Moon-Lake

I was looking at some pictures from several years ago which were taken during my trip to Himachal. All the treks were over and we were just visiting some lakes and small towns on our way to Manali. We were travelling along beautiful roads. I had a book with me and everyone was in a quiet and reflective mood.

370-IMG_9391

We took a detour to visit the beautiful Moon-Lake(Chandratal) and spend a quiet morning there.The vehicle stopped some way away from the lake. We walked the rest of the way along a narrow gravel path in the direction of the lake.

I was waiting for the lake to come into sight. The constant scanning for the blue patch on the horizon reminded me of the cycle ride to Tso Moriri in Ladakh the previous year.

373-IMG_9404

The sky in those parts can be very bright and sometimes this prevents you from really enjoying the beautiful sights once the Sun is up. But, that day, the sky was cloudy and the light was perfect.

377-IMG_9423

There were small patches of grass around the lake and flocks of sheep grazing on it with shepherd dogs running about and barking at them.
400-IMG_9478

Some of us took a dip in the icy water of the lake.

397-IMG_9464

I just lay down in the moist grass with my book and spent some time reading and gazing out at the iridescent lake shining with a furious intensity in the many reflected colors of the sky.

394-IMG_9451

As the clouds shifted in the sky the colors reflected in the lake too changed. I kept on moving around the lake to take in the sight from as many angles as possible.

407-IMG_9498

The toughest part of that whole trip was the walk on the glaciers of the Pin Bhabha pass. This year, I am going again for a winter trek in Himachal. This time more of the trek will be over glaciers and it will be interesting to find out how I cope with it.

398-IMG_9472

I am expecting it to be the toughest trekking expedition I have ever participated in and I can’t wait to see the sights and experience the adventure.

396-IMG_9462

Come Oct, I will be on my way!
408-IMG_9502

I hope that at the end of the coming trip, we will get to spend a few days roaming around and relaxing in beautiful places like this.

402-IMG_9481

On the hurt pride of vegetarians

Sometimes, after reading some article somewhere I get really irritated. No matter how hard I try to forget and get on with other stuff, the offending words and ideas linger… like a thorn in my side. I have no option but to sit down and write about it to understand why exactly I feel the way I do about it.

This time it was this article that appeared in The Hindu written by one Vamsee Juluri who is a professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco.

(Here is some readily accessible info about the hunger situation in India. Skip it if you have already read about it(very likely).)

I have always been shocked and dismayed by the level of malnutrition, stunting and the generally dismal level of the health and development of children of the oppressed classes. The situation looks even more dismal and desperate for girl children. According to scientists, doctors and social workers there are a combination of factors responsible for the situation. The biggest among them, from what I could understand are

1. The lack of sanitation and clean drinking water. The associated level of childhood morbidity and parasite load massively impacts physical and mental development during the most critical years of growth.

2. The lack of a balanced diet in impoverished agricultural communities which lean heavily on grains for subsistence and tribal communities which have been deprived of their tradition habitats in the forest.

3. Protein malnutrition and absence of essential trace nutrients in the diet

4. Lack of basic medical facilities and simple medicines in communities that most need them

This situation is far more dangerous than most people can imagine. Between 1/3rd and 1/2 of the future of country is growing up with serious mental and physical developmental deficits. This should give any human being with a conscience a massive jolt! The seed of our national well-being is the promise of our children and if we can’t do everything possible to ensure their access to adequate sanitation and food, then we are failing in our duty to our country.

What I have said till now is public knowledge and is widely acknowledged both nationally and internationally. India ranks near the very bottom in Global Hunger Rankings, even below countries like Sudan.

The news

The brunt of this disaster is born by the children of the low-castes and dalits of the country. The dispossessed tribals and the landless. For children from these families the mid-day meal scheme and the egg-a-day schemes are a God-send that provides them with much needed protein, cholesterol, fat and trace minerals and nutrients found only in animal products. Eggs are widely considered to be critical to child-hood nutrition, even ahead of cow-milk. This is because milk is hard to keep unspoiled, is easily diluted or contaminated and is difficult to transport and store. Also, many children, especially the older ones might have difficulty digesting milk in enough quantities to matter because of lactose intolerance.

