Tuesday, December 09, 2014

clarity

the morning sunlight filtered through his sleepy eyelids had a rare clear quality to it. a bright yellow-red, which, inexplicably enough, reminded him of a brand new phone screen, or a just-cleaned pair of sunglasses.

the mental association surprised him, but not for long. he made a mental note, as he dozed off again, to wake up when the yellow-red had turned white.

Friday, November 21, 2014

makkhi

I finally remembered my blog, thanks to a brief random flashback of last night's dream. the flashback is too brief for a post in itself. but i was wondering where (and if) I should post it, and that's what led me back here.

and now, I'm wondering: what took me so long to get here? I can think of two things:

- i've been overly distracted by Facebook and whatsapp. applying the law of diminishing marginal utility (economics, yeah!) has turned from them from the fun they used to be, into quite a time sink.

- my life has turned into a bit of a struggle. my sleep patterns are messed up, and that's been affecting my ability to catch the office bus. which means I don't have as much time to read, let alone blog. i'm sleepwalking through my free time, and i can't quite blog when i'm sleepwalking. why are my sleep patterns messed up? the answer is quite strange: mosquitoes.

a few weeks ago, out of the blue, the mosquitoes at home changed. earlier, mosquitoes would rarely ever bite me, and in general, the mosquito repellant would work pretty well too. not anymore. I find myself being woken up in the middle of the night by these pesky insects, or unbearable itches thanks to them. sometimes, multiple times each night. and then it's even harder to sleep with them buzzing around. i rarely hate animals, but hate is not too strong a word for what I feel towards them now. yes, I positively hate mosquitoes. i'm pissed with them. I would like to exterminate them even if it involves imbalancing the eco system. squish each of them with my bare hands, as revenge for them messing up almost everything. arrgh!

anyway, rant over.

bonus: the dream

I purchased a car, was learning to drive it in the colony, which was somehow jam packed. i offered a lift to some random guy. just then my phone beeped, and i checked it. when i looked up, the steering wheel was gone. apparently it was detachable, and the guy detached it and attached it on his side of the car and was gonna drive it himself. also, for some reason I had been driving from the left side, and i realized it only when he took the wheel.

ps: title inspired by the movie, which I haven't seen, but which my friend akshay narrated to me one evening when he was driving us back from work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#lehdiaries: the trip

so, as i mentioned earlier, we did a fair bit of planning. i'm not saying it was all in vain, but we certainly didn't follow more than the basics. this is what our itinerary was, at the start of the trip:
  1. train to jammu
  2. reach jammu, unload bikes, ride to patni top
  3. patni top to srinagar
  4. srinagar to kargil (with a stopover at the drass war memorial)
  5. kargil to leh
  6. rest, bike servicing, permits in leh
  7. shopping in leh, shanti stupa in the evening
  8. local sightseeing (hemis, shey, thiksey)
  9. leh to nubra valley
  10. nubra to pangong (spangmik)
  11. pangong to hanle to tso moriri
  12. tso moriri to pang
  13. pang to manali
  14. rest in manali
  15. manali to chandigarh
  16. train to bbay
  17. arrival in bbay
This is what we actually ended up doing for the first half:
  1. train to jammu
  2. reach jammu, unload bikes, ride to patni top (116 km)
  3. patni top to srinagar (180 km)
  4. srinagar to kargil (drass war memorial was shut by the time we got there) (205 km)
  5. kargil to leh (222 km)
  6. rest, bike servicing, permits, shopping, shanti stupa
  7. local sightseeing (hemis, shey, thiksey), shopping. this is when we realized we had shopped more than we could carry, and there's no way we could ride to khardung-la like this.
  8. leh to khardung-la and back, packing, replanning (83 km)
now, this is where we changed the course of our trip a bit. slightly miffed at missing nubra valley, we decided to do something crazier to compensate: cancel our (confirmed) train tickets and ride back to bbay. the plan was changed to:
  1. leh to pangong (spangmik)
  2. pangong to hanle to tso moriri
  3. tso moriri to pang
  4. pang to manali
  5. rest/buffer day in manali
  6. manali to chandigarh
  7. chandigarh to rajasthan (our pillions would spend the day in chandigarh)
  8. rajasthan to gujarat (our pillions would take the train to bbay)
  9. gujarat to bbay
however, fate had other plans:
  1. courier extra luggage (two bags!) to delhi, ride from leh to pangong (lukung) (153 km)
  2. flat tire at lukung: spent the entire morning fixing it ourselves. lukung to merak, the streams were in full flow so we couldn't go any further and stopped at 5pm. (forgot to turn gps on this day, but about 35 km)
  3. merak to hanle to nyoma (239 km)
  4. nyoma to tso moriri to pang (210 km)
  5. pang to keylong, 2 hour delay due to landslide, keylong to khoksar (228 km)
  6. khoksar to rohtang to manali to kullu to mandi (223 km)
  7. mandi to chandigarh, bike servicing (158 km)
  8. chandigarh to rajasthan (our pillions took the train to bbay) (517 km)
  9. rajasthan to gujarat (we wanted to do a night ride to bbay, but i had a fever) (538 km)
  10. gujarat to bbay (562 km)
interestingly, my gps logs and my estimates for the two days i didn't turn tracking on, add up to around 190 km short of what my odometer reported (3754 vs 3945 km)!




Sunday, October 12, 2014

falling

I was on my way home from Goa. i was sleeping in a deserted bus stand on a highway at 3am. the ledge had a wall on one side, and was so narrow that i had to sleep on my side, or I'd fall off. it's quite hard to sleep on your side, but i used my arms as a pillow, best as I could. it was uncomfortable, but i couldn't be picky - i was extremely sleepy, and i was 100 km from home.

I was so sleepy that i was dead to the world in seconds.

until I turned in my sleep, and i felt myself roll off the ledge. i tried to stop myself, but my arms were tucked under my head, and there was nothing else to use to stop myself from landing face-first. i braced myself for impact, but it didn't come. I continued falling for way longer than I expected the two foot drop from the ledge to take. it wasn't long enough to open my eyes though.

but then, I wasn't falling anymore. i was being dragged sideways out of the bus stand, onto the highway. i spread my arms, so that I could get a hold on the entrance of the stand. i could hear trucks pass by, and i was scared. i struggled violently to shake off whatever or whoever was dragging my out by my legs.

and that's when i woke up with a start. i was still on the ledge, sleeping on my arm.

for some reason, I hurried away from that spot. i was doing 80 on my bike before I was even reoriented. but luckily my consciousness held, and i was home an hour and a half later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#lehdiaries: before the start

a lot of stuff goes into planning a trip, especially to a place like leh. unlike last year, there was so much planning involved, that i actually had a checklist of checklists. the entire process took over three months, but the pace picked up towards the end, until finally i was so exhausted that the start of the trip was actually a relief from the planning!

