Monday, February 23, 2009

Goat’s Leap – The not so Grand Canyon!

All you long jump freaks who wanna take the ultimate challenge should take a trip to Goat’s Leap, a.k.a. Mekedatu in the local language. This picturesque spot is bout 90km south-south west of Bangalore. We decided to hit the road for Mekedatu last Sunday morning. The legendary bikers were back after a three month hiatus and were visiting the Cauvery once again. Four of the bikers were from the original gang and we took on three interns to teach them the trade of biking. [:P] I took my mean machine this time. Yeah, my very own trusty and very old rusty Hero Honda Passion! [:D] Anyways cutting to the chase, we set out from Bangalore at about 8 a.m. from Jayadeva flyover in Jaynagar.

So we went, weaving through the typical mayhem on Bangalore roads until we entered the countryside, where the air is less polluted and the roads less jammed. I revved up the 7.5 bhp engine. I liked the deep growl of my bike’s powerful engine. Nah that sounds fake and it is. My bike was screaming by the time I hit 60kmph. Maybe it was screaming with joy after being ridden in the clogged streets of Bangalore for so long! But I did get a lot of satisfaction whenever I zoomed passed an auto! Ha ha take that you suckers. [:P] Soon we reached Kanakpura, where we had breakfast. After refuelling ourselves and asking for directions by means of some very confusing sign language, we were off again. The road is a little bad in the town. And you have to take a left turn and leave the highway in the town. So now it was zooming on the smooth roads in the countryside. Rolling hills, sprawling meadows and tiny huts painted a very beautiful scenery.

And then it changed. Rather abruptly. I urge every biker planning on going to Mekedatu to please read the following very carefully. After bout 25-30 km from Kanakpura, you will come across a sign post saying Chunchi falls 7km to left. You have to continue straight. But go slowly from then on. Not more than 50kmph. Although the roads are smooth and straight, there is deadly stretch just ahead. I am quite sure at least 33% of first time bikers meet with an accident or have near misses there. The road suddenly slopes sharply downward, turns right sharply and becomes half its original width. There is no warning board. A lethal cocktail. And unfortunately our gang also suffered because of it.

Anyways that is the beginning of some very curvy (think Pamela Anderson to visualize [:P]) ghat roads ahead. Finally we reached Sangama where Arkavati meets Cauvery! (so romantic! [:P]). We waded across the knee deep water of the Arkavati and came across some antique buses ferrying people from the river bank to Mekedatu about 4km downstream. I wonder how those buses got there. We decided to trek, which turned out to be a bad idea. It was scorching hot along the sun baked path. It is much more than 4km if you go walking. My friends were cursing me for the torture. I don’t blame them. Finally we reached. And then it was the case of ‘water water everywhere and not a drop to drink’ well except if you wanted to pay 30 bucks for a bottle of water. Boy oh boy, people do like to take advantage of others miseries.

Well to give Goats Leap some credit, its rocks are beautiful, carved out into magnificent sculptures since eternity. There wasn’t much water in river and the water didn’t exactly gush through. I didn’t jump across the canyon as it would have to be called Daniel’s Leap then. [:D] On our way back we took a dip in the river. We stuck close to the banks in shallow waters as there was a possibility of underwater currents.

We lunched on packed idlis and dosas from the Kanakpura restaurant. Neeraj did the noble act of carrying our trash all the way back to Sangama to dispose it in a dustbin. Well done buddy! There we came across some clowns trying to get their bikes and cars across the sandy river bed at Sangama! A Sierra almost got stuck in the sand. Maybe they were inspired by those buses across the river.

Next up was Chunchi Falls. I took on ghat section with the Stunner. Undoubtedly both rider and bike gave a stunning performance.[:D] The diversion to the falls was genuine countryside. Small houses and narrow roads where livestock and bullock carts have right of way. Chunchi Falls was a big letdown. A small speck of white about a mile away down the valley was pointed out as the falls. We decided to go anyways since we had come this far. Luckily we met some guys on their way back who told us that it wasn’t worth the trouble. It was a waterfall only if you really wanted to see a waterfall. Yeah, in that case my shower also is a waterfall. So we decided to head back without paying our respects to Ms Chunchi! [:P]

On our way back we got lost in the village as every road and every house appeared the same. Every lane we took ended into someone’s courtyard. And it is a little unnerving to have all eyes on you as if you were aliens on your high tech spacemobile! Yeah at least my Passion got some admiring looks in its old age, albeit they were from some very gullible villagers. Finally after asking for ‘main road’ to half the village we were back on track. And as a result of that village bike show, we unwittingly took a shortcut to the main road.

The bikers made a final pit stop at the same restaurant in Kanakpura before we hit the homestretch to Bangalore. It was back to the noise and smoke of the great city. Thus ended another weekend gateway that didn’t go all that well. The trek was an energy sapping walk in sweltering conditions and the sights weren’t spectacular as the rivers lacked their most essential characteristics, water. These places are best visited between October and December. So till the next trip, I’ll say vroooooooom!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rock On!!

