.india.com/india/military-civil-rift-over-rank-and-pay-parity-likely-to-widen-sources-2051346.html
65. Roads to all China border posts soon, says Rajnath Singh Union home minister https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/roads-to-all-china-border-posts-soon-says-rajnath-singh/articleshow/62330709.cms
66. Chinese and Indian troops face off in Bhutan border dispute https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/china-india-bhutan-standoff-disputed-territory
68. Amid China Standoff, India Hits Pedal on Border Road Construction After Delay https://sputniknews.com/asia/201708021056101593-india-road-construction/
69. India to Add Seven More Advanced Airfields Near Border With China https://sputniknews.com/military/201804201063756549-india-adds-airfields-near-china-border/
76. Army orders court of inquiry against Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/army-orders-court-of-inquiry-against-major-nitin-gogoi/articleshow/64319258.cms
77. Major Leetul Gogoi raided our home at night: Mother of woman at hotel http://indianexpress.com/article/india/major-leetul-gogoi-raided-our-home-at-night-mother-of-woman-at-hotel-5190226/
78. J-K govt to move court for pardons of 4,961 stone-pelters https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/cases-against-5-000-stone-pelters-in-j-k-to-be-withdrawn/story-DGhAV4nSVbqu0Q7DsnIzOM.html
79. India, France ink €7.87 billion agreement for 36 Rafales  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/India-France-ink-€7.87-billion-agreement-for-36-Rafales/article14995775.ece
80. 2017: The Zero Death Year!  http://5forty3.in/gaze_articles.php?articalid=205
81. India Fatalities: 1994-2018 http://www.satp.org/Datasheets.aspx?countries=india

I wrote this post last year while writing the Kinnaur Lahaul Spiti travelogue and  forgot to post it.

While traveling one has the chance to met a number of different types of people. Some of these interactions are enjoyable, informative and memorable but a few stay in memory for somewhat wrong reasons. I have had my fair share of such interactions with fellow travellers over the years. A few of these meetings were extremely enjoyable which I remember fondly. The people one meets on occasions like this are the kind of who help you see things with a very new perspective, inform you about stuff you didn’t knew and are a joy to talk with. Their words and stories inspire and if nothing else, at least make you feel happy. For example, during my last trip, me and wifey met a bunch of foreigners living in Manali for a few months. They were deeply interested in Indian spirituality, philosophies, scriptures etc. Even though I am not that knowledgeable, we spent more than one hour talking over various topics.

Last year we met a middle aged government officer who took up travel and hiking as he got closer to retirement and had much more enthusiasm and energy than people half his age. There are quite a few such people I have met. There are some people I am still in touch with, even if it is over Facebook. I meet several such people regularly in my line of work.

Then there is the opposite spectrum which is populated with morons of various orders. Like the ones I saw in Manali eating pizza with knife, fork and using “cool” words like “fucking, fuck, amaaayyyzing,” in every sentence. You probably know the type. This post is dedicated to them. Following are some interactions I’ve had with people who make you facepalm or just wonder how they managed to live past the age of 18. Some of the details have been changed a little bit to protect privacy and all that stuff.

1. We were staying in a campsite near Chandra Taal . For those who don’t know, Chandra Taal is a lake at an altitude 4200 meters (13800 feet), 4 hours drive from nearest “big town” Kaza and 11-12 hours from Manali. Transporting stuff is hard and expensive and most people there normally eat vegetarian food which includes rice, daal, vegetables etc and meat is very rare. It is a wilderness area or atleast more or less was at that time.
One day, a SUV with some typical Punjabis rolled in and 4-5 people dressed for Goa rather than cold mountains of Spiti stepped out. They were already shivering but had brought no warm clothes. During dinner time, they all entered kitchen tent and asked for some food. The menu was daal chawal and some potato dish. They looked at the food and all stared in disbelief. Then one of them asked owner of campsite if he had any chicken, which he did not. Then one of them wailed incredulously, “Appa ithein aaloo khaan waaste aaye dein haan ?” (Have we come here to eat potatoes ?). I could do little but stare at them and chuckle.
What made them think that they could have tandoori chicken at Chandra Taal of all the places in the world is still a mystery to me.