i do realize that it could have been done very differently, but i guess my systematic approach was because i realized the number of variables involved last time, and also i wanted to avoid the pitfalls of the previous trip.

here's a rather long-winded summary of what went into it:

the itinerary

for some reason, this is the first thing everyone who i mentioned the trip to, asked me about. dates, places we will cover, travel time between places, where we will stay, etc. the itinerary was also the hardest thing to fix, and as it eventually turned out, we barely stuck to it at all. still, it had to be done, and i did a rough draft at the start. what went into planning the itinerary:
  • duration: two weeks is best. any less makes the trip pointless, and any more becomes problematic to get leaves for. we did two weeks and a extra day (17 days). we planned to leave on friday morning and be back home on sunday night.
  • the direction and start/end points of the trip: we decided to do jammu - leh - chandigarh. the other seriously considered option was chandigarh - leh - jammu. last year, we did jammu - leh - jammu, and in 2009, we did delhi (and chandigarh en route) - leh - delhi.
  • places to cover: we had to cover all the regular spots as it was everyone's (other than my) first time in leh
  • amount of possible travel that could be done in a day: i estimated 200-250 km per day. in reality, we barely managed 200 km in a day, and only exceeded that toward the end of the trip, and that too on days we pushed ourselves.
  • stay at cheap places that also allow some sort of diversions post sunset, since we always had our evenings free. rule of thumb, anywhere in ladakh is cheap, if you're not picky and are ready to scout around. this is the main reason we didn't pre-book anything other than our stay at leh (and we finally didn't even go with the place we pre-booked, much to their chagrin). finally, we never actually ended up sticking to our planned itinerary, and yet we weren't disappointed - so in retrospect, this point may have been irrelevant.
  • ask around: there are a lot of names of places people will throw around when you ask. make sure you find out how to get there, and check a road map, as well as ask people about their experiences. biker forums are useful, but trusted friends are the best.

train tickets, transportation

we booked our train tickets the day booking was opened (2 months before the date of travel), literally the hour booking opened online (8am).

transportation for the bikes was left for later, because no prebooking was required. i did speak to the guy who arranged it for my bike last year, and he reassured me that all i had to do was turn up with the bike the day before the train left.

it turned out to be a more complicated affair: last year, i could get my bike on easily as it was just one, but this year he said three bikes on one train was impossible as the railway had sublet three of the four luggage compartments to a private cargo operator. we ended up paying extra to get our bikes on the private coach, and we weren't given an official receipt for the transportation either. he also told us to "turn up at 10", when he meant 10am. this was the source of a lot of last minute panic, as i assumed it would be 10pm, like it was last year. i had to rush off from office, travel two hours and spend two hours parceling the bike in the middle of an already packed work day. lucky for me, my manager was cooperative, and i actually managed to finish my work in time to get home at 10pm. quite a crazy day, that!

lessons learned: transport the bike a day or two in advance, so that any hiccups can be ironed out without stress (that's what i did last year, btw)

money spent: 14k for 3 bikes from bandra to jammu (up from 3k for one bike, last year). we also had to pay 200 at jammu to unload this year, which wasn't the case last year. asking around for a better deal may or may not help, as these guys operate closer to touts than an organized operation, and there appears to be a cartel of sorts. we didn't have the time to ask around, so i still don't know.

we supplied our own packing materials, which they used in addition to the regular gunny sack cover/cardboard. the did the packing, but we had to stand and watch and make sure they did a good job.

the packing list

this was another big item that had to be tackled well in advance. blame it on inertia or ignorance, but we actually started shopping only after the list was drawn up. i didn't need to shop as i had my stuff from last year, but everybody else had a ton of stuff to buy. i split the list into personal stuff (which everybody had to carry for themselves), stuff required per bike (basically, emergency spares) and shared stuff, which only one person in the group would be assigned to buy and carry. the packing list was drawn up keeping in mind that everything would have to be loaded on bikes, and two out of the three bikes would have a pillion as well, leaving just the third bike free for carrying shared items.

mental and physical preparation

  • everyone was advised to get a check up done, speak to their family doctor, etc. parents had to be taken into confidence about the risks involved (although i have a feeling most of us skipped the details ;))
  • i attended a bike repair workshop, specially geared for people who are planning leh. quite a useful one, and came handy when we had to fix a puncture ourselves and later when we had to replace a blown fuse. mechanics are generally clueless about what you'd need in an emergency, so it's best to check with a friend. i learned how to:
    • take off and reattach the wheel
    • clean/replace brake pads
    • adjust chain tension
    • inspect/clean spark plugs, air filters
    • replace fuses
    • replace clutch and accelerator cables
    • assemble a toolkit for my bike (ie what sort of tools i would need on the trip)
  • one dry run with the pillions to ensure they could handle such long rides. we rode around 1100 km in a weekend, to devgad and back from mumbai.
  • a weekend before our trip began, we packed, assembled all the luggage at a common location (since the pillion and rider had to pack into the same set of saddle bags), loaded up the bikes, and then did a dry run (about 300 km) in full gear, and all luggage. after the dry run, we stowed our baggage as is, ready for the trip.
...and, off we went!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

needs

I visited grandma after ages. i think I've waited far longer than I should have. so much has changed. i'm not used to seeing her in bed, not used to her forgetting who i am, even after I told her my name, and my dad's name. her short term memory seems to be a slate that's being wiped clean as she struggles to complete each sentence she's begun. she doesn't even seem to be aware of what she's saying.

grandma is fascinated by her hands, because that's almost all that she can see. she makes me hold them, asks me how they feel. I tell her they're the most loving hands I've ever held, but she insists they're just oily. she holds them up to the light, against the wall next to her bed, the armrest of my chair, and then asks me to hold them again. aren't they oily? she insists. this time, i'm forced to agree.

grandma insists she's lived in this house only three years. when i tell her it's actually been almost fifty years, she can't believe me. she's quite sure she can't be that old. but when I asked her how old she thinks she is, she says she's hundred. my aunt and I laugh, and she takes her statement back. she admits she has absolutely no idea.

grandma now remembers me. she asks me about my brother. has he finished school? yes, he's been working for years now. she says that's good. we all need to work. except her. she can't work. her hands are too oily to work. she wonders why she's here. i'm of no use any more, she insists. i want to explain to her why she's here. that she still touches our lives with her childlike innocence. but i don't know how to make her understand that. instead, I simply hold her hands again. she says, almost ominously, that "it's time". my aunt immediately interrupts and asks, time for what? grandma is silent for a moment, and then says "changes". it's time for changes. the weather is going to change. everything is going to change. it's that time of the year. it's a difficult time. but we can't complain. we have to be thankful. we have to pray. my aunt agrees, we have to pray and be thankful.

grandma says she prays for everyone. that's all she can do. I nod. she knows why she's here. she prays for people she can't recognize, people she can't remember, maybe even for people that only exist in her mind. but she prays.

it's time for dinner. grandma eats a Nutella sandwich, soaked in milk. she asks me if I want some too. she's sorry that she can't give me anything else to eat. i reassure her that i'm not hungry, and that if I was, I'd definitely help myself to her fridge.

the clock chimes nine. grandma asks me the time. she says it's time to sleep. my aunt agrees. but i don't want to let go of her hands. i promise myself that I'll be back soon. she doesn't protest when i kiss her cheeks, like she used to years ago. i make the sign of the cross on her forehead and say a silent prayer for her. but i can't think of what to ask God. all I can do is thank him. and then i remind myself that this is why we all need god. how else do you explain the purpose of someone who only lives to pray for us?

