We were on our way back from Nepal when an idea struck me. Every year scores of travellers head to Ladakh, which is now considered one of the most-visited destinations globally. But never have bloggers embarked on a journey to Khardung La and beyond for a blogger meet. So, if we do it, this would be the first. Also Khardung La is one of the highest motorable roads in the world, which would make the blogger meet an attempt at staking claim for the highest in the world (or at least in India).
We got cracking on this idea as soon as we came back to the OYO Rooms office post the Nepal trip. We mentioned this to Vikram Singh at OYO Rooms and it resonated with him as well. And thus together we created the one of the biggest digital marketing campaigns in India by any brand, the Highest Blogger Meet at Khardung La. You can read more about it here
I spoke about the planning process and many ideas that did not see the light of day in my previous post. This post is all about the people. The OYO Rooms team, the ScoutMyTrip team and the bloggers at the Highest Blogger Meet.
The team behind #HighestBloggerMeet #OYOnauts
I must first take this opportunity to thank the fantastic people who stood behind this trip and made it the huge success it was. The first person who comes to mind is Neeraj Sinha, ScoutMyTrip CTO and self-proclaimed vagabond. The plan and route was all his brainchild. I agree the journey was quite hectic, but in hindsight, that gave us more mileage – more memories per kilometer!.
Vikram Singh, Smriti Chhatwal, Nishant Jayaswal and Vishal Jain from OYO Rooms were the backbones of this campaign. When you come up with seemingly outlandish ideas like the Highest Blogger Meet, there is an ardent need of a sounding board and an organization that believes in you and your ideas. Led by a young leader – Ritesh Agarwal; we were supported and encouraged to go ahead with the road trip. They came on board and launched at the Khardung La, an exclusive community of travelers – OYONauts. Do check them out and give them a shout-out on social media using #OYOnauts. We talk a lot about angel investors in the start-up space, but ones we never mention are angel partners. OYO is one such partner.
Last but not the least, Deepak Ananth, my partner in crime and on road trips where we go gallivanting around. Having traveled so many miles together; it’s easy to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If both of us are in the same car, it’s usually he who drives. Mostly the reason why we prefer taking our own bikes out – one for each.
Road Trippers en route the Highest Blogger Meet
A road trip of this nature needed experienced travelers who could work in a team and come back to tell tales of the epic journey. That’s where we reached out to our community of road trippers and bloggers. We were overwhelmed with the response and support they gave us. And I truly believe we were fortunate enough to travel with some of the most seasoned travelers in India. Beginning alphabetically…
Abhinav Singh is a passionate trekker and adventure sports aficionado with a flair for writing on travel, films and social-cultural entertainment topics. After having travelled with him, we can assure you that behind the calm exterior is a mad cap who wants to explore every inch of the world. Abhinav is a true team player, which was evident at every step of the road trip. When Pratik’s car had a puncture in Zozi La, he did most of the work in the muck and slush, without any hang-ups. I think he decided not to wash those set of clothes, so he could take back a piece of Ladakh with him. Play the song ‘Jumma Jumma’ and he would show you his special moves! He was the official photographer for Swati Jain during the trip, but more about her later. A great guy, here’s wishing him many more miles
Ajay Sood was the winner of OSM (Outlook Social Media) Shuterbug of the Year 2016 and is an international speaker on travel and architectural photography. On a mission to make destinations desirable, he has already travelled to over 35 countries. But I doubt that even he would have imagined that he’d be part of the first team of bloggers to ever set foot at Khardung La for the Highest blogger meet! Ajay is one of the best photographers we know, and his pictures truly speak not just a thousand, but a million words. Has a picture for every occasion, and we are sure he silently curses us for not letting him open up his tripod even once and cutting short his time at every picturesque location. A marketing guy for life, he has really unique views about the present state of the industry. There is so much to learn from this gentleman; one trip is not sufficient!
Ami Bhat is the notorious one. The enthu cutlet who was born with a bug – the travel bug. And that can work both ways. While everyone else just wants to sit and relax, she’s studying the map to check for the next place to visit. We underestimated her energy levels in the Nepal trip, mainly owing to her size. This restless ball of energy never stopped rolling and we named her Nepali Jones. In Ladakh, the ball continued and this pocket sized fire cracker got christened Ladakhi Jones. Her never-say-no attitude to anything outdoorsy is very inspiring. A Pilates freak and a trained Kathak dancer, we know who to go to for fitness advice and entertainment suggestions. What left us awestruck though was when she was doing both in the car! A marketer by qualification, and a blogger by passion, she loves her photography and recently also launched her very own mobile app. Rated amongst the top 20 travel blogs in India recently, we unabashedly love the way she writes.
Dr. Amit Nikam is the founder and moderator of Dukes of Nagpur. He drives the Thar and rides the Duke (no guesses). Amit drove from Nagpur to be part of the Highest Blogger Meet. With plenty of experience on two and four wheels in Ladakh, the designated medical doctor of the group soon became Daddy cool. His car, later christened the #hippiecar was the craziest and coolest car in the region. Amit became responsible for not just the well-being of the group, but the overall positive sentiments which he calls ‘Joint effort’.
