Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cycling from Manali to Leh

A 15-hour bus journey from Delhi to Manali is how it all began. Most of us met each other for the first time and little we knew that the next two weeks would bond us in a unique way. 13 of us from very different backgrounds came together with one common desire to cycle in the mountains. Some people had started cycling recently, some people had never really ridden outside of cities, some had no idea what really to expect from the trip. Everyone was full of excitement as we started to know each other and ask a lot of questions to Guru about everything. He also managed to have his own fun by fooling us at times with answers like “Leh’s elevation is less than that of Manali”.

Day 1 (Manali): The touristy town was warm and crowded. Some interesting things @ breakfast were yak cheese omelettes, some nice cherries and a lafa. We unpacked our cycles which took a few hours and did a small practice ride in the evening. 

Day 2 (Manali to Marhi): So we started the 475-km journey to Leh. It was quite sunny and we took an alternate route to the highway to avoid some traffic. I met two locals (both farmers) on the way and they both found the idea of us going to Leh on a cycle unacceptable. The reply when I said that we would go slow over 9 days was “9 kya 12 din le lo. Cycle chadni thode hi na itni upar tak!” We had our first victim of the trip pretty early and it was Pradeep’s cycle: one of the pedals was messed up and wouldn’t go in properly, so he went for the spare one. I was riding my own cycle despite the rear brake not working as it was an all uphill day and the plan was to fix the brakes up at camp, where we would have the new rotor. Got some nice kulfi and moong daal packets on the way and also couple of card decks. There is usually a lot of traffic till Rohtang and this day was no different. The Manali-Leh highway is built by BRO and early on along the way started their trademark witty one-liners on the road: “Trees don’t grow on money either!” and many more. We had to go through a lot of traffic towards the end of the day and it felt like it would snow but it didn’t.

The happy jet
Downhill from Rohtang
Day 3 (Marhi to Sissu): Crossed our first pass (Rohtang, almost 4000m) today. It was a steady climb from Marhi and was quite cold on the top. Catching up with Sharat (who would be always in the front) was Tej who earned a nickname jet for this reason. Pavan was pretty excited seeing snow for the first time ever. From Rohtang, it was a long downhill to Sissu and the road for most part was pretty bad. We had to cross some streams which was a lot of fun. Camp @ Sissu was pretty lovely, among the trees and a river flowing nearby. The river had a pretty strong current, so we couldn’t go close. A river also meant more to Ramesh than rest of us as he liked to have his solo walks. We had some beer and vodka in the evening and met a guy who was a teacher from Kanpur and was cycling solo from Leh to Manali and had started all the way from Srinagar. All on his own, I think his journey was not just physically more challenging than ours but much more mentally.

Sunset @ Sissu

Guru @ Keylong (lunch time)
Day 4 (Sissu to Jispa): I had to hop on the spare cycle as my back brake was practically useless. Given we were past Rohtang, the road was much better from now on as the vehicles were fewer. The views were also much better with some massive cliffs across the river as we started our day. This was the last day en route where we would have cellphone signals, which was actually a good thing. If we were not completely disconnected from the external world, it would have been a major distraction in enjoying the raw nature all around us. It was good to see most of the passers-by (especially a good number of bullet-riders) encouraging us with a thumbs-up, a hand-wave or even just a smile. Despite fewer vehicles, the balaclava had to be worn for most part of the trip because of the dust. It drizzled for a little while post lunch but we were lucky it didn’t get worse. Everyone was excited about the stay @ Hotel Ibex, a good bed and a 
Near Hotel Ibex, Jispa
hot-water bath for the last time before Lato. Anagh was blown away as we entered the hotel as he saw that we have TV in our hotel rooms and he could catch-up on all the world cup action. A stroll in the evening was almost a custom, so we went to the nearby river. Amit was super-excited about the moong daal and khatta-meetha which we could manage from a small shop nearby. Some of the rest of us played bluff in the night. As it would get tougher from the next day, we made sure we were all getting pampered in our own way.