This past Sunday, Bangalore hosted one of the greatest rock bands. I decided to show my love for rock by going rock climbing. [:D] We went rock climbing and rappelling to the popular destination near Bangalore, Ram Nagar. After a couple of hours in a cramped bus in which legroom was at a premium, we reached the imposing monolith. I could almost hear the famous dialogue of Sholay, 'kitne aadmi the', reverberating of the hills. It was shot somewhere there many years back.

The first assignment was rappelling down a steep rock face. It looked easy from down. But when I got to the top and looked down at the base far-far below, I went weak in my knees! But, once I settled into the horizontal position I was at ease. I even managed to smile and wave for the cameras. No, there were no reporters covering the event. I had instructed my friends to record this feat for posterity as I was quite sure I would never go rappelling again. I reached down without any further ado. The experience might come useful in landing me a job as a cleaner of Bangalore’s ubiquitous glass facade buildings. [:P]

Next up, after a delicious lunch, was chimney climbing. This was something different. One had to climb up a narrow 2-3 feet wide crack in a rock without any equipment besides the safety rope. The safety rope didn’t help you climb in any way. Its sole purpose was to arrest your fall in the event you slipped. The technique appeared to be a combination of scratching your back against a wall to get rid of an inaccessible itch on your back, doing tricep bench dips and kicking in your sleep! [:D] Initially I found the going tough, as the crack was too narrow for my height. As the crack widened, I was more comfortable. Finally I reached the top with some effort.

Some climbers were not as talented though. [:P] They needed help in the form of one climber giving a boost from down whilst standing on the shoulders of the guide. It was quite a sight and amazing team work. Incredibly, every one of us made it. This experience could be counted as training for the job of Santa Claus for the next Christmas. [:)] That might help me fund my MS in case i do not get aid!.

The last event was the actual rock climbing. We had to hurry through this as it was beginning to get dark. Here were had to climb a steep rock face with bare hands and legs. But I am no jungle cat. I didn’t get too far before I slipped. What goes up, must come down. But not if you are tied to a safety rope. [:D] I dangled mid air for a few heart stopping moments. I rappelled back down after getting back my foot hold.

This skill might get me a break in Sandalwood if they decide to make their own Spiderman movie! I could be Golden Star’s stunt man! So thus ended the day during which I felt like a commando ready to fight the bad guys. [:)] The trip on the whole was a lovely experience. The only hitch was the large size of the group. This made the wait for your turn last a little too long like Amaron!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Aero Show - Leaving you open mouthed!

This Valentine’s Day, I thought I was gonna date some of the hottest birds of the sky. But I was left sorely disappointed. The Aero Show was a big big let down. You have to take my word, despite the glowing reports you must have read in the media. My friends will vouch for me when I say that the Aero Show was a big waste of time, energy and money. It was ‘wow’ for about five minutes. After that I opened my mouth only to yawn. In fact, I was so traumatized by the experience that I start yawning whenever I see anything flying!

This Aero Show was supposed to be the biggest in South Asia. I guess the biggest need not always be the best. Guys and gals who think otherwise are mistaken. The entry was chaotic. There were just two entry points for thousands of spectators. It soon turned into a free for all shoving and pushing contest. The Ram Sene guys would have had a field day in this ‘V-Day bash’. After a great struggle we stumbled through the checkpoint. We were in! The air show had begun. But it was boring. The same jet went back and forth numerous times. Then it landed and another took off. And did the same thing. There were no formations, no heart stopping stunts, nothing. Then some choppers came and tried some things. I think we enjoyed that part a little because we were so fed up by then, that we might have enjoyed V.P. Agarwal’s lectures then. The peacocks (what a cheesy name for a combat machine!) tried their best. But that also fell well short of expectations.

After a couple of hours on the scorching tarmac, we had had enough. We thought the stalls might have had something to save the day. Alas, they were an even bigger disappointment. There was nothing in there besides models. We had to satisfy ourselves by gazing at models. Nope, not hot sexy babes, but miniature plastic models of jets and choppers. Even the kids looked bored. No presentations, no actual parts on display, no engineers explaining the sophisticated technologies used. An hour of ‘war machines’ on the Discovery Channel would have been much better. We tried our best to do ‘paisa vasool’. We clicked pictures of the models and ourselves. We read the charts. But even if we had done that for a year, we wouldn’t have got our money’s worth.

Then we thought we could try to eat away our sorrows. We headed to the ‘food court’. It was like the kumbh mela. It was overflowing with people. Many were dining on the floor. I had to take one step at a time, carefully, to avoid all the land mines, read people and plates, to make it to the stalls. While the air show didn’t take my breath away, the price list certainly did. I thought the inflation rate in India had reached Zimbabwean proportions. A muffin was for 50 bucks. Maybe they had prepared the food in space, or used stealth technology to enhance the taste! Yeah, whatever.