Anuradha Goyal is a published author and been writing since 2004. An avid reader and passionate travel blogger trying to experience the world first hand, she is now a Business Innovation consultant. She was on the first leg of our journey from Gurgaon, and we could see why she is one of the most revered bloggers in India today. Major foodie, she was the first to find where she could find the best Golgappas and Chhole-bhature. And trust me, she found them very quickly alright! Check out her blog and her book, the Mouse Charmers. Hope to make it to the second edition 🙂
Choksi – he is bananas!! An intrepid traveller, Chokkalingam Sundaresan Iyer or Choksi, as he’s lovingly called, loves being pampered. He has to be the centre of attraction, loves food, cars and bikes and Mother Nature. He hates brinjals!
Harshit Vishwakarma, made a lot of bloggers jealous. By virtue of being the official photographer of the trip he got the front seat of the Thar which has a near vertical wind screen for the best shots and GoPro footage. A brilliant photographer; he knows his way around with angles and motion photography. Speaks when spoken to, and responsible for the video bites everyone gave but regretted later.
Johann is a sweet heart. Size of a gorilla with a heart made of marshmallows, he is truly an inspiration. On a mission to encourage plus sized folk all over the world; he does stuff thought possible only by the truly fit folk. How many guys do you know would run a mile at an altitude of 4500m? I could try it but then I would need a stretcher and a day of Old Monk to get back to my feet. From Kochi and can presumably drink like a fish (Mallu stereotype alert). For the marshmallow he is, he got banana and tapioca chips from back home to earn brownie points (which he got none off). Has a way with words, got into full time blogging recently after quitting a well-paying job to live his dream.
Karan Bhalla or Bhallaji knows how to party. Forever high on life and the better things in life, he was bitten by the wildlife and adventure bug quite early. He first floated a rafting community ‘Ganga Panga’ with a friend for like-minded adrenaline junkies. A wildlife photographer; who sticks to clicking birds only of the feathered kind, Bhallaji made the Thar his home for most of the trip; driving it once in a while too. A mad cap who loves imitating the rest, he knows how to find his lost stuff if the other person doesn’t (personal joke alert) . Mostly responsible for everything that happened in Manali.
Khursheed Dinshaw is a self-proclaimed nomad who masquerades as a freelance lifestyle writer. With over 1350 published feature articles in niche publications in India and abroad, she writes on food, travel, people, health, culture and heritage. Well, that’s what her social media bio reads. We saw why all this makes so much sense. Every post she has written about the trip so far, have such journalistic depth, it’s not funny. We got a sense of it in Gurgaon when everyone was landing up from their respective cities and quickly huddling into their rooms, Khursheed was taking a tour of the property. We caught a second glimpse of the journalist in her at Manali. We had a DJ night that day, and while everyone had let their hair down she was busy interviewing the owner of the property. Khursheed is such a sweet heart, I am pretty sure a few of us (including me and some women from the group) developed a silent crush on her.
Lakshmi Sharath is a travel writer, blogger, travel photographer, a media professional and a digital influencer who quit 15 years of corporate life to travel and write. What a lady! The fact that she even agreed to come for this made us believe that we were doing something right! Lakshmi had flown into Leh for the blogger meet and boy, were we glad she was there! A veteran in travel blogging, and an inspiration for everyone who was there.
Mridula Dwivedi is a travel blogger and a photographer has lots of stories of every place she visits. She has not been everywhere but that is on her list; which we realized when we started conversing with her. She had also flown in to Leh to attend the Highest Blogger Meet. Armed with a camera and a blog read by millions, Mridula brings the articulation of a college professor to her writing and photographs. Has been many times to the mountains while some of us were still in the cradle. We were super honored when she agreed to make time for the Highest Blogger Meet. One of the most traveled bloggers in India, we lovingly called her Mridulaji!
Medhavi Davda is a solo traveler and a certified Advanced Open Water SCUBA Diver, who has left her corporate career in the Software Industry to enjoy a minimalistic and a location-independent life. She was last seen in Teerthan Valley when she joined us for the road trip to Ladakh. We had reservations about solo travelers because they like their freedom and the sense of independence; but we were impressed by how quickly Miss Ravenous Legs mingled with everyone. She loves her butter chicken so much so that she ordered that for just about every meal. I mean, who orders butter chicken in Khoksar which is famous for mutton curry and rice. She was a close second in the best dancer list after Samarth Sankhla. When you meet her ask how she likes her tea, but don’t try placing an order for it. It’s not easy! 🙂
Neha Kapoor is a Power Digital User, featured as one of Twenty-Five Most Influential Women on Twitter. She writes about style, fitness, travel, beauty, life. Blah blah.. In one line, she’s is a rock star. Can sing and dance at the drop of a hat; which she amply showed when she sang songs for the Jawans. A team player, she was the glue in the group too. A few men were happy to know she’s single, but were left heart broken when unable to match her craziness. Oh! She’s a wild child. We’re all her Bwuoys and she’s our ‘totta’ (check urban dictionary)
Pratik Jain was the youngest road tripper in the group. Huge Bolero buff who has been painting India and Bhutan red on his Bajaj Avenger. He had driven all the way from Orissa to be part of this. Fondly christened Nano Seth for his pint size and later Nanu Seth because he was unwittingly so cute, he quickly made us realize that size really doesn’t matter. One of the most skilful drivers in the group, Pratik became synonymous with his famous one liners. Also famous for throwing a tantrum on most of the passes that we crossed! But before he went home (“main ghar jaa raha hoon”), he didn’t forget to stock up on Rajnigandha.
