Archive for the ‘Travelogue’ Category

Pleasure is completion

– Vikram M N

This has been second of the three impending arrears. Just the week before I completed last year’s arrear Rajahmundry and the very next week, the New Year week, I planned for this trek, at the cost of missing New Year Party. I feel bad if it’s New Year and I’m not with my regular group of Arun and Lokesh or with Arun or Lokesh.

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Day 0 – Re-start

12/29/2017

It was the repeat of what I did three months ago but this time there wasn’t a direct bus to Bodi. Idiots. They had cancelled the bus so we took a bus to Theni. It wasn’t as crowded in CMBT like last time so the bus started on time. I didn’t want to repeat the mistake of last time by waiting for the bus to stop in its regular abode for dinner. I asked guys to parcel it in Perungulathur. And boy, wasn’t it the best decision of my life.

So here is the cast.

Chennai Team

Prabha – Trek Organizer

Selva – His friend

Shiva – My Lights On Friend

Richie – His Friend

Arvind – Lights On Friend Arti’s brother

Mani – Aspiring director and my friend from Tadiandamol

Coimbatore Team

Sharmi – Prabha’s friend

Naresh – Her brother

Siva – His friend

Anusha – Dhoni (don’t know for what she’s called so)

Looking at the description, it looks like a film title. ‘The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’

So the Chennai team started on time, everyone were disciplined, they weren’t carrying any unnecessary stuff. May be due to the fact that they’ve already trekked but even first timer Arvind didn’t have big luggage. In fact mine was the biggest, but lesser than last time as I did not have tent. But I didn’t want it to be too light. I had to train for other treks.

In bus Shiva and Arvind had some serious soccer talks which I of course didn’t understand. I slept as soon as I boarded the bus. I was yet to recoup from the previous week’s travel tiredness and an almost there cold. The previous week post the trek too was hectic, thanks to my cousins visit here. I was a bit worried whether I’d get sick for the trek but thankfully I didn’t. And due to all the above factors I had a sound sleep in bus. Only woke up at the point where they usually stop for dinner.

Day 1 – Perfection

12/30/2017

We reached Theni New Bus Stand at 5 AM. In a hurry to catch Bodi bus we left Richie back as he was having a standalone tea. We met the remaining Coimbatore folks at Theni Old Bus stand and reached Bodi in half an hour. Richie reached there in a while. After trying hard for morning ablutions and failing miserably at it, we took bus to Kurangani. There was also another Bangalore group who seemed to be amazed with such low ticket rates of Tamil Nadu State Transport Service. Proud moment!

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We reached Kurangani and everything was still fresh in the memory, including the failure. The room, the restaurant and everything. We were given a room to freshen up, the same place where I stayed last time. And Coimbatore folks took it to a level up and had a bath before the trek. Beautiful, isn’t it. We had our breakfast with a view in an open terrace. Just like last time the food was brilliant. Idly and Vada with Sambar, Chutney was fabulous. Don’t know how they make Idly so soft.  I ate quite a few Idlys and got ready for the trek. Prabha had parceled his share as he was fasting.

We started off in the usual path, everyone together. This time there was water dripping at a couple of places en route so at least we had points where we could fill our bottles. But don’t get mislead by this. Be prepared to walk the whole route with just the bottles you have. Last time we didn’t have any water points. So at first water point we settled, people were clicking lot of photos. Already an Electrol packet over.

The next stretch from First water point to second water point took a tool on Coimbatore gang with Sharmi struggling a lot. But they somehow managed and reached the place after a delay. Prabha and I were walking along them. Rest of the Chennai team had already reached there. From there I led to Othai Maram (solo tree). I was panting as I walked quickly and sun was beating too but reaching there was such a relief. I wanted to reach there first so as to set up my camera and take some extra rest. I did it in the process. Rest of Chennai gang came in quick succession but the Coimbatore gang took a lot of time to time. As soon as they came, they ate and took rest. Lemon Rice was divine.

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We started from there at 3 AM, which was quite late and I was asked to be the sweeper by Prabha. I obliged. That was the wise thing to do. Chennai gang proceeded at a fast pace but for us it took forever to reach. Sharmi and co were struggling a lot. No amount of lies could satisfy them about reaching the destination. After a point it became pitch dark and we were walking only in moonlight. I think that got on to Siva. He who was becoming a trekker by saying the usual dialogue ‘almost there’ dialogue quite often, started to get irritated once it became dark but somehow we managed to reach Kolukumalai by 7 PM. By that time we reached, Sharmi told that she’d need a vehicle to go back the next day. I could see how exhausted she was. I could empathize because I know the pain of it, I was in that position only a couple of months back.

We met with the remaining gang at 7 PM and got to know that they reached by 5 PM. That was quite swift. Their idea was simple. None knew the route, so they wanted to reach some destination before it got dark and they did it in style. After having amazing tea, opting for free Wi-Fi and posting ‘irutarayil moratu kuthu’ selfie, we proceeded towards our tent. I didn’t sit the whole day except for Othae Maram. Sharmi noted that and told me to sit at least once we entered the tea estate J Quite observant.  I wanted to check my endurance thus that move, nothing else.

We warmed down near dinner place and settled for dinner. A very hard Chapati with chicken and Rice. Chicken curry was good but Chapati gave some serious scares so I didn’t ask for repeat. They were thinking a lot about giving a second serve of Chicken. That was quite unexpected. I could see how the place was getting commercialized. But somehow managed to get a second fill and had a satisfying dinner.

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Within minutes we went to tent, stayed for a while at camp fire and I slept first. My usual thing. The stars were beautiful and there were people with loud music partying for New Year but they looked meek in front of us. That’s what walking could do to you. Mani and I settled in a tent and I was telling him, how five starish it looks when compared to Tadiandamol where the tent was wet and dinner was bread. Weather was great, right amount of chill to enjoy and cozy sleeping bag. With aching limbs and satisfying heart I slept really well. Except for once where I had to loo. Somehow I wasn’t worried about the next day, my usual habit, I somehow had a gut feeling that I’d be completing the trek.

Day 2 – Elation

12/31/2017

Day started at 4.30 AM sharp. Coimbatore folks had opted out of trek to Meesapulimala peak. So with the remaining team we started off on the dot. Again great discipline. We had tea near the counter and started the walk. It was dark and cold in the morning and Shiva was wearing sandals which made him feel even colder. Beyond a certain point I, Selva, Richie, Shiva, Arvind and Mani started walking first. As I knew the route I hurried past everyone. Rest of the guys too agreed to the point of covering as much distance before the sunrise. I guess the sunrise point is somewhere before the actual peak but we didn’t stop anywhere and proceeded.

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By the time we reached the Tamil Nadu – Kerala border there was visibility. We could see the peak in front of us. That peak which was not even visible last time around. Selva, Richie, Shiva and Arvind proceeded at a brisk pace. While we were walking we could see the horizon and sun slowly coming out. Everyone were giving different kind of expression. As I was walking last, I could see everyone’s face glued to the mighty sun, the sun which we hate daily. It was so nice to see real joyful elation. It was like meditation. I turned back a few times to view it. It was of course beautiful but I didn’t want to stop before reaching the peak. At certain point, everyone were mesmerized by the beauty of sunrise and stopped to take photo, video, time lapse etc. but I proceeded towards the peak and reach there first. To spread the hands and shout out success inside me felt brilliant. Job done! But Job not Well Done yet as I had to complete the trek.

But those few moments at the peak was brilliant. Mani and Prabha were nowhere to be seen. One of the two guys reached there. It was first time for him too. The view was brilliant but sunrise was the one which stood apart. I haven’t seen anything like that before. We took few silhouettes and selfies and started our way back

The return from the peak was scary due to elevation. We saw Prabha climbing up with our guide. Arvind and I reached in quick succession to the camp site. We met Mani there who told that he wasn’t confident about climbing the peak due to elevation. Not confident both physically and technically. Wise decision to make. Selva, Shiva and Richie too came down at 8 AM. I was getting hungry by 7 AM but unfortunately the breakfast was not ready. We met with the remaining Coimbtore gang who were lazing around. We got breakfast in some time. After hogging we went to tent to finish our packing and Prabha had come by then. But in all, we wasted close to 3 hours there. We couldn’t put our bags in jeep because it would not be possible to take it again to the stream where we had planned to take bath. In the mean time we took a lot of good photos and relaxed before the decent.

We started exactly at 11 AM after packing Parotta for lunch. Within an hour or so we reached Othae Maram and had our lunch there. Parotta was chewy but the peas masala made for it. Shiva and Mani discussed world movies en route. Within few minutes we started off from there and walked at swift pace. At a point I lost track and got doubt about the path so I started walking back, luckily Mani and co weren’t far away so we continued tracing the route to Kurangani. We stopped at two water points to fill water but we didn’t have much thirst while climbing down. Again I made a point to not sit anywhere. Everyone walked real fast and reached our destination in a couple of hours.

We bribed a couple of people there and went to stream. Had a great relaxing cold bath and fish pedicure. Also did some underwater stretches. It felt great but I had to control a lot to not sleep. We had an amazing Sarbat in Kurangani as tea was not available. We couldn’t spot the Coimbatore gang. Everyone there said that they hadn’t seen the jeep yet. So the Chennai team sans Prabha decided to take the return bus to Bodi. Luckily by the time we left we saw our guide who informed us that they were waiting for us to enter the stream. So we started off waving good bye to Prabha and guides.

In bus the locals were talking about certain murder which happened in that area the previous day but we weren’t very excited about the gossip. We reached Bodi before 6. I thought of spending some time in bus stand and then taking bus to Theni but others suggested to reach Theni and finish dinner. That was wise as well. I wasn’t feeling very hungry but we got down at Theni Old Bus Stand and searched for Vaigai Hotel, which a passerby suggested last time but that looked like a star hotel, so went to Hotel Thatti Vilas and had a feast of Mutton Biryani, Kuska, Parotta, Kari Dosa, Dosa, Mutton Chukka and Nattu Kozhi Kuruma. Everything was brilliant. Shiva was asking for Brinjal Curry without knowing that it’s a Bai Kadai dish and not south’s dish. I loved everything except for Kari Dosa. Except that everything was authentic and tasty.

From there we took a share auto to Theni New Bus Stand, something I hate. But we had good time pass. I was lamenting, thinking about another year and life in general. In the meantime having Theni special sweets Paal Bonda and some mittai kind of thinks, thanks to Arvind to introduce both to us. On another side Selva and Richie were discussion about Economy or something which I wasn’t really interested.

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Bus as usual came late and as soon as we got it, wished each other Happy New Year, I switched off the phone and slept. With that much tiredness I didn’t want to be woken up for anything at all. It was a great way to end the year, beaming with pride and satisfaction. All is well that ends well.

 

 

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It was a long hauled plan. It was even more important because last time the plan was cancelled at last minute and I had to waste a four day holiday at home. So to make it happen and make it happening was amazing.

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Day 0 – Special One

12/22/2017

I’ve never taken leave on the day of travel. Because I would feel like it’s a waste of leave. If I take leave I plan to leave the previous working day. So this was special one. I had some work in the morning so the guilty pleasure was filled to the brim. In fact the whole trip was a guilty pleasure one. As one of my trips had got cancelled I had lot of leaves remaining, plus it was the year end so I let go everything and start afresh in the New Year. So Friday leave was the first of it.

Wasted the day in a lovely manner by packing, watching TV, FB etc. and started pretty early to the central. Still had to shell our multiple*x fares in cab. The roads were busy as it was a long holiday but surprisingly Central wasn’t. As I travel only on long holidays I was surprised that there was very less crowd.

Once in Central we met up with my relatives and logged in to Rail Wi-Fi to check in another new place. Bhuvaneswar Express of course was crowded but not as much as our last time so it was fine. All of us got tickets together in the same coupe so it was fun. We finished our packed dinner within few minutes the train started. It indeed was awesome.

Day 1 – Overwhelmingly Religious Day

12/23/2017

We met with Krishna, friend of friend who in fact designed the whole trip excellently for us. We quickly settled in an Ertiga and Alto and checked in his penthouse. He had in fact arranged two of it but one was big enough to hold 7. After quickly freshening up and having breakfast, not to forget the excellent filter coffee, of which the taste still lingers in our mouth, we kick started our tour.

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We started off for a long journey to Ryali Sri Jaganmohini Keshava Swamy Temple, the route to Ryali was beautiful, and we could see Godavari on one side throughout the journey. There were also shops selling Andhra’s famous dish, Pootharekulu almost throughout the journey. As I have had it multiple times since I have an Andhra teammate I wasn’t interested much. Towards the last part of journey we saw beautiful rice fields. Finally coming to the temple, it was a small but famous one it seems. Severely reminded us of Hayagreevar Temple in Chettipunyam. The priest there insisted us to have lunch so we waited for a while for biometric test and finally had an excellent lunch. In every trip I end up getting food in at least one temple. One of the priest also made sure that we understood the history of the temple by making a passerby translate the story from Telugu to English.

Opposite to the temple was Uma Kamandaleswara Swamy Temple, another temple rich in history. More interesting than that was the Ayyappan Temple behind it. For the first time saw a black Ayyappan deity.

Post lunch we informed Krishna about returning home. He said he’d have the lunch parceled to our resort so that we can have that as the dinner. So in the evening we started off around 4 PM to Pattiseema. Thinking about Krishna’s filter coffee we were searching for tea shops. Luckily we got an excellent tea shop. My uncle had two teas instead of one.

The boat journey from road to Sri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple was brilliant. We shot few sunset photos and took a long walk to temple. The temple had only us inside and every priest in front of every deity insisted us to say our Rasi, Natchathiram etc. So that took a lot of time but I was amazed by the dedication of the priests. Especially the last one, in spite of it being the closing time and only us being there. By far the most dedicated priests I’ve ever seen. And my most favorite place of the all.

The return journey to boat was quite an adventure as the son had started to set and in few minutes it became dark. On top of it the boat got stuck and we were stranded for quite a while which was fun. Finally we reached the resort and had an amazing dinner and sound sleep.

Day 2 – Cruise Mode

12/24/2017

Highlight of the trip is the Godavari cruise. That’s why people throng Rajahmundry. So as expected it was crowded. From our resort to the cruise we had to take two trips because it was a small car. We reached the place on the dot.

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As soon as we entered the boat and settled in the best possible seat we got our breakfast. Idly, Vada and Upma with Upma being the best. Within few minutes the irritating cultural program started. One bro tip. Never sit on the side which has speaker. My ear pained one whole day due to high volume. The cultural extravaganza was an absolute disaster as we couldn’t understand the language and also there was a constant fear of being called on stage. Meanwhile my family was being humiliated.  So I sat on ground floor for major part of the day except while having breakfast and snacks.