The MP government’s professed reason for denying its starving children one of the best sources of protein is not scientific. They offer no rational explanations for why it was done. The only reason thrown in the faces of these children and the food-rights activists working on their behalf is that the chief-minister has a “sentimental objection” to serving eggs in school. He is probably supported by the Jain and the other religiously-motivated vegetarian lobbies in the state.

When capacity for subtlety blinds rather than illuminates

In this situation comes along an author writing an article that criticizes the NPR for calling out the “vegetarian elites'” attempts at enforcing their misinformed dietary concepts on people ill-equipped to voice their opinion! He thinks that the article is a mere ploy to perpetuate the myth that vegetarianism is a tool the elite use to starve the poor. I don’t know what kind of a retarded mind would read the head-line(NPR article is here) and think, “Oh! Here they go again, trying to spoil the image of the vegetarians” and not “Why are some people trying to impose their dietary preferences influenced by their privilege and religion on other people who are suffering from these impositions!” It takes a frightening lack of empathy and self-absorption to engage in this kind of abstract nit-picking!

Pretensions to intellect are more dangerous than ignorance

The author thinks that it is ironic that the western media is writing against the massive over-consumption of red-meat in developed countries and the industrial production of meat it necessitates at the same time it writes against the denial of one-egg-a-day to malnourished children from the most deprived sections of an underdeveloped society! He calls himself an intellectual and is unable to understand the simple, overwhelming and almost painfully obvious differences in context between the two sets of articles. An average indian consumes less than 2 kg of meat in a year while an average american consumes more than 120kg!! Anything in excess is probably not good. (Although, the latest research seems to be pointing to the presence of refined sugar and carbs as the cause of problems of diet related morbidity in developed societies. But, I digress!)

And if he is going to argue that eggs should be denied to poor children because american over-consumption of beef causes heart problems and adversely effects the environment then maybe rice too shouldn’t be served to them as there is robust evidence for its role in causing heart-disease, diabetes and obesity in the over-fed Indian upper-class! Maybe, they should not be fed any food at all because there is strong evidence that too much food consumption by his adopted country is wrecking the environment and health of his allegedly hypocritical american friends!

Why don’t these kids care about the fucking chickens!

He writes in a whining tone about how when it comes to writing about the stunted Indian children questions of environment and “animal-ethics”(!!!!) are being ignored. Wow!! How shocking!? How dare these poor starving children not care about the environment and how their consumption of eggs is making chickens sad!! How dare they not pay attention to the sensitivities of the well-fed dog sitting comfortably in San Francisco and thinking deeply about “what diet-issues are really all about!”? Maybe, his vegetarian diet has fucked his nervous system and as seems apparent from the article in question, rendered him incapable of clear thought. That maybe why he had to waste so many words on advertising his ignorance of what diet-issues are all about when it comes to the desperately poor struggling to keep their kids in school. Here it is. In one fucking line. It is a about survival.

It maybe disappointing to his “cultured” intellect brought to maturity in the rarefied atmosphere of scholarship and privilege to discover how little the under-privileged of India care about the rights of animals. How little they appreciate the glorious “Hindu” heritage(which includes the “invention/discovery/tradition” of vegetarianism) they can lay claim to because they had the wonderful luck to be born in this country and into their situation. How little they care about the wounded sensitivities of their privileged, upper-class, Hindu, intellectual compatriots, especially, the ones who are sitting on the other side of the earth and fighting pitched battles to ensure that the western media understands the glory of their deprivation in all its nuanced complexity! But, there goes the truth!

Environmentalism for the poor

I was reading an illuminating and stunningly humane book written by my favorite author, historian and social critic Ramachandra Guha called “How much should we consume?”. It echoed exactly what I used to think about the environment and animal rights.

Environmentalism should be less about restoring some imagined justice or virginity to nature and more about allowing the human beings who depend on our environment for survival to continue living in a sustainable way without depleting the natural capital. People who rail against the poor for not worshiping animals or for eating them are almost invariably the well-fed vegetarian(rarely even non-vegetarian) elites living in protected alcoves who don’t have to countenance the cold, hard and brutal truth of nature and survival in the pits of deprivation which is expressed in the vocabulary of hunger, sudden death and chronic morbidity without hope.