I thank God for my grandma. she gave me exactly what i needed, today.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

public transport karma

today, I missed my office bus by a minute, and had to take a drop to jvlr instead. chased a bus that said bandra. missed it by literally 10 seconds, and gave up chasing it because I was flat out of breath. thought I'd just take the next bus headed that way, as I didn't fancy my chances of another bandra bus anytime soon.

and then three buses to borivali passed by. on the day I wasn't headed home.

the very next bus was headed to bandra. got in and got a seat immediately (at 6pm, rush hour!). was relieved to find that it was headed to bandra West and not East. after about half an hour, i looked up from my book to see the bus was on sv road. and just when I was gonna get off and walk from santacruz sv road to linking road, the bus took a turn and headed right where I was going to walk to.

today's the day my public transport karma finally evened itself out.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

spite

I'd like to believe the average human is not spiteful without reason, but I then can't explain why a BEST bus driver would squeeze me and my bike against the divider on a road with plenty of room, if he didn't want to badly injure, or maybe kill me.

I can't even blame it on him not seeing me, as I flashed my headlight repeatedly for atleast 5 seconds before attempting to overtake (bus drivers do have a reputation, after all), and he waited till i was more than halfway past the bus before edging rightwards. when i realized he wasn't going to let up, I honked, a long blast that you'd probably never hear from my bike under normal circumstances. he continued to squeeze, until I had less than an inch between me and the bus, and about the same distance between my wheels and the divider. i'm sure he heard my tires screech too, as I did a hard stop to avoid what looked like a nasty scrape or worse, maybe even involving the bus' rear wheel.

i survived that one, physically unhurt. but i can't say the same for my trust in the general goodness of humanity.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#lehDiaries: the beginning

it's probably every Indian biker's dream, and it has been mine too. the first time I went to leh in 2009, i was so taken aback by everything that I knew I had to go back, but i wasn't sure if I would ever have the skills or mettle to actually succeed in the endeavour. the dream endured, until one fine day last year, when my friend Abhishek (who, incidentally, i had only met once before that day, and that too, by accident) excitedly called and told me that he was riding to leh, and that i absolutely had to come.

it was a long shot, since we were barely a month and a half from the proposed dates, my manager was on a two week vacation, and i had absolutely no idea how i would prepare for such a trip.

I did realize though, that a lot had changed since 2009, and if there was a time to attempt leh on bike, this was it. and so, preparations began. starting with booking train tickets, then getting my leaves approved, getting my biking gear in order, and finally, upping my off-roading skills a bit.

my train tickets didn't quite go through (i was waitlisted until literally the night before my journey), i borrowed most of my biking gear, and my attempt to ride up rajmachi to prepare failed quite terribly (it was my third failed attempt, at that!). the only thing I had going for me was the fact that i had 17 days' leave, and that Abhishek passed on this never-say-die attitude that saw me through.

when i think about it now, we were rather cowboy-ish in our preparations, and a lot was left to luck... but our luck held. the ride was a success. and everything was out of the world.

those 17 days were out of the world. those 17 days were probably my best days of 2013. those 17 days were heaven. and much as I didn't want to return, i knew I had to. and i knew I would have to go there again and again. and i did. and i will.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

++

another birthday. another half-expected, but still surprising, surprise. the usual suspects and the usual agenda. and yet, something different. it seemed like things have been the same, but it is very obvious that they are not. i'm slowing down. I'm taking it easier. but raising my standards, ever so slightly. sometimes it feels like it's too slight. but I'm happy, and that's what matters. it's hard to pinpoint moments, but i am. i'm finding happiness in new things, and that is encouraging. i'm also getting better at leaving behind what I don't need to carry, but knowing my life, that may just be an illusion. i can leave most things behind, and it's nice and scary at the same time. i sometimes don't realize what i have picked along the way, but my life is rarely about control. and i think i was always good of making do.

and so here I am, looking forward and looking back, when everything seems almost the same. I know that I will never let it be the same, but i have no idea how it will be different. there is no plan, no direction, but some spark. and i hope it will keep going.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#lehDiaries: chapter two

3955 km and 18 days later, i'm back where I started. i could say it's just a dream I've woken up from. but i have four lovely people who shared it with me, and it's a dream I can go back to, every time I close my eyes, and feel the bite of an icy mountain wind, the dust in the air, my damp socks, the drone of Carly's engine, the crunch of gravel under her wheels. as the days go by, these senses will fade, and all we'll be left with will be photographs and videos and a few lingering memories... and it will be time to hit the road again, for another chapter in my #lehDiaries

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

stuck

today was a day of very random coincidences:

i missed my office bus by precisely a minute - i was actually gonna leave my desk 5 minutes early and grab a snack, but i broke a build and the build servers were overloaded so took longer than usual.

my usual lift home (a colleague who lives nearby and generally leaves about 15 minutes after the office bus), left an hour early today.

I got drenched walking to the bus stop in the downpour.

i missed the AC express bus by barely half a minute.

I left two regular buses that would have taken me home as they were too crowded (bursting at the seams with people is a more appropriate description).

took the third bus as it was much emptier than the ones I just left.

the third bus takes the most convoluted route ever.

two and a half hours later, i'm still in the bus, which has taken a two hour circuit of andheri East and is now barely 15 minutes (by any other sane means of transport) from where I started from.

my bike, which I gave for servicing yesterday evening, is still not ready, and will take another day.

the bus hasn't moved in the last 35 minutes.

I'd have been home if i waited another HOUR in office and took the 745 bus home.