We ordered extra non veg items like chicken, fish etc. which was decent. But I liked the veg items even better. While returning we got down at Perantalapalli which housed a temple and interesting variety of bamboo items. I’d have loved to buy them but didn’t as I couldn’t maintain them.

Again while returning I went downstairs as soon as cultural program stared and sat there enjoying the sunset. But the journey was a bit stretched than expected so by the time we came out we were all dead tired. But it was such a relief to see our driver waiting for us. I could see the joy in everyone’s face. From there it was a nice long journey to Krishna’s house. By far my most favorite car journey of the trip was that night. Everyone were tired and happy and felt that the trip was totally worth the money.

But the best was yet to come. We knew that we had dinner ready but didn’t know that it’d be a seven course meal. Every one of us hogged like hell. There were so many side dishes that I stopped eating rice and had one side dish as side dish for another side dish. And then the dessert so it was beyond full. We ended the day with a quick visit to Godavari river and a quick round of Kovvur sightseeing.

Day 3 – Whirlwind Final Day

12/24/2017

It was a very tiring morning to get up but somehow we managed to get up and start by 9 AM. We had sample Pesarattu which was the best I’ve ever tasted. Whatever we get in Chennai are not the real ones. I understood only then. The sample one was enough for us to survive till lunch. We set up around 9 AM and went first to Rampachodavaram falls. It was a nice little falls and to our advantage we had the falls all for ourselves. Most of us took bath and got few photos clicked. We had amazingly unique Chicken Biryani (nice and spicy) and meals. Both Veg and Non Veg options were awesome.

 

Next we went to Jalatarangini waterfalls, another waterfall in Maredumilli but it was more crowded and risky. We did best by taking bath in Rampachodavaram. The road to the falls was awesome with forest cover. Also there was a boating point which was picturesque. While returning we stopped there to take photos and also bought Bamboo Chicken en route.

We reached Rajahmundry around 7 PM and went for a whirlwind tour of the city. Bought the paper sweet famous there called Pootharekulu and had all three types of Rose Milk along with Chili Bajji. Chilli Bajji would be my pic of the day with a lot of flavors.

Tension started to build up as we had only very less time to catch the train. Also the restaurant we went was crowded. After a lot of yes and nos we finally opted to parcel and everyone except me returned home. I took the parcel and went home. By then the luggage were almost pack. We finally bid goodbye to Krishna and family for awesome hospitality. Had dinner including bamboo chicken at the railway station. The train was late by half an hour and as I was dead tired I slept immediately.

I even took off the next day. Another first!

 

I don’t go for treks just because I like it, especially the long ones. It’s like my self-evaluation cycle. I keep it into two phases, one before trek and one after it. So failing in a trek leads to a lot of disappointment, not just for the trek but even for life.

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Day 1 – Flight Mode

10/21/2017

After a lot of last minute flight changes by the Great Royal Nepal Airlines I had to cancel my Chennai to Delhi flight and take the 2’o clock one to Delhi. The only good thing was that the food was free in Jet Airways but other than that nothing, didn’t even have air hostess. Air stewards served us. But the 2’o clock flight is lot better than early morning flight where I’d have had to sleep and get up early. I kind of tried to sleep in flight but it was very uncomfortable.

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I reached Delhi airport and it was amazing. Luckily for me my domestic flight also landed at the same terminal, T3 so I didn’t have to take the bus, which I was not aware of till then. One look at the airport and I was like wow. Delhi airport is always fun. Only I wish they extend the free Wi-Fi time.

After checking in I got my passport stamped, which felt good, because I didn’t know that they’d do it. It was fun to check out the duty free shops and number of liquor bottles too. They were for great prices. At around 9 AM Kaustubh called me first but it was Shashidhar whom I first met. After going through every nook and corner of the airport we boarded the flight.

I didn’t like the look of the flight and also it didn’t have push back but food was good and for the first time got beer in flight. But again couldn’t sleep. I was getting more and more tired.

Once I reached Nepal we tried to get cab after coming out of airport campus, but he asked a whopping 700 NPR for it. So we decided to go by bus, after a lot of suggestions we took bus for 15 NPR and then again cab. Our aim to go to Thamel in bus was a failure.

We liked the initial look and feel of Zostel. Soon after getting freshened up I went for a long pending deep sleep and woke up at 6.30 but still was hell tired. Zostel kitchen was closed, which was a blessing in disguise so we went to Or2K restaurant which was quite happening. Also got a having a nice conversation with a cute Israeli girl. Thank you Falafel!

Zostel at night was even more happening, be it guitar, songs or rooftop lounge. But due to early morning flight the next day, I had to sleep early.

Day 2 – Lukla – Phakding: More flight and slight walk

10/22/2017

It was yet another yearly morning start. Kaustubh, Shashidhar and I woke up at 3.30 AM in the morning and got a cab in half an hour. It was funny to see the airport locked at 4.30 AM but people began to swarm in.

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As soon as it opened we checked in the luggage and got to flights. Shashidhar and I were able to take the 6.15 AM flight but Kaustubh had to wait for his turn. The flight wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. Once at Lukla we met Abhilash the trek Leader and Mukesh, the co-leader.

We walked here and there for a while and had breakfast. I had Chapathi which was the worst I’ve ever had. It was so hard that my tooth started aching for the next few days.

There were few who couldn’t get that day’s flight so we started off to Phakding post lunch, after having a detailed briefing. The descent to Phakding was decent but towards the end I started getting tired and also was getting slight headache.

Once we reached Phakding, we did a quick stretching and had Tea followed by dinner. At night again it was getting cold.

Day 3 – Phakding – Namche Bazaar: Where the problem started

10/23/2017

After a good night’s sleep, in fact after three days I had proper sleep. So felt great that day morning. We started off on time and reached the lunch point, Jorsalle. Lunch was the usual Dal Bhat. We chanted our war cry, ‘Dal Bhat power 24 hour’ and had the same.

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Problem started here. Post lunch I felt really tired and was feeling breathless. I was continuously coming at the last. That was so unlikely of me. Towards the end I was panting like anything and had to give off my bag to Mukesh. That felt even worse. Never had it happened with me before.

Finally I reached there, had tea and went to room to rest post dinner. I was also burping and farting like hell, if that was not enough, post dinner I got dysentery and had to go to rest room every half an hour. In spite of that I had a good night’s sleep.

I decided that I would not be continuing the trek that night.

Day 4 – Rest Day at Namche Bazaar

10/24/2017

When everyone went to see to Everest View Point I decided to stay at the tea house and rest. That felt good, especially due to Wi-Fi. Also I had good day time sleep.

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By the time I woke up for lunch the remaining folks had come and Pradeep was busy acting as Trek Leader. But I wasn’t in a mood to enjoy anything. I went along with them for a short walk to museum. Walked quite slowly, was feeling slightly heavy breathing but felt good while coming down. So at night I told Abhilash that I’d continue to the trek and take it forward depending on the next day’s outcome.

But after an hour of sleep I again had dysentery. That’s when I decided enough is enough.

Day 4 – Long Walk Back: Namche Bazaar – Lukla

10/25/2017

I and Divakar decided to return back to Lukla that day, without bags of course. I had to shell out 1500 NPR for that but that was nothing compared to the amount I spent otherwise for the trip.

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It was a slow boring walk. Felt horrible doing that. I have never walked so slow in my life, let alone in trek. Finally reached Lukla airport at 4.30 PM to see the last flight going. Divakar got the flight but I had to wait for one more day.

I was tired beyond words, got a room finally after checking a couple of lodges. With free Wi-Fi and decent dinner it was a good deal. Only annoying thing was the little girl there who locked my room at night but I somehow found out so took the help of people next door to open it.

Day 5 – Lukla to Kathmandu

10/26/2017

Went there early morning for flight but had to wait till 11. I went back again to the hotel and had an amazing conversation with one German gentleman who told that he has been trekking the Himalayas for the part 20 – 30 years and how that helped him in having an organic bypass surgery. I think that conversation is going to serve as an inspiration for future.

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Once I reached Kathmandu I checked the tickets to Chennai and found it to be very high so decided to go back to Zostel. I stayed in Fireflies instead of Zostel, which was even better in facilities when compared to Zostel, just the space was little less.

Had a terrific dinner at Yangling with Buff Sadheko which is nothing but a salad with Buffalo meat which was amazing complemented well by Somersby Cider and Buff Kothey Momo which is pan fried momo, again was amazing. Ate like hell after such a long time and had a sound sleep.

Day 6 – Back Home: Kathmandu – Chennai

10/27/2017

Took an Indigo flight from Kathmandu to Chennai, a horrible one in which I didn’t get any food. After reaching Delhi, browsed again through duty free and went to T1 airport in bus. It took a lot of time. As it was Friday night it was crowded like hell but somehow I got a seat to feast on KFC chicken and Costa’s cold coffee. The former was great but the latter wasn’t.

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The flight from Delhi to Chennai was a mess which stopped at Jaipur once and then came here so a lot of disturbance was there. But I was relieved that I finally reached home after a disastrous trip.

Totally I spent around 1.5 lakhs for this trip, which would be my savings out of all the trips that I’ve done so far and I can’t spend on anything at least for the next one year. Huge huge loss for me.

This would be my best title for my travelogue ever. Thanks to the t shirt quotes I saw over there.

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Day 0 – The Great Escape

9/28/2017

This time it was a tense Thursday with project deadlines and lot of drama in team. My project has more drama than my life. Worst! So had to escape early, as usual for 13.30 train to Bangalore. That has become my regular abode. And for the first time the train got late by half an hour, which time I used to share/read updates in FB.

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I didn’t have lunch, thanks to my guilty pleasure of having Murugan Idly Kadai breakfast in the morning. But the snacks in train this time were awesome. Reminded of my good old days with grandmother when I used to travel to Madurai as a kid and eat everything under the roof. So in the midst of endless conversation we also had Bajji, Bonda, Badam Milk etc.

Weather was awesome, train was late by an hour I think. We gave the window seat to one person so that we can sit together. For the first time didn’t even feel like I missed the window seat, we talked that much. Talked so much that my mouth started hurting (Today’s gyan. There is no such word called as ‘paining’). Admire the energy of Soma.

Once we reached Bangalore, it started raining but not as much as it was doing in the previous days. So we first hurried to the bus stand so that we shouldn’t miss the bus. This we did in spite of knowing that Bangalore buses would never come on time. Dinner was really good for a bus stand restaurant.

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After filling up bottles we went to our platform. Discovered that there is a bus stand outside the bus stand. Bangalore and Bus Terminals. Lots of chicks everywhere. Surprisingly our bus came on time and started in fifteen minutes. Felt great sitting on top of the sleeper and seeing the world outside. Felt as if I was sitting on an elephant. Plus the curly haired girl (who would be my crush for next three days) was at a visible distance from there. So got a nice view before going for a sound sleep.

Day 1 – For the Weather

9/29/2017

Had a great sleep, weather was super awesome. Got up few minutes before Hospet. Roads were bad but felt great from upper berth. Most of them got down at Hospet so I and Soma alone were there in bus. It was a great feel. Things turn up great after morning chai.

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We reached Hampi in about half an hour. It was a majestic feel to enter the land of boulders. It was like seeing Taj Mahal for the first time. We had breakfast there in some tea shop, little did we knew that he’d be our advisor for the next three days. He seemed to be nice guy and Soma bought a really informative guide book in that gap.

As per the shopkeepers advice we went to the boating point and went to the other side of the river. Per person it was Rs. 50, rather than the regular Rs. 10. They are spoiling their own business. Crossing the river we met the person whom we had called and got the bike for Rs. 400 (costly again) and room for the same cost. That wasn’t a room at all, a makeshift hut we got for Rs. 400.

It took a while to get ready. Soma’s excitement started as soon as he saw grass, so we rolled whatever stuff we had but didn’t give any kick. We then took bath and got ready in few minutes and started off our journey. Our first task was to get to the petrol bunk and visit places en route. Luckily our first stop was Anjani Parvat, the birthplace of Anjaneya. Great place with great view. Got few really good clicks. We followed it by Pampa Sarovar, not before being asked for marijuana by a road side peddler, had a mandatory sugarcane juice and the usual free meals in temple. Somehow the gods are always kind on me by providing free food wherever I go. Then we went to Durga Temple. What a coincidence that we got to go there on the eve of Durga Pooja. Colors were great and the music inside was divine.

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We then directly went to the petrol bunk and filled petrol for Rs. 150. We didn’t know that the bike was not allowed in Hampi area so it was waste of money. Lesson learnt, never fill petrol for more than a day’s ride. We took the road straight to Chintamani Temple, it had Ramar’s steps inside it but the boys inside it were irritating, asking for alms. The kid who said that he doesn’t have parents and wanted five rupees for that, turned around and ran free within a second of me rejecting him, Soma settled near the water. There were also an upper middle class family with kids enjoying the surrounding. It was nice to see them living a simple life. Nearby it were the Hachappa Mantapa and Jama Masjid.

We asked a local nearby for the nearby landmarks. He told about them excellently. One good thing about Hampi is everyone talks excellent English. Even though fake, it solves the language problem at least. Then we went to Ranganath Temple which felt like home followed by 65 Pillar Mantapa and Navabrindavan which we saw from a distance. While returning we went to Gagan Mahal which looked smaller than a Kings servant’s place.

I was happy that I could cover all the places in Anegondi side. While returning, weather was awesome with light drizzles, we asked a local about where to eat food, and he suggested Virupapura Gadde, the hippie joint of Hampi. We decided that we’re never going to eat in the place we stayed. Not worth the money. We settled in a nice restaurant called Dudu Falafel with beds and free Wi-Fi. There was one fake server who was talking fake English with fake accent and telling us the story of Hampi. On how rooms had become costly etc. We had a mug of beer each and I opted for a coke and rum too. Gave me correct high. Food was really good too.

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Room looked scary, Soma told about insects getting into ear and wearing earphones so we decided to stay outside, which was not a good idea. Mosquites was biting like hell instead of two layers of Odomos. Good that at least we didn’t get sick but I got up at 1’o clock and started reading the Hampi guide book thinking I wouldn’t be able to sleep post that but luckily I did.

Day 2 – A Day of Walks

9/30/2017

Day started early. Thanks to mozzies. Got freshened up and started off. We had Idly and super spicy coconut chutney is a nearby tea shop. We got to know that we couldn’t take bikes to the other side. So we stayed there for the bike guy to come, sighting foreigners and seeing a kid cajole a Japanese guy. That was a funny incident. He was the kid who showed us the bike. He had somehow spotted a guy from Japan and took him to see room. He had suggested a room for some money but the Japanese guy was insisting for nothing more than Rs. 300. While the Japanese guy was walking past him, he yelled him as “oi Japan…” which was funny like hell. That kept us in splits for quite a long time.