The next paragraph is almost comical when you consider that this person has at least once seen the insides of a university. There is data to prove that that the upper-castes of India who for centuries have overseen the operation of one of the most efficient and ruthless engines of oppression grinding into the dust of humiliation, hunger and loss of dignity the vast and under-privileged low-caste population of India are predominantly vegetarian. The same vile bunch of books that prescribe the system of varnas also pontificate on the relative “purity” of foods and castes! People who depend on the system of caste for privilege will also believe in these insane and unscientific pronouncements on diet. There is both data and possible explanation for it. Now you know what he is going to do, right? Cite a study which shows otherwise? Hahaha no. He tells you a fucking story about what happened when he walked into a fucking mcdonalds! He tells you about what he saw inside fucking malls in AP.

Now, you can throw away all that data and history and just sue NPR for defaming the elites who are on a roll, banning or restricting access to one food item after the other. Who fund and run organizations prepared to slaughter men to protect cows. Prepared to beat woman like dogs for partying and violating Indian Culture. Prepared to expose little children to sudden and painful deaths to give dogs justice and ensure their “right to life”(granted by whom, I sometimes wonder!). Touting yoga as the solution to the problems that are crippling India. While gleefully cutting health budgets and pumping money into promoting quackery and thugs cheating people with snake-oil.

It’s about me me me!

In the next article, he cries about how they have failed to appreciate the saints, gurus and other such holy Hindus who have given up meat because of the “innate violence involved” in it and how NPR has failed to write about the unctuous practices of the meat-consuming Hindu. (As if these practices were patented by the Brahmin and is beyond the grasp of the vegetarians in other societies.) His glorious restraint, his commendable love for the cow and other such fine aspects of “Hindu Culture”. How did they have the gall to write an entire article about starving children being denied eggs and fail to mention all these things. He finds it unbelievable. Unless, it is all part of an elaborate international conspiracy to tar Hinduism and denigrate its ancient glory and mysterious secrets!

In the next paragraph, he feels that the models that show one group as lower than another is simplistic and doesn’t account for the flux in the caste situation in India. Which is funny! Because, news articles which feature stories of caste oppression and violence continue to appear with surprising regularity. Models by necessity are simple. They are only as complex as is required to make predictions about something. Do you want to understand why some people think that the family they are born into makes them superior/inferior to another human being? Do you want to understand why even the inferior ones further perpetuate this stupidity by treating some people as even more lowly than them? Do you want to understand why they believe all this shit? Models can help you. But, if you are the sort of armchair intellectual chasing imaginary pride and glory derived from their country of birth or their ancestors(stuff which they had absolutely no say in picking) then maybe the models won’t be complex enough to salve the self-inflicted wounds of your dying self-esteem.

Vegetarianism as an Indian invention

The author then continues to beg people to make the discussion about removing eggs from mid-day meal schemes into something far more complex and fill it with subtle arguments and erudite observations about the Indian brand of vegetarianism.

It is surprising how an author with cavils against the western media for paying insufficient attention to the complex Indian situation fails to see that there are vegetarians and even vegans in other countries too. That there are communities which depend on plant-based diets in even more sophisticated ways outside India. Maybe, when you accuse people of being simplistic you should be a little more careful about what you pick to be proud about yourself. No body discovered vegetarianism. No body found a particularly superior way of being vegetarian. And refusing to let other people seek nourishment from their animals is not the same as saving the environment or being non-violent. If he thinks that a vegetarian lifestyle is superior to one than includes a reasonable quantity of animal products he is free to argue for it. But, he picked the wrong context for a back-drop.

You can listen and/or read people like Bill Gates(who recently tried vegetarianism) who while working hard to curtail the consumption of animal products in the US, is also at the same time fighting to increase its consumption in Africa and South-Asia. Despite his privilege he understands the reality of undernourishment in poor countries. People who have the widest possible variety in their diets also tend to be the healthiest. One only has to visit the peoples in the East, Europe and other such areas to discover that these people are healthier, fitter and live longer that the typical Indian vegetarian. Even the well-fed ones.