I haven't eaten since lunch, which was 8 hours ago. the only edible stuff with me is a 25g packet of chips. I'm saving it for when the hunger gets unbearable.

the bus transmission is making strange metallic sounds whenever it inches forward. its shocks have already bottomed out multiple times so far.

we're somewhere in aarey, in a spot that gets data while still registering no signal. no calls going through.

my bluetooth, tab and ipod are out of charge (i forgot to charge the latter two since yesterday), and my phone's on 25%.

it's pouring cats and dogs outside.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

happy-go-potlucky: meatloaf!

i love potluck parties. mainly because i think other people cook much better than i do, but also because... home cooked food has a lot more passion (and a bit more sweat) than restaurant take-aways. so when the porkaholics potluck was discussed (and eventually, announced and planned) i jumped at the opportunity.

also, the past few months have seen me gaining a bit of confidence in the kitchen. mostly marinating stuff for camping BBQs, but also a few attempts at home/friends' homes. and to top all that, i've been craving meatloaf for years now. no idea why mom stopped making it. so it was decided: meatloaf it will be!


recipe (quantities are what i used, scale for whatever quantity you're preparing):

1.5kg pork mince
500g bacon mince
250g ham, cut into tiny bits
2 pavs (can substitute with sliced bread)
fresh juice of 5 lemons
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pepper powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala

boil all the meats with the salt and minimum water, stirring continuously for about 30 mins
let it cool, add the spices and lemon juice
break the bread into tiny bits and add, to absorb the gravy
after it's cooled completely, beat 4 eggs and mix in well
grind in a mixer until it's a thick paste
fill in steel cans (ensure the lid shuts well, steam shouldn't get in), and steam for about 30 mins

to steam in a pressure cooker, put a small stand (i used a wide flat bottomed bowl), fill with water not more than the level of the stand, and place the cans over it. close the lid of the cooker but do not use a whistle. ensure the water doesn't dry out (you'll see a continuous stream of steam as long as there's water).


cool till room temperature, and then refrigerate for it to set. do not freeze.

note: the spices was on the lower side, so increasing them a bit might be a good idea :)

finally, this is what it looked like at the potluck (thanks angona for the photo!)


and the rest of the yummy spread

ps: mom made it this time... while i was lazing around. will make sure i do it myself next time before she gets to the kitchen. but it's so simple, anyone can!

pps: original recipe had 1 kg beef mince, 1/4 kg pork sausages and 1/4 kg pork salami. i substituted all three with pork mince.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

testimonial

yesterday, my best friend tisha surprised me with a post on my Facebook wall:

"I just realized something...u click pics of almost everything under the sun...right
from sun rise, travel to n fro office, what u ate at lunch , randomness around you,
rain, night lamps and so on...many people wonder why does Kristopher Noronha
keep clicking pics ...well I'd like to tell them all that this boy takes time out to
appreciate nature and all the good things around him...n if u hve a problem wit
that then ur life is toooo sad :) take time out to appreciate people!!!!!!!"

while I still haven't asked her what prompted this post, her analysis is spot on. I click and share photos and almost everything noteworthy (and publicly shareable) because I believe life is a balance of doing awesome things, recording them, sharing them, and occasionally, scrolling back through my albums and posts, and reliving them. I have lost count of the people who say they never need to ask me what i've been up to, because they've seen it all on facebook. some of them have told me that they look to my posts and photos to have a glimpse of a life they haven't had the chance to experience.

but I'm happiest when someone tells me that my appreciation towards the little things in life, and my endless search for little bits of positivity in every moment has inspired them to do the same.

thanks, tisha :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

my new favourite summer activity: night treks

this year has been good. a month to go before we even have a hint of rain, and i've already gotten started with the treks. with the weather, the only manageable way to pull that off has been through night treks.

a lot of people get taken aback when i say i'm doing a night trek, but really, it isn't as scary as most people would assume. and of course, night treks are best restricted to summer/early winter - night trekking in the rain is a different ballgame altogether!

lucky for me, i have a few enthusiastic friends who have gotten me into this awesome summer activity, and it's mostly thanks to them that i'm now an enthusiastic night trekker. a few thoughts to put things into perspective:

pros:


1. nothing better to do: night treks are a welcome break from lazing around at home when it's ordinarily too hot to be traveling.
2. the vagaries of weather are relatively under control: it's gonna be hot and dry, with a slight chill at higher altitude. that's it.
3. camping: camping in dry weather is infinitely easier.
4. cooking while camping is a good idea: fun, and the abundance of dry wood means no need to carry fuel.
5. the night sky: time your trek right, and there'll be millions of stars and a clear sky to keep you occupied.

cons:


1. safety: easier to get lost. i wouldn't recommend trekking without a guide, unless you have reliable GPS maps or something as good. i've been GPS recording my treks for this reason. two out of the three night treks we did this year have been with paid guides from a nearby village.
2. heat: although the trek up happens at night, travel to the base, the trek down, and travel home can get pretty uncomfortable, if not worse (thankfully, never worse so far!)
3. water: water is dead weight to carry, extremely problematic if in short supply, and natural sources are usually dry or unpotable in summer.
4. the morning after: after a long trek, a nice night out under the stars with a campfile and bbq for company, i usually find myself wishing i could sleep a couple of hours more - but the burning sun precludes that.
5. choice of location: since day treks are the norm, any trekkable place is typically a day trek. night treks have a lot more factors to be considered, so the number of feasible destinations is far fewer.

all in all, night trekking in summer is an awesome experience nevertheless! since there's barely a month before monsoon pre-showers make their appearance, i'm hoping to get atleast one more done this month before the rains get me back into day trek mode.

twilight atop peb fort (this was one epic night trek!)



resting at siddhagad village before locating our camping spot



getting ready to cook dinner atop korigad

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

in limbo

it's weird, i'm so used to being on the move, that when i'm not traveling it feels like I'm doing nothing. when i'm at home, my days just vanish in a blur of books, music, quizup, facebook, WhatsApp, sleep, and I'm not sure what else.

is this what drives all the people around me to take up stuff like gym, following sports, tv and stuff? because it feels like my life's missing something right now. and other than travel, i'm not sure what it could be.

Friday, April 25, 2014

calm like a bomb

I realized long ago that one vital ingredient of sustainable happiness is keeping my balance. and for some reason, for the last few months, I have stopped doing that... or for that matter, even trying to.

it feels like I might have a major disaster headed my way, but until that happens, I seem to be doing just fine.