 

2. A woman and her friends got in to a conversation with me about travel options in Lahaul Spiti. She asked me about my travel itinerary and she had no knowledge about most of the places I visited. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: So these places you visited are not on main routes, but further ? Are they worth the visit ?
Me: These villages are a bit off the main route, but worth the effort, in my opinion.
Her: Are there any places to stay in such villages ?
Me: Most of these villages will have small guesthouses and homestays. You can also pitch a tent or spend the night in nearby town.
Her: No no, I want to do it like you did. Stay with the locals, spend time with them, live like they do. Experience the local life in every way like they do.
Me: Yeah.
Her: So will these homestays will have electricity and toilets ?
Me: All of them have electricity as far as I know. But some of them may not have running water and western toilets.
Her: No running water eh… But atleast they will have wifi and tv connection ?

I laughed for a good 3-4 seconds before I realised that she was serious.

 

3. Me and my local driver made a stop for lunch in a small eatery in Spiti. There were 2 foreigners accompanied by 2 young Indian women having lunch. One of the Indian women in particular seemed to be the typical Coconut Sahib type. Eager to please the white foreigners and doing plenty of stupid stuff in the process. She was almost jumping up and down trying to answer whatever questions the foreigners had but had almost no idea about the stuff she was talking about. She didn’t even knew what “daal” was, but that’s another story.

Anyhow, the person serving at the eatery was a Himachali but evidently from some other part of the state. His looks, accent, mannerisms etc were all different from the locals and that apparently didn’t went unnoticed by our heroine of the story. So she called him over. Conversation was in Hindi :
Her: Bhaiya, you don’t look like a local.
Him: Yes, I am from Mandi.
Her: You are from Mandi ? That is so far away in Uttarakhand (entirely different state). What are you doing here ?

My driver chuckled and I choked on my rice a little bit. I couldn’t see server’s expression, but he waited 2-3 seconds before informing her that Mandi is in Himachal.

 

4. Another person was asking me about camping near Chandra Taal but for some reason, bonfires were really important to her.
Her: I want a bonfire there. (Chandra taal campsite).
Me: Wood is kind of expensive and very hard to get, due to high altitude and no trees. Also wind is usually strong enough to uproot even tied up tents. So not really a great idea.
Her: But if we really want it, the camp owner will arrange it.
(I don’t know what gave her this idea)
Me: It is not safe or generally possible to have open bonfires in a place like that.
Her: But it can be done, no ?
Me: ……….

 

Jokes aside, I normally don’t care if the tourists are just ignorant or well meaning naive people. But a vast majority of Indian tourists are the worst people a beautiful place can have. Over the years, a number of amazing places in many corners across India have turned in to concrete jungles full of rubbish, plastic and various kind of annoying touristy dumpyards. When I first visited Lahaul Spiti in 2011, there was only 2, maybe 3 campsites near Chandrataal and the whole place was mostly clean and pristine. Now there are probably a dozen people setting up camps with dozens of tents in each and there is rubbish and shit everywhere. There are some regulations and it seems like that they are never implemented. When I visited in 2015, I kept awake for most of the night due to some retards playing loud stupid music for most of nights, shouting, singing after getting drunk and driving in mud. It was even worse in 2017. Campsite owners had brought excavators to dig pits and had even dug up hills, which is illegal. Instead of disposing of trash properly, all the waste plastic, ceramic was just being dumped in pits and covered up. Toilets were just connected to hastily dug open pits covered with plastic sheets and whole place stank. Everyone likes to use bottled water, soft drinks etc and all the plastic bottles, snacks packaging etc was just being thrown carelessly everywhere. Tourists are stupid and camp owners will just bury the rubbish instead of disposing properly, just to save a hundred rupees every month. At best, they’d just gather the rubbish and burn it. Instead of a scenic campsite in wilderness, it now looks like a stinking refugee slum.

It is not even like these campsite owners are well meaning people with no facilities. A majority of them just care about making money in anyway possible. Dozens of vehicles ply on this route and it’s just takes a little work and money to gather this trash and send it away. But it’s done once in a blue moon, if at all.  They are also not immune to lying to tourists and fraud. I met 2 foreigner tourists who were mislead  in to staying in to one campsite after the owner lied to them about route, facilities provided and they were stuck there with no option than to wait till they could get transport.

This how garbage is being disposed off. By burying in shallow pits.

This how garbage is being disposed off. By burying in shallow pits.