Equating  non-vegetarianism with violence

This is something that pisses me off every single time I read about it. People from the cow-belt, the scripture toting, yoga fans, who live amongst people who kill, starve and take away personal agency from girl children, who support khap-panchayats and masturbate to “ancient Indian Glory” and the village life lecturing others on what does and does not constitute violence. Here is the simple truth!

There is no justice, fairness or kindness in nature. You can’t lecture a lion or a tiger on ahimsa. Right to life and happiness, right to food, right to education and right to justice are all human inventions created for our collective well-being. Human existence is a violent act. The self-superior vegetarian guys sitting inside comfy rooms insulated against the dangers and uncertainty of the wild, pecking away furiously at their keyboards in a frenzy of self-righteous indignation against all those inhuman meat-eaters fail to see the irony of their situation. If they think that human beings are being unjustified in treating other animals as less valuable than members of their own species, then they should go and kill themselves. By lightening the burden of human existence on this planet they will definitely save the habitats of countless animals and trees.

In this vast and frighteningly empty universe there is a filament of human sentience, fragile but beautiful nevertheless floating uncertainly in ultimate futility, creating its own meaning in the strength and complexity of its internal connections. We are the ones who constitute this filament. In this tremendous loneliness the only company we have are our brothers and sisters with whom we should be standing shoulder to shoulder. We don’t owe the earth or nature any more than we owe a rock. But, we need to take care of it and its diversity to the extent that we need it for our survival. That is the only kind of compassionate environmentalism possible. And that is precisely the brand of environmental protection practiced by sections of forest-dwellers and excluded people all over the world.

What constitutes violence?

Female foeticide is violence. Misogyny is violence. Denying people basic rights is violence. Poverty and deprivation is violence!

Torture of animals is wrong. Taking pleasure from their pain is the sign of a psychopath. But, making use of animal meat for food and nourishment of human beings is not evil. That doesn’t make you prone to violence or stupidity. If anything the evidence from India seems to be to the contrary. Kerala, West Bengal and other such non-vegetarian states feature the highest HD Indices while the benighted states of the cow-belt are wallowing in ignorant misogyny, violent masculinity and poisonous superstition. If anyone in the world thinks that meat-eaters are violent people or if they have some complicated theory for why eating animals makes you an environment-hating and violent anti-social(like this other equally irritating article in The Hindu did), there is a wonderful Indian invention for the number of fucks other people give about it. 0.

Quality of commentary in the paper

The quality of the intellectual commentary in The Hindu used to be good. But, over time it is deteriorating. The fall is made even more obvious because of comparisons that people draw with other liberal sources like NYT and NPR. These people never fail to impress. The piece by NPR featured Food Rights Activists from the region in question, even one vegetarian who has never touched an egg in his life arguing for the egg program for malnourished children. But, what did the Hindu do to get comments on it? Went to a privileged professor of media studies who is living and working in the seat of the decadent and hypocritical(according to him) western civilization with obviously zero knowledge of nutrition, subsistence lifestyles and grinding poverty to comment on it! How tragic! If they could find someone, maybe a parent of a child who would have been exposed to the program to comment on why the option of eggs is a bad idea rationally and objectively, that would have served to enlighten people and expand the debate.

Instead of perverting the discussion and confusing people.

Articles like these are becoming more common every day. Maybe it is in keeping in line with the growing sentiment of revanchism infecting the euphoric Hindu upper-class egged on by the administration of the country. Who knows!?

Flash Boys: A Wall Street RevoltFlash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great read for the view it offers into the world of high-tech trading and the complexity of modern financial markets. The ways in which modern technology has changed share-trading is really mind-blowing. But, the best thing is, a lay-man can get a top-level view of this world of big money and high-technology in a very entertaining and gripping read thanks to Michael Lewis.

Before reading the book, I never really understood what flash-trading was all about. I just thought that it was a faster way of processing market information and using it to make relatively risk-free trades that make money for the people who invest in the required computing power.

Given my understanding I really couldn’t grasp why the people engaged in this were viewed as villains and getting pulled-up by law-enforcement now and then.