I wonder now, do I need to brace myself for impact... or should I simply rethink my principles?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

randomness

my vjti classmate-friends and i were at a rented flat. it was the morning after a random sleepover. i remember siddharth, prasad, sachin, gaurang, shweta, komal, niti, reshma. we were supposed to be going to work, me before the rest, because I had to reach office at 830 am. I was getting ready while everyone else was just lazing around and recounting stories of the previous night. chit-chatting with them, I realized it was already 830, and i was going to be late. anyway, I figured that it was fine as long as I reached by 930, as we had a team dinner the previous night, and everyone else would probably be late as well (strangely, i didn't realize the contradiction, considering I also thought I had a sleepover last night!) when i was on my bike, on these unfamiliar roads, it was quite obvious that my dream wasn't set in bbay, but possibly in pune.

i picked up my teammate pratik on the way, and we had to then ride through a slightly wooded area. the weather was pleasant, but the air was moist, as if it might rain any time. as we passed through this area, i saw a clearing, with low walls but no gate. inside, the ground was grassy, and there was an asbestos shed with benches, as well as some concrete benches outside. pratik and i decided we'll take a break here for a bit, so i parked on the road and we sat on one of the benches a distance from the shed. we made random conversation for a few minutes, until we suddenly heard music. a group of three (a guy with a guitar, and another guy and girl) were walking towards us, singing the Herman's Hermits song "no milk today". i started talking to pratik about how I loved this song and grew up listening to it.

the group of three walked past us, and continued towards the shed. we picked our bags and followed them there. when we reached the shed, they were playing another familiar song from the '60s. i discreetly tried to record a video of them, and later tried to just record the audio. by now, a small group had gathered around, maybe around 10 or 12 people, mostly sitting around on the benches in the shed. the band had a full ensemble now, with a drum set and the works. they played another favorite song, and we both decided we would like a cigarette. i figured there might be a shop nearby on the road, so i left the shed and walked towards there.

there was no shop at all, and in fact nothing but forest on both sides of the plot we were at. disappointed, i turned to walk back, when a piglet, dirty and squealing, rubbed itself against my leg, depositing a lot of muck and possibly shit on it. the piglet was filthy and i didn't want to touch it, so i called for help, hoping someone would get a stick or something to shoo it off. instead, a passerby guy grabbed the piglet and nudged it away. I told him the piglet was filthy, and he then noticed that his hands were quite mucked too.

turns out the shed had a very rudimentary toilet, and there was a bucket of water in it. we washed up, and i got back to where the band was playing, and was surprised to see that nickolai had just arrived too. she was wearing the same white dress that i remember she wore last Friday. we sat listening to the band for a while, till I decided it was time to go. we left (i'm not sure how, since there were 3 of us now, but i remember nickolai was on the bike with me).

suddenly, it turned extremely overcast and started to drizzle. we hurriedly parked and took shelter in a roadside shed, which was already quite full of people taking refuge under it. it was actually a tea stall and as the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour, we got ourselves a cutting chai each.

that's when i realized it was nearing sunset. somehow, the entire day had passed. i would have to somehow explain missing the entire day of work.

and that's when my alarm went off. 6:30am. time to get to work.

Monday, April 07, 2014

my favourite camping spots

i started camping way back in 2005, when i was still a student. it was thanks to my friend dhruva (a.k.a. "fatak") who gave me his tent, saying he didn't expect to use it ever again. it was a biggish 4-man tent, which could hold upto 6 in a pinch. back then, i only knew of one camping spot, and that's actually how it stayed for over 5 years! thankfully, with my trekking and riding, i've had a chance to explore a few more spots - and i have a few more that i'd love to try.

kashid beach


kashid is the aforementioned first camping spot. it's still one of my favourites, thanks to the sea (i *LOVE* the sea!) and the proximity of facilities (washrooms/shops). besides, familiarity does *not* breed contempt. i must have camped there at least 15 times!


directions: this spot on the beach is near kashid village, not the other end (the other end is overrun by cheap tourists and overpriced stalls - no way i'd camp there!). to find the spot, look for a bridge over a small stream, after kashid village. take the first narrow lane towards the beach, after the bridge.

kolad


this is the second camping spot i discovered, and probably had the biggest adventure to get to, and i'm not sure if it's camp-able any more: we had gone there by car, and managed to get to the river only because a couple of fences were broken. the car also got stuck and had a flat tire, but isn't that what fun is all about? our camping spot was also on private property (a partially fenced-in farm), so we kinda hid and camped. not for the faint hearted. but the river is worth it: it's wide and calm, and the water is a little over waist deep until quite far in. perfect.


directions: this is next to where the river rafting ends. about 200 metres downriver from the rafting end spot. the left side of the river, when facing seaward. gps coordinates: 18.440665, 73.260625

bhandardara


an accessible camping spot, but not all that great because the mtdc resort is barely 100 feet away, and literally overlooks our spot.


directions: follow your gps to mtdc bhandardara. the way to the camping spot is through the village (or if on foot, down the steps from the restaurant towards the lake)

purushwadi


one of our most inaccessible camping spots. getting there involves a fair bit of off-roading on two wheelers, and a 2 km walk through fields if on four wheeler. the beauty of this spot is the chilly climate and the isolation (the nearest shop is in the 2-km-away adivasi village, and it's the only shop in a 10 km radius - don't even expect bottled water to be available there!).


directions: get to purushwadi from rajur (it's a right turn at rajur off the road going to akole). there's no mobile network for the last few kms, so your best bet is to ask passers-by for directions if you're lost. and don't even think of attempting it after sunset. the spot overlooks kurkundi dam.

malshej


a recent discovery, this is the perfect camping spot: accessible by road, 1 km from the national highway, 2 km from the nearest shops. the nearby village has plenty of hay, even though firewood is slightly harder to come by. only possible drawback: you might find random people hanging out for a clandestine drink by the lake. but that's a matter of luck, and we've been lucky so far.


directions: get to mtdc malshej, and continue along the national highway for about (i think) two curves, after which you'll find a narrow tar road branching off to the left. at that spot on the highway, on your right, you'll see the aforementioned last shop. the spot overlooks pimpalgaon joga dam.

naneghat


right next to malshej (you can see the pinnacle of naneghat from the malshej camping spot!), this spot is slightly less accessible by road, but can also be trekked to. there are caves at naneghat, which is why i've never actually camped there (despite having lugged my camping gear all the way till there), but camping remains an equally attractive possibility.


directions: continue along the highway past mtdc malshej, until the right turn off the highway that goes to junnar. there are no clearly mapped roads (most of them are barely dirt tracks!), and mobile network is mostly non-existent, so you'll need to ask villagers for directions to ghatgarh/naneghat.

tungarli


close to lonavla, accessible by good road, this camping spot is quite popular now, and hence comes with the usual pitfalls - including unruly drinkers in the day. the perfect camping spot requires a walk on the dam wall to the other side. you need to inform the caretaker of your intention to camp, else you might be rudely chucked out post-sunset. tungarli dam has a reputation for people attempting to swim and drowning, so it's under a bit of scrutiny, but nothing that should spoil the experience if you take permission from the caretaker.


