Sunday, May 29, 2016

What inspires me

Fear always limits your ability to live. It brings nightmare when you try to think beyond it. There are moments in when one is about to take a decision, about to do what he fears the most, about to take a leap of faith, those are the most memorable moments in one’s life. Taking the decision and conquering your fear is a strenuous step. For me, the moment once you have taken this leap of faith there is inspiration. If I succeeded in conquering my fear it tells me that I am powerful beyond measure, and if I failed, it inspires me to return to that moment someday and take that leap of faith.

Being an adventurer I have had many of these leaps of faith. It was my fear of height that took me to the Himalayas for a mountaineering camp, although I was unable to successfully complete the camp I have conquered my fear of heights, and I am sure I would return to successfully complete the camp one day. It was my inability to skate that took me for a Snow skiing camp at Gulmarg. The moment of releasing myself from the crest of the slopes to reach speeds over 60 kmph, the chilling wind gushing past the body, your body shivering of fear of being able to stop without crashing and then being able to stop yourself without crashing. That one push, the leap of faith, transforms your biggest fear to the biggest fun in your life. The fear of rushing water took me to raft in the white icy waters of Beas. I overcame the fear of falling into rushing icy waters by jumping into the water myself although with a life jacket. Although gasping initially, I hesitated getting back on the raft. My fear of deep blue sea took me to Andamans to Scuba dive in the blue waters of the great Indian Ocean. Getting off the boat, in the middle of nowhere, without any breathing apparatus, before the first dive was something I had not thought in the wildest of my dreams. It was a leap of faith and my fear of oceans became my passion. 30 meters beneath the ocean surface where the pressure around makes your lungs 1/4th in size, lucky not to get narced. That was the place I enjoyed the most. Being able to feel and hear every single breath and heartbeat. Being a guest in an entirely new planet. Being neutrally buoyant and being closest to the feeling of being in space without actually going there. And then a school of 600 threatening Giant Barracudas surround and circle around you, from a moment you could die it becomes the greatest moment in your life when you reach the surface. My inspiration has always been these moments when I challenged my fears. It has always been those seconds when you take the leap of faith that you can never forget. It inspires me not to accept the limit.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Last home of the Asiatic lions

So yet another late night post, but too lazy to draft something new right now hence bringing in one from the drafts. Had originally written this experience for Shadows Galore as I was never sure of starting my blog. So here's a special piece.

After having a grueling session of Counter-Strike, four of us went for some snacks nearby. Cursing ourselves for not able to organize a single tour in our 4 years of engineering, we were very determined to correct the statement. Within moments we decided to visit the pride of Gujarat, Asiatic Lions of Sasan Gir. We decided to leave by 8 in the morning but we left at 11 courtesy Harnish Doshi. We reached Gir at 3 after a lunch at Junagadh. Searched and compromised on a low-cost hotel courtesy Vasu Ukani. We visited Devaliya wildlife sanctuary, which is an enclosed area of around 20+ sq. km where they make you travel by bus, and you can see a glimpse of what is inside the Gir forest.

Later that evening after relaxing at the hotel a bit and dinner, we left for a village nearby, the locals having connections with one of us we decided to visit the forest at night on foot with a high probability of spotting a Lion a few meters away! We reached the farm and the darkness and feeling of being inside a Jungle with over 400 Lions is shudder inducing. We could see a Zillion stars up in the sky with artificial light missing, could hear the noise of the jungle and felt like we were camera team from Animal Planet! We stayed put for a few hours and waited to hear the Lion’s roar so we could start walking in its direction but unfortunately the report from the sources indicated absence of Lion in the surrounding. Still for an experience we walked our way into the jungle to a spot where Lions are observed usually. The darkness made it impossible to step precisely on raw roads; the walk was scary with the possibility of being attacked by a Leopard or being caught by forest officials and end up in newspaper being tagged poachers (the whole affair being illegal and strictly punishable). My personal advice to you would be not to come into honey trap of night visits/tours by any guide or hotel personnel, as it is a money making business with fine being up to 50,000. We could not spot Lions anywhere at night and started our returning journey to our hotel, the raw and isolated road along with the ghost stories going on inside the car made it another scary environment.