But, as I read the book, I understood that what was happening was not quite so simple. The manner in which HFTs colluded with stock-exchanges to access information that was not yet available to others to make risk-less trades against actual investors was shocking.

In a normal trade both sides gain something. It is not a zero-sum game. But, HFT is presented as a tax on the movement of capital. This is over and above what is required to solve the problem of connecting a genuine buyer with a seller. Instead of “taxes” like this reducing with better technology, they are in fact made possible and allowed to do so much damage by the growing abilities of modern information processing and transmission systems.

This book documents how a bunch of guys got together to build an exchange that would give the right incentives to the intermediaries to put the interests of their customers first.

There is no excessive moralizing. Which is a huge plus! And I really liked the concept of “long-term greedy”. It is something I have believed in myself. The problem with selfishness is not the mere fact of its existence. But, the inability of people to fully understand what really is good for them in the long-term. Of course, this is an over-simplification. The point is this. You don’t have to really suffer any pain or deny yourself stuff to be of value to your society. If the system of incentives were set up in such a way that people were rewarded for the value of their work to society then people could do good merely by doing their jobs well and earning to their maximum potential.

But, when the reward system gets corrupted you can expect the guys who lack a sense of empathy to swoop in and exploit the loop-holes for their benefit at a great cost to the broader society.

Instead of focusing on individual failures of conscience, this book tries to analyse why the scalpers wound up doing what they do and the enabling environment. Also, there is quite a bit of back-ground on “front-running” and how this practice has evolved over the decades. The author clearly explains how this activity has had increasingly deleterious effects on the markets because of the technology used nowadays to implement this conceptually simple but ethically-fraught technique.

Also, another subtle but extremely important aspect of the author’s style is how he manages to convey the difference between visualizing a corporate entity as an evil and sentient being and a mere agglomeration of groups fighting pitched battles internally for survival and supremacy. Ultimately, all businesses are made up of human beings and they can never be entirely evil or completely generous.

He merely tries to point out how faulty incentives can mistakenly reward people within the businesses to put their short-term interests above everything else and thus allow/sanction the happening of bad things.

Overall, 4/5. It is a great book. But, not quite as gripping as The Big Short! Maybe it is unfair to give a lower rating merely because the author has written an even better book! But, I am a little biased that way

View all my reviews

Picking a travel destination

You are dead tired, each step feels heavy and labored, every single muscle in your body is making its presence felt, but, the destination is in sight and relief is just a few more kms away.

268-IMG_8988

This is the best part of any hike or trek or trip. There is isn’t any more danger or uncertainty. There is no fear that you might be unable to complete the trip without getting hurt. There is just a rising excitement from finally seeing the finishing line and a feeling of relief from the crushing fatigue. You start to smile and talk more and suddenly there is a spring in  your step.

267-IMG_8987

Once the main trek was done, we took a taxi to Dhankar where we stayed at the guest house attached to the monastery and relaxed for a day before the next trip.

Spiti Valley

After a week of trekking and sleeping in the rain and snow, being finally under a concrete roof in one of the most surreal landscapes in the world is a wonderful feeling. Sitting on a terrace attached to the coffee shop gazing out at the desolation and barren beauty of the Spiti-valley while pondering over things like the motivation of people who voluntarily chose this place as their home, feels different and strange.

Dhankar Monastery

Dhankar Monastery

We spent the morning hiking up to the Dhankar lake and then I and KP spent the rest of the day lazing about and eating tasty little treats and talking at the coffee shop.

362-IMG_9349

When I think of a place to travel to, it is only rarely that I try to see if that place is objectively beautiful or if the sights are “worth-it”. The first thing I think of when picking a place is about the things that could be done there. I think that by doing something or engaging with a place physically we will be able to better appreciate what it has to offer.

346-IMG_9300

I have heard many people talk about how great it would be to visit foreign countries or go on a whirl-wind tour of the famous tourist-spots of the world. When I hear that I always wonder what it is exactly one feels when standing in front of a tourist attraction. What is the happiness you get out of taking a picture of yourself in front of the Eiffer tower or some other such landmark? One can of course see anything online nowadays. When we imagine ourselves being happy in front of a particular sight have we ever wondered why we would be happy in that position? Is it just the beauty of the sight?