directions: the camping spot is tungarli lake, which is slightly further away from tungarli village. pass through the lonavla market, and take the left to tungarli, go under the expressway (there's no direct connection to the expressway itself!) and get to the lake. the spot on the other side of the dam wall is better for camping, but there's a clearing on the road side of the dam wall where vehicles can be parked.

khandala


the one's far from perfect, for two reasons: no nearby water source, and the expressway is near enough for you to hear vehicles honk and trucks howl through the night. it's still a good 1 km or so of an actual walk from the nearest parkable spot though. also, i've been warned about snakes (the grass was about 2 feet high in jan when i went, so that's a rather scary prospect!). best for camping at night, as there are bound to be curious (and possibly interfering) authorities in the day, thanks to its proximity to lonavla and khandala, the associated unruly crowd, and the fact that you're passing through church-owned private property to get to the spot.


directions: at the first expressway exit (khandala), take a left towards st. mary's villa. cut across the compound, down to the next hill, and up to the next, until you get to the cliff.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

abhishek (or why some people will live forever)

it's unbelievable how, days after I had a conversation about my beliefs regarding "death being a celebration of the fullness life", I received the news of abhi's untimely passing away. there are very few people who have made such a difference to my life, and definitely none else who managed to do so despite living in different cities and even countries for many of the years since we got to know each other.

abhishek and I met when we were halfway through college, by virtue of us both being in the comps department for malhar. despite the general geekiness that pervaded those first couple of months, it's surprising how we found so much common ground, from movies, to music, to books, and even food. but I guess abhishek and I connected so well because we shared our attitude to life. in retrospect, abhi has a greater part to play in me becoming the person that I currently am, than I ever imagined possible. and I think that's the mark of an awesome person. he touched lives without making it seem so. most of my friends would say I'm a happy person, with a positivity that sometimes borders on the irrational. but abhishek is one person who I've never seen sad or depressed, even in situations where I'm sure I would have been. and it wasn't a fake happiness. he genuinely saw the humour in everything, and I'm glad I've picked up a bit of that from him.

and so, I remind myself yet again that he lived life to the fullest, and that, hard as it may seem, the only way to honour his legacy is to carry it forward as he would.

as I wipe a silent tear from my eye, I remember one of those late evenings in college, in the comps room, playing unreal tournament, teamed up against "godlike" level bots, us humans equally matched with the game's AI, our teamwork against their accuracy, palms sweating, adrenaline pumping, until the server unexpectedly crashed. we were sad, because the game ended before we thought we had won. but the sadness was only till we realized we had held our own against what felt like an incredible challenge. and it strikes me that this isn't the end for abhi either. he has simply turned "godlike" :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

change

i started 2014 expecting it to turn "normal" soon. january passed. february passed. march has now started.

i've stopped craving normalcy and started embracing the madness.

i've realized there is no comfort in being normal.

i've realized i am happiest when i embrace the moment, nay, seize it, and extract all that i can from it.

i've reaffirmed that balance doesn't need to be stable. and proven to myself that i can't be balanced *and* stable for long.

now for some new experiments:

1. taking a break from all forms of audio visual entertainment

2. taking a break from intoxicants of all varieties

3. tracking my personal time

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

ragasthan

the last three days have been amazing. the bus reached at about 7pm on Friday night, and once we hastily unpacked and pitched our tents, we were all set to grab a bite and take in the music. rock, followed by edm, as the nip in the air turned into downright shivering weather, and we sipped on old monk and danced by a nearby bonfire. legs aching, fingers numb, we danced until the wee hours of the morning.

the tent and my sleeping bag (and half a bhaang cookie) got me snoring in no time, and i even slept through the blazing sun until 10am.

after a lazy morning, we finally grabbed brunch (an unlimited lunch buffet, in which we made quite literal use of the unlimited part), and then settled with our beers at the  stage until sunset. it started slow and easy, with some blues and rock & roll, and then got pretty folksy. definitely the highlight of Saturday.

we then layered up on our winter wear, and were back at the rock stage. a few familiar bands, including the guys from our bus, but since everybody was trying to get up close to the stage, we climbed a nearby dune and watched instead.

I decided to call it an early night, and settled into my tent around midnight. the tactic worked well, as I was up well before sunrise, and got the chance to take some photos while the edm stage was still blaring psychedelic trance. turns out a few people were still dancing... everyone else was asleep. i stationed myself near the electrical sockets and charged up my phone for the first time in almost 3 days (it still had a good 30% left!), and struck up a conversation with a mexican lady who was randomly sitting there. I packed at 830, wanting to get over with it as quickly as possible, since I had to presumably start walking from the campsite at 930 to catch the bus at 10. eventually, i learned that the bus was at 1130, and would pick us up from the campsite itself. I really wanted breakfast, but thanks to a friend offering me her chilli rice crackers, and the bar announcing that beers are being given away for free, the plan changed.

the 1130 bus left at noon, and reached jaisalmer at almost 130 pm. i thought i had lost the couple who i was supposed to travel with, so i tagged along with 3 others from ragasthan who wanted to visit the fort... until, luckily, i bump into them again, at the fort. we didn't enter the museum, but instead walked through the fort complex until we reached a tibetan restaurant, where we had a rather generously portioned lunch. after a bit of shopping on the way back (i brought a tee and a pair of rajasthani wooden puppets), it was almost time for the bus, and to bid farewell to jaisalmer, and a few hours later, to rajasthan.

the adventure didn't quite end there though. it turns out the site I booked my bus ticket on, booked me on a seat that doesn't exist. luckily though, there were a few unbooked sleepers, and I was assigned one of those. as a side effect, I had to share the double sleeper with far more people than I had bargained for. at its worst, there were 3 funky smelling men attempting to share a sleeper, and I spent 6 out of the 12 hours of the journey sharing it with 2 guys who didn't budge at all at any of the breaks (I almost missed dinner, thanks to them).

I reached the airport a couple of hours before my flight, and tried to sleep through most of the wait... with little success. I didn't sleep through the flight either. I changed into my office clothes in a restroom in the airport, and took a ric to office, possibly getting ripped off in the process.

the last three days have been amazing.