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The bike guy came and we got one liter petrol from him. Another one liter wasted. As it was before 9 AM the ferry person was asking for Rs. 100 per head. And people were giving so much money too. We bargained for Rs. 50 but still it’s high. Hope they learn their lesson.

Once we crossed the river we started off our sightseeing with the itinerary that I had marked. Kadalekalu Ganesha, Sasivekalu Ganesha, Krishna Bazaar (where we took few bad photos), Krishna Temple, Badavalinga Temple, Lakshmi Narasimha Temple (had sugarcane juice and lime soda), Chandikesvara Temple, Uddana Veerabhadra Temple. We completed the places in Sacred Center sans Virupaksha Temple. As it was near the Hampi Bus Stand we thought we could go there at any time.

After a few minutes’ walk we entered the Royal Center by taking a leak against Akka Tangi Gundu. Hope the sisters didn’t mind. It was a big route to cover and our water resources were already empty. We somehow pushed ourselves and covered all the places there which includes Underground Siva Temple, Nobleman’s Quarters, Mohammadan Watch Tower, Palace of Krishna Devaraya, Granaries, Band Tower, Mosque, Elephant stables, Zenena Enclosure (cover this along with Vittala temple and Archeological Museum on same day as this ticket is valid the on all three places. But we couldn’t as we went by walk), Teneali Rama Pavilion, Srinagarada Hebbagilu, Parshwanatha Temple, Ranga Temple, Octogonal bath, Kings Audience Hall, Large Stone Trough, Yellamma Temple, Hazara Rama temple, Mahanavami Dibba and Queen’s Bath before finally hitting the road. Saraswathi Temple, Chandrashekara Temple, Stepped and Tank were in the next left.

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Our next agenda was to reach Kamalapura for lunch. Thali meals for Rs. 70 in the super crowded Sai Hotel was decent. More than the food it was the water which was tasty there. It’s not the only restaurant there, if you walk few meters there are a lot of veg/non veg restaurants but it was crowded may be because its famous or may be because it was the one which catches your attention first. We had a friendly chat with the people who shared our table. We followed it up by a great fruit mixture and an even great conversationalist who suggested how to take share auto if we don’t get bus. But we had all the time in the world so we waited for bus. We used the time to visit the Archeological Museum which was crap but at least didn’t spend an extra thirty rupees for that.

We took the bus from there and reached Hampi Bus Stand and went to Virupasksha Temple, thus completing the whole circle. Temple wasn’t as great as I thought. Once crossing the river, I had to go to room to take bath. Soma said he’d stay back for his Turkish Coffee. I got lift both to and fro. He was in Dudu Falafel, which had become our second home by then.

We wanted to try out another restaurant. We had Nargila Restaurant in mind. And the thought got strengthened by a person we met in boat who said he’d be playing live music there. He has a shop next to the restaurant and sells music goods in the evening there and near the temple in the morning. Ambience of the restaurant was good but it was very crowded. Live music and Bon Fire were done in rounds. Best part was the girl to my right who was continuously making fun of the waiter. She first asked for Smirnoff, the waiter didn’t have a clue what it was, he said only MC was available. She didn’t know what MC is, high class may be, then she asked in local tone, nasha hoga na? Lol. Ordered Vodka finally. The waiter took a long time to deliver but had a funny expression so none got angry. Finally when he came with Vodka in plastic glass, it didn’t look like 60 ml, the girl said that too. I loved her expression.

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Beyond her was my curly haired darling, in addition to curly hair she had great eyes which got lit up in the candle light. I had unprecedented access to look at her face and I kept doing that till I got food. Loved the way she was smoking up, very classy woman. We got our food which was great but having to order separate dish for veg and non-veg made it heavy. We then walked our way to our tent to crash.

But once in our place we got to smoke up all kinds of stuff in all kinds of instrument with all kinds of people. There was an Israeli, Kannadiga, Malayalee and us. Hearing Music Mojo Malayalam songs with rain in the background was awesome. The Mallu couple we met were true to the saying, ‘young and stupid’. They looked very cute together. It kind of made me depressingly happy, like watching a good movie. I don’t generally collect numbers or Facebook IDs of people I meet during trip until asked by them. But I’ll never forget them. Hope they be happy together forever.

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When the guy asked about our departure and we said that its next day, he felt genuinely bad, he said, “Oh we just got to know.” If he expressed that in words, she expressed that in her face. Really cute couple.

Day 3– For the love of all

10/1/2017

Had a very good night’s sleep, thanks to Mosquito net and highness. Soma woke me up telling Smitha had already reached. So we quickly but not so quickly got ready, paid our hotel rent, gifted away my headphones and set off to welcome her. Like she said, it felt nothing different, felt like meeting a schoolmate on the next day of school.

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Initially thought of meeting Smitha at Hampi side but just to give her the taste of it, we invited to this side and reserved the best breakfast for her. German Bakery was awesome again with free Wi-Fi and excellently decorated and tasty food.

We didn’t feel like leaving at all but we had to. We placed our bag at the tea shop, asked him to keep the petrol and bought Bajji for namesake, which was actually tasty too. We started our trip at Monolithic Bull (Nandi) and continued with Kampa Bhupa’s Bath, Yantrodharaka Anjaneya Temple, Varaha Temple, Chakratirtha, Courtesan’s Temple, Acyuta Raya’s Temple (where we stayed a good amount of time and got a laddu as Prasad as well), Kodandarama Temple, Chakratirtha, Sugreeva’s Cave, Narasimha Temple, Ancient Bridge, Two Storied Temple, Inscribed Vishnu Temple, Vittala Bazaar and Vittala Temple. Best part of the day was how relaxed we did these places.

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We had lunch at the much coveted Mango Tree, if you go there don’t miss out on Banofee Pie. And here comes the best part, our trek to Matunga Hill. After all the huffs and puffs the sun decided to play hide and seek and got hidden off completely. This happened after all the slips and falls by Smitha and Soma. Even the photos we took there wasn’t that great. Anyways it was a nice experience.

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The next two hours we sat near tea shop and chatted and followed it up for the next three hours in bus. It was fun using sleeper bus. All of us could sit together. Ever since Smitha came Soma was in full form but his peak form started when the guy behind asked him to switch off light. That continued till the end of trip.

Day 4 – Bangalore Day

10/2/2017

A day of doing nothing. We reached Bangalore around 5 AM and went to Hotel Vardhaman Paradise before 6 AM. It was a total VFM.

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We kept on deciding on where to go. Everyone were lazy so we opted out of Nandi Hills. Oct 2 being a dry day we couldn’t think much of other places. So once we had a nice breakfast near our place we decided to go the movie ‘It’. Booked a cab immediately and went there on time. It’s always a good to go to Sathyam for their Doughnut and Cold Coffee. Film was super bad.

From there we took a long walk to Nandhana Palace where food was great. That place also serves liquor, how good it’d be if restaurants like these serve liquor. We took cab and came back to room. We watched Rang De Basanti for some time and dropped Smitha to Railway station. Back to the room we had dinner with a slight upset stomach and headed for bus. We had to take a sleeper bus and then the main bus at Madivala. Asian Xpress was really comfortable and staff were courteous.

Happy Ending!

Misadventures are the greatest adventures

– You know who

Day 0 – Mode Change

8/24/2017

For a change I was to take bus this time, I don’t know when was the last time I travelled by bus first up to start a trip. I don’t think, I haven’t whenever it was with friends. May be with family, that too only in dire urgency and only to home town. So in a way it was a different experience. Not that I was looking forward to. Trains are the best. Period. But still new is awesome, so wasn’t a problem.

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So the great game of leaving early, cajoling clients etc. happened throughout the day. Trust me, it’s tougher than making Cersei accept to be your ally. But I’ve become a pro at that so it wasn’t a thing to worry.

After getting to know that 3’o clock bus would go to CMBT, got there half an hour before, still it was crowded, it’s a regular affair during long weekends and worst is when the driver refused to keep my big bag in front. So had to toggle around with it.

It took a good 2.5 hours to reach CMBT from office. Not that I complain. My bus is at 18:30 so to spend one hour wasn’t a big deal. I thought of going late to CMBT by taking train but in the end this looked to be the best option.

My friend, Pandi called when I was in bus, we were supposed to meet. As usual he was late and it was a big mess around CMBT, each calling each other a number of times to locate. All thanks to him. By that time Siva had come and located where the bus would stop. For few moments sitting inside CMBT felt good as it was near my previous residence and I used to change bus frequently during my college times.

Once the mandatory tea was over with Pandi, I went inside and met with Siva who asked about my tonsured head. Then I had to change to trekking costume as the plan was to start trekking the very next day. Now that was a herculean task. No not trekking but changing dress. If anyone had changed their dress in public toilet you’d know what I mean. That required certain specific skill like that of magician. The floor is wet, there would not be any holders, you won’t have enough hands to hold everything and further you can’t lean on even a single side of wall. So to come out of it, I felt exasperated.

Post that it wasn’t a big deal, when we got on the bus, the driver asked where we were as he was calling our names, seems the bus was behind other buses. Anyways it’s not because of us that the bus got late. The bus waited a good twenty minutes even after we boarded in which time I had a sweet savory from Tea Kadai. Don’t know what’s it called? Guess mutagose.

The 18:30 bus started at 19:00, not bad. The bus was quite comfortable and there wasn’t as much traffic as I expected. But annoying thing was to go through the same route again. I was okay with the highway but Perungulathur to Mahindra City was annoying. Only happiness was seeing IT women waiting for bus. Also the smell of parotta, vadai, curry etc. was awesome. We asked the conductor whether they’d stop for dinner, as they acknowledged we didn’t eat anything in the middle.

To pass time I watched Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 2 which was horrible, I haven’t watched the first, which made it even worse. It was around 23:30 and they showed no signs of stopping so I slept and immediately at midnight they stopped in the worst restaurant in the stretch. Everything other than that were looking good. We were scared so we resorted to plain milk that too for twenty rupees per cup. Chips was thirty five rupees so we didn’t feel like paying that much for it too. Everything else was scary. We slept immediately post that.

Day 1 – Misadventures, minute by minute

8/25/2017

If only one could think that so many things could go wrong on a single day. Thinking back it looks like a long day. It sure was, I’m sure my friends would agree.

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I got up at Theni and it was just half an hour drive from there to Bodi. Roads were awesome, so was the weather. The place was beautiful. We got down at Bodi and got to know that it’d take more than an hour for Mohan to come. He was coming from Bangalore to Theni. So we were lazing around, having tea, finding the best toilets etc. Then we decided to take a walk. We found a Saravana Bhavan which serves non veg. Irony with a capital I. Then we went along the Bazaar Street and found a good Veg Restaurant in the name of Raj Bhavan. We waited opposite to that restaurant for Mohan. In the meantime I inquired where we can have good non veg food from the flower seller opposite the restaurant. He recommended Karuna Hotel. ‘Arumaya Seivanga’ was his comment.

Once Mohan came we had a feast at Raj Bhavan. We all were very hungry so everyone had two rounds of food. It was amazing. South is the best place to travel as the food would be amazing and to my taste. While eating Mohan told an interesting story. He seemed to have boarded a running bus from Theni to Bodi with huge luggage (Both of us were carrying tents in our bag). One person in bus seemed to have asked him why he was getting on running bus and after inquiring his whereabouts he seemed to have given seat. “Oh Chennai ah… ukarunga…” After sitting Mohan had noticed that person had a Billhook (Arival*) inside his shirt. That story was hilarious.

Post breakfast we filled our water bottles, Mohan bought a water bottle, I don’t know why, and we went to Bodi to take bus to Kurangani. We got to know that for bus we need to wait a good 1.5 hours so decided for auto. One guy said it’s the same twenty rupees for share auto. So we decided we’d go in that. Meanwhile Mohan who so intently was searching only for Kissan jam bought Lion Dates jam.

When we inquired auto to Kurangani, he said two hundred rupees, we asked another one, and he said fifty extra. We thought we were cheated and settled for two hundred rupees. In auto it was good to catch up with travel and other stories of other mates. But Mohan was providing too much details and talking about money. That’s a bad thing to do in an Auto. The auto went on and on, only then it felt like the two hundred was worth it.

Ok so this is where the tables turn. As soon as we got down, we asked the auto driver and another person sitting in driver’s seat about the way to Kolukkumalai. They both showed a way in which we went and there was a security guard sitting there who inquired our whereabouts and said it was two hundred ticket per head which I thought we could have bargained as he gave only two tickets in the end. That thought didn’t occur to me. After getting the money his whole persona got changed, he was very sweet and showed us the start of way. In the meantime Mohan met his old college mate and they exchanged pleasantries.

We started off in the way he said, and like he said there was a water catchment area, from there he asked us to go straight up to a Jack Fruit tree and Old Building. That straight up wasn’t clear, we initially went through some path which was steep and not well trodden. Siva even at the hint of non-green area said that he had seen a trail. Seeing the peak we went in that direction for some time. But the path only got worse and risky after a point of time. Mohan got fed up and said he lost confidence. We went down and asked an old lady about the way, she told something and when I asked whether there is a road there, she said yes, then I told her we wanted to go through forest and mentioned what the forest officer told us. Then her husband asked us to proceed in the way we knew. I think he was fed up.

We went to the same point and this time we went to a place where there was a gate and the trail was clear. We went a long way along that point. The forest officer had told that there would be a depleted building along the way. There was a house there, we thought that was it and we were in correct path but only after going certain distance we saw another house from where a watchman shooed us away.

He asked where were we from, what brought us here, why do we want to climb jungle, people of forests might come hunt us, security dogs will come for us etc. etc. So disappointed we returned back. We thought we’d go tell the forest officer, what happened, but on return we didn’t find him so we went further down for lunch. Only one place was open which served the last of Lemon Rice they had. The Chutney was amazing. To have any food after a trek is amazing. We also bargained a 900 rupee room for 700 and stayed in it. It was a reasonable accommodation.

Once we checked in, we went for a bath in the catchment area which felt great and refreshing, I washed my quick dry’s as well, one big advantage of it. Back to the room, Mohan slept and Siva started watching series, I didn’t want to sleep so I didn’t have anything else to do other than to shoot pictures so shot some decent pictures from terrace.

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Once it was evening we went for tea and in some time for dinner. Dinner was not yet prepared by them at 7 PM. We waited there. As it was Vinayakar Chaturthi we got Pori and Kadalai as starters and then gobbled up dosas and omelets in frenzy.

It was a disastrous day alright but that’s what adventure is all about. Going by an organization, everything getting done by them, nothing to explore and nothing to learn. What’s the thrill in that. We failed but it was fun failing.