282-IMG_9031

A lonely flower

I have a strong feeling that it has to be more than that. Maybe, it is the break from the routine of daily life involved in getting to the said location. Maybe it is being there with your friends or family. Maybe it is the little surprises that happen on long trips…

When I look through these old photos, the pleasure I feel comes more from remembering how I felt like at the time than from the mere aesthetic appeal of the scenery that I have tried to capture with these images.

I once cycled up the Khardung-La pass in Ladakh and was deeply affected by the experience. Once the cycling expedition was finished I got myself into a group which was hiring a share-taxi to visit the Nubra valley through the same route. The second time I went through that route, I slept most of the way and the sights that had deeply moved me the first time failed to have the same impact as they whizzed past the window of our vehicle.

A sky so rare, the moon is visible at noon!

A sky so rare, the moon is visible at noon!

I realized then that the impact travel has on us is mostly a function of our own state of mind, our physical condition, the accessibility and uniqueness of the place, interaction with our travel partners and the activities we are engaged in. If one’s stated purpose for travelling is to collect different experiences and learn something new about oneself in that process, then, the “impressiveness” of any place or sight is of only secondary importance. The way we engage with that place has a bigger say in deciding how much we are able to take away from the whole exercise.

Is there something objectively great about a place that would make a trip there worth the while? I think this is an important question for someone interested in expanding their mind in whichever way possible.

So, the next time I plan a trip, I ought to spend more time thinking about what I can do there than on whether that place is “beautiful-enough” or not.

Cycling near Jog Falls

This was one trip that I had been planning to do for a long time. Cycling in the rain through the ghats!

A lot of my friends had promised to come this time around. But, unfortunately, when the day of the trip came many of them dropped out because of some reason or the other.

But, there were still 4 of us ready to go and at the last-minute I managed to convince Mahesh to come with us. He is a photography enthusiast and I was sure that the lush greenery of the ghats would be an absolute delight for him.

So, on Thursday night, after a lot of rushed running-about to get things ready for Mahesh too, we were finally on our way in the vehicle we had hired for the trip with the cycles on top. I was super-excited about this trip because it was the first time we were going to be cycling in nearly constant rain. I wanted to know what it would feel like.

We reached Sringeri at about 7 in the morning. As we expected, it was raining. As I stepped out of the van into the cold drizzle, I had a sudden moment of doubt. “Maybe”, I thought, “this was not such a great idea!”. But, it happens every time and I was already there. So, too late to turn back!

DSC_9782

It is hard to push yourself out into the rain and start cycling when it is so cold and wet!

DSC_0010

Cycling in constant rain is very different from pedaling on through the occasional drizzle. No matter what you wear, the water will eventually get through it. You will never feel hot or dry. The constant spray of water on your face makes you forget the effort of cycling and the fast pitter-patter sound of the rain against your helmet as you speed down an incline adds to the relief and excitement of the effortless speed!

One of the temples we visited near Sringeri

One of the temples we visited near Sringeri

Once you are soaked and on your way you never want to stop cycling except to catch your breath and enjoy the scenery around you. If you come out of the rain once and stay inactive for more than 15 mins then the chill will start getting to you and it becomes tough to start cycling again.

DSC_9292-001

Never stop, never take breaks, let the rain cool you down, wash your face and soothe your eyes. Rush against the rain drops while breathing in the wet, thick and clean air. After the congestion, smoke and dust of Bangalore, cycling through the rain-soaked, verdant countryside along the empty roads lining the Linganamakki reservoir was really soothing. The terrain with rolling ups and downs and occasional stretches of level road was never difficult. Every few kms we could catch a glimpse of the reservoir.

DSC_9272

Once we reached Talaguppa, we got onto the main highway and continued on our way to Jog falls. The roads were amazing. But, the inclines were starting to get longer and steeper. It was almost 5 in the evening by the time we reached Jog and settled down for a late meal.

DSC_9295

After eating and walking around the view-point(nothing much could be seen because of the heavy fog) we started again for Gundimane where we had arranged to stay for the night.