 

Another pit used to bury garbage, mostly non bio-degradable

Another pit used to bury garbage, mostly non bio-degradable

 

Uncontrolled movement of vehicles everywhere. Campsite owners digging up hills

Uncontrolled movement of vehicles everywhere. Campsite owners digging up hills

 

Lots of plastic and other waste like this in water sources for the campsites.

Lots of plastic and other waste like this in water sources for the campsites.

Trash like this comprising of food packaging, clothing, cans, alcohol bottles all around campsite

Trash like this comprising of food packaging, clothing, cans, alcohol bottles all around campsite

Local shepherds bitterly complained how tourists scare away their animals, destroy vegetation and don’t stop their activities even after dark. Additionally, the animals will eat up plastic and get sick, just like it happens in cities. Most of campsite owners use water from some nearby streams and even those had all type of waste in them. Earlier, the annoying tourist in these kind of places would be the one playing some dumb punjabi, bollywood bjohpuri type song on a mobile phone. There are still quite a few of them, but now there are a lot more of pretentious instagram snapchat type of crowd playing hipster songs on portable speakers which is even more disturbing to people looking for a quite place to relax and enjoy nature.
There are idiots on their extremely loud, smoky motorcycles who’d like to drag the annoying piece of crap everywhere, paste a sticker on every inch of available space and just be a pretentious annoying ass.
A vast majority of them are some lame biker groups with a badly designed logo and a very generic name which includes following words in different combinations:

Riders, Bulls, Tigers, Lions, , Bullet, Night, Knight, Royal, Bikers, and so on.

Just throw a dice a few times with these words and you will have the name for a “biker group” from every corner of the country. Their usual claim of fame are trips to Laddakh, Rajasthan and these days Lahaul Spiti. Earlier, you could see their stickers on some rest stops, restaurants, hotels etc. But these days, you can see such stupidity even on rocks by the roadside.

It seems that I end up ranting like this everytime I go on a trip. We need a zombie apocalypse, maybe.

I had almost forgotten to finish this travelogue just like my previous one. Which reminds me that I should work on that one too once this is finished. No other excuse other than just being lazy and a bit too much of work. Previous post of this series.

Anyhow, my plan was to stay in campsite for 2-3 days and trek to Suraj Taal from there. But Jamaica was unable to arrange a guide which he had agreed to earlier. It really poured cold water on my plans and I was not really sure about what to do if not that. Apparently there were some seasonal nallahs on the way which were flooded unexpectedly and the guide who was supposed to go with me was forbidden by his wife to go anywhere. But we eventually convinced a local shepherd camping in a dera (shepherd shelter made of stones) nearby to work as my guide. He was the same Kashmir Singh Rana who I had met during my first visit to Chandrataal. It was not easy convincing him and he agreed only after I promised a pretty hefty payment. According to him and his co-worker shepherd who was camping with him, trekkers usually start from Suraj Taal (4883 m) and hike down to Chandrataal (4250 m) in about 4-5 days. But since he was needed at dera, he’d try to do it in 3. I was not really confident of being capable of doing that myself. But he said that he’d carry most of my camping stuff leaving me with carrying only my camera gear, some water, snacks and some emergency supplies which in total weighed only about 7-9 kgs.

Some new visitors at the lake

Some new visitors at the lake


Before we left, I had spent 3 days around the campsite walking around the area and exploring. I tried to locate the round stone I had noticed during my first visit but couldn’t find it. It probably rolled away to some other place. While wandering around, I followed yet another goat trail and ended up at the river bed. There I noticed the source of differently coloured water in the river bed. There was some clear water bubbling through the sandy river bed which gave it a different colour from sediment filled water of the river. I put my hand in to the sand from where it was coming out but found only more sand and pebbles. It was ice cold too. I still don’t know what exactly I was expecting.

Temporary

Temporary “Lake” near Chandrataal

The trek started on morning of 16th August, I had arrived on 13th. Rana carried my rucksack and some of his own stuff and we set off on a brisk pace. My start was not that great. After walking for about 20 minutes, I noticed that one half of one of two brand new hiking stick shad slid off. I retraced my steps almost back to starting point and then gave up. I didn’t want to throw the rest of it as trash, specially after seeing how the camp owners and tourists were already trashing the place. So I ended up carrying it for all of my trek and eventually back home. I just tied it to a loop on my bag and let it hang from there. Rana said that he’ll give it to Jamaica if he ever found it. I suppose, he was joking. At first we were walking almost side by side, but eventually I trailed off behind him by quite a distance. He had 20-25 years on me, was quite skinny and was carrying almost twice the weight I was. But he was still much faster than me for all of the trek.