Day 2 – Of Sun, Air and Unexpected Luxury

8/26/2017

We started the day early. I got up at 5:30 AM for Siva’s alarm even though mine ringed late at 6 AM. This is the routine. I wake up to the first alarm that rings but it’d definitely not be mine. I tell people not to set up alarm before mine but it doesn’t happen. Immediately after getting up, we went to tea shop so that we can carry forward with the morning ablutions with ease, if you know what I mean. That was quite a success. We followed it up with breakfast of Idly, Vada and Onion Chutney prepared live in front of us, helped by us and served in lotus leaf. Now that was a first. Don’t think it’d have happened if we had come with an organization.

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Post settling bill, morning ablutions part two happened and there was a sense of fulfillment in all of our faces. We started off and went in the path everyone suggested. First identification was a water tank, post that we had locals walking with us for some time till a rock, we were asked to go right from that but there was no real path on right. We learnt out lessons. We followed the straight path up where the trail was clear. Everyone who had gone with guide are going to tell that there is only one path because we don’t see anything other than what we are asked to walk along, but when you go on your own you never know which is right and wrong.

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My bag was too heavy and I felt it that way this time. Sun was scorching, the previous day would have been better to trek but some things are not meant to happen. We thought the zig zag path was only for an hour or so but almost the entire path was a zig zag one till Kolukkumalai. Someone in blog had posted a wrong photo of another zig zag path that lead to the whole confusion. If you’re not providing the right details its fine but don’t spread the wrong ones.

After few hours we reached the lone tree (othae maram), that was a great place to rest. We got few good photos as well. To finalize the trail we went on the right hand side once but it wasn’t the correct one so we took the one going up. Sun was getting harsh so even to wait we were not getting any shade. I loved the moment where in a small shade we three sat and looked at mountains without talking anything. If someone sees, how funny it’d have looked. We spotted an eagle and waited there for some time looking at that.

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Post this, the breaks became frequent but we somehow entered the forest area and when I was about to feel relived I saw a forest pig cross me quickly. That was scary. It was really fast. I didn’t tell about it to others and want them to panic. But that was the exact moment Mohan was stopping for some reason. Somehow we hurried and went for some distance. Siva got a cramp. We started having Glucose from then which felt good. Post that the pain was annoying him for some time. Luckily it didn’t last long and he was able to speed up, in fact sped up faster than any of us in the last stretch. Less baggage also being an added advantage.

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Post the forest stretch two village temples of Iyyanar and Kali welcomed us. It was a great place for the gods and us. We saw the tea estate and tents in few minutes after we got freshened up there. We went to have tea. Had the first of the many amazing teas. Felt great. We were asking about where to pitch tents. The tea maker told there is a place.

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Our happiness lasted only few minutes, before the caretaker of the estate said that no camping was allowed. The only option was to opt for food plus stay for rupees Rs. 1600. We couldn’t bargain much. We settled for Rs. 1400 per head as we didn’t have any option.

I was pissed for a long time. We were fed great. Rice, sambar, rasam, beef curry, chicken fry, cabbage, papad and pickle. And all the while we were thinking where we were going to eat our bread and cheese. Now how’s that for lunch. I was still regretting to have paid so much even though we were treated well because it’s not that we wanted.

It started getting windy and cold then. For the first time I wore thermal wear for a trek in South India. Tents took a long time to materialize. We opted for a three man tent for us so that it’d be warm and a two man tent to keep the bags. The guy who came with tents went away after setting up the three man tent.

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After waiting for a couple of hours we went to have tea who didn’t take money from us as we were staying there and then tea factory, which was a good experience. Staffs there were happy to explain and very humble. No one were after money. We clicked a few good photos and watched what Kodaikanal peak was. It was a good evening.

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After we returned to room we saw that the two man tent was still not set up. Mohan and Siva set it up. We got Gobi Pakoda and Bajji with Coconut Chutney as snack. For the next couple of hours we rested there talking about various trips and stuffs and then went for camp fire which again was amazing. By this time I started loving the place and didn’t feel bad about spending Rs. 1400. Part of it was due the fact we got sleeping mat and sleeping bag around that time. For dinner we had Chapatti with Egg Curry and fruit custard as desert. I asked whether they had any beef remaining. The kitchen staff was shocked. Only then I got to know what we ate was mutton and not beef. But I’m sure it was not mutton. I’ve never had such hard mutton, if it’s one. It was amazing.

We had a sound sleep even though it drizzled and winds were heavy all through the night.

Day 3 – Task Incomplete

8/27/2017

We got up at 5 AM and started for the trek. Siva wanted to go from the path behind tent. It was not visible and we didn’t want to risk. So we took the road and started walking. Had a black tea in the ‘hotel’ above. It was windy and misty all throughout. It got bright in sometime. There were few ascents but it was walkable. We had doubts about the path every now and then.

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We then reached a point where there was absolutely no visibility and winds were heavy. So we returned back to a point where we saw another gang going that way. We told the way is not goable and they went in another path. We went in that path for a while and returned back thinking it’d not be the right way.

Mohan and I had heated arguments about the right path. Map showed a different path. I was saying it’d be the path around the mountains, he was saying otherwise. He was also telling that he had seen videos with so much mist and wind. I haven’t. I don’t generally watch videos. In whatever blog I read, nowhere it was written about the winds or mist.

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So while coming down dejectedly we saw another group climbing. Two travelers and their driver. He was a charming man. He told that the path we went was right. Prasobh who was using tripod as walking stick called us to accompany him. When we told about our plans to walk back to Kolukkumalai, he discussed with their driver that we could join in their jeep. I got really happy.

We accompanied them again to the peak to see if it was possible to climb. We went to the same point and few steps beyond that but the wind was unbearable. Prasobh and co too realized that. We went till the Tamil Nadu – Kerala border, Durai, the jeep driver told that stepping beyond that could end up fatal so we had to return back without even seeing the Meesapulimala peak. But at least now I was not that depressed. I knew at least that what we did till then was right. So I can plan properly when I go the next time. By the time I came back to the border I decided that I’d be doing this again during Dec 30 – 31 weekend, later this year.

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We raced back to our place so that we can finish packing and have breakfast. We had Kal Dosa, Puttu, Pazam and Kadalai Curry. Everything was so freaking awesome. Pazam especially. Keralities have the knack of making it. We gobbled up and headed back to tea shop with our bags to meet with them but we couldn’t spot them. Luckily we got Durai’s no. and called them from someone’s mobile there. We were asked to come to another tea shop, called the ‘restaurant’. That was quite far so were disappointed but luckily we met them after one short hike, which felt great.

We got on the jeep and went on for a long journey discussing Nivin Pauly, DQ, Fahad Fazil, Sivakarthikeyan, Velaikaran, Premam, Angamaly Diaries, Monsoon Mangoes etc.  One good thing about watching other language movies is this. It’d be an easy ice breaker. The driver first dropped them at their place, which was great and then to a Power House, where we’d get bus. Nice of them to have given us free ride. We only had to pay two hundred rupees to the driver for the last stretch.

It started raining, the place was heavenly with mist. A bus to Theni came but we missed because of wrong information from the people standing there. We then shifted to the bus stop opposite it where we could get shade. We got a Kerala bus. We had to wait for a good one hour to get that bus but locals said that to be the most comfortable one. Tamil Nadu bus according to them are not comfortable.

In the meantime… there was a person who was knowing everyone in that area and talking multiple languages and knowing when what bus would be coming. He also told how that part was converted to Kerala during some government. It was fun listening to him. Perks of going in public bus.

We finally got the bus which was super crowded. I went to the last row and stood. Others were in front. After struggling for about an hour I got a seat and even slept till they stopped for tea break. I was so damn hungry and I had Sweet Bonda, Salt Bonda and Tea. All was great.

From there to Theni it was still a long journey. Unluckily Mohan and Siva hadn’t got a seat. Siva could sleep while standing. Mohan was struggling more. Both got seats only during Bodi. From there it was just half an hour journey. I inquired for good non veg restaurant from a local who was standing near me. He suggested ‘Hotel Vaigai’ near Old Bus stand – Theni but we couldn’t go there as our bus was from new bus stand. That bus stand was the worst bus stand I’ve ever been to.

After getting down I asked about the option to go back to Vaigai Hotel but Siva said, “No more travel” and Mohan was tired and hungry. I could see it in the way he galloped food in the restaurant. I too could have had then but I didn’t want to feel hungry till later part of the day. So waited till 7 PM for dinner. Thanks to Siva for hotspot which kept me engaged with last three days messages till 7 PM. Mohan had to go to Old Bus Stand for his private bus. We parted ways. Siva and I went back to same restaurant.

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I had Mushroom Parotta, in Tamil it sounds lot more tangy, Kaalan Parotta. Siva had Idiyappam first and Ghee Roast next as per my suggestion. Kaalan Parotta was actually a mistake. I shouldn’t have had something with so much masala but this again was a trip which went without drinks so at least this much.

The bus took a long time to come. Again hotspot. Mohan went to the Old Bus Stand by walk. It was the right thing to do to kill time. After he boarded the bus, within minutes I slept off. In fact both of us were controlling our sleep so that we could sleep sound in bus.

Day 4 – Monday Morning Blues

8/28/2017

If that day being a Monday was not bad enough, being a Monday after long holiday was even worse. The bus guy was loading passengers. He even took people at Tindivanam so there was no place to even stand. But it wasn’t as tough to get down as I imagined. I luckily had two more people getting down at Mahindra City and none anywhere near. I was skeptical whether he’d stop there but nowadays everyone knows Mahindra City. I got free bus to office and logged in early avoiding the huge traffic jam which was post Mahindra City. Luck me!

*P.S: There is an English word called Arival for our Aruva. Never new before. Got it while trying to google for the right English word for Aruva.

 

Great trips start with greater purposes

– Of course it’s me

Day 0 – The Usual

8/11/2017

As usual the best part is the start. To go check in Chennai Central and mention the point of travel. Even though I’m annoyed by the number of times that I’ve to go to Bangalore as a rendezvous just for the sake of catching next bus or train. I can’t help it.

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It was the regular routine. I could copy paste any first paragraphs from my previous visits to Karnataka treks. Only this time it was more of a leisure trek rather than a proper trek. It was with my regular trek mates with Rajesh being the extra man and John from my office. Soma, who was supposed to join had to miss the trek due to some health conditions.

We boarded the 13:30 train. This time the weather was awesome with overcast and drizzles all around. It’s always good to catch up with old school gossips. This time more from Rajesh. Only after talking for a while, got to know that there was some ideology match between both of us. The general discussions on life, money, marriage etc. was the topic of discussion. Then various leelai’s of Seena did he explain. Just before getting down it started to pour. First time I had come without trek bag and rain coat and this happens but thankfully the rains lessened and we got to a restaurant and ordered meals, curd rice and dosa. It was average.

We then hurried to the bus stand and asked Balaji to hurry as well. All hurry burry led to nowhere as the bus took its own sweet time to come. The 22:15 bus came at 00:15. Bad that it didn’t beat the previous record of 00:30.

There were two things I was most expecting out of the trip. It’s not the beach trail. I knew how it was going to be. It was Airavat and Namaste Café. Latter I’ll talk later. Former was a disappointment right from the word go. Airavat was so hyped but it was just another AC semi sleeper bus with no comfort at all. Of Seater, Semi sleeper and Sleeper, Semi sleeper is the worst. It’s neither here, nor there. Every time they put breaks, you dig in some earth and come back. Though it didn’t spoil my sleep, I had to take all different positions to continue it.

Day 1 – Aandavan Irukan

8/12/2017

John who was coming from Alwaye reached our resort at 7 AM, the time we were supposed to reach Gokarna. But we were at Shimoga that time. So once I sent the photo of the hotel voucher, he checked in. It was told in reception that the other rooms would be available only by 1 PM. In a way good that we didn’t reach on time.

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From Shimoga to Gokarna the ride was pleasant with all greeneries and back waters. En route to Gokarna I got down to loo and I saw my friend Smitha’s doppelganger. I almost thought it was her and went to say ‘hi’ but decided against it at the last moment. Just that we wished the journey was not that long. Anyways nothing much to complain. So once we reached Gokarna around noon we took an auto to Namaste Café. It’s a standard rate for each beaches. Kudle – 100 rupees, Om – 150 rupees etc.

We took a couple of autos and John was waiting there at the gate for us. After some formal introduction to rest of the folks we checked in our room. The ambience of the resort was great but the rooms were average, definitely not worth the six thousand rupees we paid. Rooms had two one liter water bottles + towel and soaps. No room service and even for water we had to pay extra. Now, that’s atrocious. Will tell more in coming paragraphs.

We quickly got ready and decided that we’d have lunch in Gokarna, as anyways we’d have in Namaste in the next few days. Lunch at Pai’s restaurant was decent. Meals, Fried Rice, Onion Pakoda, Gobi Manchurian etc. Fried Rice was worst but rest was decent. Coffee was good too. In Gokarna you can see that majority of the places women seem to be working. It was the same in the case of Mizoram too. Don’t know whether its welcome change but something you’d notice immediately if you go to Gokarna. In lieu of that, Pai’s kitchen was totally handled by ladies.

Post lunch we took a long walk to explore places (mostly temples) nearby. We first went to Venkatramana Temple near to the restaurant, a no non sense temple with priests uttering chants. We followed it with Sri Bhadrakali temple, which was my favorite temple of all. The deity looked beautiful. We were the first to visit it in post lunch session.

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While retracing we took few photos and had Gudbud, a Gokarna special local ice cream. A falooda kind of thing, only that it was not a falooda. It was amazing. We then walked through streets which reminded me a lot of Jaisalmer, we went to Kotitheertha, a pond near Mahabaleshwar Temple where many were performing rituals. It was not crowded and the place looked awesome for photography. Also the other major attraction was the fishes there. One was so huge, I had never seen such a big fish in temple pond before.

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After sitting there for a while we went to Sri Maha Ganapathi temple, the distinct feature about the temple is the standing Ganesha which was cute. I find Ganesha to be the naughtiest of all gods, having the typical charm of fat people.

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Finally we went to the much awaited Mahabaleshwar Temple which had a huge queue, all of them admiring the giant cow en route to deity. It was humongous. Seems Mahabaleshwar Temple is the only one with Athmalinga. It had a unique way of worshiping. Each one, during their turn puts the hand in the hole at the center of the Linga and take the water or whatever material is there inside and put it outside. In one way its great way to clean the idol as well. Throughout the day Abhishekam keeps on happening. And the crowd gets more and more. I found this ritual interesting as well as intelligent.

Inside the Mahabaleshwar temple there is also Tamra Gauri Temple where the style was similar to Bhadrakali temple. To see the deity one has to go inside, take a turn and see. As the idol is facing against the door.

With the temple tour done we set off to beach, sat in wet sand, made our shorts wet, walked to nearby lane and ate everything that we could. Almost everything tasted horrible but nevertheless we wanted to taste everything. In spite of that we wanted to have an official dinner so we had it in another Pai restaurants. Almost all the restaurants in Gokarna are named as Pai, don’t know why. John bought some dress. Even I liked few but wasn’t in a mood. I generally can’t buy before the trek as it’d keep running in my mind.