View from Zingzingbar
Day 5 (Jispa to Zingzingbar): It was a good sign that people started forgetting which day or date it was. Altitude sickness started hitting some people, though not severely. Tej and Guru had a fall today but luckily not too bad. The two of them also got nicknames of mommy-daddy by Heena and me and it seemed so true every time they would start talking about their Bhutan stories. Everyone’s favourite was the “enerzie drink”. Lunch was near a lake called Deepaktaal, which was beautiful. 3 Frenchmen rode past us, all of them around 60 and fully self-supported. It was as if, all along the trip, someone was making sure we didn’t start thinking too high of ourselves. Although we didn’t end up playing it a lot, we tried this game while we were climbing where you have to come up with movie names one after another and every movie should have a common actor/actress with the previous one. Simple game but good enough to keep you busy when doing uphills. I and Tej had to give in when Amit started dominating it with all the movies from 70s. It was a parachute tent @ Zingzingbar (roughly 4300m) and not our individual ones. We ended up playing bluff again despite a plan for Mafia. We found our new bluffmaster (Tej), who taught us that a poker face can also have an eternal smile on it and bluff-catcher Amit, who ensured that the person next to him couldn’t win (unfortunately me in most cases!)

Sooraj Taal
Day 6 (Zingzingbar to Sarchu): Everyday was getting tougher than the previous one. We went higher up from Zingzingbar to cross Baralacha La (around 4900m). The climb was pretty good amid some snow walls. But before any of that was the first challenge of the day early on: crossing a very difficult stream. I think almost everyone had to get off cycle and Om helped most people with their cycles. The water was so freezing that I thought I was going to get my first flavor of frostbite. Luckily, it was just numbness and things got back to normal as soon as we were back on the saddle. Mandeep was super delighted to ride a 26” cycle after 4 days on his 29” cycle. Just before Baralacha La was a spectacular lake called Sooraj Taal, which was mostly frozen. Reminded me of some Antarctica views in all those nature documentaries. The rest of the day was mostly downhill and flat with the lunch break @ Bharatpur, the one with the psychedelic tent. There was hardly any snow post Baralacha La and we entered a desert with wide stretches of plains. We spotted a marmot on the way and it was a long time after which we saw an animal in the wild. There were some beautiful conical formations besides the river which we were following to Sarchu (border town between HP and J&K) and beyond. This was a particularly bad day when it came to flats, almost 5-6 of them. At the camp, we finally got Anagh to sing couple of lovely songs. Also had a clear star-studded sky second night in a row and Guru went in for some time-lapse shots. 
Near Sarchu

Whisky Nala

Day 7 (Sarchu to Pang): Was the most challenging day till Leh where we crossed two passes: Nakeela and Lachung La (above 5000m) and strong winds ensured that things remain exciting. The day began with a steady climb along Ghata Loops, a series of hair-pin bends. There was a steep shortcut trail which could be taken if one was coming down and that was super tempting. Between the two passes was our lunch place, Whisky Nala (no whisky though!) After we started climbing from there, Tej had a really hard time breathing and was almost out of breath at a point. It got a little scary and we thought we might need to give her oxygen. It took her a minute or so to recover but once she did, there was no way she would not cycle. Amazing willpower! We didn’t stay on the top of Lachung La for long as we would have cooled down quickly, plus there was a 20-km downhill ahead to us with a very bad road. So, we just did a quick groupie (group selfie) at the top, which had become a routine if Guru was around. In fact, my rule was if you’re short on time and not allowed to spend time taking out an SLR etc, then you just ask Guru for a selfie. The road to Pang was bad, but the view was beautiful. The sun was out of picture as we were closely surrounded by mountains. Snow continued to be a rarity and all that was in sight was different shades of brown and some artistic structures, inc one of the mountains that looked like a giant ant hill. It was one of those times when you feel so small and humble looking at the magnificent things around you. Like some other times, I was riding with Heena (our very own Suresh, the brand ambassador for crocs) towards the end of the group and with her eternal love for braking when going downhill, I almost got a wheelie twice. She would overuse her brakes so much that Virender had some tightening to be done many mornings, sometimes two days in a row. We reached Pang around 6 and it was going to be the second night with parachute tents. This 
Downhill to Pang
would be almost the highest campsite in the whole trip, a little over 4600m. There was one thing I had heard from Pradeep multiple times in the trip while riding along: “Why am I doing this!”, more as a question to himself. He finally asked the question to everyone in the camp that evening and it was an interesting mix of answers we all had. Altitude sickness continued to hit some people, esp Jay who seemed consistently stuck with his “slight headache”. Anagh was upset he was not able to ride for the second half of the day. There was an army transit camp in Pang where we learnt we could make a call till 6 PM. Though it was late, Amit and Anagh wanted to call back home, so we went and tried for it. Amit pulled some strings and we got lucky. The smile on Anagh’s face after he was able to talk to his family was priceless. He was somewhat emotionally drained and I think he got his pill via that satellite phone. 