DSC_9660

It was a good 30 or so kms from the falls through a steep ghat-section.

The roads in the gathering dusk, soaked in the constant rain and lined with progressively thickening vegetation were an absolute marvel. I was starting to get slightly worried as we were a little behind on our schedule. The last 6 kms to the homestay were through unmarked and unpaved roads that went through the forest. Once the light waned it would be difficult to spot the boards and there was also the risk of encountering wild animals to be considered.

DSC_9682

After some harried pedaling, we reached the turn off point towards Gundimane, marked by a police station. The policemen there seemed a little worried about us going through on our cycles. They asked us to be careful and cycle fast.

DSC_9376

The rest of the ride was through the forest and it was very different from anything we had done until then. The weakening sun was subdued further by the towering trees on both sides. The rain fell in big heavy drops from the leaves above us and we pedaled with gathering urgency as the sounds of the forest started becoming louder and louder.

It was with a sense of relief that we came upon the board marking the gate towards the estate. As we rolled into the courtyard, we saw that our hosts for the night were waiting for us. We dumped out cycles outside and rushed in.

DSC_9375

After having a hot tea, we all had a nice hot bath and settled down to discuss our ride as our dinner was getting ready. I was so terribly cold that I was having fits of shivering every now and then. It was only after dinner that I felt comfortable again.

We spent the next morning lazing around at Gundimane before leaving the place.

DSC_9454 DSC_9524

What a day it had been!

Ride to Sirsi

Compared to the first day, the second day’s ride from Jog to Sirsi was pretty easy. But, I think that was a good thing. The ride through the countryside in the fresh air on easy terrain was, I felt, very therapeutic.We stopped now and then to eat the snacks we had bought along and chat. Our colleague Krishnamurthi had arranged for our stay, a hotel there and the night’s stay there was very comfortable. The highlight of the second day was the dinner at Krishnamurthy’s place. His whole extended family was there to celebrate Ganesh Chathurthi and they had prepared an awesome feast for us with many sweets and savories that I had never even tasted before.

The next day, we again went to his estate and he showed us around the whole place. Of particular interest to us was the apiculture he practised on his farm.

DSC_9922He showed us many of the hives and explained how he took care of them and the techniques required to get good quality flavor-rich honey from his bees. It was fascinating!

DSC_0030 copyAnother wonderful sight for us was the private waterfall he had on his farm which drained into a river that meandered through the middle of his land. It was simply mind-blowing.

DSC_0083

After seeing all that, we said bye to him and started for bangalore.

DSC_0086

We had our parting dinner at Bangalore.

DSC_0151

All in all an amazing trip! The only thing that could have been better was if more of our friends had turned up. Seeing and experiencing all those things together would have been so much more fun!

Krishnamurthy showing us around his farm

Krishnamurthy showing us around his farm

1-JogCyclingTrip

Now, when I get fed up of the dust and congestion of Bangalore, for a bit of relief, I look through these pictures of rain-drenched Shimoga and replay in my mind the two days of cycling we did there…

P.S. All photos credits belong to Mahesh. My camera died after the trip because of too much exposure to the rain.

Cycling from Bandipur to Ooty

This was my second cycling trip with my friends from office. Last time we had gone to Chikmagalur. We started cycling from Jayapura. The route we took was Jayapura- Horanadu – Kalasa – Kuderemukh – Hanumanhundi Falls – SK Border – Sringeri. Most of the guys who were there last-time were there this time too.

This time, we cycled from Bandipur to Ooty via the Kalhatty Ghat. We reached Bandipur by about 7 in the morning. It took 1 hr to get all the cycles ready. As the cycles were getting ready, the first-timers were given a quick talk on how to use the gears effectively.

03-IMG_0149 05-IMG_0156

Finally, everyone is ready with their cycles.

12-IMG_0183

The ride through the forest was one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip.

16-IMG_0193

It was still cool and pleasant and there were so many animals all along the side of the road.

The ride was a short one. 20-30kms. After which we reached Masinagudi. Before starting to cycle we had all had a milk-shake from the CCD at the entrance to Bandipur. After the cycling through the reserve everyone had worked up a healthy appetite.