Post our dinner we took a couple of autos and retired to the room. I went to another room to give instructions were Balaji had told ditto of what I’d be telling. The conversation went like this…

Seena: Cards vilayadlama da? (Shall we play cards?)

Me: Onum Vena (Not needed)

Laughs all round.

Me: Mooditu thoongunga da (Shut the fuck up and sleep.)

Higher laughter.

Seena: Balaji sona moonu vishaythula rendu solitae da. (You told two of the three things that Balaji told you’ll say)

Me: Inonu enadhu? (What’s the other thing?)

Seena: Nalaki kalaila 5 maniku ezunthirikanum. (You’ve to get up at 5 AM tomorrow)

I said the same, asked them to be ready by 6 AM and the day ended with higher laughters. Not before Jana called and invited me for marriage and there was some marriage talks along with that with John.

Even the people who visit holy places wouldn’t have visited so many temples but I somehow get to visit them all before or after the trek and that too with free food.

Day 2 – Beach Please!

8/13/2017

We started the day as planned at 6 AM. I was having mild headache and slight cold. Everyone had gotten ready by 6:40 for so. We started from our place at 7 AM. There was nothing available in the restaurant so we took whatever snacks we had and started walking.

Om Beach

The beach is called so because it’s in the shape of Om. It looked awesome when we started walking down from the stairs. We took some photos, in fact a lot of photos. As the trek was easy I wasn’t forcing the other ones to make haste and as it was the start of the trek, everyone was excitedly clicking.

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It felt like the largest of the beaches. While walking to the end of it we spotted fresh catches. But most of it were small fishes. It was exciting to enter the jungle. Within few minutes there was drizzle and most of them picked their rain coats. I wrapped by camera. But it lasted only for few minutes. It stopped before we got to the Half Moon Beach.

Half Moon Beach

The group which had gone before us were there in the beach. They looked like an elderly group. As soon as we set foot, we tagged the place and uploaded the photos. Apart from us two groups there weren’t anyone in the beach. The beach was small with rocks and all.

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Paradise Beach

Last of the beaches and considered to be the best of the lot, in fact it was the best of the lot. And before the beach we got an awesome spot to take photos. Post that when we walked to Paradise beach, there was a group there already pitching tents, smoking up and cooking chicken. I guess that was the group which went ahead of us.

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Only after reaching there we understood that they in fact were a hot group. The place looked happening with paintings, graffiti, broken walls, chic girls etc. It’d have been nice to stay but many blogs warned of police menace so I didn’t plan for that.

When asked about the next place to the people there, each one said their own story but thankfully a group which were coming from the opposite side gave us a clear picture. We ventured into the jungle again, this time there was no sound of waves so it was even more fun to know whether we’ve gotten lost or not.

Belakan Beach

People don’t go generally beyond Paradise but we did. There was a small water crossing where I had to remove shoes and Balaji fell into it much to the laughter of locals. Again selfies, pictures and tagging. We got water to drink from locals and ate few snacks. We got to know that there is a local bus which comes there.

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There was a beach opposite to our shore. None were there. That reminded me of Heaven’s Mouth from the movie ‘Y Tu Mamá También’. It’d have been awesome to have set up a tent with some foreign chick up there. Also we missed the Light House. It was closed alright but locals were saying it’d have been possible to go by bribing at 5 PM which didn’t happen. You’ll know why in the future paragraphs.

There is no pleasure more than going in bus while on trek. It has happened to us almost at all times. This time too we got the bus stop for ourselves. I was telling it to John, and Prasanna stated the same after a while.

Loved the bus journey from Belakan to Gokarna.

Gokarna Beach

We had some tea and Balaji ‘n’ number of ice creams from Gokarna bus stand, my headache was getting worse. We walked to the beach and started our trek. There was a temple from where the view was amazing but my headache was not letting me enjoy anything. Took few photos and left from that place.

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It was getting humid like hell, we went on wrong route, returned back and took the suggested route. The walk to Kudle through grassland was pretty easy.

Kudle Beach                                            

We had lunch at Café 1987 which was cool and Hippie. Food took a good one hour to come. But parathas were awesome. Not so with respect to rest. Anyways it was a nice experience.

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We set foot on Kudle beach in next few minutes. Now my head was splitting, all I wanted to do was end the trek. It was just a couple of kilometers for Om Beach from there. Others were taking a lot of time to come so I was cruising, and as soon as I hit the resort, I took bath and slept.

Post this is a sad story. I developed high fever, not able to sleep, I was struggling to even get up and walk to the café. I didn’t go to café all the while thinking that post completion of trek I could drink celebratory beers, overlooking the beach from Café. It had an excellent ambience. But all I ate was plain rice with pickle, just so that I can eat tables. Namaste Café didn’t have room service and neither great rooms. So 6K for all these, better try to avoid.

Worst is when I got to know that they charged even for hot water. They don’t even give plain water in the table. That’s one thing I can’t digest at all.

Rest of the days – Sick of sickness!

8/14/2017

There is no point writing anything post that. It’d just be waking up, eating, taking tablets and in turn getting feared of all the future trips. What would happen if the same happens again? So the sense of insecurities continued. Met an interesting doctor in Gokarna who gave hope, ate somewhere, took train, watched Tamasha, went to Bangalore, kept on eating, all the drinks stacked up there were just a showpiece for me, ate again, watched GOT in TV, rains, watched videos in OLA cab, ate again, took train, slept, came to office and same old story.

This was the last of the planned Karnataka treks of the year. A lot of permutation, combination happened and four of us got together for trek. Hari – my wingman, Karthi – a regular from my yearly school trekking gang and Siva – friend of Mohan. None knew each other before the trek.

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Day 0 – Guilt, Pleasure and Solace

Half your trips are spoilt by your leads. If you had read my trek to Har Ki Doon, you’d remember how my TL spoilt the mood. It was the same this time too, just that this new person spoilt it a day before. I had to leave early so it felt even more horrible. This feeling of overcoming guilt is such a curious decision. What’s worse is I’ve to decide between working long hours to not feel guilty or be guilty and carry on with what I wanna do. Things would be lot better if I don’t work and not feel guilty. But I belong to the latter case.

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Anways sitting in Paranur station at 10.15 AM and thinking about future, getting sick seeing tons and tons of people going to the office while I’m waiting to get out from there. So similar to my life isn’t it. Every other day I would be one of those people. After the crowd dispersed I was sitting there head down along with my trekking bag, wearing my trekking shoes. Felt so much like M S Dhoni film poster. Sometimes you’d feel like, why not someone shoot my photo in this angle, it’d be epic. It was one such moment.

There were four boys, popcorn sellers, I guess from UP, two of them were fighting with each other, of course for no reason, violence is part of their life. The securities from my office were inquiring about the kids whereabouts and one was telling to each other, “ivangalukellam sapadu kedacha podhumntu irukanga” (they feel that getting food is enough). They were also inquiring, why they haven’t gone to school, why they came out of town etc. The kids didn’t have proper answer, they started playing (fighting) with each other, and they started playing with their own lives too.

A poor lady who came along with her kid in a shabby dress bought a popcorn, he was so happy, his mother was so happy seeing him happy. Later in the day while returning to Central after having lunch, near the subway I saw couple of people keenly looking to buy a small hand stitching sewing machine. I laughed inside, “Inga vanguravanum ezae, vikiravanum ezae, ithula nama kasta padromnu solitu irukom” (it’s the poor who buys, poor who sells, but we complain about our life) Don’t know why such varied thoughts were crossing my mind but it did.

Once I got into the train, in which I settled in a seat where sun wouldn’t beat. There were regular train goers, mostly sad and dejected. Looking at everybody’s face made me even sadder. Chennai being a sultry place, made these people sweat and look even sadder. And of course there were a couple who were getting cozy, not as cozy as go-get-a-room but cozier than aww-they-look-so-cute-together. At that moment I thought how I would have behaved. I think we’d have been the couple where an old lady, if she comes and sits opposite would smile to my girl. Of course I’d have been holding hands but not in a face turning way. Too many thoughts.

As I was reading a lot of Sujatha’s short stories off late. I thought everyone sitting there would have been a protagonist of the story, except for me, I was the only misfit there. I decided that I’m going to write a Tamil short story next, I decided even the title and what I am going to write.

An elderly man, around fifty years of age and who looked older than what he really was came and sat next to me, “Sir konjam time mathi thara mudiyuma? Railway time vaikathaenu ethane vati sonaen kekala” (Sir, could you please change the time, I asked him not to keep railway time but he did in spite). I took his phone, changed the date format to 12 hours from 24 hours. Took the phone again to change the date to that day’s date and PM to AM. When I asked the date, whether it was 2nd, he said, “confirm ah second thaan sir, yenna inaki engaluku strike.” (It definitely is 2nd ,sir, because it’s a strike for us today). I know that if I look at him or nod as an approval I’ll get story but even though I was curious I didn’t do it because of the number of people around me. He started with, “thevdiya pasanga…” but post that I didn’t hear anything and his voice too got lower. Without much drama I got down at Park station and crossed the road to Central.

I thought of having lunch at the same place where my friend and I had last December before the Kumara Paravartha trek. But when I went there, I saw a restaurant in the street next to it. Sat there for meals but when I asked the waiter to bring meals he saw me with an eyes which said, “are you just gonna eat that”. So I changed the order to non-veg meals. It was a simple meals with fish curry and chicken curry apart from rasam and buttermilk. Fish curry was amazing, it had a Kerala style preparation. Sometimes, things sweep you off your feet without your knowledge.

Went back to my second home, central station. That too when the Wi-Fi notification comes, I literally feel it as my second home. So used the Wi-Fi, checked in, sent last few messages to whoever I thought to be important (vice versa might not be true) and boarded the train as soon as Hari came. Karthi came in right at the dot. I changed to a more comfortable dress which I was going to make shabby in the forthcoming days.

Thanks to a talkative Hari, Karthi got comfortable with us. I switched off the net and started with the last couple of stories from Sujatha’s short story collection. It took a long while to read the penultimate story, the time when Karthi was engrossed in his mobile and Hari was busy sleeping. For the record, I didn’t sleep that day and I don’t know how. May be I was so hell bent on finishing the book which I did after talking for some time.

There was a Brahmin lady who was time and again feeding another older Brahmin lady with Degree Coffee, the smell was divine. She seemed to have relatives on almost every stop, one gave them vegetables in one stop, and another lady came and sat with them after a few stops. So much planning. And she welcomed everyone with coffee from flask. She and the grandma took my book and gave it a glance.

Post that I read the last story and then there were some serious discussion about arranged marriage, Hari’s life, cinema, sex etc. etc. and finally reached Bangalore station after an hours delay.

We had meals in the restaurant near subway. It was decent and sambar wasn’t as sweet as we feared. We topped it up with an excellent sweet beeda and walked to Majestic amidst the chaos of weekend trippers and trekkers.

Our bus which was supposed to arrive at 10.30 got there at 12.30 and we used that time to get to know each other. Mostly the other three got to know each other well. In fact so well that I thought they knew each other from their past lives. Siva joined us there and as he was fresh he took the onus of searching for our 10.30 bus.

All the time I was thinking whether to go to Kodachadri or Jog Falls the next day. It was almost decided that it would be Jog Falls but we kept our options open and thought we’d decide depending on the time we reach.

Day 1 – Jogging to the Jog Falls

Yea I couldn’t have come up with a cheesier title. But ever since I wanted to upload an Instagram picture with this title, this one was haunting me. People have their own things that haunt them. White frames, black specs etc.

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We reached Shimoga around 6.30 AM. Inquired about buses to Kollur for Kodachadri and to Sagar for Jog Falls. When they said it’d take around four hours to reach Kollur we decided that we’d go to Jog Falls instead. I was inquiring in Tamil to the timekeeper who couldn’t understand a bit. I was of the opinion that like Coorg people would understand Tamil easily. Only post that I thought, yeah, I could talk in Hindi as well. Post that things were smooth.

We got the bus to Sagar, did cash pooling and got tickets. Within minutes we all slept off and didn’t know how time flew. As soon as we got down we went to a restaurant opposite to private bus stand for breakfast. Had Dosa, Masala Dosa, Idly and coconut filled vada for breakfast along with tea. Food was decent.

We were getting second glance, of course not for the looks but for the big big bags that we were wearing. We crossed the road and asked for bus to Jog Falls. In few minutes we got the bus and again started to sleep. The scenery was superb with lush green blanket everywhere. Ever since I rewatched Stalker, the whole place reminded me of the movie. Just like the movie there were power lines, plastics and power stations. I’ve found the Hydel power plants to be the scariest place on earth. The flow of water, that too with that speed, scares the shit outta me. I realized my aversion to Hydel Power Plants during my Spiti ride, ever since then I’ve been trying to stay away from it.

We reached Jog Falls in about an hour. Near the ticket counter there were taxi walas who were willing to show certain points around jog falls for some fare. We went past them and got tickets. The ticket checker cum watchman made us hurry to the point where people were clicking pictures. That’s the view point of Jog Falls. We went there, took our time to freshen up and take pictures. Only after fixing my zoom lens I got to know why the watchman made us hurry. By the time I fixed the gadget it was full mist. We waited for a long time but it didn’t get cleared so with disappointment, kept the luggage in cloak room and started walking with only the camera and water bottle.

In our descent to 1400 odd steps we clicked a few photos. At each juncture one person. Hari was explaining about his experience when he visited the Jog Falls last time. That got me curious. I think it got the rest of the people too curious. While we were almost at the bottom we could see a huge fence being erected and people were not allowed beyond that. So the thought of taking bath in the falls vanished. We went down and tried few photos and there was a big rock below which a group was passing time. Once they left I tried few silhouette photos for the first time which I think, came out reasonably well. Post that we started our walk back to top.

That’s when the water came in real handy as we were getting exhausted. The weather too changed and it got sunny. While climbing down there was a security to check about plastics. We enquired the same person after our visit about the taxis to visit the nearby places which includes Raja falls, Rani falls, Power Station and Boating. Maximum we were willing to spend was a thousand rupees but we couldn’t get it below 1200. An additional fee for boating made us all cringe and we unanimously decided not to go.

We came out, took our bags from the cloak room where a photographer was photoshoping one person with Aishwarya Rai with Jog Falls background and also blackening all his hairs, desperate fellow. While waiting for bus Hari and Siva were talking about another guy Mohan’s antics. Everyone were sharing their own story as it took a while for the bus to come.

Once the bus came we luckily got seats. We somehow placed the luggage in space we had. A horrible K S Ravikumar film, Mudinja Ivana Pudi. One of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It would have been fun if we all had got seat together. We’d have enjoyed even more. But the actual horror story was post that. There was a stop were college students were waiting for the bus. Around 50 people were waiting. Already the bus had standees, still almost everyone who were waiting got into the bus. I was sitting in half seat, in twenty degree angle. It was even tough to breath. Somehow I managed to survive without oxygen mask and reached back to Sagar.