Moore Plains
Day 8 (Pang to Tsokar Lake): The anticipation for Moorey plains was high with all the description from Guru. This was like a recovery day with just a 6-km uphill followed by a beautiful stretch of vast plains. The cherry on top of the cake was a light snowfall as we were riding through the plains. It was very different from the past 6 days. We finally saw some animals: few Tibetan wild asses, herds of Bharal (blue sheep) and yaks. The yaks were with a group of nomadic tribes. Everyone was relishing the ride in their own way, with plenty of photos being shot. Guru ensured he got his lone time behind all of us: him and the plains, a 4-year old connection now. Some of us started cycling with Anagh in the center who was singing as we were riding. And a good climax to the whole day was the beautiful Tsokar lake. With a 15 km detour from the main road, this was undisputedly the best campsite. There was not a soul to be seen anywhere. Looking around, I had a very strong urge to just get lost in the mountains and hike here forever. The area near the lake was mossy and there were some salt deposits too. There were also lots of burrows belonging to wild rats and marmots near the lake. In fact, I saw some marmots playing something like hide-and-seek in the evening. 
Camping @ Tsokar 
Evening was marked by some funny dumb charades rounds with Guru doing Kamasutra, Sharat doing 
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (Sikh under), Pradeep giving up on Qayamat se qayamat tak but the best of them where Amit was trying to enact Majboor and had gotten us to “Majdoor” and Mandeep stole the show with his joke “Rhyme to hum kar lenge, aap thoda context bhi to batao!”. It was very windy and cold given the area was completely open. In fact, the winds made my tent completely flat and half-uprooted the toilet tent in the evening. In the morning, I noticed that the water on one of the plates kept outside the kitchen tent completely froze. Still, none of this matched the serenity of the place. 

Day 9 (Tsokar Lake to Lato): This was the day where we crossed the highest point along Manali-Leh, Taglang La (over 5300m). While the riding since a week had gotten us used to the climbs, what stood out about Taglang La was not the height but the bad roads. It was just stones all along the way. The uphill stretch was pretty long and monotonous. We stopped for a while on the top and had Khichdi for lunch. The other side of the pass was all tarmac and one of the best downhills. We descended some 1300 m over the rest of the day till Lato. There was a very steep trail which would have been some real off-roading. We stuck to the main road and I tried taking a video from my cellphone for the first time while riding. We stopped at Rumtse for some tea and wai-wai. There was also an STD available which almost everyone used. It had been 5 days since all of us talked home, though it seemed a lot longer. The 4 km stretch from Rumtse to Lato was extremely beautiful. It was marked by villages (after almost 5 days for us) but as Anagh put it, the civilization added to the beauty of the place. Or maybe we just saw too many barren mountains and plains before this that the change seemed pleasant because it was not just villages and huts, there were trees and farms which we saw after a long while too. It was a homestay @ Lato and no more camps. The rooms and the blankets felt pretty cosy after the sleeping bags and we played dumb charades till almost midnight. This time we divided in two teams which made it more competitive. Sumedha somehow got stereotyped with movies like Basic Instinct and some others and he had his own way of getting his team from six to sex. Plus, his standard “holy crap” reaction when given a movie was a delight to watch. It was one of the only two times when someone like Ramesh got animated in the whole trip. There was a German guy (Christian) camping at Lato who was cycling towards Manali all by himself. He couldn’t leave the next day as it was drizzling all night and even continued in the morning. We could see Taglang La all covered in snow and realized how lucky we had been with the weather all these days. 
Just behind the Lato homestay

