Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book review - Aug 2016

Couple of series to go with reread of first book in Harry Potter series (gift to myself on my birthday :P)
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Rating scheme is based on goodreads: 
             liked it
really liked it
   amazing
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Farseer trilogy


Reminded of 'Memory, Sorrow and Thorn' trilogy as the books got bigger and bigger. The third one especially could do with chopping or longer climax instead of longer quest

While fantasy tropes were ever present (and I kept recognizing items related to Cosmere - Fool, Wit, Statue army, names like Vin and Serene, repeated epigraphs) it was refreshing for a change that direction of the story was ever a mystery. There was no slated end-game and the one given didn't feel like one anyway.

The writing was beautiful, sprinkled everywhere with easter eggs, hidden meanings and connections (I don't think I caught even half of them). I suspect this is one of the series that gets better with every reread. And I sure am planning to catch up with other books in The Realm of the Elderlings.

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Fun, easy to read, plenty of twists and teasers, good mix of male/female characters, page turner - highly recommend to fantasy beginners and pros alike.

And the good news is that there are more books in the same world :)

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Exploration trek

A different kind of blog post for different kind of trek event :)
 

Research 

Simple online search like "Trekking places around Bengaluru" will give plenty of places to go trekking. The popular places are usually crowded though and inevitably riddled with garbage. Apart from being good responsible trekker by not littering, try to help in cleaning garbage you see on path if possible.


So, while searching, go beyond first page results. See if you can get some blogger describing experiences of a obscure place. Or just take that extra step to scale a hill you saw someday somewhere while traveling. If it is easily accessible via public transport (by bus or train), the better.

Transportation

As I put it before, spots accessible by public transport is better suited, especially when you are a group of more than 5 trekkers.

With lot more info available online, like etrain.info for passenger train details, it is easy to plan ahead. Take a note that trains on Sunday are lesser compared to other days in the week. Hence, jam packed on Sundays. Go lot earlier to purchase tickets, perhaps ask that one fellow who likes to reach lot earlier than scheduled time to book tickets for all. After all it is a team work and everyone can contribute in their own way :)

Food

For early starts, might be difficult to get up, have breakfast and reach station in time. Easy to get decent food on major stations, but not so at small stations. So, again co-ordinate to see if some can get parcel for others.

Fruits (bananas, especially red ones, dates, oranges, apples, guava, etc) are handy. Home food would be awesome :P Get theplas or khakras if available in a shop nearby to your place.

2 or 3 liters of water is must for everybody to carry. Carrying tetra pack fruit juices is a plus. Or get Electral and mix with water when needed. Unlike western ghats, hills around Bengaluru mostly don't have water source on trail paths.

Trail and Terrain

Locals are usually helpful - be it info about trail, travel options, food, etc. It helps to have someone knowing the local language as well.




Attire according to place is important. It is reasonably safe to assume thorny bushes in hillocks around Bengaluru. Jeans and Corduroys are better suited than thin track suits which can get easily torn and draw blood in the process. Use breathable tops (preferably full sleeves).






If climbing a reasonably unknown hill, most likely there won't be a marked trail. If you find a good one, consider marking the path by scratching against boulders.





Caves are to be expected in hillocks. Often you'll have to backtrack. Often you'll have to attempt a little more to go further. Be reasonable and enjoy the journey, not necessary to reach the peak.

 

Flora and Fauna

Keen eyes could spot little beauties for macro shots. Be it flowers or bugs, sure to be found.
















Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Early morning walk and jog at Cubbon park - 17 Sep, 2016

So glad that BTC started the walk and jog events again, after a bit of break. Given the rainy season in Bengaluru, my daily 3.5+ KM morning walk wasn't regular too these past few weeks.

Image credit: wikimedia

As usual, meeting point was Cubbon park gate besides Metro station. Best way to reach is via Metro and usually you get to meet others on the way. Met Sandeep Paul and Naveen, and later came to know Arvind (good to catch up with him after long time) had also come. While waiting at meeting point, we discussed about our recent treks and introducing ourselves.





By 6:35 AM, everybody had gathered. Short intro telling our names. Then Ankit explains how we'll do a circuit around Cubbon first by walk and then jogging. New comers were advised to stick to regulars for familiarizing the route.

Perhaps because of working day that Saturday, our group was about half the size than normal. Add to it different pacing, we were pretty much on our own throughout. Except at major route points where Ankit and regulars co-ordinated to guide the new comers.








And as usual, thanks to Jyothi, we followed our walk and jog with equally (if not more) demanding stretching exercises. Laughter exercises were the best ;) We then had feedback session (praise all around, especially first timers), took a few pics, had sugarcane juice and dispersed.