I started searching for restaurants to have lunch. We intentionally didn’t go to the restaurant we had breakfast in the morning. On our search to have lunch in a new restaurant we went to few hideous places. One turned out to be bar so we went to the restaurant opposite to it, which was mentioned as ‘Family Restaurant’ and I also saw a lady getting so went inside to see but that one had dingy cabins closed by a curtain and with zero watts bulb. Looked like an execution room from Subramaniapuram. We immediately ran out of the place. We again came back to main road and went to the restaurant adjacent to the street.

Our standard four meals arrived. Food was better than what we thought. Sambar wasn’t as sweet as it used to be before. But we had trouble in getting the side dishes again as people weren’t understanding anything but Kannada.

We thought we couldn’t do more than Jog falls that day but as we came back by afternoon we were thinking of seeing one more place. As per the advice of the security there in Jog falls we chose Sigandar. We thought it to be an island, so we decided, what if we missed boating in the morning, we’d do it in Sigandar. The fact that Sigandur is en route to Kollur made us take our decision easily.

We took the bus to Sigandur which was again super crowded. The lady sitting in the front row was making fun of Hari. We both were laughing, neither of us knowing why. After a long time we got seats and within minutes we reached Sigandur. The much coveted island was nothing but a water body which we had to cross by the help of launch. As the bus was up to Kollur, we thought we could to Kollur directly but as there was a temple in Sigandur we decided to go there.

Our bus went to the gates of the temple only for us four to get down. Chowdeshwari Temple was pretty empty. We took turns and went inside the temple. Once out of the temple we got to know that there were no direct bus to Kollur so took a bus to Nittur. A lady said it was just 2, 3 stops from there but Nittur came after one hour of sleep. Good that I didn’t keep awake believing the lady’s words.

Nittur bus stop was the best. There was absolutely nothing except for a petty shop where we had desi cool drinks, one of the two flavors we had was awesome. Bus came after half an hour but this time we didn’t sleep. We reached Kollur in about half an hour and got a decent room in one of the lodges attached to temple.

After quickly freshening up and getting to know that the Kollur Mookambika temple would be open till 9.30 PM we decided to go the temple. It was not in my list. Thanks to ODC, phoneless life and less internet access, my means of research is getting weaker and weaker.

It felt really good taking a bath after couple of days. Temple too was really nice. Siva and I joined the queue. Hari and Karthi stood out. It started to pour and we were the last person to enter the deity. After we came out we bought a Laddu for fifty rupees and here comes the best part. Karthi told that there was free dinner being served. That got everyone of us excited.

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We went and joined the queue. After getting a place, it took a lot of time for them to serve food. That was one of the toughest wait. First rice, sambar, again rice, again sambar and buttermilk on top of it was very different experience. The food wasn’t as filling as we expected.

We came out to see that our slippers were missing. The chappal stand people seem to have taken it and kept it near the cabin. We had to shell out Rs. 5 for each pair of slippers. We came out and had dinner, banana and tea. Tea wasn’t as good as we expected.

We inquired about the next day’s travel to Kodachadri. We got to know that the first bus was around 6’o clock in the morning. We went to our room, kept our alarm at 5 AM and slept after sleep talking for a few minutes.

Day 2 – Leeches, On the Rocks!

As usual after all the four alarms started blazing I got up first and woke up the rest of the group. We got ready within minutes, had not so good tea and took bus. I hurried with my tea as I didn’t want to repeat the Tadiandamol experience.

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The bus stopped for few minutes near the temple. Karthi reminded us about the Chickmangalur experience where we got into the bus, slept for an hour, ate breakfast, then slept for an hour and bus still hadn’t started but luckily it wasn’t a repeat of Chickmangalur experience.

We were dropped at Karikatta from where we started the trek. Our idea was to go through Santhosh Hotel route and return via Hidlumane Falls. But even after we started our trek we were not sure whether we were taking the right route. There was one solo trekker who was with us in the bus and took the same route.

When I said that he should always be under our vicinity, Hari told, “he’s the guy alone, he should think that way.” So true. The next 1 to 1.5 hour was through leech palace, literally. In all the treks I’ve been, I’m the one who would be getting least to zero leech bites but this time within a couple of steeps there was a leech on top of my shoes. I tried to remove it but it was playing around. For the next one hour, till the check post there was no shortage of leech bites. At least for me it climbed only on legs and hands but for others it entered inside the t shirt too. The worst problem was, if we stand to remove the leeches from body, more and more leeches would stick on us so we were dancing while removing the leeches. While typing this, I’m still having the itching from these leech bites.

After crossing the leech palace we were asked to provide our contact information and sign in the register. He asked us to sign the register again while coming back, but we said we’d be returning via Hidlumane falls, then he agreed to it. When we asked whether it was the Santhosh Hotel route, he showed us which was Santosh Hotel.

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The small hut post the forest check post was the much coveted Santhosh Hotel. We met the solo trekker inside and a negative person inside. There would always be this kind of person wherever you go, who tells you that it is impossible. He first told us that there would be lot of leeches in the path that follows, he also told us with shoes it would not be comfortable to climb and when we told him that we were planning to return via Hidlumane Falls he told us that it would be impossible as even they miss the route a number of times. Needless to say we disproved him in every aspect.

As soon as we ordered Dosa and Omelet, our first task was to remove our shoes and socks to check whether there were any hidden leeches. Luckily there weren’t any. Only one leech was sticking to my shoe which we killed mercilessly. The negative person asked us not to spread the leeches there. Our breakfast arrived, a double omelet instead of single omelet and set dosa with sambar. Every single thing tastes divine in a trek. That too tasted the same.

We carried on with the next part of the trek inside the forest area, we moved swiftly with good pace, the area was moist and it was evident that there would be lot of leeches. Except for one path where we went in wrong direction, we did fairly well. Good thing about taking the wrong path was, I went first and beyond a point I could see a lot of cob webs and cob webs touched my face too. I decided that cob web couldn’t be in the regular trail as people would have crossed it. It wouldn’t be possible for cob web to appear all of a sudden. That was useful in the later part. Of course there were leeches but only one tenth of what we encountered in the first part. We reached the place where jeeps were there i.e. the PWD quarters. From there the temple was just 1.5 km away. We were so happy to have not taken the jeep. It wouldn’t have been a trek at all if we had taken the jeep. People in formal attire, fancy shoes, selfie stick etc. were coming by jeep. We felt good to be different from them with blood stained socks and sweat stained t-shirts.

While taking what we thought to be the last route we met the solo trekker again and that was the first time he seemed to be interested to talk to us. He asked us where we are from and whether were planning to stay. We told about our whereabouts and mentioned that as camping was not allowed we’d be leaving back. He told that he wouldn’t be camping but stay just like that. Now we knew that he was a serious trekker. Prodding more about his history we got to know that he’s a freelance mountaineer and Kodachadri was his first trek in 2003 and he does it every time he visits Shimoga. All this while there was a leech which had got its feel and was making me bleed profusely. That didn’t sting but what he told did. Not only for me but for Hari too. He was the first one to open the topic. “Intha mari evanayavathu patha than da depress ayidudhu” (only when we see people like this the depression starts) That led us to talk about society, how we have to falsely make our claim for social acceptance and how we were far better than people who were not even aware of what they are missing. But as he said we were depressed seeing a person doing what he wants to do.

After climbing for some time there was a lime juice/tea shop near where a small cave was there in which there was a small boy sitting and doing prayers. People said there was a falls there but we couldn’t find any.

We reached the peak in sometime which had a temple. We saw the guy going past the temple to a point where blogs mentioned that Arabian Sea would be visible. But we lost the sight of him and returned back to the temple point and had our lunch. The usual bread and cheese along with Tea, as there was a tea shop there.

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When we were about to get down I asked whether there is a point from where we could see Arabian Sea. The Tea Shop owner asked a person there, who was about to take a couple of women to that point, to tag us along too. We went along with them in the same path we took before. After the point from where I returned, we had to walk for around thirty minutes more to reach the point from where Arabian Sea would be visible but as the whole place was mist covered, we couldn’t see anything. It was not the actual end of the road, there was a small path post that too, which when we prodded, we got to know that a Babaji lives there.

There was an excellent nature made shed between the rocks where there were already a couple of people residing. One among them was the mountaineer and the other guy who came down while we reached that point asked us what we were doing in Tamil. We told that we are from Infosys and he told he was an ex infoscion who was co-director of Jigarthanda, Theeya Vela Seyanum Kumaru etc. He told that Nalan Kumarasamy had just went and we would have passed by him. They seem to be on a big road trip about 3000 km in Karnataka. He also told how beautiful the view would be from that place and it would be great to capture it in telephoto lens. He also told how he was a photographer and his short movie was selected as one of the top films by Anurag Kashyap and co. We also talked about few film making techniques and in general about cinema and scripts. He was there with us till the temple point. Hari came back and the same dialogue after we met the mountaineer got repeated. Our depression touched a new level.

We touched the PWD quarters again in no time. There were lot more people climbing at that time. People who’d have come after nice leisurely breakfast and bath. There were a couple of bikers who had walked because their bike had broken down. One among them where asking how to go down, which route to take etc. when the other guy told him to ask us. He told, “they are trekkers, they’ll tell everything as easy path, better not to ask them” Another proud moment. Thus the pride and depression fluctuated.

It was around 1.30 PM. We had targeted 1 PM to be at the top at least. But we went to top, even post that a couple of times and returned to PWD by 1.30 PM. All thanks to the co trekkers who didn’t slow down or waste time at any point of time. We asked the route to Hidlumane falls, which they said, we had to take jeep road for some time, one said 2 km, one said 5 km etc. and then get into the forest. We followed the orders and walked on the road. Nice leisurely stroll with mist and slight drizzle. Took few photos too. None were photo crazy, so that too was a time saver. In fact we didn’t open the camera till then. Thanks to leeches, rains and time constraint.

At a juncture I got doubt, not knowing where to go, there was a big open path and two roads. Intuition said it must be this left which everyone was pointing about but we were not sure whether they meant the left on road or the left into the forest. We decided that we’d proceed only after asking someone about the route. I thought I’ll proceed till some point inside the forest until I have the vicinity of my friends. Luckily for us, we saw a couple of foreigners and two more people coming with a guide. We asked them about the route to falls and he said we were taking the right route.

I called out for my friends and they came down, I clicked few pictures. We proceeded in the same direction and there was a brilliant place from where we could see the much sought after Arabian Sea. A small piece of flat land where none except us where there. We sat there sometime for chitchatting and finishing the rusk packet and rest of the cheese. That was the best point of the trek.

There was a huge descent post that which I crossed in a hurry and entered the forest area. I lost sight of them but I decided to go to falls and wait. There were a big group of foreigners and NRIs huffing and puffing to get on top. The route closer to Hidlumane Falls was actually wet and tough. Good that we didn’t take our bag. It would have slowed down our progress. As soon as I crossed them I could see the falls. The falls is a perfect place to take bath, shallow water, not so deep and not so force. After checking for leeches I placed by bag, removed my shoes and got ready for a dip. My friends came after some time which I used to click pictures of falls but I couldn’t use the classic slow shutter pictures as I thought it wouldn’t look proper, once they came I took few decent pictures of them and we all got into the water.

Another big gang from Mysore Infosys had come, most probably trainees or freshers. Karthi who was last to come out of the falls told that a snake had passed by, that made everyone jump out from water. We asked an elderly man there, route to hit the road, he asked us to follow stream. We did the same, got all our shoes wet (the most annoying feeling), used the cob web technique to find the right path and almost got on the path. In addition to the cob web technique, there was also the plastic paper technique, where we follow a certain path and if we don’t see any plastics we get to know that humans hadn’t traversed that path. The same had happened when we took a wrong left near the fields. But it took us a lot of time to know that it was a wrong path and I had got enough scratches in my legs and cob webs on my face by that time.

The elderly person asked us to come up and follow him. We did and reached the house where a couple of jeeps were there who asked us whether we would want a ride. When we asked them how long it’d take to reach the road they said its 5 km but the road was never ending. We walked for 100 minutes to hit the Nittur road. I walked first for some time, missed the free jeep ride because of that, walked along with other people for some time, was offered and politely rejected coffee/tea by a stranger, finished all the snacks.

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We sat at the junction, got the net connection and Karthi checked in his phone and what we saw was a miracle 38000 steps and 31 km we had walked in one day. Now that was satisfaction. We missed the bus which crossed us, he didn’t stop, and generally all buses stop whenever they see people standing for them but that didn’t. There could be some reason but for the next one hour we didn’t get the bus. Karthi who was so disappointed that he couldn’t use the torch light that he had bought for the trek was happy that it could come to use now. I was not getting net connection in bus stop. We had various time pass games like star gazing, dog chasing, mime making and few censored games too. Siva was the target in the last part but it was fun. Like Mani said it previous trek, bus stops are always fun.

We got the last bus at 7.30 PM from there which stopped at a point where we had tea, we continued the censored games but as Hari started to vomit we didn’t have a proper quiz master. When we reached near Kollur we checked whether there was any direct bus to Bangalore. There was one at 8.15 which was standing near the temple. I asked Karthi and Siva to stop the bus but they seem to have said that they wouldn’t wait for fifteen minutes.

We took our luggage from the lodge, got back our hundred rupees and asked a couple of people how to go to Bangalore that night. He asked us to take bus to some place which would come near the temple and from there many buses would ply to Bangalore. As soon as we reached the temple we got the bus and went into immediate slumber after buying the tickets. One hour’s sleep went just like that. Once we got down in somewhat a scary highway we got a sleeper bus to Bangalore for Rs. 600 which looked like cheating to me as the ticket collector was talking some secret in conductor’s ears. I took the upper berth along with along with Karthi, I could tell how stinking my clothes were but we managed to sleep, thanks to the tiredness.

Day 3 – Better not to read

You’re done with our information gathering, getting envied or getting irritated session. Last day always is reserved for drinks and that’s what we did here too. So you can drop off here if you wish.

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We reached Bangalore with bursting bladders at 6 AM. After answering the nature’s call I asked them whether we could have tea. Everyone said ‘yes’ and Hari told the exact words I use, “Tea kudikalam, apo than clarity kedaikum.” (Let’s have tea, only then we’ll get clarity) Every guy needs a wingman. Period! We missed going to treks right from the first, thanks to our common friend, a reason behind us not becoming friends from the first.