Mani stones, and a monastery in background
Day 10 (Lato to Leh): We started riding late with the drizzle continuing till almost 9. It was a steady downhill and we thought we would reach Leh pretty early but that didn’t happen. We crossed Indus along the way which seemed like any other ordinary river. There was an army base on the way where we stopped for some food. The canteen there claimed to be the highest Dosa point in the world, but unfortunately they were out of dosas. Even the tasty momos were limited to only a few plates, so we dug into other random things and stayed there lavishly for over an hour. Most people also got phone network, so it was time to get on another rounds of calls. The way from there to Leh was pretty scenic with some farms (although everything else at a distance was all desert), mani stones, monasteries etc. We reached outskirts of Leh at our own leisurely pace and then went to the Mahabodhi campus in Leh, an NGO run by a monk. Spent an hour or so there, talked to the founder monk and then headed towards the city, which was pretty dusty. The city was actually pretty ordinary except for the views of mountains around it. For dinner, we had pizzas, sizzlers, salads and many other things after a long time. The riding was still not over and the mammoth climb of Khardungla was awaiting us next morning. 

Emotional moments. That's me, Sumedha and Anagh

Celebration Time

Day 11 (Leh to Khardungla to Leh): Given it was a pretty long climb, we started early around 6:30. It was a 25 km climb till South Pullu on a nice tarmac road and a 14 km further climb on one hell of a bad road. We were about to gain an elevation of almost 1900m in one day, which was a lot, esp at that height. We reached South Pullu well on time and it was there we realized that the scene above was not good with all the snowfall in the night. The vehicles were stopped at the checkpost because it was too slushy and probably not safe to go up. After waiting for a while at the tea shop, we saw the vehicles had started going up, which gave some hope. It was still uncertain till which point would we be able to go if we continued. After all the contemplation, 8 of us started pedalling with the decision that we would go till the point the road would allow. I badly wished for us to not hit any roadblock, else it would be such an anti-climax. Luckily, the road was pretty broad all along that even if there was some water, it was manageable to go through. We tried to stick together as much possible and just kept going. It was the first time in the trip I listened to music to keep the rhythm going. Minor things like cramps and flats happened but we made it to the top with each other and that feeling is not really describable. There was crying and hugging and a sense of completion that meant a lot to all of us. It was one of those things that would be remembered and lived over and over. We got our usual groupie (group selfie) and the standard cycle salute photos. While riding down, the first half totally tested the whole body and the second one was a luxurious fast ride. The evening was all celebration with some beer and vodka. It was fun to see a different side of some people. With Pavan, it was one day where he got quite high in two different ways. Jay spoke much more than what I had seen him speak all these days. Amit and Mandeep (whose name, for some reason, continued to be confused with Manjeet throughout the trip) left for home the next morning and couldn’t join us for Pangong Tso. Despite 3 days left for the trip, I was already feeling sad that it was almost done and we would all be back to the cities and there would be no more mountains and cycling. 

The picture says it all

Day 12, 13 (Leh to Pangong Tso to Leh): It felt weird to be in a van and not riding on cycle, though we did enjoy some nice snowfall on the way. Pangong was pretty scenic, though it didn’t match the calmness of Tsokar with all the other people around. The afternoon was spent idling around with some photos and walking, though I just skipped my camera for the rest of the trip. It was one of those places where Sumedha got heavily bombed with his selfies. This was finally a good opportunity to play mafia as there was no more waking up early for cycling and people not tired. We started with it somewhere around the evening and once everyone picked it up, there was no stopping. We just forgot there was a campfire in the plan and kept playing till almost 1. It’s always fun to play the game with new people as the level of uncertainty goes up. From Ramesh playing the air-hostess type god, Tej trying hard to keep up with the argumentative nature of the game, me getting killed first by Mafia every time and always getting saved, Guru and I fighting violently with each other though both were on city’s side, Sumedha almost giving up on convincing people after getting burnt in one game and people almost sleeping in the last game, it was one hell of a night. The best part was to learn how some people actually dreamt about it. We reached Leh in the afternoon the next day and kept eating at the same place “Gespa”, which was pretty good. In the evening when everyone was up to their own thing, Heena and I went to the Leh palace, which was an interesting place. The shortcut to it was smelly and dirty but the 9-floor palace was nice. We explored almost every possible corner and got some nice views of the city. Left for Srinagar in the night and from there back home. 