 

Pictures credit: Naveen Kumar

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fast trek to Tadiandamol - 11 Sep 2016

My first ever western ghats trip was to Tadiandamol and Chelavara falls. Even though it was February, it was beauty all around, particularly the tall trees and numerous flowers. I had promised myself to visit the place again, perhaps that same year. Well, better late (after more than five and a half years) than never ;) Thanks to BTC and fellow trekkers, it was yet another memorable and fun filled day :)

Meeting point was as usual at Shantala Silk House, opposite Terminal 3, Majestic. Erratic raining, but we all reached on time and started by 10:45 PM towards Virajpet. We played Dumb Charades based on our names along with intro. Except a few good intentioned members, we intentionally made fun of acting and guessed something odd or tangential. Overall it was a good laughter session. Then few managed to catch sleep while others chit-chatted away. At one of the breaks, our professional photographers (Saroj and Ashish) took to night photography, which came out quite good :)

PC: Saroj

We reached Virajpet bus-stand before dawn (I think around 4:30 AM). The restrooms were recently built and cleaner than most public toilets. We freshened up there. As it was early for hotels outside to open, we had breakfast and lunch parceled at KSRTC hotel in the bus-stand itself. Breakfast was decent and we found the vegetable rice packed for lunch tastier at Tadiandamol peak.


From there, it took about 45 minutes to reach the base. As road further up wasn't good enough for our mini-bus, we had to start trekking from Nalknad palace itself. We left extra baggage in bus itself and some combined their bags into one (to be carried alternatively). We had a quick name intro, reiteration of BTC rules by Virender and Hiren, few photo shots and we were on our way.




The initial 2 KM or so hike on the road was challenging too - steep climb as it curved around the hills. Being fast trek (with members having prior experience) as well as simple route to follow, we mingled and trekked as per our pace. Now and then we would stop for group pictures when we had an amazing view of western ghats to our right or the various streams at start of trail.





Recent rain meant our trail was bit slippery at a few places (especially where tree cover meant less of direct sunlight). The morning was clear, with few white clouds about. Different flowers, snail, millipedes, bees, leaf patterns, etc provided plenty of opportunities for macro shots.







After about an hour of trekking, we saw fog trail left by a flight overhead. Given the mostly clear sky, it presented a sharp contrast to all the greenery meeting the horizon. As the fog trail stays long, we took many pictures even as we moved ahead.





Our trail had been quite easy after the initial hike on road until around 10 AM we reached a scenic spot by a tree. We rested a bit there, took group pics before moving on. The streams had long stopped cutting our paths, we could hear amidst the forests though. And the path started sloping ever so gently until it became an effort to climb.





Rests became more frequent as we tried to adjust to the steepness. Overhead, Sun was shining merrily with clouds starting to form. Not much of a breeze to cool our sweat and so our pace lagged. Lot of trekkers were returning and crossed our path - seems like a good idea. Start very early, presumably have breakfast at peak, climb down and have lunch on the way.





We would co-ordinate by asking trekkers ahead to stop now and then to catch. Most of the time, those in front would stop automatically when they see a good spot to rest or realize that others are behind a fair distance. Half an hour from the tree spot, we took another extended break (15 minutes), including snacks to energize our tiring selves.


The spot was a big rocky area, reached by a little tricky climb. From that vantage point, we had amazing view of hills and greenery all around. Not only the distant hills were cloudy, but we were treated with moving mist ourselves. Thanks to everyone sharing those delicious snacks and chocolates, much needed :)





Of course we took plenty of photos before moving on. Shortly, we had to cross the only forest section - takes about 5 minutes, but need to be careful of the few leeches waiting for trekkers. It was steep as well, so we were huffing and puffing by the time we crossed. Yet another rest ensued. This time we collected water to fill one liter bottle, mixed Electral and most of us got a sip.







Half an hour of climb was left. But first timers to this spot had to be convinced that the immediate peaks visible were to be crossed before eventual peak. The rest of the way was steep again. But the view all around, especially looking back the way we had come was breadth taking and worth all the hard work ;)






We spent an hour and 10 minutes at the peak. Taking pictures in variety of ways and places, group pics, selfies, profile pics, etc. Lunch was tasty, a bit heavier though. Our rest post lunch was cut short with clouds (we were literally amidst them) starting to precipitate.



Climbing down was as usual faster and bit trickier. Drizzle was light enough to ignore and stopped often. More trekkers were arriving and sometimes made a jam when path wasn't wide enough.





About half an hour since descending, Ashish and co entertained us all with energy filled songs. By then rain had stopped completely. The weather was awesome and the cloudy mists made for cool landscapes.




Our pace was even more varied than climbing. Few were very fast, some moderate and others took their time. We stopped by largest stream for everybody to catch up. We needed water too, most/all of us had run outta water within half hour of descent.


Had interesting stories to hear from last half of members to reach. One had taken a wrong path (at that fork, actual route climbs up than the other which goes down) and was assisted by a dog to right path. Others had taken to clean up garbage - kudos!

PC: Saroj



We took few more group pics after freshening up and then continued our trudge on the road. Back at our bus, we gobbled up snacks. Thanks especially for those who had brought fruits :) On the way back, we stopped at Virajpet for restroom facility. And then had tea/coffee, variety of chats, sweets, cookies, etc. 

Though we had started earlier than planned in the morning, we were running late than planned arrival at Bengaluru. So we skipped dinner plan on the way. Most of us were full and sleepy anyway. We whiled away time listening to music (via aux connected to phone), chit-chatting, etc. Then woke everybody up as we neared Bengaluru for feedback session. Everybody liked the trek a lot and most suggestions were related to starting earlier and traveling back overnight. The total cost incurred was less than Rs 850, including BTC fund :)




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