A beautiful, windy and cloudy evening

A beautiful, windy and cloudy evening

After about 3 hours of walking, we came across our first obstacle. It was a flooded nallah which was one of the reasons why my original guide had chickened out. There were 3 like this and this one was called Kala nallah, another pagal nallah and one other I don’t remember. There was a lot of almost black mud all over where it had flooded over pushing up a lot of big and small rocks all over. Rana said that it was due to flood anytime soon as the sun became stronger and snow melted. The current was very swift and the stones were shifting due to it. Rana was just wearing simple plastic (?) shoes and he just rolled up him pajama and crossed easily using his walking stick. Since I was doubtful of crossing the stream without tripping, he carried my camera too. I had to take off my shoes, socks and throw them over. The shoes were a moderately water resistant, but certainly couldn’t have avoided that kind of water flow. My first two three steps went fine. But then the cold hit and I started to feel it all over. Then there was the issue of nearly black muddy water which didn’t allow any of the moving rocks to be seen. I had to be really careful checking my each step carefully so as to not step on a sharp rock or an unstable one. The current was very strong as mentioned earlier and it made standing difficult even though the water was barely up to my knees. I managed to cross over eventually without tripping which didn’t seem to be a big deal in the beginning.

Sheep and goats grazing on a nearby mountain

Sheep and goats grazing on a nearby mountain

A few minutes later we noticed some sheep and goats grazing just across the river and two shepherds in their dera which Rana knew. They welcomed us with some of their chai which had enough goat ghee and sugar to give any non-Gaddi person diabetes in a few weeks. But these people stay skinny and healthy due to all the work they do. They were in process of preparing lunch when we arrived and served some for us. It was again ghee served with some rice and daal. There was some dessert too but I remember it only vaguely. They get a lot of milk from goats and sheep which they can’t store. So it is usually turned in to ghee and consumed liberally. I was finding it a bit difficult just to breathe properly at this altitude but Rana kept smoking one bidi after another. The dera had one old hukkah which he prepared and smoked as shown in this video.

They had harvested a prickly herb which has many uses in Indian medicine and were drying it in sun. I cannot remember it’s name right now . Just touching it put quite a few prickly spines in the skin.I requested to take a few pictures but both of them wanted to wear something on their heads. One of them could not find his, so I lent him mine. We left a few minutes later after thanking them for the hospitality.

They had told Rana about another dera a few hours hike from theirs and he was keen to reach there before it got dark. But I was getting tired and was walking almost 200-300 meters behind him. At this time, I saw what seemed to be a large bird sitting on a ledge. With sun in front it was only an outline and I got excited thinking that I finally found a Himalayan Griffon perching at such a close distance. Eventually it turned out to be Rana partially hidden behind a rock smoking another one of his bidis. It was a bit of disappointment as I didn’t see any other wild bird or animal during rest of trek, even though there were footmarks and burrows every now and then. We managed to reach another dera before sunset. It had 3 shepherds who were in the process of gathering their flock and preparing dinner. I wanted to have a taste of my own MRE, but they insisted I eat with them. I sat in their dera as they cooked their food on a stone chulha (stove). It was simple daal roti, but a lot of it. I was surprised to see skinny people like them eating so much. When I requested them to pose for pictures, 2 of them got their better caps out.

A shepherd dog

A shepherd dog

For a change, I managed to setup my tent quite easily. But it was on a surface full of rocks and it took some time for me to get comfortable enough to sleep. There was not much plain enough space and it was getting too dark for me to find a better spot.

We started early next morning and noticed a few caves not far from river bank. A lot of them were collapsed or full of rubble and looked quite unsafe to take shelter unless one had no other option. These were marked on the map I was carrying and apparently some trekkers had used them in past. Walking for about 1 hour brought us to our 2nd water crossing. We climbed down a steep slope with loose gravel and I slipped a couple of times. The stream was wider and less fast than the last one, but it was supposed to have more water with sun getting higher. There were marks of more flow from previous day all over. The water there was deeper for most part, sometimes reaching up to well above my knees but we crossed it without much difficulty. As with the previous one, Rana crossed first with my camera and I followed once he got to other side.