The trip was special to me in many ways. I’ve always been in love with Himalayas but never explored them on a cycle before. I learnt a few things about myself, esp got inspired to explore more in life and further test my limits. Got to ride with a great bunch of enthusiastic people, which was a lot of fun.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NatGeo photography contest 2011

A little old link but a great collection of photos I came across today. 

Cool photography apps

Some photography-related ipad apps that I have found good. I've not played with any editing apps yet and this is a list of only photo-viewing apps:

1. Guardian Eyewitness: This brings you a new photograph daily with some details and photography tips. They cover very random things all across the world like political events in Sudan, an annual festival in Chile, displaying the poverty in Pakistan and Naomi Campbell on the ramp for an elite fashion event. Overall pretty good.

2 Fotopedia: They have multiple photography apps, the ones I've used are Heritage and Wild Friends. Good thematic collections with useful information to read with every photograph.

3. StuckOnEarth: The concept of embedding images geographically on earth is pretty good. However, the few random photos I've seen till now are not as great as ones in the other apps. I think the description is present in most cases. The purpose is to also help you plan your trip by learning more about places through photos. I really think the idea of the app is awesome, although the implementation can be improved a little.

4. ExploreFlickr: The photos in "Today's explore" are great, but the only drawback is that every photo only has  tags and as a viewer, I have found stud photos with some text more exciting. It gives you some context and the photo doesn't seem to be just another item in the wallpaper collection.

Apart from these, I have also heard that the app for 500px is also one of the best in photography. Doesn't work for me yet since it needs iOS 5 :( BTW, I started using their website from today and it seems like a great hub for all kinds of photography.

Improving Windows performance

Had to fix the performance of my laptop from few weeks, particularly the start-up time. Found these two useful links with some good tips that helped me a good deal.

and here'e an article on why re-installing Windows is not the right solution when your computer's slowness is driving you crazy!

Friday, September 2, 2011


This was a 5-day trip back in May. Kerala had always been on my list since I moved to Bangalore and during the intern couple of years back, I could only go as far as Calicut and Wayanad. This was time to go real south and it’s great we went as close as 80 kms from the Kanyakumari. Left Bangalore on a Wednesday night on a bus to Kottayam, around 600 kms. I saw my first Malayalam movie in the bus which had a couple of hilarious but vulgar scenes. Kumarakom, around 15 kms from Kottayam, is the place to go for backwaters. There’s a very big lake called Vembanadu lake where there are houseboats to stay and people come from both Kumarakom side and Allepy side. The timing was good for us as this was not really the peak tourist season. We got a nice luxurious 3-bedroom boat at the price of a 1-bedroom one because the guy didn’t have the smaller one available. We got on the houseboat around afternoon and the plan was to have a ride till it was evening (almost 3 hours) after which the houseboat was stationary till the morning. The houseboat had a kitchen and the meals we got were pretty good. I distinctly remember having idiyappam for the breakfast the next day, which tasted great. It is steamed noodles made of rice. There was also a bird sanctuary on the way to the lake from the point of boarding. Though we couldn’t get in the sanctuary, it was a pleasant site from outside and there were many varieties of colorful birds flying around. There were three guys on the houseboat including the chef. I found out in the evening that they had a simple fishing tackle and gave it a shot. Although I couldn’t catch a fish, I got a couple almost in the hook. They were keenly watching an IPL match between Kochi Tuskers and Bangalore Royal Challengers after dinner. Next morning, we got out of the houseboat in Kumarakom and went back to Kottayam. There was a big church, out of the lot of churches one can find anywhere in Kerala, on the way where we stopped for a while.

