Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cycling in the "Greens" and "Woods"

A week well in advance it was decided that we wanted to go for a long ride. What could be place better than driving in the greens and the woods. Yes, very little greenery and woods is left in the mad-rushing city of Mumbai. One is Sanjay Gandhi National Park and other is Aarey Colony road, with rest of it being in the outskirts of Mumbai. SGNP has been a usual visit, so this time a week well in advance I along with my friend Soumit had decided we will go on to a new route. we had thought of going  to the Aarey Colony road this time.

This place is a little far from the place I stay. About 7.5 kms of ride from Borivali and just off the western express highway near Aarey Dairy Farms. Well, to get some thing you have to put in a little efforts, so we were up for it this time. Decided to start at 6.15 am so to start at about 7.00 am in the morning. Well, it took exactly about 40 minutes to reach from home place to the entry point of Aarey colony road. At 7.15 am we were exactly at this place.This is exactly how the entry looks like. The whole stretch is filled with trees on both sides of the roads and thats why the title "greens" and the "woods". This stretch is about another 7-8 kms which takes you to Powai. A nice residential place to be in. We rode all the way till Powai, total stretch is of about 21-22 kms one way. Return was a little hot and humid as the sun was out by the time we returned. My first ride of 40+ kms. Would want to make it a regular habit but hoping to find more time of the crazy schedule. Next target is to do about 100 kms in aday!! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A weekend ride to SGNP!

Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Its the only little left over green patch of Mumbai. We usually go for a cycle ride from the entry gate to the dead end called Kanheri Caves on every weekend. Kanheri Caves is believed to be a place where Pandu's had stayed during their vanvaas. History apart, this patch is so nice and beautiful with sun peaking through the branches and green leaves at place. The roads are little rough little straight but an over all good for a ride. The only bad part, according to me is that they allow car's to get in all the way. There are sign posts of speed limit of 20 km/h but who cares. There is never a single ride that I have taken in last couple of years where I have not seen a car inside. Over speeding is not all, there is a constant honking by these people if they are behind a cycle or a person who's jogging in the middle of the road.

Amidst all this, this is the only leftover green and peaceful place in the entire Mumbai city. The ride from the entry gate to Kanheri Caves is about 13kms to and from. While going its actually an incline so there is a little less effort when you are coming back from the top. Usually we start at 7.30 am in the morning when the entry gates actually open up and return in a couple of hours including a little break in between. On the roads you would usually find youngsters jogging, elderly walking and kids having a playful time. On and on a perfect and healthy way to start the weekend. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude!!

A small act of gratuitousness - Flat tyres of my cycle and I was out on the road to a cycle shop closest to my place late in the evening to get it fixed. To my surprise, this cycle repair shop has been shut since a while. Found a Rickshaw man and I asked him if there was a cycle repair shop in the close by. He said go home and get it done in the morning. I wanted to take it out in the morning so had a bit of urgency of getting it fixed. I asked the Rickshaw man to take Rs. 50 and drop me to a closest place for an obvious reason that I had to put my cycle in. He went to a couple of shops, asked them about where about of a repair shop nearby. Came and took me to a place amidst horrible traffic on the roads. It took us about 15 minutes to reach the place. He dropped me to this cycle repair shop. I was about to give him Rs. 50 and he said just give me only Rs. 20 it's hardly any distance. Said he was just going home and thought of helping me out. Inspite of insistence he took only Rs.20 and he departed with a smile on both of our faces.

That's a little act of what is called as an attitude of gratitude!!

Sandakphu - 2014 Begins!!

Sandakphu is a beautiful place from where a majestic view of Mt. Kanchenjunga is visible. Here is a little travelogue  from trek to Sandakphu with YHAI - just to keep a record of our trip to the place.

Day 1 -  Mumbai to Darjeeling  29th Dec, 2013 

Vishal and I boarded the flight to Bagdogra airport from where we had to reach Darjeeling to reach the base camp for our trek. From the airport we got a decent deal on the cab to the destination. Cab ride was scenic with greenery, fog engulfing us on both sides of the road and a little bit of increasing winter  chills as we were rising up. We had our lunch at a Dhaba place. As we were climbing up the hills to reach Darjeeling, cold was catching up. 

We reached our destination base camp, Chanakya hotel in the evening. We finished our enrolment and other formalities at the base camp hotel. In moment of time, about 45 of us had gathered at the place. At 7 pm we had assembled for an orientation of what was about to begin for next 6 days. Post which we had our dinner and headed for the sleep. It was icy cold and we were to get up early morning at about 6 for a cup of a tea which was to be followed by a few surprises.