Quite a lot of Unnamed mountain peaks and glaciers

Quite a lot of Unnamed mountain peaks and glaciers

We walked for about 4 hours more came across another stream. This one was much faster and Rana decided to stop there for the day even though it was just around 1 pm. The stream was 7-8 feet wide at it’s narrowest point but very fast. We saw the glacier where it was coming from next morning. A large piece of it had broken off and melting much faster. We were getting water sprayed on us even when we were 2-3 feet away and could hear rocks grinding against each other below the water. Rana was disappointed because his plan of finishing the trek in 3 days was affected and I had mixed feelings. It had been a hard hike through some really tough terrain and I was quite tired. But then he said that we had to cross only one other stream and we’d have reached a much better camping spot by evening. I don’t think I’d have liked to do that specially after covering that part next morning. The place where we had stopped was very rocky and we were stuck between the fast stream at front, a steep and unstable cliff face on right and main river body on left. It looked like someone long before us had stopped there. There was a big rock with rocks cleared around it providing a bit of shelter from direct sun and wind.

Easier part of the trekking trail

Easier part of the trekking trail

I took out my stove to heat up some MREs and found out that my trusty water bottle had finally developed a crack after yet another fall on the rocks. We had seen a small spring on our way and Rana went there to get some drinking water while I heated the MREs. Again, I didn’t want to throw the bottle in wilderness. The crack was at bottom, so I put some tape on it carried it upside down for rest of the trip. I had another filter bottle, but it’s capacity was not even 1 liter. I noticed a scrape on my camera body where some paint had chipped off after my fall just before the previous water crossing. There was no other damage though it could have been bad.

We wanted to start as early as possible next morning, so I set up my tent immediately after lunch. I tried to clear a small area of rocks, but there were just more rocks underneath. So I gave up moving rocks and just pitched it after removing a few pointy ones. Somehow I managed to sleep through the almost deafening roar of water and the wind throughout the night.

All water gone next morning

All water gone next morning


We started our hike next morning at around 5:30. That mad Paagal nallah was just a small trickle of water at that time, nothing like the loud cascade of water and stones crashing through the mountainside. We crossed in 1-2 hops and resumed our march, The terrain progressively got more difficult from this point onward for various reasons. After walking for 80-90 minutes we climbed down another steep slope to cross another stream, more like a small river. There was supposed to be an ice bridge but it had melted and we had to cross it the old fashioned way. I was a little curious about seeing that ice bridge and was disappointed. I did find a goat (?) skull on the river bank though.

I just placed this skull on this rock to take the picture.

I just placed this skull on this rock to take the picture.

We walked upstream for about a kilometer looking for a suitable place to cross. The water there was comparatively calmer and deeper. Since it was still early morning and the glacier was not that far, the water was just above freezing temperature. I legs were numb within a few seconds of getting in to water and took 2-3 minutes of exercises to get the feeling back after crossing. A few minutes later, we climbed back up on the next mountain using a steep goat trail which actually got me sweating.

View from mountain after crossing

View from mountain after crossing

After this, the terrain was flat for a while which was a relief. We found another dera after about a kilometer which had another gaddi and his assistant. Rana didn’t knew him but that didn’t prevent him from inviting us for a cup of chai and something to eat. He then showed me a an Olympus camera lens still in it’s carry case and asked me what it is. He said that he found it near his shelter a few years back. My excitement was short lived as it was in pretty bad condition.He explained that  his dogs “played” with it and he was curious why it didn’t have a glowing light like it had when he found it. I had no idea what he meant by this. He was happy enough to just give it away, but I gave him a little cash I had for it. All these shepherds told me that there were a lot of foreigner trekkers on the route a few years back but not so much anymore. I had seen one group in 2011 and mentioned it in the blog. I still have that lens and intend to open it up to see the inner mechanism.

Another cup of chai with ghee and lots of sugar and milk

Another cup of chai with ghee and lots of sugar and milk

From there, we walked for 5 hours more and crossed two more streams which had only a few cm of water. After we crossed the first one he told a story in which one of the trekker or maybe it was a porter had been swept away by the current few years back.  After this , we walked through a very large flat area which was mostly swamp like with lots of water channels, large rocks and strange plants growing everywhere. Just before that, there was yet another stream in which the water was flowing under the rocks with only a little on top.  We could see the pass and vehicles on road from some distance. It took one more hour of walking to reach Bara Lacha pass and a few minutes of downhill walk to reach Suraj Taal. After 3 days of hard work it was a rewarding, yet a bit of underwhelming sight. I knew that it was small but it was even smaller than I expected. Then there was rubble from road just above it which had covered almost half of it’s bank. But it was still a beautiful place. We walked till it’s bank and rested for a while. Rana helped me setup the tent and we had a lunch of of  MREs. Rana and I shook hands and he took his leave to go back to his dera. He said that he’d reach back in 2 or 3 days .

