Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Treknic at Kaurava Kunda - 19 Mar 2016

It ain't summer yet if I've not been to night trek with BTC. Regular trekking means repeat treks are unavoidable, but that is hardly an issue when you get to meet more awesome trekkers and with BTC fun is always a given.

As usual, our meeting point was around Shantala Silk House - this time Terminal 3 at Majestic bus stand, as we were to take KSRTC bus to Chikkaballapur. Most of us were early to reach, to avoid missing out due to traffic, and started our intro rounds and catching up with trekkers familiar from past events. Our organizers Ankit and Veera had the unenviable task of ticking off members from the list as they arrived :P

Right on time at 7:45 PM, we got a bus with just enough seats for our large group of 21. Our discussions continued during the 100 minute journey - mostly on previous trek and plans like Himalayan trips.

At Chikkaballapur, we had our formal intro session followed by organizers reminding us rules and regulations. We had about 5 KM walk ahead to the base of our hill. Depending on our comfort level, we split into multiple smaller groups, changed them often and chatted all the way. Now and then we would stop for everybody to regroup. An almost full moon and clear sky meant we didn't have to bring out our torches yet. It is surprising to look back and find that we walked about 90 minutes to reach the base while our climb took 100 minutes!

The guards of village at the base (read: dogs) gave us howling welcome as usual. Definitely scary for me. And as is norm, two of the silent ones accompanied us all the way to peak and came back down with us next morning as well.


Just about one-and-a-half months since last trek and yet the initial climb takes time to get used to. Huffing and puffing, we reached the temple in about 15 minutes of climb. While we rested, we also signed our indemnity bonds (with accompanying light-hearted jokes as usual).

The sprawling lights below us were a treat to look at. One could spot the highway from movement of vehicles as well. But not many Stars visible, given the strong moonlit night. Apart from few thorny bushes, our climb was much easier now after the nice warm-up. Due to multiple routes though, Veera and Ankit had to consult and scout ahead now and then to make it easier for us.

At midnight, we stopped at one of the numerous bare rocky space to celebrate Madhumathi's birthday. There was a tiny cake with match stick as candle to blow, we sang out of tune (but earnestly) and the girls even gave a mock birthday bumps.

More pit stops and 40 minute climb later, we reached the peak. Certainly recommended as a good choice of hill for beginners. After settling down, Ajita got all of us to gather closeby and enjoy first round of munching. From biscuits to mixtures to dry fruit to oranges and bananas, we passed it around. In the dark, it was ever more interesting to discover what we got handed. This was immediately followed by elaborate preparation and munching of delicious bhel puri. There were experts in cutting vegetable to stirring the contents as well as debate whether oil is used in mixing. Chants of 'Tel bina Bhel nahi' went unheeded :P




Then we spread out all over the peak into little groups again. Discussions and music - time flew by. Around 3 AM, we finally got around to making camp fire and preparing for the highlight of this trip. Everybody pitched in by bringing dry wood from different parts of the hill. We had to be careful to avoid thorns.





By that time, it was pretty chill and windy (we were all wearing warmer clothes, while some took to sleeping bags). After we got the fire going properly, Ankit and others took to preparing corn (and wrapped in foil), mushroom and capsicum (on sticks),  to be then cooked by us sitting around the camp fire. Hats off to Ankit for not only bringing these stuff, but coming prepared with all the right ingredients.

While we gobbled these delicious food items, we started our usual games in parallel. Started with Dumb Charades and moved on to Antakshri. We didn't try to be very competitive though :P and still had a jolly time. Again, time just flew off. About half an hour to 6 in the morning, some decided to catch few minutes of rest, while we kept the fire going to counter the decreasing temperatures.

As the day became brighter, we took the opportunity to click more pictures while waiting for Sun to show up. With mist and cloud in the distance, we gave up and decided to take group pics and start our descend. Cheeky Sun broke free of clouds then and put on a decent show for us.

Climbing down was easy and quick - just about 45 minutes, with not much break except few minutes of path finding before the temple. It was a different route than previous night, more rocky and devoid of bushes. At the base, after everybody had arrived, we gathered in 'straight' circle for feedback session. There were plenty of suggestions as well as compliments dished out, especially for organizers and those who helped give us yummy snacks.