Day 2 - In and around Darjeeling - Day 2 started with an alarm of 5 in the morning.  Af 6 we had our cup of morning tea. Well it was a very Cloudy day. After the tea, we all assembled outside the hotel to march for  exercise session. For about half an hour we ran up to an open ground for a mix of simple and rigorous exercise which included running jogging dips side crunches and what not for about half an hour. After these exercises  all of us were back at the base camp for some sprouts - chana and peanuts. At 8 am, the previous batch was to leave for their trek and as a part of the rituals of YHAI, we all assembled outside to bid adieu them with claps and wish them success for their trek - "Ho Ho HoHoHo - kept following for the whole trek literally". After the breakfast, we headed for a 3 hours trek within Darjeeling which was rigorous, breathtaking but at the same time very scenic and photogenic. Second half was left free for all of us to explore the city. Vishal and I wanted to visit the toy train but could not because of the time schedule and therefore we decided to visit the Mountain Institute. In the evening we had an introduction session and a detailed orientation about the entire trek from day 1 till the end and what to and what not to expect. It was quite clear that it was going to be hell cold of next few days for all of us. Post this, we had our dinner and we headed to sleep for departing to the trek the day next. 

Day 3 - Darjeeling to Tumling - In the morning, we were up on the terrace to see the Beautiful view of Kanchenjunga. Aha! What a beautiful sight it was. That was the first gaze at the peak I had ever had in my life. I continued to be up for about half an hour to view the beautiful creation of the god. We were to board the jeeps to a place called "Dhotre" to start our first day's trek of about 6kms. On the way at a place called Maneybhanjan, we had to pickup our Packed lunch for the day and our entry tickets to "singhalia national park". Before we could start our trek, there was a surprise, Momo's, spicy hot village cooked - new year gift by YHAI campsters. 

We all had reached the lunch place and as expected I reached Last. As we had just begun our trek, we could see the Majestic view of Kanchenjunga and other surrounding peaks. We reached to a place called Tumling - the campsite for the day. The days in a typical trekking schedule usually ends early. We witnessed the sunset around 5-30 to 6 on almost all the days. We had a cup of soup on reaching the campsite followed by a cup of tea followed by an early dinner by 7 30 or 8 in the evening. All of this amidst a lot of fun with the new gang of friends. This was the evening of 31st, at this place called Shikhar Lodge where we 45 of us from different states gathered and celebrated 31st night with some singing dancing joke sessions. Guitar  and flute became the major attraction on every camp evening sessions. 

Day 4 - Tumling to Kalipokhri This is how I always wanted to start the new year with, a beautiful sunrise in the laps of the mountains, Himalayas. This was like a dream come true. Not to miss the action, 4.30 I woke up and alongwith me Vishal too got up to take the glimpse of the beautiful sunrise to begin the new year. At 5.30 we were out near a peak after a walk of 15 mins to view the most beautiful moment. On one side of us was Mt. Kanchenjunga and on the other side were the clouds and infinity from where the sun was to rise. There are hardly any moments once the sun peaks out of the axis for it to rise up and go up in the air to lit up the eternity. From here we could see the peaking sun out of the horizon and the changes of the reflecting colours of rays from white to yellow to orange on Mt Kanchenjunga. Majestic moments they were.

Post tea and breakfast, we left for the trek for the day which was a bit long of about 13 kms with not so steep ascend to reach the campsite for the day - Kalapokhri. The winds at this place, as we were told was just too much. We took some breathers at the room after reaching the campsite and than were to take our cups of soups.
We found a local food joint which served nice noodles and from a small peaking window we enjoyed the view of the sunset. The days at the camp sites were to end with a glass of horlicks post an early dinner. Kalapokhari is basically a holy lake surrounded by a lot of prayer flags that one gets to see usually on a mountainous terrain. As usually happens in such larger groups, we broke in to a smaller group of about 6-8 people and the evening sessions were typically chit chatting about politics to history to horror stories and what not. Fun as one could imagine!! 

Day 5 - kalapokhri to Sandakphu - This was an important day for all of the trekkers, we were to clim about  600meters ascend in about 6km stretch. As expected, this was a very steep climb. This was the most difficult day for most of the trekkers even though it was not too much of a distance. The whole stretch of the walk is usually very scenic, with clouds, greenery, mountainous terrain, icy peaks alternating at some or the other point of time during the whole of our walk. Well this was the most tiring day of all. 