First view of Surah Taal. Road is on right

First view of Surah Taal. Road is on right

After he left, I walked around the place taking pictures and enjoying sunset. The point where I had set up my tent was only about 50-60 meters down from the road, but there was no way to climb up due to huge boulders. The only reasonable path back up was about half a km of walk which I didn’t want to do carrying all my stuff. So I found a shorter and a bit more difficult way up for next morning. It was not a path, just some rocks which seemed stable enough. Even walking around at that altitude was a tough job and the fatigue was making everything including walking on a slope or even lift a small rock more difficult.

There were only a few vehicles on the road and most of them barely slowed down as they passed the lake. During my time there, I saw only 3-4 people who stopped their vehicles to take a few pictures, stare at me staring them back and move on. The traffic ceased a few hours before sunset and I had the whole place to myself. Only 2 vehicles passed through after that till the time I was awake. I wanted to do some night photography and then decided against it once I set foot outside the tent. The wind was too strong and the cold made my every exposed body part freezing cold. So I took a few pictures from within the tent and ended it for the night. It was a bit strange being truly alone in such wilderness for the first time. An exhilarating and terrifying feeling at the same time. A bit more terrifying because at times, I imagined something moving right outside my tent as I was about to fall asleep.

One last vehicle for the night with lake reflecting the lights

One last vehicle for the night with lake reflecting the lights

I woke up after sunrise and had some chocolates and dry fruit for breakfast before staring to windup the camp. Any exertion was still pretty hard and I did it slowly so as not to over exert. There was no traffic on the road at that time and started only after 8 am, I think. After all the packing was done I half carried , half dragged my luggage up to the road. Jamaica had promised that he’d send a car to pick me up from there and I waited along the roadside for it. Later I found out that the driver he asked to do it demanded too much money and he didn’t send anyone. I didn’t knew that at the time and I waited for around 90 minutes before the sky was covered by dark clouds started dropping half frozen rain. It got a extremely cold within a few minutes and I started walking down from there by the roadside. There were quite a few vehicles passing at the that time. I waved at a truck for lift and thankfully he stopped. The driver had delivered some supplies in Leh and was going back empty. He didn’t talk much and I was not in mood for idle chit chat, so most of our journey was quite peaceful. A ride in truck was never on my bucketlist, but was a fun thing to do. We stopped at 2-3 places for rest and meals in Lahaul area which is quite a beautiful place by itself. We reached Keylong in afternoon and he dropped me near the bus station.

View of the area as I waited for transport as I waited next morning, only a few minutes before everything was covered by clouds

View of the area as I waited for transport as I waited next morning, only a few minutes before everything was covered by clouds

There was one bus scheduled to leave for Manali in a hour and I waited at bus stand till it arrived and ticket counter opened. The bus ride was unremarkable and I reached Manali at around sunset time. During my last visit, me and wifey had stayed in a kind of fancy resort on the way to Old Manali. It had hot running water, fancy bathrooms and all that other expensive hotel stuff. Since she was coming to join me in 2 days, I thought that it’d be a good place to stay. But I apparently looked like a hobo, because the guy on reception desk said that the hotel was priced beyond what I could possibly afford. I had not bathed for 6 days, had almost matted hair and beard and was wearing same clothes for 4 days. But still….

After that I just walked to Old Manali and found a cheap guesthouse where people were more used to people like me. I had a hot shower, shampooed my hair, overgrown beard to get all the dust out. The water ran very gray and brown for quite some time. There isn’t much to say after this. I wandered around Manali town, discovered a few new spots, gorged myself in different restaurants till wifey arrived. Then we did more of that stuff together for 2-3 days more.

During this trek, I saw a lot of interesting things like plants, geographical features, rocks, glaciers, insects and more. Only problem is that I know almost nothing about most of them. I did take a lot of pictures and intend to find out more about them, if time permits.
For now, it’s time to end this post.

9th Part of BJP Government Achievements , Links 801 to 900. 1st,  2nd, 3rd, 4th5th6th 7th8th and 9th Parts.

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