The next place was Periyar National park, almost a 4 hour journey from Kottayam and towards Tamil Nadu border. The reason I was attracted to Periyar was that unlike other national parks, it had a big lake right in the middle and one can actually have a safari on a bamboo raft as opposed to jeep safari, which is very common. I usually try and keep inter-city traveling to night during a trip for the simple reason that it saves time and not every route is that scenic. But this one was actually a good route, through the Western Ghats and overlooking kilometers of tea plantations. We had reservations in the government guest house, which was inside the boundaries of national park. Reached around 4 PM, purchased some jelly, chocolates etc from the nearby town and looked around for safari options. While the day-long bamboo raft was not a surprise, night trek through the jungle was a new thing that popped up and we couldn’t resist but go for it. The trek is conducted by the forest officials wherein there is a guide and an armed security guy leading a group of maximum 6 people. Nobody else registered for 10 PM to 1 AM trek which we picked. We roamed around for an hour or so before getting back to the guest house and the dusk time view of the lake was amazing. Having seen the lake from a distance, we decided to go closer and to our surprise, just on the other side, there was a group of elephants hanging out. The place was very quiet and beautiful, the forest very dense and the lake was a great value addition.

I remember a big stag crossed our way when we were about to reach the guest house where we had an awesome dinner buffet and set out for the night trek at 10. For the first time, I saw special socks for protection against leeches. With 4 torches and a fully loaded gun, we roamed around in partial moonlight for almost two and a half hours. It was great fun: we flashed our torches on tons of deer, woke up a porcupine that looked like a stone when sleeping, saw a rabbit and couple of bison. And, of course, there were all sorts of scary sounds from everywhere. The bamboo raft ride next day was equally good. It was actually a combination of rafting and trekking through the jungle. We didn’t get to see whole new types of animals during that except some fancy frogs and birds. I was impressed by the way our guide guessed the presence of an elephant group after he saw elephant shit and in the next 10 minutes, actually he led us to two jumbos. We left for our next destination, beaches near Trivandrum, around 6 in the evening. One of the great things about the trip was that it only rained once when we were travelling from Periyar to Trivandrum in the taxi.

Reached Varkala beach in around 5 hours and stayed in a small hotel for the night. Got up around 4:30 in the morning to go to the beach and spent couple of hours there. Varkala beach, with a cliff running parallel to the beach, is different from other Kerala beaches. It’s very shallow, particularly in contrast to the Kovalam beach, where we went next. Took a local train from Varkala to reach Trivandrum, 12 kms from Kovalam beach. Since we were at the Kovalam beach around noon, it was very hot. I got a good tan there which was notable for a couple of weeks after the trip too. This brought us to the end and the way back consisted of a 3 hour train journey to Kottayam and 12 hour bus journey from there to Bangalore.

Few more books

Got a chance to read some books because of the surgery:
The Great Indian novel: Modern Indian history weds Ancient Indian history aka Mahabharat. I didn’t know a lot about Mahabharat before I started reading the book (never even seen the TV show). But Shashi Tharoor takes good care of the readers like me by spending the first quarter of the book by not bringing in limelight the analogies of his characters to the modern Indian history, which is most of the 20th century. One does need to be fairly familiar with the other set of characters like Gandhi and senior Congress leaders throughout the century, Subhash Chandra Bose and others of the likes of V.V.Giri who may not have been a lot talked about but were pivotal in post-independence India. So, there are three sets: characters in the novel, characters from Mahabharat and political characters from 20th century India. Except a few outliers, all the characters of the novel have a counterpart character in Mahabharat and one in 20th century. When I say characters, I use the term a little broadly for the last set. The author went one step ahead and has even compared his characters to national elements like democracy (Draupadi), media (Arjun), army (Bheem) etc. One might claim that the book doesn’t cover history of the nation continuously and completely. For example, one of the obvious freedom fighter I found missing was Bhagat Singh. But, one has to realize that the book is not exactly a narration of Indian history using Mahabharat’s characters, although at one point even I was convinced it is. The book is simply a story of its own embedded in the two dimensions of an epic and a nation’s history for the readers to appreciate it at multiple levels.