Why should life be so cruel? Why can’t a guy enjoy himself without a gal on V-Day? [:P] After all the glowing reports in the media, it was a big letdown. The 800 bucks could have been to better use. Maybe charity or watch three Himesh movies or drown my sorrows in a pub and get beaten up! At least the latter would have given me a great story to tell for aeons to come. So that was the crash landing of my soaring dreams of a great air show.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A tribute to my SONY DSC-T10

A picture is worth a thousand words. And my camera has recently completed 10,000 pictures. So that’s 10 million words! But I’ll try to sum it up in a few hundred words here. Over the past 20 months or so, I have used this wonderful gadget to take scores of pictures and videos of the many memorable moments of my life. I whole heartedly agree that it was every cent well spent by my brother who purchased it for a princely sum of $400. It has been very reliable and hasn’t given me any problems at all so far and is working as well as it was 20 months back. The picture and video quality is awesome, as evident from the high class photos and videos in my orkut profile!

This camera has been used to capture many cherished moments. It has been used for the wild birthday celebrations in BITS, the farewell, the many trip and treks I have gone on, family occasions and most innovatively perhaps, to scan books and notes before exams! I wasn’t an avid photographer before I got this camera. I couldn’t be relied on to take a clear picture. Now I can safely say I am a semi professional [self proclaimed!]. I have learnt to use the more sophisticated modes of the camera. I have moved beyond the ‘only-auto-mode’ phase. There is still lot to be learnt though because this camera is loaded with many adjustable settings. Besides, this camera is very handy and easy fits into the pocket like a cell phone. Its sleek looks certainly catch the eye!

The only feature that is lacking perhaps is flash with the video mode present in some cell phone cameras. Also it is quite difficult to capture clear pictures of scenes with low illumination. I have recently purchased a tripod to aid in me in that regard. But unlike the camera, it is not very portable. Hence I don’t use it much.

I am very attached to it and it is one of my most prized possessions. That makes me a little possessive about it. So guys please don’t feel bad if I hesitate to lend it to you. Thank you SONY for this brilliant piece of engineering. The photos in this blog are some of my best pictures.

The Majestic Dome

Picture Perfect at Mysore

Fountain of Flames

Terrestrial Stars

Scintillating Sivasamudram

Thursday, February 05, 2009

India’s Taliban! We have to smoke them out!

Last month’s attacks on a Mangalore pub and the aftershocks have caught my attention. It is certainly fun to read the absurd comments and statements made by these self appointed guardians of the Indian culture. But the fact that such senseless talk is coming from the ‘leaders’ of our country has made me think about and delve deeper into the recent events. I’ll analyze the issue objectively as I don’t go to pubs nor do I do anything special on Valentine’s Day.

The first point that comes to mind is that the aim of the attacks is to arrest the influence of western culture in India. Isn’t this the height of hypocrisy? If Obama has a Gandhi poster in his office, we pat ourselves on the back and other places. But if tomorrow Manmohan Singh says that he follows Lincoln, I am sure there will be a bandh all over the country. If Madonna does yoga, we laud her for her health consciousness. But if V-day is celebrated, it is labeled as 'western' and has no place in India. Or when Anna wears a saree, she is cute! But Indian girls wearing western clothes are sluts! If you don’t like western stuff, then why are you using their kind of clothes? In fact one of the pub attackers was wearing a shirt with a caption Texas country! These losers are jobless, frustrated youth who just want to touch women whenever they can. And then they say they are protecting Indian culture!

Besides, culture is a dynamic entity. It has to change and evolve. Else, wouldn’t we still be following the many traditions that have been forgotten over the years? It is just that today with such rapid communication between various cultures, culture is evolving at a much faster rate. May be these tube lights are slow to accept this rapid change. I request all these clowns to go to some remote place in the Himalayas or the Thar Desert and stay isolated from all western influence. They will be happy without us and we will be happy without them! I request Lalu to sanction a 'losers rath' train to take all of them to their chosen destination.

Another thought that comes to mind, when I hear that these jokers want to protect womanhood in India, is the condition of women in our country. Isn't it ironic that these people are attacking some of the few truly free and emancipated women of India? I am not saying that going to pubs implies freedom. I mean only women who are free from all social and financial restrictions can afford to do as they like. The condition of rest of the women in India is abysmal. Their misery starts right from the time they are in their mother’s womb. Female feticide and infanticide goes on unabated. Sex ratio in some districts is below 900! And then we have female illiteracy, child marriages and dowry deaths. So this is Indian culture? Treating women like dirt? I urge these enthusiastic and energetic youth to take up the cause of the downtrodden women in India and show that they truly consider every woman in India as their mother (that’s what they claimed btw).

Thus we have the same old story of some ‘leaders’ trying to gain attention by vandalizing public places on some flimsy and vague moral grounds. And their supporters who are driven plainly by mob mentality. God save our ‘progressive’ nation from such goons who are bent on talibanizing India.