At last we had good tea, after searching for a couple of lodges we got an average room for a day. Siva told that he’d go to his friends room and meet us in the train (We smelled something fishy there) Finished our morning ablutions, took bath, took our all our wet clothes to dry and made our room as stinky as possible. With our hunger pangs increasing we went on a restaurant search. I searched for Mudde Madappa Restaurant but that building was being demolished so that was closed and so was MTR. We finally went into a restaurant which we saw first. Annapurna. Upma, dosa, vada, rice bath, sweet bath etc. everything was fabulous. And for the first time in life I had a repeat order of coffee. After having our fill we watched TV and slept again.

For lunch we decided to go to a pub SodaBottleOpenerWala, looked like a fancy pub with good variety of drinks and food. It was also highly rated. We called and enquired whether there was any dress code, luckily for us it didn’t have. We went there had a couple of drinks and some great food, played caroms, sat in park bench for some time and came back.

We were dead tired. We watched TV for some time and went for dinner, again our first choice, another Telugu Annapurna restaurant was closed so went to a restaurant next to our room. Food was fabulous and thanks to Hari, curd rice with Brain Masala was out of the world. We went back to room again and packed our bags for station. It was a long walk from there. I don’t know why I don’t remember that part exactly.

Siva who had told that he’d be coming to KR Puram station was already in Bangalore Central. Contrary to what I expected, the train was not crowded. We talked for few minutes, settled our accounts and slept off. One of the most satisfying treks and might be the last short trek of the year.

It was a long impending wait, this long drive. At last the dream came true. Avenger, you beauty, thank you very much for staying steady and steadfast all along. Oh! How I loved all those longing glances trying to look who’s behind the helmet that is cruising past them.

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The preparation

First things first. The preparation. This 400 km drive itself is a preparation for something big which I’m trying to attempt later but for this first drive as usual there were lot of hiccups. I luckily got a 3 day holiday and my hometown is luckily a drivable distance for a first timer and even more luckily there is a hill station nearby. Everything got together very well. But the placement of holidays was what a bother, at least for the outer world. I’m supposed to be tired after a two week trip to Delhi-Himalayas. I’m dead tired and add to it as usual office pressure. The first week of this New Year was the worst since I joined this job. But let’s leave aside the gloomy things and look at the brighter side of life.I don’t know whether I’d have attempted this if I had been happy with my work. My frustration is what is pushing me to do ‘something different.’ So here I am.

Chennai (Chengalpatu) to Madurai

After a lot of cajoling I finally set off to Madurai. The day started with me riding for the first time to office. A 50km stretch from my home. At morning 6.30 with pleasant weather (chilly by Chennai standards) I started off. The ride was average, nothing extraordinary. I wasn’t very interested as the destination is a dungeon. I went to office by around 7.45. An hour drive. Was constantly checking the petrol. I didn’t want to fill it before reaching office as I had a BP bunk near my office. After 4 hours of bench warming I started off to Madurai telling a lot of lies. I’ll just tell the major one. I’m supposed to get the best trekker award by YHAI at 2’o clock. So I started from office at 1’o clock. With a single major lie a lot of lies evolves. So when my TL asked what’s the criterion of this award I again instantly lied that it is given to the one who reaches the base camp first on all days. So that’s how I got this award. I’m quite like Thillu Mullu Rajnikanth in office. They never let me talk truth.

I escaped from my office at 1PM. To my shock I didn’t have Speed Petrol in the BP bunk near my office. I’ve fed my baby only with Speed till then. I had to compromise as I didn’t have a drop of petrol left. After noting down the kilometers and liters of petrol I started from the bunk. I cruised, literally, with my cruiser. I’d have driven at 90Km/hr on an average with a maximum of 115km/hr. Boy o boy speed does thrill and my beauty made me realize that she was a beast too. My first stop was to have a cone ice from a young passerby. He charged me 20 bucks. Too much for that silly piece of shit. Nevertheless I didn’t mind. A road trip is not complete without a lick of an ice cream. I had driven around 150 Km by then. I didn’t feel even a bit tired.

As and when I started from there I decided that my next stop will be Trichy. It was about 120 Km from there. I drove fast and steady. The roads being a four way lane was pleasing to drive but I would not say it was an all in all smooth affair. I had my heart in my mouth for a couple of situations. The scariest one was when a share auto in spite of knowing me coming at around a 100 km/hr turned suddenly. It was purely intentional. That son of a bitch!

Apart from that there were a lot of stray dogs and cows trying to creep to the middle. I carefully overcame all those hindrance thanks to my friend Pandi who already had the experience of hitting a cow with a 100km/hr Avenger. His bad was my benefit otherwise surely I would have gone through that situation.

I stopped about 10km after Trichy for a break. It was a compulsory break. I didn’t feel like taking one but I did. The sensible part in me took advantage of my heart there. Then I started off for what was supposed to be the last lap. Trichy to Madurai. 110km flat.

The weather after reaching Trichy was awesome, the twilight, cold breeze, mountain back drop. The setting was just perfect. I felt like driving in Lonavala again but with a better bike. Just when everything seemed to be working in favor of me my bike stopped all of a sudden. I parked my vehicle in one corner and looked at with starry eyes. I don’t have any idea of what is what when it comes to engine. I tried to switch off and on a couple of times but the starter didn’t work. Being an IT guy switching on and off was the best solution I could think of. But my machine was as averse to computer as me.

Without knowing what to do I called a trespasser and asked whether there is any mechanic shop nearby. Being a nice fellow that guy suggested he’d go tell the mechanic that my bike is down. It’s so good to see people with heart. When you get down to south people give you a lot of respect. After some time I tried honking and then starting. A trick which generally works with Scooty. But sadly mine is not a Scooty. I then tried starting the bike after applying the clutch. The bike started. I don’t want to exaggerate by saying that I was jumping with joy. I was happy but, yes. I wasn’t terrified at first place when the bike stopped midway. I knew I could manage. I’m someone who is confident on all aspects of life other than work.

The bike started to play tricks with me from then. After a few minutes it again stopped. And another gentleman, this time a lorry driver came to my rescue. It started of immediately but I gathered knowledge of some few quick fix tips. He asked me whether petrol is flowing in the tube. I stared at him like I do during Reverse KT.  He kept his mouth in the petrol tank and blew. He said that if petrol is not flowing through the tube this remedy will help. He wished me all the best for my journey to Madurai. It was still 60 Km more. Then as soon as I saw petrol bunk, this time a HP, again a first time HP petrol for my bike. I filled it till brim and drove.

Initially I thought that engine was getting switched off during high speeds so drove only till 80 Km/hr after filling the petrol. This time engine was smooth. I gradually picked up speed. Finally came to know that the petrol had totally dried off. My fuel indicator was disturbed due to the heat I guess for it didn’t show that the tank was empty. Anyways I’m not complaining.

As the lights started to dim I switched on my head lights. This attracted a lot of insects. One getting into my gloves, one in my left ear and one in my right eye. I had to constantly wipe the glass of my helmet which made it dirty and severely spoilt the visibility. For the last fifty Kilometer I had to drive with utmost concentration. After a long drive through a straight road I took right to get into Madurai city. Liked the way a restaurant had used the nick name ‘Temple City’ to open its highway branch.

Once in the city I had to bring down my speed. The most critical and tough thing to do. I inquired a share auto driver as to how to go to my destination. First him, then a youngster, then a kid helped me in finding the destination address. Absolutely no hassles. I reached my destination with élan. Loved the innocence of these fellows and the way they called me ‘annae’ instead of the regular ‘na’ heard in Chennai.

There were a couple of bright moments during the journey which made me smile. The first one was when 3 or 4 vehicles with the name CAPTAIN written in nameplate came in the opposite direction. The second was when I was in Anna Nagar junction in Madurai and asked a fellow commuter in Signal as to how to reach Mel Annupanadi. His reply was, “athu rumba thoorumachungalae, oru nalanchi kilometer ponum.’ (It’s far off sir, might be around 4 to 5 kilometres) My reply to him through my mind voice was, “Dei naan 400 km thandi vanthurukaen da…”(Dude I’ve just driven 400 Km) in “naan 4 varusama suthiturukaen da” (I’ve been following her for 4 years, a Tamil comedy) tone from Polladhavan.

Madurai to Kodaikanal to Madurai

It was the second day. Everything was pre planned. It’s a pleasurable feel when things go according to your plan. It was one such day. Got up at 5.30 sharp, my regular getting up time nowadays. But for a change it was not irritating to get up at that time. Travellers’ thirst I guess. After a regular round of yoga and exercise for 15 minutes I freshened up and started in half an hour. At about 6.30 I and my cousin started in my bike. As we went through market the area was crowded. Thanks to the upcoming Pongal. It was irritating because I was wearing a leather jacket and it was sweating like hell. Once we crossed that point it was smooth sailing. We cruised in about 90 km/hr. Great road till a left we had to take to go to Bathalakundu.

Once I took the left and crossed the railway crossing we had breakfast in a local restaurant. Nothing to boast about. And filled the petrol to the brim as usual. Once again we started to cruise. But as there was construction work going on we had quite a few road blocks. Add to the horror we crossed the point where we had to take a right to climb the hills. There was no signboard there whatsoever. As we saw the signboard that Theni is only 30 Km away we asked an elderly person about the route to Kodaikanal. He annoyed us through his reply, “Athu intha pakam illiyae thambi antha pakkam oru 17 Km ponum.” (It’s not this way; you should go the other way, about 17 km.)

I failed to mention that the trip from railway gate to Bathalakundu was similar to the road we took during Nagala trek. Just while I was recollecting those moments what happened there happened here too. We missed the route. The annoyance with which Balaji took a U-turn and applied his gear, with the same annoyance even I turned my bike. How irritating a feel that is!

I cruised even faster then and reached the base point of the mountain. A couple of police officials stopped us and asked for papers. I showed my license and they let me off noting my bike number and name. The initial road to the start of the climb was amazing, as if mountains were coming closer to me. Then it was a regular hill station ride with my left hand writhing in pain by applying clutch. We stopped at a couple of points for photography and stopped quite a few monkeys. Nothing much interesting. Bike trip from Pune to Lonavala was better. In fact it was amazing, the scenery. This time the bike was amazing and the rest wasn’t.

Once we reached the top by paying a fee of rupees 10 for bike we strolled around The Lake, had pizza in Dominos and started from there in an hour. I was there just six months before and nothing had changed since then so I wasn’t interested to look around things. I wasn’t interested about the place at first place it was only about the ride. While returning it was fun to switch off the engine and proceed. We covered almost half the distance with this technique. While I was thinking that I was clever almost everyone were following the same technique. After all humans are humans.

Once we got to the bottom of the hill where the police checked my papers. I hit the gas. From there we literally flew to Madurai. It’d have been an average 100 km/hr ride. My cousin lost his earphones, cap etc thanks to my riding. Though the trip wasn’t as much exciting as I thought eventually it gave me a satisfying feel.

Madurai to Chennai

After a terrible night’s sleep, thanks to the mozzies playing spoilsport I got up had nice juicy pongal. For the first time sweet pongal was really sweet. Just after few gulps my eyelids started to get heavy. Even alcohol comes second to pongal when it comes to sleep inducing ingredients. I packed a couple of apples for my journey and few snacks to be brought home. My relatives can’t suppress their love so always add weight to our luggage with the available in Madurai only stuff. Duh!

The return journey as expected wasn’t as exciting as the first because it’s the same path I had to take. Things are interesting only when you don’t know and explore. On a well trodden path I came at a constant 100 km/hr taking a couple of intentional brakes to have apple and water. The first rest place was an amazing one. Shadow beneath the tree with corns field in the background. For a moment it felt like Australia. There were no passerby’s. Only vehicles zipping past. I took a nice 10 minute break there and updated my family and relatives about my whereabouts.

I filled petrol twice. For the first time rode my vehicle in reserve as petrol got over. Ever since I turned to reserve my eyes were eagerly searching for petrol bunk. Two naïve kids were touching my bike and exclaiming how smooth it was. I felt as if I’m SRK riding through the village in Swades. Lol.

Once the apples got over and there was still 160 km left I started off my bike and thought I’d stop only when I go home. But after 90 Km I had to stop as my neck was paining rather badly because of the helmet I was wearing. Since heavy winds gushed past me I had to crane my neck forward to keep helmet intact which made my neck sear with pain.  Good that I had snacks. I took a kuchi mitai (stick chocolate, sorry I know only the literal translation) and ate it. After 20 km I crossed by my office and the last 50 km was the most boring as it’s the daily route that I take and switching from highway to city mode was tough. I had to apply brake suddenly and came very close to a couple of vehicles.

I was given a hero’s welcome once a reached home, a regular ritual by my dad, my mom was teasing him that he was blabbering all the time about me and once I returned he became super enthusiastic. Dads are dads.

On the whole it was one hell of a journey. One thing in my list that I could strike off first up. I and my bike stayed super strong all the while. The purpose of buying a bike got resolved. And as I’m typing this I still feel the reverberation in my ass.

 

 

Any place where a girl who is hotter than the hottest North Indian girl in Chennai comes and asks you, “Hotel Oh Delhi kahan hae?” must be a great place. OH DELHI! It took me couple of moments to realize that she indeed was asking the question to me. Only when she asked the question for the second time I could hear more than ‘Oh Delhi’ because it was the only two words which were reverberating in my ears till then.

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Our much awaited event of last year was sandwiched between our stay in Delhi. I remember the first time I went to Delhi. Bread omelet in the morning and curd rice in the noon. As a person who loves travelling and journey equally I was much looking forward to two day train travel to Delhi. We started on a Monday morning, the day before Christmas, the bus travel from my house to station took just half an hour, the roads were empty, bus was empty etc. According to the bus drivers the emptiness were attributed to the crowd who had already used the two holidays before that, thus making it a four day holiday. A fact. But the scene in Central was no different than the ordinary days.

Balaji, Karthik, Prasanna, Seena and I were sent off by parents and siblings of the trio Karthik, Prasanna and Seena. It just took ten minutes for us to get into the monotony of laughter. However monotonous it might me it never ceases to amaze me. Seena and Balaji form a terrific combo backed by Karthik and Prasanna. I’m the loner of the five here but that doesn’t stop me from occasionally teasing one or the other. It was equally enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to my magnanimity and of course because of the 10 year break I wasn’t as close to them as they were with each other. But this is just for the writing. Otherwise we were equally enjoying.

Karthik was in 3/4th and everyone were teasing him that he has not got outside Arakonam but seems he is the only guy who has gone to Delhi before out of them four. The first night in train was cold but was bearable. I purposefully didn’t take out by blanket as I wanted to get acclimatized to the cold. Winds were oozing into the compartment, thanks to the invisible holes. Though I felt cold I somehow managed and came through the night. The next day’s journey went in style, thanks to the playing cards. After rounds and rounds of Bluff, Ace etc we settled for the night’s sleep. In between cards we got down in most of the stations and had everything that was available. As I haven’t travelled long distance in a while barring Pune I didn’t know that the food quality in train had deteriorated so much. The food was plain yucky, worse than the meals they show in Anniyan. So we had to settle for the food in station. It’s not that what we got in station was sumptuous but was way better than the stuff we got in train. It was costly as well as uneatable.