Yes it was freezing cold even after all that we had on us

The next plan was the (legal) emulated safari at dawn, but achieving the permission for it was an uphill task, with the forest department providing only 15 permissions in the morning. So for the 6:30 safari we had to be in queue for achieving the permission at 4:00! A few of us went to Sinh sadan to get the permission and remained successful at it. Soon we were waiting for the gates of the forest to open at 6:30. We felt frosty with sub-zero temperatures and nipping wind being felt in the back of open gypsy (preferable for the safari). Couple of hundred meters in, we spotted 2 trackers (forest officials who track lions) and one of them hitchhiked with us. He gave us the gratifying news of a male lion being close to us, as they had heard the roar just a few minutes ago. We headed for the roar, the tracker made the vehicle stopped by an artificial water pond and soon spotted the paws. He made noises of deer, and as a repercussion the great king of the jungle roared. It is indefinable! That moment clears all your ambiguity about who the real king of the jungle is! Listening at the roar the guide surprised us telling that according to him the Lion was about a km in the jungle, the trackers now united decided to do their job and started heading towards the lion on foot, to remind you it was pitch black! Couple of minutes later one of the tracker screamed out “Aa rio” meaning, here it is! At the closest he stood only a couple of feet from the king. We could hear the roaring at intervals and the guide suggested we move on, as the roars were quietening he said the Lion won’t return. So we moved on deeper into the forest leaving the trackers behind, slowly the sunrays began to protrude through the darkness. We spotted rain-deer, deer, wild boars and peacocks but there was no satisfaction until we saw the lion, and to defy our luck we could see three of them together! They were gorgeous, relaxing in the cool environment after hunting in the dark.

The forest officials made sure discipline was maintained by the visitors, all vehicles were given turns to watch the king for couple of moments. From the breathtaking sight we moved on to Kamleshwar dam which had little water thanks to the scarce monsoon in Saurashtra, but the rising sun posed perfectly in order to create a pleasurable portrait. We had a 10 minute halt at the dam and after a session of photography moved on back into the town and the memorable safari came to an end.

It’s a place you must visit in your lifetime! The Gir national park is open from mid-October to mid-June. I insist you pre-book your journey, hotel and safari as early as a month before travel to avoid long wait in queue for the entry permission. 

"Yaha khushboo hai mel milap ki, patte pedo ki, Sheero ki, yaha khushboo hai Gujarat ki
Agar aap sher dil hai to rahiye sheero k saath me...kuch din to guzariye Gujarat me!"
-Amitabh Bachchan

Monday, February 9, 2015

Gokarna, the land of Bob Marley followers

Continued from Goa trip
Oops it's been a while
On returning to the campus I was too tired and slept without planning for anything but the tatkal ticket back to Mumbai!
Got up just in time for the tatkal bookings but I have always been lucky with my bad luck!!
So with nothing to do, we booked tickets for Gokarna and left campus in no time to reach Karmali station to catch our train for Gokarna.
Well not all things go the way you have planned, on reaching the station we discovered the train for which we had booked our ticket was never going to reach Karmali station and the journey was from Madgaon station instead which is like an hour away!
Yes..we were screwed!
Finally we managed to change trains and were on a train that did not have a scheduled stop at Gokarna but would stop 15 kms past Gokarna. As luck would have it the train started getting late which proved to be a boon as it made an unscheduled stop at Gokarna! :D Finally something to cheer about..
Oh yea the train journey was beautiful as it passed through the Konkan range, a sight definitely worth experiencing.
So we had made it to Kudle beach approx 4 hours later than desired, it was dark by the time we got there and the only thing we could spot on the beach were dimly lit food joints and high people.
Neither of us had checked what to do in Gokarna and apparently there was no internet connection on cell phones there, which made us feel like banging our head. So we had landed in hippie land with absolutely no idea of what to do or what was it famous for. However it did not take us long to identify the reggae music being played on every goddamn device and the heavy following of Bob Marley and the things he was infamous for i.e., weed!

So there we were in a tiny beach village of Karnataka where foreign tourists were much more than local ones and the main boost to local economy was beer and weed! I was flabbergasted by the sheer usage of the two items specially the latter one "publicly"!
So people roaming around the beautiful Kudle beach were HIGHer than heaven, nevertheless it was fun watching them trying to balance themselves while helping others! A memorable night it was.
We started the search of a hut/room by inquiring at different restaurants soon we learnt our luck was still nowhere in sight and that all accommodations were full for the night!!
We settled down at a food joint where the guy took an hour to serve, finally around 11 we were mentally prepared to sleep on the beach <3 but we had thought of checking accommodation at Om beach before retiring for the day. Off we were at 11 in the night on a 20 minute night trek with the path being lightened by the torch of our barely charged phones.