Friday, February 14, 2014

the ragavan

it's strange, how dreams have a way of fulfilling themselves. since last February, when nickolai told me about her experience of ragasthan 2013, i decided I had to go. when the organisers told her she'll definitely be part of the organizing team in 2014, I jumped at the opportunity to help out in whatever way i could, if it meant that i could be there too. planning started early on, but with the number of unknown variables that cropped up, things looked increasingly dicey.

in december, before I went on my year end vacation, it was decided that a major software release that i had been working on for 5 months, would go live the very same weekend. my manager flatly declined my leave. I was sorely disappointed. but then in Jan, he agreed to give me a day off. February 14th, the first day of ragasthan.

by end jan, it was confirmed that the official bus (the ragavan) would only return on Monday night. there were deals on flights, but no direct flight from jaisalmer. so i brought a bus ticket to ahmedabad, from where I could catch a flight home early Monday morning. I didn't book my flight ticket, because the bus going to ragasthan on Thursday evening was probably canceled... and if there was no bus, i couldn't go. I actually told my friends i'm not going.

a few days later, i actually went to the site where I booked the return bus, and tried to cancel it. the ticket couldn't be canceled due to a "technical problem". after a couple of tries, i gave up.

later that same day, the bus on Thursday night again seemed likely. i checked the site, to see if my cancelation went through. it hadn't.

i decided to throw my hat over the fence. i purchased my flight ticket, again at a discount, thanks to a deal that was announced the very same day. and i was now officially bus coordinator and travelBUD representative for the Thursday bus.

also, the return ragavan departure was rescheduled to Sunday evening, so i could even take just a half day off on Monday and not have to take my bus/flight. but i didn't want to take any more chances, especially with the way my work was shaping up.

the next week, I checked my leave balance. i had enough to even take Thursday off. I took a half day instead.

the week of ragasthan, my software release was postponed. i decided to stick to my plan though.

the week went terribly though. I had a bout of general depression on Monday, was in office until 10pm on Tuesday, and i was working from home after office *while* calling up all the people on my bus to ensure they don't get late on Thursday.

Thursday, on the other hand, went in a caffeine fueled adrenaline rush. i did a day's work in 5 hours, raced home, packed, and reached an hour before the bus' scheduled departure. people had already reached before me, and i had the craziest hour of my life, dealing with 36 people who were on their way or looking for me or looking for the bus, people texting, me returning tens of missed calls, dealing with last minute cancelations, substitutions, and even a last minute addition.

at 7:24pm, 6 minutes before we were scheduled to leave, everyone but the last minute addition had arrived.

we finally left at 8pm. luckily for me, everyone was amicable and cooperative, and despite numerous delays, i think everyone had a fun ride.

we're still on the bus, almost 24 hours later, after numerous adventures, including getting lost multiple times around 5am, having a breakfast halt where 30 people queued outside two extremely shabby Indian toilets, and finally didn't eat, a lunch halt where we had to help in the kitchen of this newly opened dhaba which had just one cook-cum-waiter, but had absolutely clean toilets... and the lunch cost us 83 rupees a head.

but we have almost made it now. and this dream already feels like it's come true.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hangout with Ellen Angove

Monday, February 10, 2014, 11:14 PM:

(someone named Ellen Angove pings me on google hangouts)
E: Are you busy??
K: kina
K: *kinda
E: Yay someone to talk to :-) !! how are u?
K: haha, i'm alive, yes
E: I'm great thanks for chattin with me I found your name in the google plus members search :) whatcha up to?
K: also, human
K: really? never knew you could do that
E: I would ask to exchange pics, but I think i'd rather see each other, u can see the real thing on my cam... u want to?
E: Click http://Join2Cam.com it's a more secure place with my cam u will have to verify your age so I'm not showing my pussy to a minor ;), i had to do it too but dont worry its 100% FREE and its alot of fun once u get in ;)
K: haha, no, thanks
E: no worries..thouhght u wanted to see me naked ..:)
K: haha... you're just a random person, wwhy would i?
E: u can just watch me if u want, or we can both get on ;-) make sure sign up, then it should connect you to my cam
K: why don't we meet? it's more fun
E: ok, fill out your info,first and last name, make sure you put your correct b-day k? I got something really sexy on for u lol ur gunna like this :-)
K: lol, describe it
E: Credit card, debit card, or atm is just to verify your age hun, your card will NOT be charged just validated see where it says that? like i said it's FREE... cant show tits and pussy to minors..you know? ;)

Yeah, once i figured it was a bot, i wanted to figure exactly how good a bot it was. turns out, probably something worse than what a 6th grader would have come up with in a lab session.

and i'm now turning my google+ privacy settings up.

Friday, February 07, 2014

birds love tablets

on days I go to bed early, i usually sleep in my parents room until they decide to go to bed. it works well for them too, because they can sit watching tv until the wee hours of morning without any complaint from me.

the only problem for them is when they finally decide it's bedtime, and i refuse to get out of their bed. and I'm usually dreaming by then, so i come up with the weirdest reasons to stay put.

i have no idea what last night's dream was about, but i'm guessing it had something to do with selling tablets to birds. and by tablets, i mean the electronic gadgets, not medicines.

the conversation went something like this:

d: get up, kris. we have to sleep now.
k: no, I can't.
d: you have to. your bed is made. it's 2 in the morning. come on!
k: i can't go there.
d: why not?
k: WHY DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? I HAVE NEVER SEEN BIRDS THERE!
d: what?!!
k: there are no birds there!!!
d: why do you want birds?
k: because i can't sell tablets to birds IF THERE ARE NO BIRDS!
d: you're selling your tablet? you just purchased it!
k: no, I'm selling tablets! birds want tablets!
d: just go there and sleep.
k: why are you trying to make me sell tablets to birds WHERE THERE ARE NO BIRDS?!!
d: there will be birds in the morning. sleep now.
k: no, there will be no birds in the morning! I have never seen birds there!
d: *physically drags me out of bed*
k: where's my tablet?
d: you sold it. to the birds.
k: noooooo!
d: *picks it up from the bedside* here
k: good night
d: have some fruits if you're hungry. don't forget to gargle.

i mulled over this conversation while picking at an orange. i still felt like I had to sell tablets to birds. until I was in my own bed, and realized i had to blog this.

Monday, February 03, 2014

out of order

January was supposed to be a crazy month, but it looks like I've beat all expectations. I haven't had a "normal" week since mid December. luckily, i finally caught up my sleep deficit this weekend, and i've been completely well since Friday. i'm also back to some semblance of my diet. This week, I intend to get back to gym. next week, reading.

the week after that, i'll be at ragasthan, and hoping I don't throw my life out of order again.

I never imagined normalcy could be so elusive.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

time travel

I love to say "time stands still when you're moving fast enough"

and that's exactly what it seems like, every morning that I'm running on critical time for my office bus.