This is the highest point from which the whole range from Mt. Everest to Mt. Kanchenjunga is visible. This is the most majestic view and all the efforts you put in to take a gaze at this scenic view is all worth it. The day ended as usual with a beautiful sunset, some usual and fun chit chats, some photography, nice dinner provided by YHAI team and of course with Horlicks. 

Day 6 - Sandakphu to Gurdum - Enormous is the amount of effort it takes to take a view of the sunrise at Sandakphu. Woke up again at 5.30 in the morning to take some beautiful view of the sunrise. This was again one of the most beautiful moment as you can see the sun peaking out of the horizon and amidst clouds. This is how it happens "Pitch dark - Blue hours - Clouds and the sky - than a small orange dot somewhere in the middle of the horizon and than that orange streak peaking out as the sun takes its spot to lit the universe"

This place gets very very windy and chilly especially given that it was peak winter. Post breakfast, this was the day of descend. Sandakphu to Gurdum is a distance of about 12 kms. After bidding adieu to the view of Mt. Kanchenjunga from various places, today's route was amidst bamboo tree and green jungle. Every one had reached the campsite about lunch time. And i missed to mention, all these while there was no network, here we charged our mobiles and got some mobile connectivity. How I miss those days!!

Day 7 / Day 8 - Gurdum to Rimbik - Rimbik to Hotel Chankya - This was like a nice pleasant walk to end the trekking days. We had our lunch at a mid point somewhere at a place called Shrikhola. The trek day was a little long of about 12-13 kms again. By evening we were down to the ground to our last campsite at Rimbik. Here we were felicitated with certificates and medals from team YHAI. This feels like an honor. When I started the trek, I only knew Vishal and by the end it was whole bunch of folks and some amazing memories that we were all carrying along. Next day we were to be back at the base camp and from here we were to be on our own to enjoy a day and depart to our destination with lot of memories.

Link to Photographs on Flickr    

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My first Vehicle

This one thing I always wanted since I was a kid. Remember having an option to either buy a cycle or a Video Game when I was in 8th Standard, I chose otherwise and this thing remained for a very very long time. My mom was always against it saying you don't know riding. 

Going for cycling rides in Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the winters of 2012 was a frequent thing. But as the time passed, the cycles which we used to get on hire deteriorated. Hence was left with no choice to stop going for it. Only option left was to buy a cycle and keep it well maintained.  Soumit, my friend who used to come to hit the greens in the winters bought a cycle, continued the weekend rides and I thought I will buy it soon.

Time passed, it was on May 5, 2013, another friend from office, Jay Shah one more Cycle enthusiast (whose cycle was stolen recently) and I visited this Firefox service station in Vileparle, an authorised dealer closest to the vicinity and bought my ride partner - Firefox Target. When conveyed about my thought of buying a cycle, my mom was laughing at me saying buy a car, this is not an age for a cycle but I said this is what fits into my budget and I am going to go for it. Weekends are fun since than. Its been a couple of months, the rides have become regular thing on one of the days over weekend. 18-20kms is not so strenuous thing to hit. Personally I feel still need to gain big time on fitness and need to identify some different routes to ride long distances.

The one in front is my Firefox Target one behind is Soumit's ride partner.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The "Gujju" festival and a "known stranger" family!

Day 3 - on the day of "Makar Sankrantri" ("Uttarayan" or the "Kite Festival"), walking in the lanes of raipur darwaaja at Ahmedabad, in the winter of Jan 2013,  my friend Shishir and myself, walking in these small lanes, with old architecture on both sides, shops selling the festival stuffs [kites, manja (thread)], enjoying the festivity and finding moments to capture, I heard a tap on my back.. says.."do you guys want to capture the festival from the terraces, it is a different experience up there". Yes certainly!, I said. The next moment he asked his wife to take us to their house terrace, while he parked his car that he had stopped in the middle of the road seeing us. 

Nainesh Pandya and his family it was, total stranger, turned into a known group of people in just couple of hours. The family treated us absolutely selflessly, allowed us to climb on their roofs, arranged for the ladders to go up, click on a couple of terraces, gave us access to all possible places on terrace, local festive food and what not! Talking about their experiences and festival a decade back and now, Naineshbhai turned out to be from the same professional fraternity which I belong to. Naineshbhai had travelled quite a few places across the world and seeing and experiencing the hospitality that people extended towards him, he wanted to extend it at his home and that's reason we were here he said. 

We walked these lanes the previous night around 11pm, thats when Naineshbhai had spotted us and thought of calling us on their terrace. There was a complete mad rush of the  gujju people of Ahmedabad to buy kites and manja for the next day. The scene was something similar to "Ganpati Visarjan" at  Chowpati in Mumbai. 