K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain: This is a compilation of 7 expeditions to the world’s second highest mountain from 1930s to 2008. I have read the book “Into thin air” about the 1996 Mt. Everest tragedy but this book was more interesting. Although there are multiple K2 tragedies described in the book, it is more interesting because the author presents things from a mountaineer’s viewpoint which was missing with Jon Krauker (author of “Into thin air”) to some extent. While the expeditions described are only ones to K2, the author talks also about the history of mountaineering in general. Having climbed all the 14 8000-ers, he often relates to his experiences to the other great mountains. There are mountaineers portrayed as heroes in the book and also some as villains. I was actually a little shocked to hear about the dark side of the 1954’s first successful expedition. One more thing I liked about the book was arguments about the dilemma that a mountaineer faces sometimes. For example, what should a mountaineer do when he is faced with a situation with a dying person on his way to the top? Should he go pursue his dream of conquering the peak or try saving the dying person by carrying him down? The author also talks about coordination and how the lack of it can screw up the whole quest. I found some feats like that of a guy saving 6 others using an ice axe during the 1953 expedition and the solo non-stop climb of a guy to the top of K2 in around 20 hours too awesome. I was so full of energy after reading the book that I searched for movies about mountaineering and saw three of them. The best among the lot was a movie called “K2”, released somewhere around 1992.

The logic of life and Freakonomics: Putting these two together because of two reasons. First, there’s not much to write about them, both are nice reads and deal with plenty real-life examples. Second, they have a related theme: rationality. While “the logic of life” claims that that all human behavior, individual or social, is a result of rational thinking, “Freakonomics” tries to unravel some interesting cause-effect relationships even at macro level like crime rate in US etc.

On the road: Not purely a piece of fiction, it describes the journey of a young man through the entire country, along with many of his friends, particularly Dean Moriarty, who is a person with infinite energy and a will to experience things raw. The book is not about a single journey but many road adventures that the narrator and his friends had during a period of 5-6 years. There are elements like their zest for exploring new worlds, struggle with money that reminded me of the journey of Che Guevera in “The Motorcycle Diaries”. I was almost about to leave the book after having read the first 50 pages or so, but quite happy that I didn’t.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Coorg and Nagarhole

This was a 2-day trip back in March, just before holi. Though it was not the perfect time to visit Coorg, we decided that we’ll go for it and keep the bigger trips for later. I always wanted to go stay in a national park and Nagarhole national park was convenient to be included in this trip as it is around 90-100 kms from Coorg. We reached Coorg a little too early, around 4 in the morning, and took a home stay for a few hours before we could start roaming around. We began with couple of places in the city including Abbey falls and went to Nisargdhama after that. Nisargdhama was a good relaxing place and among other things, had a nice tree house. I really want to go spend a day in a big tree house in the middle of some jungle when I get a chance. Dubare elephant camp was next on our list but apparently, the elephants need a nap from 1 to 4 during the day and we had to reach Nagarhole before it got dark. So, no elephant ride for us. From there, we went to Bylekuppe Tibetan Monastery which happened to fall on our way to Nagarhole. The monastery was pretty big and the main temple was flooded with golden decorations. I remember having seen a monk riding a bullet motorcycle in his robe before we entered the monastery. This was close to evening and we went straight to Nagarhole from there.

We stayed in a resort called Jungle Inn, close to the national park. The place was very quiet, not at all over-crowded and had good food. We got to have a bonfire in the night and had to get up early around 5:30 the next morning. Rented a jeep for safari in the park during morning and travelling to near-by coffee plantations during the day. The park was not very dense, at least that time of the year, and we couldn’t spot a tiger, about which we were so looking forward to. We did get to see elephants, mongoose, boars, bison, langoors and deer. Our safari finished around 10 and we got out of the other side of national park to see coffee plantations, which were plenty by the way, and a waterfall called Irupu falls. Our driver was patient enough to answer all the questions Sakshi had about a coffee plant and its lifecycle. Irupu falls tuned out to be better than Abbey: there was more water and one could actually go under the fall. The plan was to leave the same day for Mysore and from there to Bangalore. We reached Mysore just in time to get a glimpse of the Sunday lighting of the palace. Left for Bangalore by bus and reached home around 1 AM. Played holi the next day in our building and it was great fun. Got to capture some lovely pictures.