Surprised yet again by the solitude on the famous beach, we had a short halt there before making our way back to the populace Kudle beach. It took me a while to convince J to go back to Kudle, told him about my SCUBA experience on the way after which he has vowed to do it, soon.
SCUBA experience post coming soon.
And after the return trek we reached Kudle and after a heated discussion found a place to sleep for the night. Low on planning as we were, we had no sleeping bag and no sheet to spread or cover ourselves.
The stars were countless and beautiful, I stared for over an hour before sleeping, saw a shooting star as well all accompanied by the sounds of powerful waves crashing on the beach.
Woken up by the rooster crowing after a chilling night, I woke J up. He said we had got visitors at night, those with 4 legs and they were sniffing around, yes stray dogs.
The experience of sleeping on the beach was absolutely worth it..! Must do at least once, I insist.
As the rays of the sun began hitting the blue water far off in the sea we started jogging on the beach to get rid of the cold.
Had some breakfast at a restaurant and met a couple of people who were still on cloud 9!
We had to catch a train late morning hence couldn't get a lot of time to explore the place and realized on returning that we had missed the famous Gokarna beach.

That was all from my unplanned Goa trip with J. Have promised a few more and looking forward to it with him.
Keep your emotions flowing with comments

Friday, January 30, 2015

Exploring the under-explored in Goa

It all began with a meticulously made itinerary I found in my inbox from my pal J. It ordered me to get down from my Mumbai-Goa bus at Mapusa city and getting into a local bus that would take me to a place Sanquelim. After wandering cluelessly at the bus stop for 15 minutes I figured that Sanquelim was known as Sankhli by locals and hopped on to a bus which would take me there. Having spent time traveling in Mumbai's BEST buses it was similar except the method of signaling the conductor used to notify the driver about stopping/starting the bus, Mumbai BEST conductors use a well tried and tested method of ringing a bell by pulling a thread running the length of the bus however here I found the conductor whistling every-time a passenger wanted to get on/off the bus. On reaching Sankhli a "Pilot"(2 wheeler taxi) took me a mile up the hill to the campus of GIM. J escorted me to his room where he ditched me to rest while he wrapped up with his lectures. At 1700 hrs we left on a rented scooter to explore the commercialization of North Goa. We visited a few places that are mecca of every Goa-goer and retired for the day. J then did the job of a typical salesman and convinced me that a beach called Butterfly beach was The beach of Goa.

We set out early in our endeavor to reach and spend some time at Palolem beach before we could set on our pursuit to reach Butterfly beach. After traveling over 80 kms faster than what Google maps forecasted, we reached the beautiful Palolem beach. I found it much better than my expectations of a Goan beach as the number of tourist were on the lesser side and a majority of those were foreigners who stay there for over a month. J had tried reaching Butterfly beach thrice before but wasn't able to succeed, we immediately started inquiring with local boat owners if they could drop us at our dream destination to which most said no but there was one gentleman who kept us waiting for an answer and said "I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who has been there" ok no more kidding!
So we got onto a boat who promised to show us Dolphins and Butterfly beach, the two of us were least interested in watching the dolphins on the port side of the boat, our eyes were fixed upon the beautiful nirvana location that google maps called Butterfly beach on the starboard side of the boat.

The boat guy told us there was no way to reach the beach but we were too determined to be demotivated. Getting back at Palolem we jumped into the water and were in it for close to 3 hours. We had our lunch and were off to explore a way to reach to Butterfly beach. 
On reaching the heavenly beach J & I had an agreement of not disclosing the route to reach the beach to anyone as we believe anyone who reaches here should deserve to!
So after our secret little journey where we took a couple of leaps of faith and at times thought of calling Saul as well!!

we were there!
Yo Bitch!! Nirvana!!

We spent a couple of hours feeling the beauty of the place and felt like dropping an F-bomb on every boat that crossed the area, just for revenge!
We had to then leave considering the sun was going to set shortly, on our way back to Sangli we visited Agonda beach and witnessed sunset from there with some snacks. 
Reached the GIM campus again by 2300hrs after a 200km return journey, was more fun than anyone could have imagined for a vegan, non-drinker in Goa!
The second leg of the journey gets more exciting and lesser on the planned side. 
Stay tuned and do comment.