A very nice and warm gujarati family, thanks for treating us!

Day 1 - On the first day of the trip, we caught up with a new friend, Maulik, a local amdavadi,  MWS member and an enthusiastic bird photographer. Maulik and we visited a nearby bird sanctuary - “Thol”. Nice and quiet place, in the arms of the nature, we spent the whole afternoon here, walked around 5 to 6 kms in lookout for birds and headed back to the hotel. Thol we got to see some nice birds, some of them were a bit far and needed better lenses to capture.

Day 2 - we visited the Akshardham temple and the Gandhi Ashram in the morning. Afternoon, we spent with a mumbaikar, Sneha Trivedi, a pleasing personality. Sneha guided us for a local “Kathiawadi lunch” near the highway, and post lunch we headed to the heart of the city, where the festivity was overflowing, a place called “Raipur Darwaja” in the hunt to watch the busy kite streets of Ahmedabad - you just read about in the beginning.

Thanks Maulik & Sneha for spending some time with us. 

Very much sums up the trip. A great "Travel" start to 2013.

A set on Flickr 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pushkar - A vibrant city from Rangilo Rajasthan - Incredible India!

"Pushkar" - its a small town located about 12 km away from Ajmer - Rajasthan - India. A religious festival is celebrated in the "Karthik"month of Hindu Calendar (generally October or November every year) , about 10 days before the full moon day.  A holy lake is a part of "Pushkar" city and is known to be the only place in the world with a temple of lord Bramha. Entire lake is surrounded by various small and big temples with various Hindu Gods.

In the initial 5-6 days, cattle owners come down to the sand dunes in the outskirts of the city for trading their cattles.  These people spend their days and nights in the tents with their clans. Camels are decorated and sold for money - the very livelihood for which the villagers assemble. Every day sports or cultural activity was taking place in the "Mela Ground". We reached on the 5th day of the festival when the camels had already started departing, though there was a lot of activity in the dunes. By the end of 6th day, most of the camels had already departed back to their homes or with their new masters. Post this a lot of activity takes place around the Pushkar Lake as people from various part of country gather in thousands of numbers to pray, to take a bath in the holy lake and to get the blessings of the lord.

Activity log

Day 1 - Flied to Jaipur - took a cab to Pushkar - breakfast at a Dhaba restaurant - Reached Pushkar - 2-3 kms walk to find out the hotel as the vehicles were not allowed to enter - lunch and introduction session with the group - walk in dunes to catch some magical light - spotted a beautiful sunset - walk back to the hotel - dinner - chitchat - some knowledge parting by the Mentor - CRASH for day 1!

"Was here with "THE FOOTMARKS" one of the most knowledgeable and wonderful group of people, mentors, and to sum up in a word - photo enthusiast. To name people from this clan - Mehul Pithadia - my friend from office, Jassi sir, Maggu sir, Manpreet Ahuja, Kapil Singh, Kishore Kumar, Bharat Dudeja and Harjeet Singh Chaddha."

Day 2 - Early morning walk into the dunes - some magical morning light - clicks of the camels coming in to the dunes - back to the hotel for some rest - afternoon walk into the dunes to see the last clan of camel and witnessed the last camel deal which materialized for 15,000 - evening around the city - back to the hotel and EOD.

"6th Day of the festive, activity in the dunes was almost over, most of all the clans were already on their way back to their homes. It was than time to catch the action in and around city"

Day 3 - Morning in to the mela ground to see "Kushti" scheduled to start at 8 which eventually started as per IST at 12. In the meantime we took a walk in the interior where lots of cows and animals were tied with ropes - took a Tea break to find a group of south indian movie makers from Kerala to shoot some sequel for their movie - Back to hotel for a break - Went up the hill - sawitri temple (some 600 odd steps)- it was a tiring trek - went up in the anticipation of a  super fabulous sunset (which didn't happen coz of the hue) - late evening was a walk back to the town to take candid glimpse of people in the town. 

Day 4 - Photo Klinic - a cirque session by Footmarks mentor on some select photographs - afternoon back into the the market and around mela ground - Pushkar was crowded today - later afternoon lunch - Evening attended the "maha aarti" at the "Ghaat". 

Day 5 - Last day of the trip. Roads were filled with thousands of people - as much as at places only one way movement for people was allowed. From the top of the hotel we took some glimpse of the activity on the ghats - Back to jaipur and back home with some vibrant colorful memories.

"Entered this  town without any knowledge of whats going to come on the way, departed with sweet, colorful and vibrant clicks and memories with some new friends from Delhi - Good Fun!!"