With Sun starting to show its true colors, we started our walk back to bus stand. On the way, we stopped a while at village bus stop in hope of hitching a ride. With none forth coming, we continued on, much like previous night - chatty in small groups. About half way (after passing vineyards with pleasing green grapes), we hopped on bus going on its way to Chikkaballapur bus stand. The conductor then helped us catch Rajhamsa (more comfortable with its push back seats :P) to Bengaluru. We caught a short nap before stopping by a hotel on the national highway for breakfast and cup of tea. All in all, yet another fabulous event with BTC :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bilikal Rangaswamy Betta - 21 Sep 2013

The lush green hills are a treat to trek (as well as photogenic) in September, at the tail end of South-West monsoon. This was another of those trips hatched by employees itching for a weekend getaway. I suggested Rangaswamy Betta as I had been there before. And it turned out a good outing - just the starter to re-kindle trekking spree after almost 12 month hiatus.

On trek day, the seven of us (Krishna, Prakash, Yatin, Mohan, Varaprasad, Gaurav and yours truly ) convened at Silk board, the harsh lights of street-lamps and head-lamps still burning in predawn hours. I tagged along Krishna in his car while three of them had come on motorcycles.

Krishna zoomed away and we stopped by on Kanakapura road, cameras out in search of birds. They were few and hard to spot. After others caught up, we continued onwards. 

With help of maps and villagers, we reached the base few minutes past 8 AM. Kind hearted villagers at a house there let us park the vehicles, which is safer than parking in an open area very close to start of trek (about 10 minute walk from the house to that spot)


That walk turned out more suited to capture bird pics than our earlier attempt on highway. Plus a bonus picture of beautiful butterfly, hovering near the mud road.

Weather played nice - cloudy and cool. However, rusty on physical activity, I found the climb challenging. We took plenty of breaks. One of them was on a big rock for breakfast - biscuits, cakes, snacks, chocolates, bananas and Poha (courtesy Mohan)

As we neared the peak, it became even tougher. All said and done, even with numerous breaks and breakfast, we reached the top by 10:30 AM, about 2 hours from base. There is a temple at peak (one can get food as well) and water tank (much needed)

For about an hour, we roamed around the peak - it is a huge area and a road connectivity on the other side. It was too windy to stay put near the cliffs. Mohan showed  off his climbing skills :P We then hiked around trees - a few bird and flower snaps adding to memorable experience.

Around noon, we started our trek back - again took us about 2 hours. On our way to highway, we stopped by bakery for snacks and juice. By contrast to a cool morning at the hills, it was very hot there. And irritable evening traffic as we reached Bengaluru :-/

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book review - Feb 2016

February was a slow month. Only four novels - horror, sci-fi and two fantasy ones. Both the fantasy were surprisingly tedious to read :-/

Rating scheme is based on goodreads: 
             liked it
really liked it

The Face of Fear ★★★

A quick read with decent twist at end. Good to see POV from antagonists, though they could have been fleshed out little more

It was my second Dean Koontz book after Cold Fire. Am not much into reading horror novels, so having horror restricted as just another part of story worked for me

The Andromeda Strain ★★★★

Riveting read. Lots of coincidences and plot convenience - necessary and yet jarring a little.

As I mainly like space and futuristic type of science fiction, I didn't think I would like a biological one. Crichton manages to hold suspense throughout and adding little anecdotes from future to give a sense of direction to plot. What is presented is unbelievable even for a science fiction, but it still makes for good reading experience.

A Wizard of Earthsea ★★★

Short book but not engaging enough with plethora of names and places thrown about. Felt like it was more of a tell than show, especially about the magic system.

Story was good though and refreshing even for those who have read fantasy a lot.

American Gods ★★★

Read 50-100 pages of this book. If you like it, you'll enjoy the book. Else, you'll likely find yourself slogging and skimming the book.

After an interesting setting into the world, it is a drag if you cannot relate to the characters and the fantasy premise. Action is minimal and just loads and loads of history. Thankfully, the last part picks up pace - I only kept it up as I had enjoyed Gaiman's Neverwhere (both the book and TV series) and Stardust (movie, haven't read). I'll probably just stick to his screen adaptations in future 
Bonus Links

  • Someone sharing their first experience of Harry Potter 
  • Dark Tower film is coming... 
  • Some free sci-fi short stories here
  • Mahabharata is getting popular as a fantasy read

Book title links and images courtesy goodreads
 Book review - Jan 2016 

Cute gifv to end the post, have fun :)

Other Works

Square Tic Tac Toe
Get it on Google Play

Beginner's guide to Command line and Scripting