7:25 on bike clock: leave home
7:25 on watch: turn off sv road
7:25 on phone: park bike, run to bus
7:25 on bus driver's watch: bus leaves

it's amazing how much a minute can be stretched to, btw. on the digital clock on my bike's dashboard, since there's no seconds display, it sometimes actually feels like time is standing still, while I'm moving as fast as I safely can :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

road rage

not sure if being on a bike instead of in a car has anything to do with it, but i don't find traffic to be that terrible. it's almost always not as bad as it looks. so road rage surprises me.

like the other day, riding home, I was near this car that was honking incessantly on the highway. the highway was gridlocked and moving at few inches a minute, literally. i started keeping my distance after he tried an aggressive manoeuvre with me, but another car driver didn't seem to share my philosophy.

as this guy honked, the other guy tried to box him in closer and closer. until at one point, there was a scrunch, and the two cars made contact. the honking one was squashed between the other car and the wall of the highway.

the one doing the squashing then proceeded to inch past, dragging the other guy along at like 1 kilometer an hour for a few feet, metal screeching. the guy stopped honking. this guy doing the squashing then veered off and drove away.

i'm sure both vehicles sustained a few thousand bucks worth of damage in the bargain.

just to make one irritating driver stop honking.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

we're all lost

last week, I was riding to 4 bungalows from powai for the first time. at one point, I was unsure if i was going the right way. while riding, I saw a biker stopped a few feet ahead. I pulled up to ask for directions.

but before I could even ask, before I could even completely stop, *he* asked me the way to juhu. it almost seemed like the scene from the matrix, where the oracle knows that neo is about to drop the vase.

the timing was that freaky.

Monday, January 13, 2014

i wish

yesterday, a friend and I rode under a railway bridge, while a train passed over it. make a wish, she said.

i was stunned for a few seconds before i could react. not because I didn't know about this "make a wish below a train" thing (which i actually didn't), but because I don't do wishes.

I believe the universe balances itself, and i believe that we directly influence the universe with our thoughts. that wishes come true. and so, when i make a wish that actually comes true, I have influenced the universe in other, unexpected ways too. and i don't want that. I want the universe to be in control of itself, and me to be in control of myself. anything else simply complicates stuff.

also, what do you wish for when you have the capacity to give yourself everything you want, and the universe gives you everything you need?

I don't do wishes.

Friday, January 10, 2014

tales from the highway

i'm still settling down from an epic road trip. and yes, I have promised i'll blog the details. but before I dig into the facts and information, there's the fun part: anecdotes from the 2933 km ride. and yes, there are a few noteworthy tales from the numerous highways i rode on :)

the impolite overtaker

cruising down the mumbai - bangalore highway at around 100, it took me a few seconds to notice an indica that had crept up behind me and was waiting to pass. when i noticed, i waved it on.

the people in it must have misunderstood my wave, because as they passed me, one of the passengers rolled down his window and waved back. with his middle finger.

the polite bus driver

the mangalore - solapur highway is a 2 lane highway, mostly flat and straight, with a lot of trucks, relatively few buses, and for some reason, practically no bikes. since it's straight and flat, trucks usually get enough time to creep to their max speed, so overtaking is usually a long-drawn process. except for this one time, when i peeked out from behind a truck, saw an oncoming state transport bus, which, inexplicably, saw me and went completely off the road in a huge cloud of red dust. half the highway for my puny bike to overtake. and i wasn't even eager to overtake, but i definitely didn't want to insult that bus driver's generosity. hope he saw me wave through that cloud of dust, because I could only hear the bus growling through the dust on the shoulder.

pass fail

riding around on the narrow roads outskirts of hampi, i was about to pass a slow moving tempo, when i noticed an oncoming bike. far enough to safely overtake, but close enough to merit a flash of my headlight.

he must have misunderstood my signal though, because after i flashed my light, he signaled back with his right hand that my headlight was on.

bike in a haystack

the mangalore - solapur highway ride was my trip's longest (time-wise) leg. at some point, I thought I was quite zen with the highway. cruising at 100 ish, i'd slow down and wait behind trucks that were probably driving at full throttle, until a wee bit of frustration would kick in and I'd zoom out and overtake, and hold my speed until the next truck.

so i was pleasantly surprised when a truck i was cruising toward, abruptly turned off the highway onto the shoulder, right in front of me.

surprise turned into shock when i realized it was because there was a huge haystack blocking the width of entire national highway. and i had just a few metres before i hit it at a triple digit speed.

bracing for impact, our only reaction was frenzied chants of "oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck". until we went cleanly through the haystack.

funnily enough, we probably passed through atleast 10 more such haystacks on the highway. there'd usually be someone at the edges, trying to get the haystack onto one side of the road. I have absolutely no idea what was happening there.

head to head

haystacks weren't the only shocks we had to deal with on the mangalore - solapur highway. the absolute worst one was when I sped up to overtake a truck, with an oncoming truck in the distance, i was nearing 100 (as usual), and saw that i was about to ride straight into a huge (nay, enormous!) crater. 9-10 feet in diameter, a foot deep at the edges, deeper in the middle, with roughly dumped stone chunks inside.

i slammed my brakes and burned tracks, but to no avail. i was fully in the crater by the time i was slow enough to do anything useful with the handles. luckily, the bike held, the saddle bags held, my pillion held, my heart held, and the oncoming truck driver saw the crater and braked better than i did.

off-roading on a national highway

as we approached hospet down the mangalore - solapur highway, random haystacks and 10 foot craters came together to form one huge mess. at one point, we found ourselves alone on the highway.

that's right, all the other vehicles were driving on the mud shoulder on either side, which was actually in much better condition than the highway itself. being on a bike helps things somewhat, but even then, at some point I got tired of literally weaving across both lanes of the highway in search of tarmac. it was actually better to ride on the dirt at 5 km/h. wish I clicked photos: that strip of craters was definitely not a road, let alone anything worthy of being called a highway.

Friday, January 03, 2014

farewell, 2013

every year, as December 31st nears, i look back and try to take stock of the year that has been. and without many exceptions, i'm usually surprised at the things that I did and the things that happened, while the stuff that didn't are usually quite mundane and even expected. 2013 lives up to that history.

one thing I'd never have expected is the amount of items on my "bucket list" that i finally struck off:

biking to ladakh (except that i wanted to bike all the way from Bombay, which didn't happen)

biking to places other than goa - gokarna, ladakh, the konkan coastline, mangalore, hampi

off-road biking

learning surfing

river rafting

getting involved in a business venture

and then there's the more mundane stuff, but it's also exceptional when you put it all together:

getting back to reading (more than a book a month this year, as opposed to barely 4 last year)

getting back to trekking (6 weekends of back to back riding + trekking this monsoon, a couple of winter treks)

maintaining some semblance of a diet (paleo, for the most part)

getting my long term finances in order

general lifehacking (getting rid of most timesinks like twitter, games, fixing my sleep schedule, finding my social life balance between making new friends and spending time with the ones that matter)

still, a lot more remains to be done in 2014, that i was hoping to get done this year:

paragliding

ladakh on bike, end to end

biking to the east coast

having a consistent fitness routine

travel blogging

international travel

getting settled, relationship-wise

yes, I'm hoping to better 2013.

half a year

it's been exactly half a year since shruti and I took the biggest step of our lives. the memories are still as fresh as ever. but scratc...