Ragini Puri has been blogging for some years now. From impromptu trips to planned sojourns, she is ever-ready to pack her bags and get going. And she loves going off the beaten track and looking beyond the obvious which we really love to do! How many travellers do we know who interact with everyday folk like waiters, chefs, security staff, construction workers? She does, and that’s why her stories have such a strong people perspective. Very affable and quick to make friends, she’s never shy in front of the camera. Ragini loves her road travel and she’s probably already started her road trip to lesser known places in Punjab while we’re still typing this.
Raza Rahil is a geek who dives, loves riding bikes in the night and turns coffee into code. An entrepreneur and founder of an IT company in Udaipur (Push Binary), he brought on the techie side of a traveller on this trip. We realized much later in the trip as how good a driver he can be when we drove Neeraj’s car. Slow in getting into the groove, which we saw; but can dance very well to the tune of Jumma Jumma from the movie Hum. Owns many blogs and plans on diversifying into other genres as well.
Samarth Sankhla is a road junkie. He is really wasting his talents in following his corporate dream. His penchant for Bollywood numbers specifically Amitabh songs and dancing is second to none. If you are lucky you get to see his version of the famous song from the movie Padosan – Ek Chatur naar! A sight to behold. Samarth was probably the most sought after Scout in the entire team purely for the non-apologetic humor.
Dr. Shakeel Khan is a roadster; traversing nooks and corners of Himalayas and plains on his bullet and trusted XUV 5OO. He had been a mod of Delhi based Bullet club – Nomads. He believes his car can’t go below 60 mph. Ever! Lover of food, and the selfie, in his case every pic must contain his car also. A veritable encyclopaedia of the roads and a person with excellent contacts to get things done in the region, Shakeel bhai is a true asset to the Scout team!
Shubham Mansingka is a storyteller and a travel photographer with a focus on culture, heritage, nature and trekking. That’s his social media bio. Shubham, is a mountain being. I don’t think there is any place he has not gone backpacking through in the Himalayan region of India. A walking talking encyclopaedia about Ladakh, he had a story to narrate for everything and every place. Wearing his signature cap on his head; and carrying his camera in one hand with oodles of excitement of the mountains running through his veins; it was hard to keep Shubham in one place on the mountains.
Swati Jain is an ex-PR professional and now a solo traveler who has traveled in India for two and a half years covering 140 cities across 20 states. That’s a lot, believe us! What comes to mind when you think of a yoga instructor and a mind coach. Surely, nothing close to the chirpy girl Swati is in real life. Loves hanging out from the window and like the name of her blog suggests she’s very buoyant on her feet. If she had wings, she’d be chirping her way around the world by now like Tweety bird. Also famous for epitomizing the song – “Tu kheech meri photo” with her personal photographer – Abhinav Singh.
Neeraj Sinha, an avid blogger and self proclaimed Vagabond is also the tech brain (read CTO) of ScoutMyTrip. Goes by the name Yayawar Vagabond. From Bihar but has made the mountains his second home. Fails to recollect how many times he’s been there now. Drives the old power horse Scorpio (2.6). You’ll realize why he’s called the water buffalo when he jumps into ice cold water in the mountains of Ladakh.
Deepak Ananth and I co-founded ScoutMyTrip after traveling over half a million kilometers on Indian highways. We both love exploring the highways and hope to instill this passion in others as well. Deepak is a very humble person, and he says so himself – many times. Also very quiet, which he forces us to agree to. I like my Old Monk served with water.
While these are the faces you would see in every photograph and video from the trip, I’d like to also mention our team who were working behind the scenes keeping close track of our movements. Cheers to the spirit of Aparajita Mitra and Arjun Dikshit, Rohan Vernekar and Arun Kumar from our team who lived the Ladakh journey through all of our eyes and lenses! Gaurav, wait for it! The next will be worth it 🙂
For those who missed out on this road trip to the Highest Blogger Meet, there are more interesting road trips coming up which you could be part off. To ensure you don’t miss them; just sign up with us and create your blogger profile. You’ll hear about the upcoming trips through the platform.