The highlight of all the food that we got outside was the Orange juice in Nagpur. While Karthik and Balaji had gone there before me to the juice shop and were making faces while drinking the juice. I went there and had the same juice in a gulp in spite of their warning. To their surprise I loved it. They didn’t like because they had added chat masala in the juice. What they were calling as ajinamoto. Poda naangalam peruchaliyayae thooki potu thooru varavanga, ithu enna jujube. Once I had the juice I packed three for the friends who were lazy to move their asses and come outside. I asked for few more masala and took it in a cup. Being an over enthusiastic person I mixed the juice with the masala without knowing that the juice already had enough masala in it. If not for me the rest of the guys would have spitted the juice. They all combined and had one cup and I had the rest. In addition to it we had a duplicate cool drink which gave a rotten smile. God!

Once we got on the second day morning we were eagerly awaiting for Delhi station, only to be disappointed of the four hour delay. Through the window all we could see was mist. “Enna orae pani mootama iruku” was our general feeling. Karthik received a scathing look from Seena when he said “enne da nama ooru margali masam mathiri thana iruku.” Then Seena almost fainted when he saw someone bathing in cold water in a hand pump in that weather.

After all the eventful happenings we reached Delhi and went to my relatives place. A small apartment in the second floor. We badly wanted to go by metro but were advised by them not to as it’d be very crowded. The auto driver took 80 rupees per auto for our journey from station to Karol Bagh. I thought it was a steal as the place was very nearby. Autowallas are autowallas no matter what. We were welcomed by hot idli and red chatni. It felt amazing. I gulped around 8 idlis and then my most unfavorite part, shopping, was in the agenda of the remaining lot. Balaji was the most enthusiastic out of the lot. I was barely interested. I was looking for various things to eat.

After shopping, their shopping, we reached home and refreshed. Without knowing the water scarcity in their home we all took bath and the rest started their photo session in the terrace. We started from there well before time, this time in a single auto after lessening our luggage. The ride in auto was nothing short of spectacle, he whizzed past all the traffic in a jiffy and reached the station in half an hour in spite of full traffic. When asked, “aap aise hi chalathe hae kya” he replied, “aisa hi chalana padtha hae.”

Our first witness of Old Delhi happened then. It was a wonderful site to see everything I craved for in the streets of Old Delhi. The place was shabby yes but that’s I loved about it, especially the hanging chicken. The station too was dull and shabby but had McDonalds much to the happiness of Balaji. We had French fries there and boarded our train to Pathankot. The train even though smaller than Tamil Nadu express was better and clean than the former. Added to it we had a couple of chicks in the next couple and one directly opposite to us whom Seena made eye contact throughout the night. She too reciprocated but it stopped without any further improvement.

Then after our lovely Himalayas trek our return journey from Pathakot to Delhi was annoying thanks to the cold we had to bear while waiting in the station. I was sad too as the trek had got over but everything stayed only till the next day morning. Once we reached our hotel in Delhi we were more than warm. We had a nice room with cozy bed, good water heater facility at a walk able distance from Metro station.

We reached the hotel by taking Metro. Our first glimpse of metro was amazing. I loved the Delhi crowd, not only the ladies. In spite of us having huge bags and shoving them with it and not knowing the language they didn’t make any face instead were commenting happily. Our first metro experience was awesome. I decided that we had to go in Metro from then on to whichever place we go.

We spotted Om Saravana Bhavan hotel (not to be confused with Hotel Saravana Bhavan) on the way to our hotel. Everyone unanimously decided to have breakfast there. The roundabouts were we stayed had Tamil hotels in predominance. We went there and had mini tiffin for 100 rupees. Seena was the happiest of the lot. After rounds and rounds of chapatti which he didn’t enjoy at all he was very satisfied with Pongal and Coffee and Vada and what not. We got a dizzy feel which could be attributed only to south Indian foods. And boy how we loved it!

Once we got ready we took the luggage from my relatives place and started to Akshardam. It was a beautiful place but was heavily commercialized. What I like about temples is their sculptures but the temple hardly had any. With mosaic flooring and flood lights the place looked more a museum than temple to me.

We partied that night with me having a couple of tequila shots and rest their own favorites. Nothing much to boast off. We settled in our home late night and got ready for our Agra trip the next day. I had a severe headache when I got up. I somehow managed and reached the bus just on time. All were old people from Tamil Nadu in the bus so we didn’t have much fun. Good for me as I slept the whole journey. They had played Ek Tha Tiger in bus it seems, the rest of the guys were discussing how comic it was and teasing Balaji for wanting the coat which Salman was wearing.

We had breakfast in a 3 or 5 star restaurant in the morning. Was decent enough, not of the standards on Om Saravana Bhavan but costed the same. We went to Mathura temple first where we had a guide whom no one could understand. His English was like Hindi and Hindi like English so we were flummoxed. Again I settled for an hours sleep and went to Agra fort. This time we had an awesome guide who looked awesome and also had an amazing knowledge about the place. Agra fort was decent. The first hazy glimpse of Taj Mahal from there was bewildering. Other than that and few clicks there was nothing much to look around.

We went to a handicraft shop from there; again I wasn’t much interested of it. Balaji bought a Taj Mahal for around 1000 rupees there I guess and we had terrible yet costly lunch at a nearby 3 star hotel. The old man who sat next to Karthik seemed to have had parotta for 35 rupees in a road side shop it seems. We were craving for it.

Our next stop was Taj Mahal. The one place we were eagerly looking forward too. Once we went inside the red building entrance and saw Taj Mahal it was a feeling that couldn’t be described in words. We took a lot of time there by clicking pictures at every juncture as we neared the place. But once we went into the Taj Mahal to see Noor Jahans crematory we got dejected. We expected much more, don’t know how to say but we expected something more spectacular. Then we took the bus and returned home. It was darn cold outside. My back bone got rigid because of the temperature difference as soon as I got down from the bus. We decided not to party and settled for a fast food restaurant on the way to our hotel. We had terrible fried rice and Seekh Kabab there and went for rest.

The third and final day in Delhi was the most amazing one. After a good night’s sleep we went to Kareems near Jama Masjid along with aunty. I bet no one can make better Tandoori chicken than them. Along with it Seekh kabab and Mutton Bura too were amazing. Briyani didn’t satisfy our taste though. That one lunch was enough for us to have only two meals for the next two days. Of which one is orange juice from Nagpur.

We roamed in Red fort, it was bigger and boring that Agra fort. Gladly enough we got a taxi for rupees 150 to go to station. We waited there and was so damn irritating to see guys flirting with an attu piece, Tamilians of course. At that time the temperature was 8 degree but we were not feeling cold at all. Seena and Prasanna went outside the station and had Kothu parotta along with Balaji while Karthik and I were safeguarding the luggage.

The return train journey again was similar to our onward train journey with cards and kalais. We were welcomed by nice coovam smell and humidity once we entered Chennai border. On top of it Balaji lost his shoe. So it was not such a great end to our journey but no regrets as what happened towards the end was barely negligible.

 

I have to write isn’t it? As a siesta who smells for the slightest glimpse of hope to put words into paper this Himalayas trek is like a juicy bone given to a hungry dog. No bitch please, please.

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This is going to be detailed, as usual, hugely perspective, as usual and quite fun, not as usual. Generally it’s the aftermath of a brilliant moment which brings out the best in one. If I had started this post a bit earlier may be it’d have been even more energetic but writing something just before sleeping when the brain doesn’t want to work bring the most candid moments out.

It all started almost half a year ago when I was in bench. After a trek to Nagala, quite overwhelming at that time, the urge to do something better provoked me in gathering information for this trek. Balaji, who was the sole accompanier for my Nagala trek kept on saying that after Himalayas no trek is substantially satisfying. I was pondering over his words for some time. Thanks to his advice I made up my mind for this trek. Oh what all I had to do to convince my parents.

December in Himalayas would make a great status message, but how feasible (sorry I’m an IT professional, you have to bear with my IT jargons, for the ones on my side, your mind would have automatically processed the word, carry on…) it was. I wasn’t sure. As a frustrated, hopeless soul I prepared my mind to go for the trek anyhow. Then began the search to find people who would fit in this devious act of a dispassionate sole. The search started with my best friends, then office mates, then school mates and finally ended with my Primary school buddies Balaji, Prasanna, Seena and Karthik (quite unknown to me before the trek) joined. The next four months with rounds and rounds of discussions online, offline was pure fun. I still maintain the mail thread that we used guys. Our purchase for the trek didn’t stop till the last day. Thanks to Balaji.

Then started our trek. Decemeber 24th to be precise. But that date is just for the papers. We were mentally offline long before. The first night in train was joyous, a bit nostalgic, remembering the past or mostly these people updating me what’s what. It all started from the second night when the chill started to climb our spine. The blankets, gloves, mufflers, balaclava, everything was out and how! On 26th when we got up at 9’o clock, much late than our foresaid destination time we could see nothing but mist. Enna orae pani mootama iruku! (People who don’t know Tamil don’t mind translating, literal translation won’t get you anywhere, it’s an inside joke) was our general feeling.

We stepped down in Delhi, guys did rounds of shopping and we started off to Old Delhi to catch our train to Pathankot. Old Delhi and New Delhi were quite contrasting in styled. Loved those chickens hanging in stores. Our stomachs were craving to try them out but resisted our temptation as we didn’t want to be bed ridden before even reaching base camp. The train from Old Delhi to Pathankot was, hmm, well…. Cold is an understatement. But that chill paved the way for from Kangal irandal romance between Seena and some silly looking girl. If you are waiting for a climax, well nothing happened. We got down and got into the bus to Banikhet, our base camp.

There was a lady voice calling out. Are you guys too going to youth hostel? Every one of us shifted a row in front to hear the voice and welcome some estrogen compounds in an otherwise testosterone filled surrounding. For starters the lady was none other than Pooja. The Aloo paratha at the break point was amazing. We reached Banikhet in no time. That’s how excited we were. We got our room, she got hers. And as a usual self boasting, effy pround individual I started narrating my awesome 4,5 Km one day treks to Nagala and Tada to Pooja and said about difficulties. Only to be nose cut by her. She seemed to have done treks in Rajasthan, Goa and Sar Pass. I felt very small before her and escaped from there. Thanks to her we went to a useless Tibetian market where we could neither see Tibets nor the markets. The only respite was breezer which too was nothing but our two and a half rupee rasna.

Day One: Banikhet Base Camp

Enough said, we assembled for our camp fire on Day one. There was couple of guys who didn’t seem to understand the meaning of applause. They kept on singing and singing and the applause grew but they never ceased to stop. As someone who has decent Hindi knowledge I couldn’t even get one single song they sang. Thank you fellas. We retired in our sleeping bags after a cup of bournivta.

Day Two: Banikhet to Dalhousie

It was a 3 ½ to 4 km trek from Banikhet to Dalhousie. At least that’s what was said by the Camp leader. It wasn’t much difficult. The surface was plain but somewhat steep. We got enough time to rest and rejuvenate. Got to know Karthik, Arun, Priyanka, Aunty and Mahesh during the course. We got to Dalhousie by noon. The place was paradise. Nice soothing beds, great camp leader, mild trek, good noon’s nap. Add to it Indo-Pak match with Yuvraj going great guns. It was heaven. I thought I didn’t deserve this much royalty. The camp fire was slightly sad affair with a group claiming that that day will be their last day. Priyanka and co were the ones. We bid adieu to them in the evening and got prepared to trek what is going to be coldest place in the whole trek.

Day Three: Dalhousie to Kalatop

I was trekking with our group after a comfortable sleep in our dorm. After pacing a few yards I could see someone in red flashy pants. She looked familiar. It was dues ex machina. The group that claimed to leave the previous day didn’t actually leave. All natak. They all were there trekking before us much more enthusiastically than before. I trekked with them almost the whole day. It was a nice trek with ice covered roads. Both scenic and serene. The night was horrid in Kalatop. That was the first time I skipped dinner, thanks to the freezing temperate outside my legs got numb, and fingers were burning. But still we managed to play cards with two more new people, Ankush and Ganesh. I had a terrible night. I would give it to Seena who braved the chill and went for his morning duties in an open field. *A huge round of applause* You are the man, man!

Day Four: Kalatop to Khajjiar

There was no respite even in the morning. Camp leader jokes were doing rounds in our room with the background whistle score by camp leader himself. I skipped breakfast too. I had to skip much more but due to the Censor board cutting those down. That days trek was the real one. Half way downwards and half way upwards was as arduous as it could get. We could feel every joint in our legs writhing with pain. All to see that one shabby piece of grassland which was claimed as Mini Switzerland. The hanuman statue from our balcony was much better sight than that sloppy grass field. The camp fire was cut that day but we had a good round of discussion with woman of the day Aunty Ji. Every time we faced a hurdle we could never stop thinking about Aunty. “If she could do it why can’t we” was our mantra. She was a true inspiration for the whole group or at least for us five. While we were getting loose and started with Dumb C the camp leader announced for dinner and the group disintegrated. It was a great evening though.

Day Five: Khajjiar to Mangla

The shabby mass of grassland the previous day was wholly covered by ice. It was great site. We started our day by clicking lots of pictures. The whole route from Khajjiar to Mangla was lensman’s paradise. We clicked lots and lots of picture. The majestic Shiva statue on top of the peak looked terrific. I couldn’t stop admiring the beauty. It was the second most difficult day in the course of six days but being the last days trek and last day of the year we were quite enthusiastic about completing it. The sense of satisfaction we got after reaching Mangla base camp couldn’t be said in words. We were a happy lot. That being New Year’s night many retired for partying. Thanks to the stringent rules of YHAI the group got dissolved. We couldn’t get in touch with much of them as they themselves were a huge group.  The sightseeing in Mangla wasn’t a grand affair but street foods were amazing for our taste buds which grew stale after rounds and rounds of chapatti.

Day Six: Mangla to Banikhet

After customary group pictures in front of the base camp we settled in bus. The scenery was again great but after the break point I was much more involved in all time favorite anthakshari than once in a life time opportunity to admire the beauty of Chamba River. I was glad of my stronghold in lyrics. Both in Tamil and Hindi (Yea that’s a usual self boasting me if you haven’t yet found out.) To be honest I was sad as the trek got over. I’m mostly a loner who keeps to myself, being with a lot of people, listening out to new perspectives was lot of fun. It took me a whole 10 minutes to understand what Professional Artist meant. Then the two strangers whom I shared my room with too were quite different.  Al together it’s a trek to remember.

Though our trip extended for 3 more days I don’t want to include it here and burden you more. Hoping to keep in touch with everyone of you.

Yours sincere soul,
Vikram M N