I just went absolutely crazy during breakfast. I had some 4 double omelettes, 3-4 Dosas and somewhere around 5 teas.

The “Killer – Kalhatty” climb was on top of all our minds. So, I decided to stock up on as much energy as possible. After lazing around a bit, we all started cycling again. After some 10 kms we reached the start of the climb.

21-IMG_0209

From that point, there were 36 hair-pin bends that needed to be covered to reach the elevation of Ooty. It was one of the most relentlessly steep roads that most of us had ever seen.

23-IMG_0214Of course, I had seen much worse! After all I had climbed from 3500 mtrs to 5650 mtrs to reach the mighty Khardun-La in Ladakh on cycle(I like to occasionally toot my own horn, sorry!).

There were boards at every hair-pin bend counting down from 36.By the time we covered the first few hair pin bends, the Sun had started to bear down upon us harshly. By around 12 it had become so mind-numbingly hot that I could see the water vapor rise from my exposed arms. The heat was making it hard to focus and pedal on.

By the time I finished 30 per cent of the climb I had finished my bottle of water. From then on, it was stopping now and then to get water from vehicles coming down the road.

I must have gone through at least 5 liters of water in the time it took me to reach the halfway point which is marked by a tea-shop. I think it was situated just before bend number 16.

By the time I reached there the support vehicle with a couple of guys who had decided to not continue cycling because of some problem with the gears was already there. Raghu had also reached there before me.

I walked into the shop, got a bottle of cold water, and finished it off in one long gulp. Then I had a couple of teas and decided to lie down till the others caught up. In any case, I decided that I was going to cycle again, only after the Sun let up a little. I then had the idea of asking one of the cars passing by on their way down to carry water bottles for the guys climbing up.

When they eventually showed up, they told me that the water was a big relief for them in the heat!

After the Sun had let up, everyone started cycling again. After a while I too started. The bends started coming faster. Also, the climb became steeper. Towards the end there was an especially steep and seemingly-unending climb. I had decided before-hand itself that I wouldn’t push my cycle for even 10 cms.

When jumping up from the bench on which I was sleeping on at the tea shop, some muscle in my hip had suddenly started to cramp. I had ignored it then. But, now it was starting to act up.

So, I cycled in a zigzag manner to reduce the amount of force I needed to put down on the pedals to allow my legs to relax and feel loose again.

Finally, after a satisfyingly-tough last climb, I started my descent to Ooty. When I got to the police check-post I found Raghu sitting there. We went and had some tea and home-made chocolates and then started to cycle to the YWCA guest-house were stay and dinner had been arranged for the night.

We got there just in time to order dinner for the night. By the time we got the keys to the rooms the rest of the guys except Shailesh had arrived by the support vehicle. Some of them had managed to cycle almost 90 per cent of the way up, but had to stop because it was getting too late.

Shailesh arrived an hour later, just when we were starting to go out to look for him. He had lost his way in the town and had to wander about quite a bit as a result.

The stay was one of the high-points of the trip. Each room was a suite and we had taken a cottage for all of us.

29-IMG_0232The YWCA dining hall was a pleasant and welcoming place and we really enjoyed our dinner there.

Ooty to Kodanad View Point

37-IMG_0248After a hot-water bath and a comfortable night’s sleep and rest, we woke up feeling refreshed the next day.

31-IMG_0237After one more “super-charger” break-fast we were ready to start cycling.

The Kodanad view-point is around 40 kms from Ooty.. The weather was cool, the roads were amazing and there were plenty of tree-lined downhill sections with winding roads and amazing scenery.

46-IMG_0262Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

48-IMG_0269After spending some time at the view point we started on our way back to Bangalore.

1-Cycling trip to ooty march 81

This was my second time cycling with my friends from office. Being together with people you see everyday in office in such a different environment, doing something completely unrelated to work allows you to see everyone in a different light. I felt that everyone learned something new about their colleagues and that I think is a very important part of what makes trips like this so much fun!

52-IMG_0275Anyway, I am already looking forward to going out with my friends again for our next cycling trip!